Public library e-book lending in the USA

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There’s an interesting article in Publishers’ Weekly on e-book lending by public libraries in the USA. It focuses on the work of the American Library Association’s Digital Content Working Group, and draws attention to some of the critical issues being explored by the group. These include, the number of platforms that need to be used, the pricing policies for e-books, and the impact of the cost of e-books on the other formats in the collections.

It’s true that e-book lending has gone up in the USA, with Overdrive reporting that 33 libraries in the USA had e-book loans of more than one million – but even that is a relatively small proportion of the total loans. In Sweden, e-book loans are only about 1 or 2 per cent of total loans, so one is left with the question, Is it worth the bother?

In Sweden, public libraries are required by law to make available materials in whatever format they appear, so offering e-books is not negotiable. The law could be ignored in this respect of course, on the grounds that no resources are provided to enable the law to be met, but Sweden is a law-abiding country, so this is unlikely.

In the USA, however, there is no such requirement and it is mainly the librarians’ wish to satisfy as much of the demand from their communities as possible, within the limited resources. In these circumstances, the question is valid. And some questions need to be asked to justify an appropriate policy. For example, are those who download e-books from the library site new users? Do those who borrow e-books use the library for other purposes? Are e-book users also library visitors, or do they never visit the library?

By definition, anyone who borrows e-books can afford at least the basic technology of a smart phone, and most probably have access to a tablet computer or a laptop, so they will be no means be the poorer section of the community. So how about a bit of lateral thinking: the libraries collectively do a deal with, say, Amazon for Kindle Unlimited, and with Scribd, to provide access to these services through the library Website and say to users: We aren’t going to lend e-books, but: sign up to Kindle Unlimited or Scribd and we’ll pay half the annual subscription. That might well turn out to be a great deal cheaper than buying licenses to use e-books. True – users won’t get access to most of the newly published books, but that would reduce the demand for such a service further, as, in all probability, only the enthusiastic reader would sign up.

3rd International Conference on Publishing Trends and Contexts, Zadar, Croatia, 19-20 November, 2015

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3rd INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PUBLISHING TRENDS AND CONTEXTS, Zadar, Croatia, 19-20 November, 2015
The third conference in this series was held this year a little further down the Adriatic coast from Pula, where the previous two conferences had been held, in Zadar, an excellent location in spite of the sometimes wet weather. Over the two days, we heard a rich programme of research on developments in publishing, with particular reference to digital publishing and the e-book phenomenon.

The conference venue

The conference venue

The first session, on Day 1, was devoted to Research methods in publishing studies, with a focus on readers. The first three papers had something in common, i.e., the nature of reading in a digital environment. Christoph Bläsi, from Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz reviewed the existing research on the effects of digital reading. He examined the limitations and controversies in the existing research and suggested further directions for the future. He has also emphasized that the publishing industry should change its attitude to readers and book consumers.

In session...

In session…

Arūnas Gudinavičius, of Vilnius University, Lithuania, reported on one such piece of research, a pilot study, carried out at the Cyprus Interaction Laboratory, employing eye movement metrics – this was very much a provisional account, as the work had been completed only a few days earlier! The outcome achieved using this research methodology, however, was quite convincingly demonstrated.

In the same vein, Mate Juric, of the University of Zadar, reported preliminary results from a PhD investigation into reading in print and in the digital evironment. In common with earlier research, Juric found that students preferred the printed text and were able to recall more from such texts than from the electronic equivalent. Ivona Despot and colleagues, also from the University of Zadar reported on an advantage of digital reading that has not been addressed to any great extent previously. That is, the connection between the electronic book and social media. Their report on social reading shows how the social media connection may enrich the reading experience. Finally, in this session, Andrius Šuminas, of Vilnius University, reported on Browsing strategies in online bookstores, again using eye-tracking software. A novel approach was adopted in developing different styles of book cover, to determine the impact of that aspect of the book on browsing behaviour. Different browsing styles and patterns were discovered and interesting differences of browsing strategies between different age groups of readers were discovered.

