Let’s face the simple truth: Not one prediction about ebooks (as far as I know) has been correct so far:

No, ebooks will NOT go away any time soon. But no, again, they will not replace printed books, not even mass paperbacks, within a decade or so.

Thus far, ebooks have strongly impacted only on some markets: English language (US, UK), and genre fiction (big fiction bestsellers, fantasy, romance, young adult) – and ebooks helped propel self-publishing.

Interestingly, in the various – and very diverse – Non-English markets of Europe, ebooks have stalled early on, in a very different pattern from US or UK. But strangely, they behaved remarkably similar for those niches of genre fiction and blockbuster novels (and found plenty of people downloading those in English, and not, say, in Slovenian or Dutch translations).

Publishers, particularly in Europe, have had their hand in all this, by keeping prices high, and by believing in the gospel of iron cast copyright protection technology (DRM).

Now several of the big companies start learning lesson 01: They abandon hard DRM, and replace it by water marking – to get “rid of a road block” (phrases buchreport, reporting on Holtzbrinck¬†giving up hard DRM for Germany, following suit after Bonnier had decided likewise in June, and a growing number of others before that). In Italy or Scandinavia, hard DRM has had no strong showing from the beginning almost.

My personal list of ebook headaches

Every time I purchase a (non Kindle/Amazon) ebook (because I dislike those walled gardens), I firmly struggle, and hate, the lack of usability on ANY of the major ebook platforms I tend to use. Here are some real life examples:

  • Kobo has (for me) a terrible search engine, as it makes some kind of a difference for me with an Austrian account (as opposed, it seems, to what they have for a German user – argh!!!). Behind that riddle seems to sit a mix of territorial rights and bad meta data -¬†which doesn’t help me a lot, I must say;
  • Ebook.de has a search engine and shop environment which together seem to visualize every step of development and changing partnerships that¬†the platform¬†has had to serve in the past several years – and even getting a title into a bookmark list, instead of the buy basket takes a little adventure in figuring out how, and why, a function changes names along the process;
  • Direct purchases at notably British publishers’ websites often confront¬†the mysterious red lines of territorial rights;
  • Buying a French book teaches you a thorough lesson about how France wants to be different – it works in the end, but you better bring some time, and all your wits and persistence.

I assume you do NOT want me to go on and on and on.

Perhaps I am not the only one who got frustrated. Many a reader may have had enough – and a number has¬†moved over¬†to¬†more easy-to-use piracy offerings. Not necessarily because they want “to steal the book“. But because … well, I do not want to entering guessing either.

Here is my main concern: We simply do not know.

We learn about a drop in ebook sales of 2.5% in the US (AAP StatShot, quoted in Publishers Weekly). But what does this mean? Again a few exemplary thoughts:

We know how unevenly ebook sales are across genres, but also publishers. From Europe, I know that ebooks seem to privilege massively the biggest houses, plus a few more publishers who really drive digital.

In Germany, a few independent houses (Luebbe, Aufbau) report that their ebook revenue share is¬†over 15%. Even in ebook agnostic France, a few romance and erotica specialists claim strong digital sales, and we know that a few blockbuster memoirs found their way well onto readers’ screens, albeit through illegal downloads.

For Germany, or France, we still do not have any meaningful break out numbers, by genre, or monthly developments, but only broad overall figures for, supposedly, all of “trade” or consumer publishing, which are basically meaningless. We do not even know, for the industry, the part that year end holiday sales play, for digital sales. And the same applies to¬†any other EU market aside from the UK.

Which also means that we have no idea whatsoever of the real impact of piracy on (p&e) book sales. We simply don’t know. (Just as a thought experiment: Are illegal sales curbing down mostly niche titles, available on highly proficient illegal platforms, and are particularly¬†harmful to diversity of titles published by those specialist copyright holders? Or ¬†are the mostly a nuisance¬†to¬†blockbuster fiction and their ‘Big Houses‘ publishers? Or is the leakage paramount? We don’t know.)

