The American Association of Publishers (AAP) recently reported that e-book sales were $54 million in 2006 up 24.1% over 2005. They hae been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 65% since 2002. International sales of e-books, as reported by the International Digital Publishing Forum, (IDPF) were also brisk. In Japan sales totaled $82 million in 2006, and in Korea the comparable figure was $144 million. A presentation given by IDPF’s Nick Bogaty at Book Expo America this year, highlighted significant growth in educational and library sales of e-books. While the growth rates have been impressive, e-book sales are still only a fraction of print sales.
A survey by the IDPF in 2006 showed that customres wanted:
- Competitive pricing versus print books – Many publishers charge e-book prices that are close to those of print media. But that hasn’t matched up with customers’ perception of value.
- A larger selection of e-books – Many books are not available as e-books. Limited selection restricts purchases.
- Format flexibility / interoperability – Different formats between manufacturers, as well as issues caused by digital rights management software has a withering effect on consumer purchases.
Over the years, a variety of manufacturers have produced specialized e-book readers and various software readers have been created for PCs, laptops and PDAs. This has led to a confusing array of often incompatible formats. The IDPF, a standards organization involved in creating a standard reflowable (non-PDF) file format for downloadable digital books, is promoting a standard called OPF / OCS that it hopes will become for the digital book what MP3 is for digital audio.
However, the launch of the iPhone could change things considerably. There has been some speculation recently that the iPhone may become the e-book reader of the future (see Kassia Krozser’s post “How The iPhone Can Save The Book Business” on Booksquare). Why? Several reasons:
- Screen size that allows for comfortable reading
- Wireless, web capabale, multi-purpose device – vs. the single purpose e-readers
- Ability to download PDFs from iTunes
- The iPhone could enhance the reading experience by integrating audio and video into the text
Will it happen? Who knows since the iPhone is still a new kid on the block. But it is a distrinct possibility. It might cause the IDPF to rethink its plans and formats, but it could be the takeoff point for the long suffering e-book which has struggled these many years for an implementation that would ignite consumers imaginations and open their wallets.