The second session concerned Terminology, theory, context and began with a presentation by Angus Phillips of Oxford Brookes University of the changing language of publishing through an analysis of the three most recent editions of Inside Book Publishing. He showed how, while the language of publishing remains stable to a significant extent, there has been considerable change in relation to digital publishing. Tom Wilson then followed with a presentation on the various theories of innovation that have been employed in research on the e-book phenomenon, showing that different theories are applicable depending upon the level (person, organizational or societal) at which the impact is found.

Tom Wilson on the floor

Tom Wilson takes the floor

After that, Adriaan van der Weel, of the University of Leiden, asked the question about the future of the longform scholarly monograph, making a plea for attention to be paid to the scholar as ‘consumer’ of scholarly monographs rather than the present focus on the scholar as author. He noted the impact of open access publishing in this regard.

Asta Urbanaviciute, of Vilnius University, reported on her PhD work on literary periodicals in Lithuania and their migration to digital form. The study is based on the interviews with publishers of the cultural periodicals. Though they claim to be in dire economic constraints, they still prefer publishing on paper. She noted the dilemma in which publishers find themselves: the printed text is preferred, because of its physicality and long life, while the digital version has advantages in a world where social communication is increasingly moving to the digital sphere.

Next, Ana Č. Vogrinčič, of the University of Ljubljana, presented a paper on a rather different theme, a socio-historical view of the role of library space in society, drawing attention to needed changes in the light of changing societal practices in the communication of information. This contribution was well thought through and provided an interesting angle for understanding the role of the library.

Time for relaxation

Time for relaxation

Finally, Zoran Velagić, University of Osijek, Croatia, explored the functions of the page as a unit of text in both the print and digital spheres. In his witty and intelligent presentation he showed how the concept of page has influenced our thinking about online communication and digital texts. He presented the concept of a page as a foundational one in the philosophy and practice of writing and publishing.

Day 2 began with a session on research methods in publishing studies. Ruediger Wischenbart, perhaps best known for his Global e-book report, gave a very detailed account of the problems of acquiring comparable data from different countries for that report. The lack of standard definitions, and the incomplete nature of the data present real problems in delivering an international picture of the changing world of digital publishing. Ruediger impressed the audience with his detailed knowledge of the publishing world and the sources of information related to it. The lack of uniformity was addressed by Miha Kovač, University of Ljubljana, in his draft of a publishing research Website and his call for international collaboration for the production of such a site.

Elena Macevičiute, University of Borås, and a member of our E-books Research Group, reported on a bibliometric study of the research literature on e-books, showing the spheres of activity in which research is done, from librarianship and information science to the publishing sector. Another member of the Borås team, Skans Kersti Nilsson, presented preliminary results from interviews with Swedish authors on their attitudes towards e-books, which ranged from indifference to enthusiastic embrace.

Elena explains all...

Elena explains all…

Benoît Berthou, Sorbonne Paris Cité University, explored the possibilities for the improvement of publishers’ and libraries’ catalogues in terms of ease of access, interactivity and improved visibility of the content. Finally, in this session, Josipa Mijoč, Nives Tomašević and Jasna Horvat, of the Universities of Osijek and Zadar, proposed the concept of a digital-platform-based market, to replace the existing structures whereby the author’s manuscript reaches the reader, which would allow for direct communication between author, publisher, sources of finance and, ultimately, readers. The concept was elaborated in terms of the publishing situation in Croatia.

The final session of the conferences was led off by Ewa Jabłońska-Stefanowicz, of the University of Wrocław, in a presentation on the state of digital publishing in Poland, based on face-to-face interviews with representatives of the industry. She reported that, after an initial flirtation with digital publishing, publishers in Poland appear to have withdrawn from the area, while new entrants, focusing on products for the educational market, have emerged.

Josipa Selthofer and Ines Hocenski, of the University of Osijek, then presented a paper on current research into the requirements for a university press in the digital age, and the session, and the conference, concluded with a presentation by Franjo Pehar, Nikolina Peša Pavlović and Krešimir Zauder, University of Zadar, on current subject trends and research methods in publishing studies, based on an analysis of papers published in three journals identified as core publishing studies sources.