What I could see in fact, through our research, is a pretty staggering increase in page visits at major piracy sites across European markets, and both their usability as well as the mounting emphasis from¬†these sites (they pretend, seriously, to foster ‘reading culture’) which are obviously well¬†echoed by readers. Not by nerds or hackers, but by the most serious, ambitious page devouring folks!)

We have documented some of this in the Global eBook report 2015, and plan for some updates, notably on pricing and on piracy, for autumn 2015.

But here are already a few anticipating thoughts:

Ebooks are NOT a marginal bug in the book publishing system, as a market share (in Europe) of overall 2, 3 or 4% of all consumer sales might indicate. Ebooks interfere with the entire system, as they impact on a number of very sensitive points, by exercising significant leverage.

Most prominently, they work most directly with all kinds of particularly dedicated consumers who specialize heavily on one niche, who read much more than average, etc.

Second, ebooks set a precedent for many more readers, by bringing the ‘book‘ (that previously ‘special‘ thing) on par with all other media content, which literally trains readers at comparing their pricing as well as the convenience of access, and – very important for the cultural classes – their ‘symbolic status‘, with other formats, other content and media, on which¬†they spend time and money.

Third, when the new ‘user experience‘ with books compares poorly with other stuff, the next exit might be a piracy site.

I made an effort of not mentioning the Amazon factor so far in that lengthy story. But here it enters the stage, unavoidably. The ‘A-impact‘ is perhaps not primarily what Amazon is blamed for, its tax-optimizing habits, or its tough negotiations with publishers over margins. Amazon’s main threat comes probably from their offer of being “the other – who claims to re-invent the future of books and reading, and of all other digital media content anyway. Which is also arguably Amazon’s softest spot: Imagine from how many sides and angles¬†new challengers can – and will! – come in. Amazon’s future is all but secured.

For the old world publishers, who today struggle with the first wave of change, this comes with little relief. But it sure carries a simple lesson:

Ebooks are complicated. They look small, even marginal in many places. But we see how a huge, old dyke at once gets many little leaks, and readers’ attention held back for long by that dyke, is curiously exploring all the other leads around.

Publishers, if they want to survive, and fix their dyke, will better learn the tricks of ebooks quickly. Not for today’s minimal revenue share, or flattening growth curve. But to remain their readers’ best choice tomorrow, again.

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This survey of the 57 largest (book) publishing corporations worldwide, with a combined revenues from publishing of 53,328 m‚ā¨, tracks the evolution of the global business of books in its transformation between digitalization, globalization and consolidation.

The study, which has been updated annually since 2007, encompasses scientific and professional, educational and consumer publishing.

An initiative by Livres Hebdo, this annual snapshot of the global book business has been updated every year since 2007, and is co-published by Bookdao, China, The Bookseller, UK, buchreport, Germany, Publishers Weekly, USA, and PublishNews Brazil. It has been researched by R√ľdiger Wischenbart Content and Consulting.

A summary of findings 2015 can be downloaded here.

 

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We proudly announce our partnership with Electric Book Fair in Berlin on June 20, 2015, a new initiative of the digital publisher mikrotext by authors Andrea Nienhaus and Nikola Richter.

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The new generation of digital entrepreneurs and activists are preparing for an “Electric Afternoon“, at¬†Colonia Nova, Berlin-Neuk√∂lln.

We celebrate the event with the best that we can offer: Good & fresh information on ebooks.

For a short time, the Global eBook report will be available for the puzzling amount of only ‚ā¨10 (instead of usually ‚ā¨15) at www.global-ebook.com

Have fun, be electric & eclectic.

Join the Electric Book Fair and read the Global eBook report 2015!

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It all started with hosting a ping pong tournament and players in the early 1970s, recalled Steve Orlins, who in fact had been personally involved in the early negotiations to resume diplomatic relations between the US and China some four decades ago. Today, Orlins is president of the National Committee of United States China Relations, with Henry Kissinger still its vice-president, sending a welcome note to the BookExpo America Global Market Forum China, which we kicked off today in New York.

