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European research on reading digital vs. print at E-READ

During the CLA Forum last week in Ottawa, we discussed that we need to consider whether understanding, learning and memory work differently when we read digital text vs. print (setting aside the issue of backlit screens and blue light, which are likely to eventually change). In Europe, there’s a project, E-READ, that is studying this, and IFLA is connected to it. From E-READ: Evolution of reading in the age of digitisation:

“The goal of this Action is to improve scientific understanding of the implications of digitization, hence helping individuals, disciplines, societies and sectors across Europe to cope optimally with the effects. Based on a multidimensional, integrative model of reading, and combining paradigms from experimental sciences with perspectives (e.g., diachronic) from the humanities, the Action will develop new research paradigms, and metrics for assessing the impact of digitization on reading. These metrics enable the development of evidence-based knowledge of paper and screen reading, and provide guidance for practitioners, policy makers, publishers and designers.”

The site includes a bibliography, news, and descriptions of the four working groups:

  1. continuing/skilled (PISA age) reading
  2. developmental aspects of reading
  3. experiential and emotional aspects
  4. ergonomics of reading (physiology; haptic & tactile feedback)

Posted in Reading.


Read between the lines on ebooks

Russell Smith wrote in the Globe and Mail on Sunday May 22 about the ebook and print sales commentary that’s been appearing in US and British media. He observes “There is a great deal of ideological bias at work here. Some people just really want e-books to fail. They just don’t like them. Ugly as “virtual books” sounds, it is obviously absurd to say that reading on a screen is “not real.” Nothing about words is real: They are all just words whether on a phone or on a wall and they can be equally powerful.”

In Canada in 2015, print sales went up 1% (dollar value up 3%), and ebook sales remain at 17-18% of the market. For most publishers in Canada, ebook sales increased or remained the same, according to BookNet’s study of digital publishing.

Smith points out that the sales being reported include only statistics from mainstream publishers: “What is not reported in the statistics is all the outsider writing: all the thousands of self-published novels and memoirs and self-help guides that are published, quickly and cheaply, in electronic form. Their success only continues to grow. And sellers such as Amazon are doing their best to provide these works directly to consumers, bypassing publishers altogether.”

Smith is critical of self-publishing, but acknowledges the impact that the removal of publishers as gatekeepers is having on reading and critics: “The literary media are now forced to pay attention to extremely popular phenomena, simply due to their societal impact, even if those don’t spring from publishers or institutions and are intellectually uninteresting.”

Posted in Publishers, Reading.

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Digital publishing in Canada

BookNet Canada published The State of Digital Publishing in Canada 2015 in April, covering the amount of digital publishing, sales, distributors, and the library channel among Canadian publishers. The percentage of publishers selling ebooks to libraries has increased to 76% from 61% in 2013. Other highlights from the report, which is free:

Formats:

  • 35% are publishing fixed layout for OverDrive specifically, with 76% producing fixed layout for iPads (fixed layout is commonly for picture books).
  • 29% now have a digital-only publishing program, where they do not produce print for these titles. This is most common among large publishers.
  • 22% are producing enhanced ebooks, for example with added audio and scripted animation.

Sales

  • 73% of ebooks from Canadian publishers have Canadian sales. This likely means that there are backlist titles that do not sell, perhaps because they are only available in PDF format.
  • 44% of publishers had increased revenue from ebooks in 2015, while 41% had flat revenue.
  • 33% are selling through subscription services, up from 19% in 2014
  • 14% of scholarly and professional publishers find that sales through library e-distributors are the best ebook revenue channel for them. In comparison, no trade/consumer publisher identified this.

The most common distributors to libraries are OverDrive (used by 78% of publishers), Follett (62%), Baker & Taylor (57%) and 3M/bibliotheca (41%). The use of OverDrive has declined slightly from 83% in 2013.

On the topics of future formats and accessibility, 55% are considering adopting EPUB3 and 51% have started adding accessibility features like navigational aids, video with alternate formats and textual descriptions.

