#DBW15: Can eBooks Steamroll Print?

Image - iStockphoto: Kadmy
Image – iStockphoto: Kadmy

What Sells in Print’ – eBooks’ impact on the market

Not so fast, it seems we’re hearing from several directions.

Today, our colleagues Tom Tivnan and Felicity Wood at The Bookseller are writing Print and digital help the book market in 2014. Here, from that story is an “e” and “p” — ebooks and print — breakdown for the Big Five’s 2014 sales.

And we read:

Last year the book trade “rekindled its love affair with the physical book”, Pan Macmillan’s m.d Anthony Forbes Watson has told The Bookseller. “Previous years have all been about growing e-book sales, but in 2014, in a market where e-book sales were plateauing, suddenly it was all about forward to the past, not back to the future,“ he added.

“Publishers once again discovered and focused on growing print sales. We’ve grown our physical book market last year by almost 10% and the number one focus for us across the whole year was our physical bookshelf. We now have three hardback editions of Jessie Burton’s bestseller The Minituarist [Picador] and we are really thrilled to have seen a huge surge in confidence from Waterstones as a bookseller,” Forbes Watson continued.

NielsenUK market: ‘Overall, e-books represented 32.7% of 2014’s entire market in volume terms,’ write Wood and Tivnan. That’s up from 28.6% in 2013,

And while the idea of the growth rate of ebooks’ share of the market slowing is common now — as early-years adoption rates of the technology predictably and naturally ease — some new insights tend to give us a more nuanced look at the “print vs. ebook battle.” Eyeing a win or a lose may have a lot to do with the beholder’s sector of the market.

In her report for The Bookseller today, our colleague Gayle Feldman touches on the presentation made Thursday atDigital Book World (#DBW15) in New York by Nielsen’s Jonathan Nowell on The Changing Mix of What Sells in Print: How eBooks Have Changed the Print Book Marketplace.

Image from "The Changing Mix of What Sells in Print" - Jonathan Nowell, Nielsen.
Image from “The Changing Mix of What Sells in Print” – Jonathan Nowell, Nielsen.

No slouch Nowell, look how carefully he has worded that preso title — not even the prosaic “are ebooks cannibalising print?” but phrasings only relative to “change” and “mix” in the marketplace.

As she tells us:

Nowell really caught everyone’s attention by aggregating the sales of three favourite (unnamed) fiction authors, looking at what happened in the pre and post e-book era to their sales overall.

From 2008-10, 27 million print copies were sold; from 2012-14, 23 million.

However, during that same 2012-14 period, in addition to print, 28 million e-book units were sold, bringing those three authors’ total sales to 51 million copies, an astonishing growth.

Here is what Nowell was describing, in a slide from his presentation.

Image from "The Changing Mix of What Sells in Print" - Jonathan Nowell, Nielsen.
Image from “The Changing Mix of What Sells in Print” – Jonathan Nowell, Nielsen.

Nowell’s unmistakable point in this exercise is that in fiction today, we might expect to see fewer print copies sold, in general, in fiction. But we might also expect to see a possibly commensurate or even larger number of sales of the same fiction in digital formats.

It should be noted that the cases Nowell aggregated without titles or author names to illustrate the trend he sees here are understood to be strong sellers, “mainstays,” as the slide’s title has it and as he explained it on the stage at DBW.

But one of the key messages he’d come to offer is that it’s too facile to talk about “all print” or “all ebooks” or “the whole market” seeing one effect or another.

The big number that would catch the audience’s attention not long after Nowell gave his report came from iBooks chief Keith Moerer, who told Publisher’s Lunch’s Michael Cader that since the iOS 8 release in September, the iBooks Store is gaining an average 1 million customers per week.

That’s a lot of customers. That’s a lot of ebooks.

But as Feldman notes:

Despite dire prognostications made in years past (many, indeed, at DBW), Nowell asserted that the hardback “has held up remarkably well.”

Traditionally a place of occasional print-is-dead incantations, DBW found it self confronted with a less simplistic idea of how  p- and e- may coexist in the marketplace.

 Read More

By Porter Ander­son

The FutureBook: At #DBW15: ‘What Sells in Print’: eBooks’ impact

Read the full post at: TheBookseller.com/futurebook


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