E-Books Explosion Will Displace Paperbacks, and Apps

As paperbacks wilt, publishers face disintermediation
By Benedict Evans/Enders Analysis

Market data and industry anecdote point to an explosion in ebook sales
in the US and UK in 2011. Leading consumer publishers are seeing ebook
sales at 10-15 percent of total sales in January and February, driven
by Christmas device sales.

So far ebooks had been strongest in niches: romance, business books

and frequent travellers. They have now moved into the mass market: few
genres will be untouched.

This shift brings with it a very different market structure, with
Waterstones likely to shrink dramatically, technology companies with
little stake in the health of publishing taking major roles and
publishers faced with disintermediation and forced to build direct
consumer relationships for the first time in their history.

Data from the Association of American Publishers reveal that not only
have ebooks exploded upwards, but there is an equally dramatic decline
in paperback sales. One can understand why John Makinson, CEO of
Penguin, was quoted at the London Book Fair in April as saying "We are
seeing in the US that the ebook may completely displace the
mass-market paperback, price and convenience."

The statistics illustrate, to me, the foolishness of spending all your
time playing with apps and enhanced ebooks when those will only
represent a tiny proportion of the publishing business. When cheap
colour printing came in that didn't mean all novels had to be in
colour, and the availability of apps doesn't mean everything has to be
an app. The $50 coffee table book is not the publishing market, and
the app that cost $500k to develop won't be either.

Ultimately, playing with apps is a form of displacement - great fun,
and a good way to avoid thinking about the transformation of your
entire business model.


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