What’s Trending: E-Book Predictions for 2013

 

“The e-book era is going to be one of incredible innovation and unlimited opportunity, and people who don’t see e-books dominating the future of the book world are ignoring the coming innovation and creativity and affordability”

– Nathan Bransford, Don’t Believe the E-Book Skeptics

The first Sony e-reader emerged almost ten years ago in 2004. That means the e-book we are all familiar with has had ten years to grow and develop, and it has only been since the release of the Kindle in 2007 that e-books have really taken off. E-readers shape the foundation of what e-books are and can be, because without that technology there would be no way to access e-books. As technology improves, so does the e-book, and every year new predictions emerge about what the future holds for publishers, for readers, and for technology. My predictions for 2013 are that e-books and e-readers will increase in sales, though not at the same rapid pace as before, and more companies such as Zola and Smashwords will emerge, which will allow communities and platforms for authors and readers to connect with publishers, marketers, and booksellers.

Going, Going, Gone?

Now that the lawsuit has been settled between the Department of Justice and five of the big six publishers – HarperCollins, Macmillan, Hachette, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, retailers are once again allowed to price e-books however they would like, which means lower prices for e-books overall (Herther). According to Jeremy Greenfield in his article, Tracking the Price of Ebooks: Average Price of Ebook Best-Sellers in a Two-Month Tailspin, the average price of the top 25 e-book bestsellers has dropped from an average of $11.37 in October 2012, to $8.23 during the week of January 1, 2013. Greenfield looks at Safe Haven, by Nicholas Sparks, as an example of this. The e-book was originally priced at $12.99 when it came out a year and a half ago, but the publisher eventually discounted it to $9.99, the last price they set before the lawsuit was settled and retailers were given the right to discount again (Greenfield). Safe Haven was then discounted to $3.99 on December 20 2012, after gradual discounts had occurred throughout the fall by the retailer (Greenfield). The e-book is now $6.99, due, in part, to the release of the movie. The book is in high demand now that the movie is set to be released, which justifies the higher price: people will buy it regardless of how much it is because they want to own it now more than ever.

The average price of an e-book bestseller has slowly been decreasing over the last six months

Retailers are now allowed to charge whatever they would like for e-books, but this does not necessarily mean they are able to afford to do so. A look at the bestselling books for the Kindle on Amazon shows two lists: one for the top paid e-books, and one for the top free e-books. Many of the books in the “top paid” category are still priced above ten dollars; however, they are juxtaposed with the free titles on the opposite side of the page. A consumer seeing this would immediately gravitate toward the free side of the page because they can clearly see the difference between an e-book priced at ten dollars or more and an e-book that is free. The e-retailers have only recently acquired the rights to begin discounting e-books again, as settlements between all six companies was done individually. Penguin just reached a settlement with the Department of Justice, in anticipation of their merge with Random House, and so will also be subject to discounting, which will further lower the average price of e-books (Greenfield, Penguin Settles…).

Digital is the New Traditional

Technology is becoming faster, more widespread, and easier to use. In 2013, all forms of digital media will continue to grow as more people choose digital over the traditional forms of media. Digital downloads of music, movies, and books will increase as a result. According to Nick Bilton in his article, Disruptions: Impulse Buys, Straight to a Screen, the Federal Government of the United States released a report claiming that the average American family spent an average of $2,572 on all forms of entertainment in 2011. Bilton believes that this number is so high because digital media allows for easy and immediate satisfaction. He claims he purchased fourty seven e-books in 2012, which is far more than he would have bought had he gone to a traditional retailer to purchase them. Anytime he hears about a new book or has one recommended to him, he can simply go to his smartphone or his e-reader and download the book that minute, and doesn’t have to wait to purchase it (Bilton).

People are not just spending extra money on e-books, however, but are also investing in music, movies, apps, video game consoles, and radio, not to mention the money they spend so they can have Internet every month, and the cost of all of the devices and backup needed to enjoy and store this digital media (Bilton). Bilton’s analysis of his own finances could be a run down of any average North American family. More money is being spent on digital media, and this spending won’t be slowing down any time soon, since the ease with which technology allows people to access, download and consume e-books, has the potential to fuel and boost consumer consumption.

