Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bad E-Book News or Just a Quiet News Day?

News from the e-book industry hasn’t been all that rosy of late. Profits are down at Harlequin, the Association of American Publishers announced numbers for e-book growth in February that were less than expected, Simon & Schuster digital sales continue to decline, and even sales of the Kindle Fire from mighty Amazon fell off in the first quarter of 2012.

Is this a harbinger of things to come, or just evidence of a slow news period in the digital market?

“I’m not hearing alarm bells from publishers yet, so I can’t say whether there is an overall softening or just unevenness in the data or just that each of these things is potentially explainable as due to circumstances specific to the players involved,” said James McQuivey, principal analyst at Forrester who covers the book industry, in this article from Digital Book World.

In the first place, those huge increases the e-book market was seeing could not last forever, said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services at Bowker Market Research. He also opined that the new group of e-book consumers may not be as devoted to e-reading as early adopters.

“The early-adopter, heavy book buyers who make up over 60% of volume of all e-book sales have continued to slow in their migration to digital,” said Gallagher. “Without the ongoing influx of these key buyers, the market is more reliant on a greater increase of casual to moderate buyers to move the needle.”

In addition, a recent study by the Book Industry Study Group suggests consumers are buying more tablets than e-readers, but are not buying e-books at the same pace as those who read on dedicated e-readers. Over the last six months, consumer preference for e-readers has slipped from 72% to 58%.

“Tablets will adversely affect the e-book business in that the tablet is a multifunction device and will therefore draw the reader into nonbook activities and therefore cause them to consume books slower and therefore buy fewer books vs. a single-function e-reading device,” said Gallagher.

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