Informal conversations continue over dinner.

Informal conversations continue over dinner.

The conference ended with a city tour, highlighting the Roman and other remnants of the various civilizations that have taken an interest in this part of the world.

A number of the papers, possibly all, will be published in the next issue of the open access journal Libellarium

A typology of content creation, production, distribution and use

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Discussions at the ePub conference in Zadar last week prompted me to think about the terminology of the field at a point where the meaning of virtually every significant term in the publishing industry is becoming very fluid. For example, with the arrival of the e-book, the question of what constitutes a ‘book’ arises: some suggest that the future book may be more like an electronic game than a printed book. With the increased possibility of ‘self-publishing’, and with organizations of all kinds getting into the business of issuing e-books, the notion of ‘publisher’ is fluid. Even ‘reader’ is not without its problems, since we generally use the term to signify ‘book reader’ and today, many people read blogs and discussion lists without ever going anywhere near a printed book or e-book.

It seems, therefore, that the time is right for a typology that, at its highest level, dispenses with the terms traditionally used. The question is, of course, what are the alternatives that could be used. I considered ‘media’ as a possibility, but, apart from the growing tendency to use the word as a singular noun, it has tended by be used to signify modern forms of media, such as films and television. Consequently, ‘content’ is my preferred terms, since it is relatively free of those kinds of associations and is also quite abstract.

My proposition, therefore, is that a typology using a facet structure might be formed out of the terms:

content creator;
content producer;
content distributor;
content user

At the next level, content creator would include:

printed book author
e-book author
blog writer
discussion list contributor
journalist
film script writer
TV programme writer
etc., etc.

Content producer would include:

printed book publisher
e-book publisher
magazine publisher
film production company
TV production company
TV news programme
radio network
newspaper
Website owner
etc., etc.

Content producer would probably also need some additional facets, e.g.,

Content editor
Content designer

Content production process (e.g., print production, or digital production)
Content container (e.g., digital download file, DVD, CD, USB file, etc.)

Content distributor would include:

bookseller
on-line bookseller
public library
academic library
subscription service (e.g., Scribd or Skoobe)
publisher (who distributes from own Website)
newspaper company
TV company
radio network
individual (e.g., self-published author who distributions from own Website)

It might also be useful to have a facet for

Content distribution channel, which would include, for example:

digital download site
physical distribution and delivery network (e.g., Royal Mail, DPD, etc.)

Content user would include:

reader – one who reads any kind of content acquired personally. Subcategories might be needed such as:

book reader
e-book reader
newspaper reader
TV news viewer
radio listener
library user
subscription service user
etc.

The top-level typology would then look like:

  • Content creator
  • Content producer
    • Content editor
    • Content designer
    • Content production process
    • Content container
  • Content distributor
    • Content distribution channel
  • Content user
  • The typology presented here has no intention of being exhaustive – additional facets and/or sub-facets may well be found necessary, but it has the advantage of being expansible along with the advantage of being hospitable to existing concepts. Some facets might need to be repeated, e.g., content designer could be a top-level facet, since that role, today, is often outsourced by content producers, and independent designers are also used by self-published authors. It is also clear that some actors might be represented in more than one channel depending on the role, e.g., the Swedish media company Bonnier is a content designer (e.g., through its service for self-publishing), a content producer (as a book, magazine and e-book publisher), and a content distributor (e.g., through its proposed e-book subscription service, BookBeat).

    My ideas benefited from discussions with Elena Maceviciute and Kersti Nilsson, en route from Zadar to Munich.

The Research Group in Spain

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Last week we all went off to Torrevieja (which has so many Swedish inhabitants it might be called “little Sweden”!) to work collaboratively on the monograph we have promised the Ventskapsrådet at the end of the project. Such a “writing week” is, apparently, a fairly normal practice among academics in Sweden – and possibly elsewhere for all I know.