No Psychic Needed to Understand this Future

In her article Ebook Trends 2013: The Transformation Accelerates, Nancy K. Herther discusses further trends that will affect e-books in 2013. She claims that traditional publishers won’t die out, but small publishers will become the future as their niche audience and smaller platform allow them to be more flexible and innovative. Reading will also transform to combine content, ads, and user data, and smartphones and tablets will become a more prevalent platform for e-books than traditional e-readers (Herther). The iPad and the iPhone are undoubtedly two of the most successful pieces of technology ever to emerge, and their market share is huge. Apple is currently expanding its operations into different countries at a rapid pace, which means that the Apple iBookstore will become one of the fastest growing e-book retailers of 2013 (Herther).

50 Shades of Self-Publishing

Herther also believes that 2013 will mark a “gold rush” of self-publishing, as more companies establish themselves and focus solely on this area. Ever since the success of 50 Shades of Grey, people have become more aware of self-publishing online, and many will want to take advantage of these opportunities. Smashwords is one example of a self-publishing platform. Smashwords is one of the world’s largest indie book distributors, boasting a catalog of over 180,000 books. According to the founder, Mark Coker:

Smashwords offers the fastest and easiest option for distributing an ebook to the world’s largest ebook retailers. We provide free tools for marketing, distribution, metadata management and sales reporting. At Smashwords, our authors and publishers have complete control over the sampling, pricing and marketing of their written works.

Smashwords offers those who may want to publish a book themselves an opportunity to do so, as opposed to approaching a traditional publisher. The company distributes books to the major online e-book retailers and the majority of profits are fed back to the author.

In an article written for The Huffington Post, Coker discusses his own predictions for 2013, claiming that the market share for e-books will increase from roughly 30% to almost 45%, and traditional publishers, who are already having to merge, will lose out to self-publishing platforms, such as his own. Coker’s points are valid, and bode well for the future of reading, as people have more ways to discover content. Traditional publishers who want to reach their readers and make a profit will have to adapt and change to accommodate the rapid growth of the e-book. Not only that, but they will also have to be innovative, because people are changing the way they discover, interact with, and purchase books.

“Welcome to Zola, the Future of Ebooks”

These innovations in discovery and interaction are exactly the kind of thing Zola Books is promoting. According to the co-founder and CEO Joe Regal, Zola Books was created with “the idea of building a dedicated site where book lovers [could] connect with each other and with the writers, magazines, bloggers, book clubs, and booksellers they love – empowering everyone who’s passionate about books in one space where it’s ONLY about books.” Founded in 2011, Zola touts itself as being the only site where “readers, writers, booksellers, reviewers, bloggers and publishers gather in one place to connect naturally around the books they love…Soon, the social site you see today will become a site that sells eBooks.” Though they are a new company, Zola is already looking ahead to incorporate sales into their website. They are hoping to sell e-books for every platform, and use these e-books to connect people while they are inside the book just as they connect people on their website. The social networking aspect of the website is significant, as e-readers have already begun transforming the notion of the solitary reader through the share and comment functions in an e-book. Zola creates a space where people can go to get virtually any information on books that they could possibly imagine, and companies like this will aid in the growth of e-books in 2013.

What Does the Future Hold?

2013 is going to bring a lot of changes to publishing as e-books continue to come into their own. There is no doubt that their market share will increase, or that they will continue to surpass print book sales due to their convenience and ease of access. As self-publishing platforms continue to grow, and more people look online for book communities, this rise in e-book sales will continue. What this impact will have on the industry, on print sales, and on reading in general is unclear. Jeremy Greenfield claims that more than half of U.S. children between the ages of 2 and 13 are reading e-books, a third of which are doing so more than once a day (More than Half U.S. Kids…). This means that children are still reading, and are doing so through e-books. Predictions are difficult to make, but with statistics like that, there is little doubt that the e-book is here to stay.

Works Cited

Bilton, Nick. Disruptions: Impulse Buys, Straight to a Screen. The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 January 2013. Web. 20 January 2013.

Bransford, Nathan. Don’t Believe the E-Book Skeptics. The Huffington Post Blog. The Huffington Post, 4 March 2010. Web. 25 January 2013.

Coker, Mark. 21 Book Publishing Predictions for 2013: Indie Ebook Authors Take Charge. The Huffington Post Blog. The Huffington Post, 23 December 2012. Web. 17 January 2013.

Greenfield, Jeremy. More Than Half U.S. Kids Reading Ebooks, New Report Shows. Digital Book World. FW Media, 16 January 2013. Web. 17 January 2013.

Greenfield, Jeremy. Penguin Settles with Justice Department in Ebook Price-Fixing Case in Preparation for Random House Merger. Digital Book World. FW Media, 18 December 2012. Web. 30 January 2013.

