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The State of the eBook: Challenges, Successes, Trends

AptaraLogoTag200.gifThanks to mobile devices like the iPad and the Kindle, eReading and ebooks are growing in popularity, bringing new life to the publishing industry. A recent report illustrates just how far the eBook market has come in the past year.

Aptara’s report, eBooks — A Second Look Assessing the Latest Impact of eBooks on the Publishing Market, surveyed more than 600 publishing industry representatives this summer in an effort to understand the current state of eBook publishing. Here’s what they found.

Challenges

For publishers, content format compatibility for eReaders continue to pose problems. Even with the near universal EPUB eBook format standard, eReaders are still scrambling to keep up with emerging standards and devices. EBooks require expert, manual manipulation to retain consistent formatting across device types. Coupled with the heightened demand for expert technology vendors familiar with the detailed production nuances of eBook readers and software creates new challenges for publishers.

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Image 1: When asked about the return on investment (ROI) provided by eBooks, respondents were unable to provide specifics.

Despite growth within the eBook market, publishers can’t always determine the return on investment (ROI) provided by eBooks. 62% of respondents indicated that they were unclear as to the ROI of adding eBooks to their product mix. While for 10%, eBooks’ ROI was worse than printed books. Of the 64% of publishers producing eBooks, only 14% are seeing a better ROI from eBooks than print.

Successes

As eBooks become more popular among consumers, more publishers are getting on board. The study showed that 64% of publishers surveyed are creating eBooks — up more than 10% from Aptara’s first survey in early 2010.

Trade/Consumer and Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM) publishing sectors saw the biggest gain of 23% and 24% respectively, while K-12 Educational publishers also saw significant growth, up 18% over the previous survey period with University level publishers measuring an 11% uptick.

Popularity gives way to increased production. The report showed that nearly one-fourth of publishers are producing more than 75% of their titles as eBooks. The types of books seeing the most growth also include STM, K-12 and University ebooks, which are producing more books online, thanks to integration of iPads and other mobile eReaders into classroom curricula.

It doesn’t take an eBook on brain surgery to figure out publishers’ motivations. According to the survey, most look to eBooks to earn new revenue streams (42%), while others are hoping to attract new audience segments (37%), or quickly respond to customer demand (32%).

Trends

The report found that approximately 25% of eBook publishers are employing XML in their workflows, indicating a positive shift to scalable, digital workflows which can help streamline eBook production across all eReaders. In addition, XML works to “future-proof” publishers’ content so that it can be repurposed for new markets and business models, saving money and time.

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Image 2: The study showed that eBook sales are increasingly viewed as strategically important to publishers’ success.

Because of the significant growth eBooks have seen in the past year, it’s not surprising that eBook sales are figuring prominently among publishers’ revenue strategies. Nearly half of the publishers surveyed said that eBook sales are of “high” importance in growing their organizations (up 11% from our first survey), while nearly one-third believe eBooks play a moderate role in future growth.

Overall, it’s clear that while eBooks are creating additional streams of revenue for publishers, they are not a magic bullet that will immediately return publishers to their heyday. However, it is enough to keep publishers afloat. Publishers will need to sustain production while being able to keep up with the demands that emerging technologies impose.

 
 
 
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