Friday, March 30, 2012

Ebooks: the unlikely saviour of the hardback

Danuta Kean - Babster's Books -Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Faced with flatlining sales, the end of the money-spinning Twilight and Harry Potter series and severe competition from rival media, it has been hard for book publishers to feel optimistic recently. But 2012 began with a glimpse of sunlight through the clouds. Hardback books have been thrown an unlikely lifeline by ebooks. As a result publishers are reassessing their strategy towards a format declared dead only a year ago.
The format was predicted to be the chief victim in the bloodbath following the rapid rise of digital books, but data from Nielsen BookScan, which monitors sales in eight book markets worldwide, shows second publication paperbacks are under more threat from ereaders like Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad.
Though the data shows a decline in print sales across all mature markets of between 1.7% and 14.8%, the percentage decline in hardback sales is lower than that of paperbacks, 8.5% compared to 11.7%. Speaking with publishers, the news looks even more optimistic.
‘We have seen a massive decline in sales of second publication paperbacks,’ says one senior publishing source who refused to be named. ‘But when we compared sales of hardbacks of authors’ previous launches, we found their hardback sales are now higher.’ His company estimate ebooks now account for 15% of its business – the UK industry average, compared with 50% in the US. As a result it is investing heavily in digital.
Traditionally publishers use hardback publication much the same as filmmakers use theatrical release. A limited number of hardbacks are published to garner review coverage and wider publicity for a title. This is then used to promote to the trade and readers high volume selling paperback editions, which follow within 12 months of initial publication.
The resurgence in hardbacks could reflect a shift in consumer behaviour. ‘I suspect that some of the paperback market has migrated to digital or hardback with people buying their books earlier in the cycle of a title, which means that the paperback sale loses out.,’ Jeremy Trevathan, publishing director of Pan Macmillan, tells Cue. ‘Publishers have scaled back production of hardbacks, but this may mean a change of strategy is needed.’
Full piece at Babster's Books blog.

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