Greenfield, Jeremy. Tracking the Price of Ebooks: Average Price of Ebook Best-Sellers in a Two-Month Tailspin. Digital Book World. FW Media, 9 January 2013. Web. 20 January 2013.

Herther, Nancy K. Ebook Trends 2013—The New World of Ebook Publishing. Information Today, Inc. Information Today, Inc., 17 January 2013. Web. 20 January 2013.

Herther, Nancy K. Ebook Trends 2013—The Transformation Accelerates. Information Today, Inc. Information Today, Inc., 10 January 2013. Web. 20 January 2013.

Regal, Joe. Welcome to Zola, the Future of Ebooks. Zola Books. Zola Books, Inc., 20 September 2012. Web. 20 January 2013.

Smashwords. About. [http://www.smashwords.com/about].

3 comments:

  1. Some really interesting predictions on ebooks MacKenzie. Reading this article really makes me wonder just how different the landscape of publishing could look like in a year or two. I agree with you that digital is the new traditional, but it’s important to keep in mind that the boom of ebooks you describe is mostly a U.S. phenomenon. BookNet Canada did a study in the first half of 2012 on ebook adoption in Canada, and it seems that it’s taking a longer time for ebooks to catch on here (ebooks accounted for 16% of the Canadian book market, as opposed to the U.S. where it makes up for around 20-25%). Genner supposes the reasons the Canadian market lags behind the U.S. adoption of ebooks is fourfold:

    1. Devices. E-book sales are device-driven and while the penetration of tablet computers and e-readers has grown “astronomically” in Canada, they’re not at the same levels as in the U.S.

    2. Content. While the digital content libraries available to most Canadians nearly matches what’s available in the U.S., it’s a tad smaller.

    3. Amazon. There is no localized Kindle store for Canada, so all Kindle sales go through the U.S. store. While it’s not a major technological hurdle for readers, it does mean that there’s no Canada-focused marketing team for Kindle e-books, dampening sales.

    4. No Barnes & Noble. There is no Barnes & Noble in Canada, which means that the country has one fewer device and e-book seller.

    That being said, this is where the growth of alternative retailers, such as Zola, becomes important to increase Canadians’ access to ebooks. Its concept is neat in that it brings social networking to the communities of book lovers and publishers. Though, when I looked over the website, I got the impression that Zola is intending to act more as a co-op space for publishers. The interest for publishers in signing up for an account with Zola is that they have a feature that allows users to “pledge allegiance” to a publisher’s store, and each time they buy a book, the publisher receives 60% of net revenue. That’s pretty good. The downside to Zola is that, like most major e-tailers, you need to download the Zola app to read the book on you iPad and iPhone. The app is not available for other devices.

    You say in your article that “Traditional publishers who want to reach their readers and make a profit will have to adapt and change to accommodate the rapid growth of the e-book. Not only that, but they will also have to be innovative, because people are changing the way they discover, interact with, and purchase books.” You’re absolutely right. I don’t know if Zola is necessarily the best solution for publishers, but it does offer them another venue to sell their ebooks.

    Where I think publishers would do better to adapt and change to accommodate growth in ebooks, and sales in turn, is to start producing all their ebooks as EPUB 3 formats. Why? Not only does it have features that promise to greatly enhance the reader experience, such as embedded audio, video, and interactivity, but it’s also a way for publishers to loosen the grip that major e-tailers have on the ebook market share (aka Amazon)–in a legitimate way that not even the Department of Justice could contest. According to an article written by Jeremy Greenfield (Kobo to Fully Support EPUB 3 by Third Quarter 2013), “If EPUB 3 becomes a standard that a majority of retailers representing a majority market share of ebook sales and readers adopt the standard, that would simplify ebook production and distribution for publishers. It would also theoretically allow users to buy a file from one retailer and use it on the device of another.” Book buyers wouldn’t be tied to buying ebooks from one store for their device. Once EPUB 3 becomes widely adopted, this would free ebooks to become more widespread. If we think ebooks have pervaded the market now, we haven’t seen anything yet.

    Anyhow, really great article MacKenzie! It was a pleasure to read and has lots of fair predictions.

    If you’re interested, here are the articles that I found in response to your topic:

    http://comicsbeat.com/more-numbers-ebook-sales-projection-for-2012/

    http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/why-the-canadian-e-book-market-lags-behind-the-u-s-e-books-up-to-16-of-canadian-book-market/

    http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/kobo-to-fully-support-epub-3-by-third-quarter-2013/

    http://publishingperspectives.com/2012/10/looking-at-us-e-book-statistics-and-trends/

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