Posted in Publishers.

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Print book sales are up and here’s why

This December 22, 2015 article from Fortune identifies a few key points to counter the meaning of the dominant story about book sales in 2015 — that print sales grew and ebooks hit a plateau or fell. The critical factors identified are:

  • Colouring books for adults: five of ten Amazon bestsellers were colouring books at the time of the article
  • books by YouTube stars
  • Go Set a Watchman

The author, Matthew Ingram, also observes “it’s also likely that print sales are getting a somewhat artificial boost over e-books because publishers have been keeping the price of electronic editions higher than they would otherwise be. That could be making printed books look better by comparison than they have in the past…it wasn’t surprising to see sales of electronic editions fall after those [agency] deals took effect. Although that dip in sales was taken as a sign that print was recovering, it was actually the opposite: Print just looked better because e-books had increased in price.”

In addition to these items, statistics that use Nielsen and AAP data do not include sales of self-published or indie eBooks, an area that sometimes represents 50% of the Amazon Kindle bestseller lists.

How do library trends compare to sales reported from publishers in 2015?

Posted in Publishers, Retail.


How audiobooks took over the industry

Quill & Quire on April 18 discusses the rise of podcasts and audiobooks for consumers and in libraries, statistics and popular titles at Hamilton Public Library, and the challenges for Canadian content. It notes that the demographic for audiobooks is getting younger, shifting to mid-late 20s from 35-55 year olds.

The Book Publishers Association of Alberta has a pilot project to make 12 Canadian titles available as audiobooks in collaboration with the CNIB, provincially funded. The article also notes “ECW and Coach House Books are leading an initiative involving approximately 15 publishers to promote and create Canadian audio content. Funded by the Ontario Media Development Corporation, the first part of the project involves creating a comprehensive list of all currently available audiobooks as a reference for librarians.” The second part will make 100 new Canadian audiobooks available, and potentially kickstart a Canadian production industry.

Posted in Publishers.

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Changes to Big Five eContent licensing options coming for libraries?

This week a number of sources, including Library Journal, are reporting that the Big Five publishers may be willing to consider more flexible eContent licensing terms for libraries. The reports were prompted by the release of the latest Association of American Publishers StatShot survey, which shows retail sales of eBooks continuing to flatten. 2014 sales were up by 3.7% to $3.37 billion, a considerable slowing from the year-on-year doubling in growth experienced from 2010 to 2012.

This has prompted eBook distributors such as OverDrive, 3M and Baker & Taylor to speculate that the Big Five publishers will look again at institutional markets, and may be willing to consider expanding the variety of licensing models that they offer to libraries. While Canadian public libraries have seen a lot of success in their work with local publishers, the large multinationals have typically stuck to very conservative one book, one user lending models with restrictions such as significant markups on retail pricing and loan caps. OverDrive’s Steve Potash thinks that with the release of the latest retail figures, the tide may be ready to turn: “There’s still a lot of growth in institutions…if retail is flattening, you have to experiment.”

Library Journal also notes that the Big Five have begun expanding some of their commercial partnerships to include promotional ventures with libraries, such as HarperCollins’ participation in OverDrive’s Big Read campaign and Simon & Schuster donating a digital copy of Bryan Grazer’s new title to a public library or school for every retail copy sold during National Library Week.

Posted in Libraries, Publishers, Retail.


Canadian digital publishing

BookNet has published “The State of Digital Publishing in Canada 2014” describing publishers. The introduction comments”At a time when media is claiming that ebooks are dead and that “sales of print books are eclipsing digital alternatives” we are also finding increased interest in new sales models such as bundling and subscription services, and for publishers we are finding that digitization of content is strong, with 93% of publishers producing ebooks. Of those producing ebooks, almost half of the publishers have more than 50% of their active titles available digitally. Publishers are also generally digitizing more of their backlist: 24% of publishers have converted over three-quarters of their print collection. Publishers cite the primary reasons for producing ebooks as “increasing sales” and “meeting customer demand” but creating ebooks as “a mechanism to lower costs” has declined as a motivating factor. The following research shows that digital programs within Canadian publishing houses are strong and continue to grow, with 52% of responding publishers indicating that revenue from ebook sales increased between 2013 and 2014.”

