E-books: a turn in a tale
May 13, 2016 - Kindle Unlimited
Today a Publishers Association releases a annual marketplace report, The PA Statistics Yearbook covering 2015. There are copiousness of famous knowns: earthy book sales were adult (just about), digital calm sales were down (just about). Print novella sales were up; digital novella sales were down. Colouring books and vlogger books supercharged non-fiction.
The tinge set by a news is upbeat. The UK edition courtesy is in good health. It’s tiny consternation that everybody seems so cheery: imitation is back, digital did not kill us. The mood during a British Book Industry Awards on Monday dusk was one of outrageous confidence and celebration. There is service too (particularly as 2016 has got off to such a clever start) yet also a clarity of a zone thumbing a nose during all of those who have talked down edition for a past half-decade.
There are still some that consider normal edition is about to tumble off a cliff: yet if so they should compensate sole courtesy to these statistics. The commission changes might be small, yet there stress is not. The digital transition has not been straightforward, yet conjunction has it eroded sales. The digital marketplace was in a decline in 2009 when UK publishers available home sales of roughly £1,950m. In 2015 a homogeneous series is £1,890m. A net detriment yet not a outrageous one, and some-more than done adult by expansion in trade sales over a same period. In sum UK publishers generated sales of £3.3bn in 2015, a poke forward of 2009’s pre-digital figure of £3.2bn.
Publishing might nonetheless be strike by all sorts of physique blows, yet digital so distant has not been one of them.
PA c.e.o. Stephen Lotinga records in his intro: “Beneath a title total is a eye-catching fact that for a initial time given a invention of a e-book, imitation sales are saying a resurgence. Those who done predictions about a genocide of a book might have underestimated usually how many people adore paper. While it is too early to make claims about what this might meant in a longer term, it should be seen as demonstrative of an courtesy that is assured in a destiny bridging mixed formats and audiences.”
Outgoing PA boss and m.d. of Penguin General Joanna Prior writes: “2015 was critical for being a initial year in a prolonged time in that a UK book trade gifted an boost in earthy book sales. However, it was also a year in that digital sales expansion finally went into reverse, following a stalemate in 2014. Both a boost and diminution are too small, however, for us to make any claims for large shifts in consumer poise or make predictions for what lies ahead. But we do consider that any thought that a earthy book is cursed can now definitively be refuted as we trade reduction neurotically in a some-more stable, multi-format world.”
But here’s a rub. While a bigger numbers are all up, there’s a poignant bit of a business that is irritatingly down. For those who haven’t been profitable courtesy these past few years: that would be a digital bit. Or as we infrequently call it, a destiny . . .
Overall digital digital book sales (including non-trade books, and audiobooks) were down 2% to £554m; within this consumer e-book sales forsaken 11% to £245m, a figure that is closer to a £220m volume reported in 2012, than a £261m series available in 2013.
While digital sales in a non-trade areas of schools and academic/professional sectors continued to grow, and consumer audiobook rose 30% (albeit to a misleadingly low series of £12m), there was not a bit of expansion in a consumer e-book market, a bit that is dominated by Kindle.
The 13% tumble in UK consumer digital book sales is a many critical series here: it is good forward of a 2.4% dump in volume e-book business available by a “Big Five” publishers in The Bookseller’s annual Review of a Year. The disproportion in a dual total might be put down to a change behind to full group contracts by a bigger publishers during a year (and worsened deals), a impact of VAT of 15% on publisher revenue, and ubiquitous vigour on pricing brought on my increasing foe from self-publishers and Kindle Unlimited. Whereas final year we remarkable that publishers might be holding a strike on volume in sequence to contend value; this year I’d contend it looks like they’ve mislaid that battle—at slightest for now. we am told that these drops have now ‘plateaued’, so it could be that we demeanour behind on 2015 as a year of adjustment.
The numbers yet are not contemplative of a wider e-book market—though journalists will continue to news them as if they are. Both Nielsen Book and Amazon insist a e-book marketplace is still in growth, and that this expansion comes from self-published e-books.
This is broadly concurred in a report: self-publishing has formerly usually been referenced in a appendix to a PA’s annual report, this year it gets dual mentions in a commentary, many noticeably by Kate Elton, executive publisher during HarperCollins:
“E-book value sales – carrying grown by 14% in 2013 and a serve 6% in 2014 – fell by 7% in 2015. E-books still accounted for some-more than a third of a value of a novella marketplace during £196m, and there were reports that sales of self-published titles (not available here) rose during a year.”
Publishers will be mollified that whatever is function in a digital self-publishing market, it is not directly impacting their imitation book sales. Good novella is still offered well, and in 2015 sole quite good in a imitation formats of yore.
We should not, though, fake that altogether this is not a unsatisfactory result, and demonstrative of a wider malaise. As we wrote in my leader column this week, publishing’s digital transition is distant from over, yet we might have to get some-more nuanced in how we appreciate a numbers: this marketplace is now building during opposite rates, and a year in that many book buyers spin to caricature books or hardback copies of The Girl on a Train might simply not be a good year for digital.
But it is also revealing of a wider, and disappointing, shift. Publishers have recently claimed that they have managed a digital change improved than any other media sector: that might be loyal (one need usually review this square on the Guardian for a perspective from another sector). No publisher has left bust; products are still being bought and sole (and usually about during decent prices); a aged media hasn’t been supplanted; a new media now sits absolutely with a old; and we all live to quarrel another day.
But a idea, as suggested by Simon Jenkins in a Guardian that “virtual books, like practical holidays or practical relationships, are not real” is risible.
Let’s a good times role, for we think there is another turn in this tale.
Philip Jones is editor of The Bookseller.
- Philip Jones