We worked collaboratively on the overall structure of the book and the individual chapters, pulled together papers and reports we’d already written and wrote new material on a variety of topics. Anyone who has looked at the publications list in the previous post will realise that the availability of such a body of work makes the writing of a book, if not easy, then at least a less-fraught enterprise.

On Thursday we went to Murcia – about an hour away from Torrevieja – to give a presentation on the project. As an honorary PhD of the University of Murcia, I was very honoured that the event was billed as the first in a “Meet our honorary doctors” series. The event was chaired by the Vice-Rector for Communication and Culture, Mónica Galdana Pérez Morales, and the Rector, Professor Jose Orihuela Calatayud, joined us for an excellent lunch at a nearby 18th century palacio, the Torre de Zoco, the picture below (by Lars Höglund) shows the happy post-lunch faces.

AfterLunch

An updated list of publications from the project

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2015

Research papers

Gudinavičius, A., Šuminas, A. & Maceviciute, E. (2015). E-book publishing in Lithuania: the publisher‘s perspective. Information Research, 20(2), paper 672. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/20-2/paper672.html

Macevičiūtė, E. (2015). Conference report: International Conference ‘Publishing Trends and Contexts 2014, Focus: Digital Authors and Electronic Books’, 8-9 December, 2014, Pula, Croatia.Information Research, 20(1), paper 653. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/20-1/paper653.html

Maceviciute, E., Wallin, B., Nilsson, S.K. (2015). Book selling and e-books in Sweden. Libellarium, 8(1), 15-29. Retrieved from http://www.libellarium.org/index.php/libellarium/article/view/211/303
 
Maceviciute, E.; Borg, M.; Kuzminiene, R. y Konrad, K. La adquisición de los libros electrónicos en las bibliotecas de los centros de enseñanza superior de Suecia. Anales de Documentación, 18(1). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/analesdoc.18.1.224341

Nilsson, S.K., Maceviciute, E., Wilson, T.D., Bergström, A. & Höglund, L. (2015). The tensions of e-book creation and distribution in a small-language culture. Northerns Lights: Film & Media Studies Yearbook, 13, 29-47.

Wilson, T.D. (2015). E-books: the publishers’ dilemma. Libellarium, 8(1), 5-13. Retrieved from http://www.libellarium.org/index.php/libellarium/article/view/210/298

Presentations in conferences and seminars

Bergström, A., and Höglund, L. (2015). E-books – in the shadow of print. In NordMedia Conference, Division 5, Session 7, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, August 13-15, 2015.

Bergström, A., Höglund, L., Maceviciute, E. och Wilson, T.D. (2015). Vem älskar e-böcker: seminariet på Digitala Torget i Göteborgs Bokmässan, 24 september, 2015. Programm på http://www.bokmassan.se/en/programme/participants-2015/?person=114255

Maceviciute, E. (2015). Publishers’ dilemma and trouble for librarians. In Nordic E-book Conference “Scholarly e-books in your native language – Why, why not or when?”, October 1-2, 2015, DFFU, Copenhagen. Retrieved from http://www.dfdf.dk/images/2015_-_Scholarly_e-books/Elena.pdf

Maceviciute, E. and Wilson, T.D. (2015). Ebooks in academic libraries – the Swedish perspective. In International Symposium “By the Book: Books and Reading in the Age of Media Overload”, Florence, June 18-19, 2015.

Maceviciute E. and Nelhans, G. (forthcoming). Examining research literature on e-books: quantitative and qualitative approach. In 3rd International Conference on Publishing Trends and Contexts, University of Zadar, Zadar, Croatia, 20th November, 2015.

Nilsson, K. (forthcoming). Authors opinions about e-book. In 3rd International Conference on Publishing Trends and Contexts, University of Zadar, Zadar, Croatia, 20th November, 2015.

Wilson, T.D. (forthcoming). Theoretical approaches to e-book research. In 3rd International Conference on Publishing Trends and Contexts, University of Zadar, Zadar, Croatia, 20th November, 2015.