The report notes that 12% of available eBooks have had no sales, which may be due to the formats offered (PDF vs. EPUB vs. Kindle). Publishers found that revenue from eBook sales increased from 2013 to 2014.

75% of Canadian publishers are selling to libraries, up from 61% in 2013. Among these, 49% are pricing for libraries at the same as retail, while some are using loan or time limits.

Posted in Libraries, Publishers, Retail.


Interview with OverDrive’s Steve Potash

American Libraries has published an interview with Steve Potash, CEO, following up on the announcement of their acquisition by Rakuten. Potash reiterates that OverDrive is expecting faster access to content for libraries as a result of the relationship with Kobo. He comments that he expects that Rakuten’s emphasis on speed of delivery will mean continued ability to respond to library needs as they change.

Potash also comments that he does not expect any changes to the optional nature of the retail option in OverDrive – i.e. that libraries who want to offer it will continue to be able to opt-in and that those who do not want to will not be obligated.

His comments about Kindle are “business as usual on all fronts” – which could be interpreted to mean that Amazon continues to control this relationship and OverDrive cannot anticipate their behaviour.

On the topic of privacy and anonymity, he comments:

“OverDrive has always respected and adopted the policies and practices that libraries and schools have required. We have enabled reader choices. And in every case, including the one you mentioned [Kindle], it’s an opt‑in by the reader. If the reader wants to use a particular device or app, our job has been to ensure that they can do so if they elect to anonymously. We expect that those two tenets will allow us to continue, not to change, our track record of respecting patron and reader privacy.”

Note: OverDrive is currently working with ReadersFirst to further protect patron privacy when using library eBooks by exploring ways to use the library account as the patron identifier.

Posted in Libraries, Vendors.


OverDrive being bought by Rakuten: Expect more with Kobo

Rakuten announced on Reuters overnight that it is purchasing OverDrive for $415 million. The process is expected to be complete in April. In July 2011, Rakuten bought Kobo.com for $315 million. The press release indicates that eBook “renting” to libraries in the US will continue.

An interview from PCWorld quotes Rakuten and OverDrive’s Steve Potash, predicting further growth and an increased role for Kobo devices:

Rakuten sees huge growth potential in the public library ebook market, where spending on digital content is only 7 percent of library spending in the U.S., Takahito Aiki, who leads Rakuten’s ebooks business, said Thursday at an event in Tokyo.

“The near-term opportunity is for us to do a more direct integration with Kobo apps and devices, where you can instantly borrow a book from a school or library and have it appear on your Kobo bookshelf,” OverDrive CEO Steve Potash said.

OverDrive’s announcement makes further reference to Kobo “Kobo, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, and OverDrive will work together to enhance their abilities to deliver world-class digital content and reading technology services. The acquisition is expected to close in the next thirty days.” Steve Potash will continue as CEO.

Posted in Libraries, Retail, Vendors.


Materials Spending Survey

Library Journal has published the results of their latest materials spending survey of US public libraries. Highlights:

  • print books have remained at 59% of budgets for 3 years, compared to 65% in 2009
  • ebooks have risen from 1% of budgets in 2009 to 7% this year
  • media represented 20% of budgets in 2009 and is now 24%
  • 75% of budgets are spent on book formats (books, ebooks, audiobooks, downloadable audiobooks)

Mystery/suspense, general fiction and romance are the top circulating categories for adult fiction in both print and ebook formats.

Circulation is considered flat at 0.5% growth, one-third reporting an increase, and nearly one-third reporting a decrease. Among ebooks, fiction represents 80% of circulation.

Posted in Libraries.