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What's the next challenge in the book business?

10 August 2015

A recent report from Enders Analysis has said that it would be a mistake to see the ebook revolution as the key disruption in the book trade. The authors of the report are much more concerned with the reduction in the time people spend on reading, due to time spent on mobile devices, which is eating into book reading time.

They are doubtful that the book subscription model is working as well for books. "In the abstract, a subscription model for e-books is not hugely compelling for many readers: the catalogues are limited, and most people don't read enough to make the convenience of having access to huge numbers of books useful, or an all-you-can-eat subscription cost-effective." This seems to make sense, as you can only read so many books at a time. Reading is not therefore a subscription activity in the way that music and video are".

Enders also believe that it is dangerous when one company has too much power, as Amazon now does. They are also concerned by the degree to which different genres of publishing would be differently affected by different factors: "It will become harder and harder to assess which bets to place because what works for one category for one publisher will not necessarily be relevant elsewhere. Problems for £25 cookery books or £5 reference publishing will tell publishers nothing about the declines in literary fiction or paperback business books."

Consumer book subscriptions have not taken off, as "reading is not a subscription activity in the way that music and video are". Mobile consumption is reducing the amount of time people spend reading, and publishers need to "innovate vigorously", the report found.
"The e-books challenge is now well understood, and has not been as destructive as many feared," said Enders. "But the next disruptive waves will be smaller, slower, insidious and often much harder to combat."