Thesis

Holmstedt, Linn och Topelius, Stefanie. (2015). E-böckernas vilkor: en fallstudie av biblioteken i Solentuna. Borås: Högskolan i Borås (supervisor E. Maceviciute).

2014

Balling, G., Dahl, T.A., Mangen, A., Nilsson K., Lund, H. and Höglund L. (2014) E-bogen. Skandinaviske perspektiver på forskning og uddannelse. Nordisk Tidsskrift for Informationsvidenskab og Kulturformidling, 3(1), 5-19.

Bergström, A. & Höglund, L. (2014). A national survey of early adopters of e-book reading in Sweden. Information Research, 19(2) paper 621. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/19-2/paper621.html

Bergström, Annika och Höglund, Lars (2014) E-boken: möjligheter och hinder. I Bergström, Annika och Oscarsson, Henrik (red). Mittfåra & marginal. (pp. 239-252), Göteborg: SOM-institutet, Göteborgs universitet. (SOM-rapport nr 61).

Maceviciute, E., Borg, M., Kuzminiene R. & Konrad, K. (2014). The acquisition of e-books in the libraries of the Swedish higher education institutions. Information Research, 19(2) paper 620. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/19-2/paper620.html

Maceviciute E., Nilsson, K., Wilson, T., Bergström, A. and Höglund, L. (2014). The case of the e/book in “small language” culture: media technology and the digital society. Knygotyra, 62, 73-93.
Nilsson, Skans Kersti. (2014). Reading in changing society: Some impact in the Swedish context. In Lauristin, M. and Vihalemm P. (eds.) Reading in changing society, (pp. 118-132). Tartu: University of Tartu Press.

Special issue of Information Research (ed. T.D. Wilson), 2014, vol. 19, issue 2.

Wilson, T.D. (2014). The e-book phenomenon: a disruptive technology Information Research, 19(2) paper 612. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/19-2/paper612.html

Presentations in conferences

Maceviciute E. and Wilson T. The e-book phenomenon in Sweden. In Publishing studies conference “By the book: the book and the study of its digital transformation”, 23-24 May, 2014, Vila Finaly, Florence, Italy. Retrieved from http://publishing.brookes.ac.uk/resources/florence2014/maceviciute_the_ebook_phenomenon_in_sweden.pdf

Wallin, Birgitta and Maceviciute, Elena (2014) Main actors in provision of fiction e-books in a small language market: a Swedish case. In ELPUB2014. Let’s put data to use: digital scholarship for the next generation, 18th International Conference on Electronic Publishing 19-20 June 2014, Thessaloniki, Greece. http://elpub.scix.net/cgi-bin/works/Show?113_elpub2014

Theses

Kuzminiene, Ramune. (2014). E-books in Irish university libraries: changes and challenges in collection development and acquisitions. Unpublished Master’s thesis. (Supervisor E. Maceviciute) Retrieved from http://bada.hb.se/handle/2320/13840

Zemaityte, Justina (2014). Skaitmeninės knygos galimybės ir grėsmės: rašytojų nuomonė ir patirtys (Opportunities and threats of digital books: writers’ opinions and experiences). Unpublished Bachelor’s thesis. Vilnius: Vilniaus universitetas. (Supervisor E. Maceviciute)

2013

Research papers

Bergström, Annika and Höglund, Lars. (2013). Tidiga läsare av e-böcker. I, Lennart Weibull, Henrik Oscarsson, and Annika Bergström (red.) Vägskal. (pp. 357-367). Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet Som-institutet.

Maceviciute E. and Borg M. (2013). The current situation of e-books in academic and public libraries in Sweden. Libellarium, 6(1-2), 13-28. Retrieved from http://www.libellarium.org/index.php/libellarium/article/view/181/195

Macevičiūtė, E. & Wilson, T.D. (2013). E-books in Swedish public libraries: policy implications. In, T. Aalberg, C. Papatheodorou, M. Dobreva, G. Tsakonas, G. and C.J. Farrugia. (Eds.) Proceedings of the International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries: Sharing Meaningful Information, Valletta, Malta, September 22-26, 2013. (pp. 29-34). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Verlag. (Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 8092).

