Trends in e-books and e-publishing

Developments in digital publishing and the continued growth in popularity of e-devices are keeping publishers on their toes.

Barnes & Noble (the largest bookseller in the US) has recently announced that it is selling three times as many digital books as all alternative formats - combined.  This strong growth is at least partly due to the popularity of its e-book reader - the Nook.  However, it is also benefiting from its PubIt initiative, which enables easy self publishing.  Authors are able to sell their e-works through the Barnes & Noble infrastructure and the bookseller retains a portion of the profits - profits derived from content it has not had to pay for (read more about the Nook on the econtent blog). 

The self publishing phenomenon has been in the news already this month.  It was announced that self-published author John Locke has joined the ranks of authors who have sold more than one million works on Kindle.  Other 'Kindle Million Club' members include Lee Child, Steig Larsson and James Patterson, so Locke's success is no mean feat.  The announcement that JK Rowling is to make ebook versions of Harry Potter novels available via Pottermore will surely mean that she too will soon enter the Million Club across a full range of e-devices.

The role of publishers to be reconfigured

This week publishers gathered in London to discuss the current and future state of publishing at the Publishers Launch Conference.  The professional journal, The Bookseller, has been reporting from the conference, where conference delegates have been treated to lively debate and contrasting opinions.  One of the speakers, a literary agent called Jonny Geller, challenged publishers to think about what they actually provide authors in exchange for 25% of net receipts.  Self publishing will become an increasingly attractive option for authors if publishers don't buck their ideas up!

Later in this conference John Makinson, the chairman and chief executive of Penguin Group, expressed a contrasting view.  Rather than not doing enough to justify their percentages, publishers are actually taking on more complex responsibilities.  They now need to be able to understand the complexities of metadata and to navigate the new digital landscape (including having an expert grasp of global copyright issues whilee protecting their assets from digital piracy).  Stephen Page of Faber agreed - publishers need to get better at finding the time to explain - and demonstrate - their worth to their authors (and their literary agents!).

Digital publishing - challenges and opportunities

Publishers do indeed have lots to keep them occupied these days.   Established business models are simply no longer relevant.  Richard Charkin, the Executive Director of Bloomsbury, told the conference that the concept of selling into geographic territories is now obsolete.  His view is a pragmatic and commercial one.  Digital publishing via the internet means that territorial marketing can actually dilute efforts.  His firm is increasingly focusing on obtaining world English-language rights.

US has its eyes on Europe!

Meanwhile, as e-book sales are growing rapidly across Europe, US e-book companies are considering the opportunities that expansion into Europe offers, Mike Statzkin of the Idea Logical company told the conference.  Which leads us back to where we started.  Statzkin reported that Barnes & Noble was sourcing UK-originated content leading to speculation that the Nook could soon be arriving in Europe.