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Industry News: S&S launches pilot ebook library plan, RH profits way up

April 20, 2013

Simon & Schuster announces library e-ook pilot program

Simon & Schuster was the last major publisher to not offer ebooks to libraries. With the beginning of a one-year pilot program with three New York City libraries, that has changed. With the program, any Simon & Schuster book that’s available as an e-book will be offered to the libraries. One patron can borrow each instance of the ebook at a time and there will be no limit to the number of times the ebook can be loaned. Patrons will also be able to buy copies of the book, with a portion of the proceeds going to the library. Licenses for the books will expire at the end of the pilot, so this may wind up being a subscription model.

What this means to you: If you’re a reader, it means down the road you might have more selection for your e-reader at your local public library. But a number of things have to happen: S&S has to decide to continue and expand its program beyond the pilot, your local library system has to buy in, and they have to decide which books to purchase. They also have to set aside money to renew licenses at the end of a year, if this is a subscription-based service. In some ways a subscription service makes sense. Ebooks don’t wear out, and while you might need 15 copies of Jodi Picoult’s latest right now, you can probably get away with two or three later. On the heels of similar moves by Penguin and MacMillan, this is good news for libraries.

Random House profits jump 75%

According to its parent company, Bertelsmann, revenue at Random House rose more than 22 percent last year, boosted by the strong sales of the Fifty Shades titles. Digital sales during the reporting period rose by what the company called double-digit percentages, which really narrows it down. Profits were up 75% ahead of its merger with Penguin.

What this means to you: A few weeks ago, we posted an article that said publishers aren’t hurting nearly as much as they seem to be and these numbers would seem to add credence to that argument. But the numbers may not be as robust as they seem, either. If it’s true that a lot of the bump had to do with the success of Fifty Shades, revenue and profits are likely to decline, perhaps significantly next year. It also leads you to wonder how much money EL James would have made if she hadn’t climbed the ladder with a big publisher. By going with Random House, she eliminated a number of headaches, but she also let them make a lot of money. The real question is how much of their success was due to Fifty Shades. Either way, as much as publishers like you to think they’re on the edge of oblivion, the truth may be different.

ebook growth slows to 41%

The Association of American Publishers reports that in 2012 ebook growth tapered off to a tepid 41%, with digital books making up 23% of the total business. While 41% seems like a healthy number, it’s actually quite a reduction from the triple-digit growth in 2010 and 2011. Adult titles rose 33% last year, but children’s titles rose 120%, which some attribute to the strength of The Hunger Games. Religious titles were up 20%. December was the worst month of the year for ebook sales.

What this means to you: The data means that for now, while ebook growth will continue, the explosion is over. It’s worth noting, though, that children’s books still grew by triple digits last year, meaning that the readers of tomorrow are cutting their teeth with digital books today. It also means that if you’re one of the people who said you wanted a physical book in your hands and you were told you’d need to change, you get to tell everyone you were right. That magical tipping point hasn’t been reached. It turns out a lot of people want the book in their hands. The early adapters are on board and increase from here will be slower. But it’s still increasing. And while 41% or even 20% isn’t what we saw a couple years ago, it’s still a significant increase. The tipping point will happen; it will just take a while longer.

  1. Wendy permalink
    April 20, 2013 9:11 am

    It’s great to see more publishers supporting e-book availability through libraries.

  2. April 21, 2013 7:30 am

    Very good. Thank you. I note your mention of the next generation who are now cutting their teeth on e-books. Whatever is happening now in digital book sales, the next generation will probably prefer e-reading. Probably. What difference does it make, as long as we’re reading? Heck, someday we’ll put something like a contact lens in our eyes to watch movies and read books. All the electronics we’re using now will be in museums and considered quaint.

  3. Chris Hamilton permalink
    April 21, 2013 7:41 am

    I think it depends. My daughter has no real ambition to have an e-reader and when polled, university students prefer physical textbooks over the e-versions. Overall, I think the transition will continue, but I’m no longer convinced that the primacy of e-readers is inevitable.

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