Wilson T. (2013). The e-book phenomenon: a disruptive technology. Libellarium, 6(1-2), 3-12. Retrieved from http://www.libellarium.org/index.php/libellarium/article/view/180/203

Presentations in conferences

Höglund L. Presentation of the project in Oslo, 2013, June.

Höglund, L. & Maceviciute E. E-book project: e-bokens framväxt i ett litet språkområde: media, teknologi och effekter i det digitala samhället. Internationella jamförelse: små och stora språkområde. SOM-institut möte, 2013, April 13.

Macevičiūtė, E. & Wilson, T.D. E-books in Swedish public libraries: policy implications. In International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries: Sharing Meaningful Information, Valletta, Malta, September 22-26, 2013.

Maceviciute E. & Borg M. The current situation of e-books in academic and public libraries in Sweden. International Conference “Publishing Trends and Contexts“, Pula, Croatia, 6-7 December, 2013.

Maceviciute, E., Nilsson K., Wilson, T.D., Bergström, A. and Höglund, L. The case of the e-book in “small language” culture: media technology and the digital society. 22nd International Book Science Conference “Traditional and electronic publishing in a small country: experiences and perspectives”, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania, September 26–27, 2013.

Nilsson K. The Impact of e-books in a small language culture: readers and reading. International Conference “Publishing Trends and Contexts“, Pula, Croatia, 6-7 December, 2013.

Nilsson K. Young adults reading. Conference “Reading in Changing Society”, Tartu, Estonia, 31 October – 1 November, 2013.

Thesis

Konrad, Katherine. (2013). Old habits in a new world? E-book management techniques at an academic library. Unpublished Master’s thesis. Borås: University of Borås. (Supervisor E. Maceviciute). Retrieved from http://bada.hb.se/handle/2320/12674

News from elsewhere

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Given the parochialism of the press in the USA and the UK, every little variation in the sales of printed books and e-books is taken as a preliminary to some global catastrophe. Even when the statistics are, to say the least, incomplete, we get headlines like, “Printed books power back!”, “Collapse in e-book sales”, or similar hyperbole. What is happening in the rest of the world appears to be of no interest whatsoever to the journalists putting out this kind of nonsense. The winding up of Oyster, the e-book subscription service, widely touted as the “Netflicks for books”, is taken as indicating that the model will not work anywhere, in spite of the fact that what happened is that the founders and CEO of Oyster, along with some of their staff got a better offer from Google and decided to wrap things up – nothing whatsoever to do with a failure of their business plan (since no one knows what that was, in any event, being commercially confidential). The fact is that there is not a single market for e-books that can be measured by the sales of AAP publishers in the USA. Different countries and different languages are experiencing different trends and subscription services (including Scribd in the USA and the UK) seem to be doing very nicely, thank you.

Consider Germany, about which there have been a few news items over the past week. First, a report cited by Nate Hoffelder on the Digital Reader blog:

GfK has released some results from its survey of German consumers. It has found that in the first half 2015, an estimated 2.9 million Germans over the age of ten paid for an ebook. They spent a total of nearly 95 million euros. This represents an increase of 13 percent compared to the same period last year…

This follows on from an earlier report from Bitkom to the effect that

A quarter (25 percent) of Germans read digital books (e-books). This is an increase of one percentage point compared to last year. The share of e-book users in the book-reader population is as high as 33 percent. This is the result of a representative survey… among 2,325 people aged 14 and over. “E-books are now an integral part of the digital media world and reach a mass audience,” said Bitkom vice-president Achim Berg in advance of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Here this market is still far from having exhausted its potential. According to the survey, 35 percent to those who currently do not read digital books, imagine doing so in the future.

and there’s an interesting bit about the different age groups:

According to the survey results e-books are almost equally popular across the various age groups. 32 percent of 14- to 29-year-olds and 30 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds read e-books. Among 50- to 64-year-olds it is 28 percent. Only in the age group from 65 years is the use 11 per cent, well below the average.

