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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Book Buyers Shifting from Culture of “Ownership” to Culture of “Access”

The future of the printed book is looking more dire than ever. The increases in the percentages RE digital book sales have surpassed all expectations...this has fostered a shift in consumers culture of book ownership to book content access.

What the hell, access to digital IS ALSO ownership, though, is it not? You have to pay for that access; and you can always convert it to print (for those who still desire).

Me thinks people make far too much brouhaha over written content formats...

I have posted often before that I feel the printed book will never go away completely...and it won't...It just will not be the only kid on the block anymore AND it will wear a different suit of cloths (a different business model for getting into print and distributed).

These interesting details on The Future of Books provided by L. K. Sharma in the Business Standard

As the great new digital wave dawns upon them, publishers ponder over the challenges and opportunities.

The London Book Fair last year was held under the shadow of the volcanic ash. This time it was gripped by existential fears about the future of the printed book and of the fair’s venue, Earls Court exhibition centre, which faces demolition and development. The dire forecasts of the death of the printed book and the physical book shop were dismissed by some experts who tried to calm the fears sparked by two ‘e’ words — ‘e-publishing’ and ‘e-retailing’. The developing e-environment in publishing has excited the device and platform developers and the digital natives. This in turn made the publishers talk of new “challenges and opportunities”.


A related issue that is more likely to be discussed by an NGO rather than at an industry fair is whether the people could let their digital future be controlled by powerful corporations. Ordinary book readers also have stakes on how the digital publishers’ dispute with public libraries will be resolved. In the US, library e-book downloads have been shooting up and some digital publishers are refusing to sell to libraries.

The tipping point
The future of the printed book and of independent booksellers has been a topic of seminars for some years but this time experts at the fair agreed that the tipping point has been reached. E-books have arrived. One-third of publishers say they would get more than 10 per cent of revenue from e-books next year. As a result of the advances in digital and communication technologies and the appearance of new platforms and devices, e-books already account for 10 per cent of the book sales in the US. That country now boasts of 40 million e-readers and many of them come in the category of core readers — those who buy more than 12 books a year. Some e-books had a 50 per cent share of total sales during the first few months of publication. Thus a US publishing executive did not hesitate to call it “a watershed moment for the trade”. A British executive referred to the decline of physical book retailing. In Britain, e-books account for 5 per cent of book sales but the latest research shows that it will also see exponential growth in the number of people buying e-books. What the US does today, some countries are bound to do tomorrow.

Some turmoil in the book business has also been caused by the growing stronghold of the mega retail chains and the overall decline in the book sales because of the current economic situation. Individual booksellers have been hit hard. The trend of the closure of distinctive small bookshops has accelerated so much that many towns in Britain will be left without any bookshop. It is not that the mega chains can rest on their laurels. With heavy book buyers preferring to buy digitally, even their brick-and-mortar outlets are under siege. Borders of America could not survive in the UK. Ottakar’s, James Thin and Dillon chain have disappeared from the British high street, though Waterstone’s is still in business, holding on to some 30 per cent of the book market.

Naturally, the thought of future haunted the book fair participants. Companies tried to buy and sell future. Many participants were keen to attend workshops and seminars on FutureBook! The Digital Pavilion attracted larger audiences than the Russian book market on which the fair had focused this time. The optimists tried to boost the morale by talking up the market but it was hard not to notice the undercurrent of anxiety.

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