The US market is probably around two years ahead of the UK market in terms of the penetration of ebooks. The market for ebooks there is growing fast and recent estimates put sales at around 10 per cent of the market – this compares to more like 2 or 3 per cent in the UK trade market. What will be interesting this Christmas is to see whether ebook readers – say the keenly priced Kindle from Amazon – will feature as popular gifts in the UK alongside print bestsellers such as Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. We perhaps also need a shift in terminology to accommodate the growth in reading of electronic texts, and industry insiders are already talking about the pbook (printed book) alongside the ebook.
Announced in the US this week is the launch of the new ebook service from Google. This draws on the books already digitized by Google and will offer millions of free books alongside ebooks for purchase. Taking books into the cloud, and therefore not stored on any particular machine, will enable readers to access their ebooks on a whole range of devices.
This is what Google say:
‘We designed Google eBooks to be open. Many devices are compatible with Google eBooks— everything from laptops to netbooks to tablets to smartphones to e-readers. With the new Google eBooks Web Reader, you can buy, store and read Google eBooks in the cloud. That means you can access your ebooks like you would messages in Gmail or photos in Picasa — using a free, password-protected Google account with unlimited ebooks storage.’
Quick to respond, Amazon have also announced a cloud-based service for the Kindle, to be made available in the coming months. See this article here in the Los Angeles Times
News about ebook loans has appeared on two fronts. Firstly Amazon has announced that from later this year Kindle users will be able to lend ebooks to other users for a period of 14 days – this feature is already available on the Nook, the reading device available in the US from Barnes & Noble. There will be some restrictions and it looks likely that the publisher of the ebook will also need to grant permission for this service.
Meanwhile there has been a dispute in the UK over the loan of ebooks by public libraries. Publishers have become worried about the remote lending taking place – even to library users in other countries. There is a suggestion that in order to prevent abuse of the system, borrowers should have to come into the library to download a book. Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said: ‘Our position is that we have to be certain that ebook lending does not pose a serious threat to publishers’ commercial activities – ebook sales. Untrammelled remote access ebook lending would pose such a threat, which in the end would be of no benefit to anyone, including libraries.’
You can read more in this Guardian piece here.
Angus Phillips, co-author of Inside Book Publishing, was interviewed on the PM programme on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 20 July about the growth of ebooks and the future of the publishing industry. He was interviewed alongside John Sutherland, Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London. The discussion was in response to the news from Amazon in the US that for the last three months, sales of books for the Kindle outnumbered sales of hardcover books.
A recent study by Jakob Nielsen compared the speed of reading on the iPad and the Kindle against reading a print book – it also included reading on a PC. Each user read a short story by Ernest Hemingway, and were then given a comprehension test to test their understanding. Most participants showed good understanding so little differences were observed in this area.
The qualitative data produced some interesting results …
We wrote before about how the growing use of ebooks will provide more information about how and what people read. Recently launched is a site on which you can see the passages which have been most highlighted by readers on Amazon’s ebook device, the Kindle.
At present there is not much variety, with several passages being marked in books from Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Brown, and William P. Young. But over time it will be interesting to see how the list changes.
Sony, Amazon, Apple – now Google eyes up the ebook market. News comes that Google plans to enter the ebook market this summer with a new ebook site, Google Editions. The ebooks will not be tied to a particular reading device, allowing consumers greater flexibility, and the service will also allow a range of partners.
The new service was announced in New York by Chris Palma, Google’s manager for strategic-partner development, with a talk entitled: ‘The Book on Google: Is the Future of Publishing in the Cloud?’ The ebooks will be available to download to any device with a Web capability.
Dan Glancy from Google is quoted in a New Yorker article:
The latest figures from the Publishers Association show that UK publishers sold 763m books in 2009, with an invoiced value of slightly over £3bn. In value terms this is similar to the previous year but unit sales were down 9 per cent. Sales of digital products reached £150m across all sectors, which is 5 per cent of total sales – the majority of this income (£130m) came from the professional and academic sector. Consumer ebook sales remained low.
The value of the UK book market – what purchasers pay for the end product – was £3.4bn. This is a fall of 3 per cent from 2008. The diagram above shows where consumers buy books – as highlighted in Inside Book Publishing, the shares of the internet and the supermarkets continue to grow.
The number of new and revised titles published rose to 133,224, an increase of 3 per cent from 2008 (2008: 129,057; 2007: 119,465). To see the full summary about book production in 2009, visit here
The success of ebooks on the iPhone is revealed with some new figures here
At the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference, Peter Collingridge of Enhanced Editions gave an interesting presentation about ebooks and reading habits. For example the average reading time is 24 minutes, and whilst Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro is a popular read in the small hours, Barack Obama is mostly read at lunchtime.
You can view Peter Collingridge’s presentation here.
Some advice from Ian Rankin – his 10 rules for writing fiction:
- Read lots
- Write lots
- Learn to be self-critical
- Learn what criticism to accept
- Be persistent
- Have a story worth telling
- Don’t give up
- Know the market
- Get lucky
- Stay lucky
You can read the full set of advice in the Guardian here