Hoffelder notes that the spend on e-books in Germany, while significant at 95 million Euros, compares with the $730 million spent on e-books in the USA for the first half of 2015 – and that is only the spend reported by the AAP which accounts for only half of the publishers in the USA, so, crudely scaling up, with lots of unwarranted assumptions, the actual annual spend could be something in the order of $2 billion. That doesn’t seem too bad for a “collapsing” e-book market :-)

In a report on the Frankfurt Book Fair, the CEO of the German subscription service, Skoobe, commented:

Our business model is sound and sustainable. The catalogue is growing, and all partners who have signed with us since the start are still on board. Publishers are growing their title base constantly and are establishing strategies on how best to use the potential of subscription services. Skoobe is proving to be a great opportunity to market titles, especially from the backlist, and new authors alongside bestsellers and new releases. As the overall quality of the catalogue is very high, customers are eager to discover new authors and genres. Some 80% of our customers rate the quality of our book catalogue with “very good” and more than 80% have recommended books that they have read through the service to others.

All of this leaves aside the continuing growth of e-book use in education, and particularly in higher education, and the growth in the developing world. So, next time you see reports of the collapsing e-book market, ask, “Where is this going on?” and “Show me the numbers”.

My bet is that e-books, in their evolving form, are here to stay, although, as I have said before, I don’t expect them to take over from printed books any time soon and that for the consumer market, things are likely to settle down to approximately the Pareto distribution of 80% printed and 20% electronic.

Nordic conference on e-books: a report by Elena Maceviciute

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At the beginning of October The Danish Research Library Association (DFFU) organized a conference for Nordic university librarians, Scholarly e-books in your native language – why, why not or when? The goal was to bring together publishers, aggregators and librarians to start a dialogue and learn from each other how to solve the problem of working with e-books, which is keenly felt on both sides. A special focus of this conference was on e-books in the native languages of the Nordic countries. The two-day conference featured invited papers that presented problems as well as some interesting and unexpected solutions.

The librarians from Copenhagen University Library (Kira Stine Hansen), Uppsala University Library (Karin Byström) and National Library of Finland (Iina Peltonen) were mainly concerned with the lack of communication with publishers, though it seemed that in Denmark and Finland the first ice is breaking. However, the main problem of the scarcity of e-textbooks in local languages is very far from being solved in any of the participating countries.

The representatives of major aggregators, ProQuest (Katinka Bratvold) and EBSCO (Jens Deutscher ), positioned themselves as servants to both, libraries and publishers, and demonstrated their services of getting e-books from publishers by simplifying their entry into e-book publishing and to the academic libraries by becoming one point in negotiations. However, it was clear that the proportion of the local language books that they deal with at the moment is negligible. The only exception was the Danish e-book supplier eReolen, but it reaches only public libraries (Mikkel Christoffersen), like Elib in Sweden.

Basically, academic librarians are facing the reality of the book market and the fears of publishers who emphasize the necessity of keeping the commercial models intact for the supply of university textbooks and scholarly monographs. The publishers suggest that perpetual access is impossible as it is a left-over from printed books. They require that access to an e-book should be limited to one user at a time as if it were a paper one. Both presentations by publishers (Danish Publishers Association (Christine Bødtcher-Hansen) and DJØF Forlag (Anette Wad)) reflected the perspectives of Danish commercial publishers, who seem to be much more flexible than those in Sweden. Nevertheless, the fear of losing the market were quite clear, especially when British presenter Vivien Ward introduced JISC’s experiment of self-published university textbooks. This project also greatly disturbed the representative of the Danish Authors‘ Association regarding writing and publishing commercial non-fiction.

Another presenter from the UK Frances Pinter introduced an innovative and very interesting model of publishing open access scholarly monographs that can bring together both libraries and scholarly publishers. Round two of the experiment and call for libraries for participation has been anounced recently. I think that it is a very good solution for small presses, especially at the universities, but whether it will appeal to the big publishing houses is not yet clear.

