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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 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.

Why digital natives prefer print

The Washington Post story on February 22 includes the following highlights for reasons when college students prefer print from the book “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World,” by Naomi S. Baron:

  • research shows readers remember the location of information by page and text layout and that this plays a key role in comprehension – that the reader is building a mental map of the content and uses this to remember.
  • reading online is “usually spent scanning and skimming, with few places (or little time) for mental markers.” Research showed readers “spend a little more than one minute on Web pages, and only 16 percent of people read word-by-word. That behavior can bleed into reading patterns when trying to tackle even lengthier texts on-screen.”
  • research found students were more likely to multitask reading on-screen (90 percent) compared to print (1 percent)
  • “students like renting textbooks that are already highlighted and have notes in the margins”

The article also comments that Pew studies show the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.

Although the article focuses on print use, it also notes times when students prefer digital:

  • “science and math classes, whose electronic textbooks often include access to online portals that help walk them through study problems and monitor their learning.”
  • “when locating information quickly is key — there is no control-F in a printed book to quickly find key words.”

Posted in Reading.

Deloitte finds worldwide print book spending at 80%

Deloitte predicts that print will represent more than 80% of all dollars spent on books worldwide in 2015. Print dollars will be under 80% in the US, but are offset by the continued higher use of print in other countries. This comment and others are found in the January 13, 2015 “Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2015” [PDF]

Other highlights related to books:

  • eBooks have hit a plateau or are declining in Canada, the US and UK.
  • 92% of readers ages 18-29 read in print in 2013
  • 37% of millenials read an eBook in 2013
  • nearly half of 16-34 year olds said that eBooks would “never take the place of real books for me”
  • one UK study found that for the 62% who preferred print, the reason was that millenials “like to collect” and “like the smell”

The report also comments on the importance of covers, information retention studies, the closure of bookstores, and the impact of devices. The report includes many other technology and media reports unrelated to books and reading.

Posted in Reading, Retail.

Scholastic report on kids and reading (US)

Scholastic has published a new “Kids and Reading Report” based on 2014 surveys of 2,558 children and parents in the United States. The report covers reading for fun, activities that encourage reading, books children enjoy at different ages, and attitudes towards print vs. ebooks.

Selected highlights:

  • the percentage of children frequently reading for fun (5-7 days/week) has continued to drop, from 37% in 2010 to 34% in 2012 to 31% in 2014
  • 51% of children ages 6-17 are currently reading a book for fun and another 20% just finished one (29% haven’t read one in awhile)
  • reading enjoyment declines sharply after age 8, dropping from 62% to 46% reporting ‘I love it’ or ‘I like it a lot’
  • 61% of children had read an ebook as of 2014, compared to 46% in 2012, however, 77% are still mostly reading print books
  • 65% of children say they’ll always want to read print books even though ebooks are available
  • 55% of those who have read an ebook report that they prefer print – however, the preference for print declines with age, from 66% of children 6-8 to 48% of 15-17 year olds
  • among those who have not read an ebook, interest in reading ebooks has dropped since 2012

The library is the most popular source reported by children for finding books – 77% of children aged 6-11 find books to read for fun at the library, and 58% of 12-17 year olds. The next most popular source is school book fairs at 63% and 28% respectively by age. Among activities that parents use to encourage their children to read for fun, 63% report taking their children to the library as an activity, putting libraries in third place – choosing books from a book fair flyer (57%) or having books at home (54%) are listed slightly more often.

Posted in Libraries.

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