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Self-publishing and ebooks booming

9 July 2012

New figures suggest that self-publishing output has played a significant part in the first growth in US title output in four years. Bowker figures project that print book output increased by 6% last year over the previous year, to an astonishing 328,259 titles, but if the self-publishing contribution is removed the market was flat.

New first quarter figures from the US show that revenue from ebooks outstripped that from hardbacks and was up 28.4% on the same period last year. Paperback sales are still greater, but they are shrinking rapidly as many readers switch to ebooks.

More international figures show that India, Australia, the UK and the US are leading the way with ebook adoption. Japan (surprisingly) and France are way behind. In some countries, such as India, it looks as if ebooks will jump straight over ereaders in terms of mass adoption and onto mobile phones (although why anyone would want to read a book on such a tiny screen is another mystery).

Fiction is doing twice as well on ebooks as all the other categories, which is presumably because of its consumable qualities. Online retailers make large samples available and price is a major factor in all of this. The publishing areas which are doing less well as ebooks are those where the internet can already provide the information, such as history, although there must still be a market for narrative history, which few would want to read on a computer screen from the internet. Reference of course doesn’t have a hope in the long run of continuing to work well in book form, as the search function made possible by its being online is a key factor. That’s why the Encyclopaedia Britannica has sadly stopped producing a print edition after 244 years, beaten to the draw by the 11-year-old Wikipedia, with all its many faults.

Publishers are very nervous but bricks and mortar bookshops are the most endangered species as a result of the rapid growth of ebook sales, and thus James Daunt’s gamble in his new alliance with Amazon. Amazon has it every which way, using the sales of print books to build its brand and customer base over the years and now benefiting from its dominant position with the Kindle.