The Assistant Director General of the National Library of Norway, Roger Jøsevold, presented the ongoing work of the national digital library in Norway, showing one possible way to solve most of the problems through thoughtful cultural policy directed towards augmenting the public good and the impact of culture on society. Though it is difficult to imagine another government that could direct this amount of financing to a similar activity, it can be achieved through thoughtful and persistent longer-term planning. The author of this post, presented a research perspective on the publishing and library work related to e-books to some extent summarising the discussions of the conference.

The conference programme and some of the presentation slides can be found on the DFFU Website.

It is difficult to guess what will be the impact of this conference, but one can expect that the dialogue of all involved parties could be continued on a larger scale. The access to study and scholarly materials in native languages is already impoverished by thoughtless requirements for publishing scholarly articles only in international journals, which quite effectively stops the development of native scholarly languages in all disciplines. Losing study materials and moving to English may even more strengthen this trend and threaten not only the native languages, but also the plurality of scholarly and study perspectives.

More on trends in e-book sales, and other matters

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Mike Shatzkin has a very interesting article in his Shatzkin files, in which he explores the benefits of e-book publishing for the publisher’s backlist and foreign sales. He refers to the debate generated by the NY Times article on the decline of e-book sales and notes that it refers to sales in the USA and that what sales are generated by AAP publishers outside of the USA is not known. A small counterbalance to the NY Times article comes from the UK publishers who, according to an article in the Guardian, on Waterstone’s decision to stop selling the Kindle, report continuing slight (1%) increase in sales in 2014 over 2015.

Shatzkin notes that it is actually very difficult to figure out what is going on since the data are so fragmentary and flawed. In the E-books Research Group we are interested mainly in what is happening in Sweden, where e-book sales are very low, at about 1% or 2% of total sales – but even here we cannot be sure, since the report comes from the Svenska Förläggareföreningen (SvF) (Swedish Publishers’ Association) and does not include sales of companies that belong to the other association, the Nordiska Oberoende Förlags Förening (NOFF). In spite of its name, NOFF’s members are all from Sweden. This omission is significant, as the SFF reports about 5,000 e-books published in Sweden, whereas our survey of both associations gives us a figure of about 10,000 titles – not an insignificant difference!

Two recent developments by Bonnier, the biggest publishing company in Sweden (and also the second biggest in Germany and with a publishing presence in the USA) are of interest: first, they launched Type & Tell, a self-publishing channel for either printed books or e-books, and more recently they have announced the launch of an e-book subscription service on the lines of Scribd, but one that will offer access to recently published books as well as to the backlist. These two developments may kickstart the sale of e-books in Sweden and the second may have an impact on the lending of e-books through the public library system.

In the course of a couple of interviews with publishers at the recent Gothenburg Book Fair, we picked up hints that the major publishers are not particularly committed to e-book production but, as sales of printed books decline, as they have been doing (albeit slightly) in recent years, e-book production may offer another income channel. Shatzkin’s comments are relevant here, since e-book sales of the backlist could be very helpful to publishers.  Given Bonnier’s international presence (it is, for example, part owner of the major Norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm) expansion of its new subscription service to other Nordic countries and to Germany would be an obvious possibility. Bonnier also recently bought the Norwegian content marketing company Teft, jointly with the content agency, Spoon, and has also launched a “social shopping” channel, Stylista.no, with a focus on fashion, but no doubt expandable to other kinds of products – it is a short step from fashion per se to books about fashion, etc. With the continued absence of Amazon from the Swedish market, one has the feeling that Bonnier is poised to become the Amazon of the Nordic countries. Rumour has it that Amazon (which was said two years ago to be ready to open up in Sweden) is staying out it as a result of a deal with the major publishers – but that would be against the EU’s competition rules, so that can’t be true, can it?

It’s probably just a little too early to write off the e-book as a publishing phenomenon: I have never believed that the e-book would replace the printed book and, increasingly, I suspect that a Pareto distribution will prevail, as it does in so many other walks of life, i.e., things will settle down at approximately 80% printed books sold and 20% e-books. Time will tell!

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