Big media attention at today's launch of China Global Market Forum at BEA in New York

Big media attention at today’s launch of China Global Market Forum at BEA in New York

China has sent a delegation 500 strong delegation, including over 100 publishers, for meeting their US peers, and engage in professional conversations on how to further develop exchanges between the book professionals of the two largest book markets worldwide.

 

Together, the US and China book markets account for some 40 percent of the worldwide trade in books and publications, as Jonathan Nowell of Nielsen BookScan reminded the audience in the first of five “Forums” exploring the state of the industry in the two countries, quoting statistics that we had researched a year ago.

 

Nowell was joined by an illustrious round of speakers including Wu Shangzhi, the Chinese Vice-Minister for publishing (GAPP), Wu Xiaoping and Li Yan, respectively president and vice-president of two of the largest Chinese publishing groups, Phoenix and China Publishing Group, Tom Allen, president of the American Association of Publishers, Richard Charkin, president of the International Publishers Association and CEO of UK publisher Bloomesbury, Russel Grandinetti, SVP of Amazon Kindle, Clay Stobaugh, EVP of Wiley (which operates in China since 1979!), Jo Lusby, MD North Asia for Penguin Random House, who had set up shop for Penguin exactly 10 years ago, Rick Joyce, CMO at Perseus, as well as my co-moderator George Slowik, president of Publishers Weekly.

These two panel debates were setting the tone for further discussions, on digital publishing, literary translation, educational publishing and reading promotion in the next few days which I had been preparing together for BEA, with tremendous support from teams in Beijing and at BEA in the US.

The spacious Chinese stand, displaying some 10,000 books, moments before being opened to the general audience of BEA

The spacious Chinese stand, displaying some 10,000 books, moments before being opened to the general audience of BEA

 

In fact, together with BEA’s director Steve Rosato, and his predecessor Lance Fensterman, we had started to work on this project a number of years ago.

 

Today, all these pieces got together into a great event, and, to be honest, with a deep breath of relief. It cannot be an easy feat to set the stage for such a complex conversation, and I am sure, the various debates will follow suit on that beginning in the weeks and months ahead, with discussions on business as well as debates between different cultures and agendas. I am certain that this was a fruitful start.

 

Popular SciFi author  Liu Cixin, whose novel "The Three  tBody Problem" has been widely acclaimed both in China and the US, tonight at a debate with New York fans.

Popular SciFi author Liu Cixin, whose novel “The Three tBody Problem” has been widely acclaimed both in China and the US, tonight at a debate with New York fans.

 

 

 

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The Global eBook report – your reference and guide on the evolution of ebook markets internationally:

 

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Providing compact data and analysis, with comparative charts and tables for over 25 leading publishing markets (US, UK, Europe, Brazil, China, India, Russia), summarizing recent developments and debates, including on global players (Amazon, Apple et al.), ebook pricing strategies, piracy, and key trends (e.g. an overview on new book flat-rate services, DRM policies, or self-publishing). Available in PDF, ePub and Kindle formats.

 

For details and direct purchase at only ‚ā¨15, go to www.global-ebook.com¬†.

 

Selected findings, with data and insights, will be discussed here over the weeks to come. For alerts, follow us on Twitter @wischenbart.

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The Publishers’ Forum in Berlin in April 2015 has brought together over 260 book professionals from Germany, the United Kingdom, the US, Sweden, Poland, Italy ¬†and a few more places, to debating “How to reconstruct publishing“.

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It was a lively two days, with topics ranging from finance – “Strategy & Money” – ¬†to cross media – “Publishing goes Pop” as illustrated in the picture featuring, from left to right, Michael Bhaskar (Canelo) , Lance Fensertman (ReedPop), Nathan Hull (Mofibo) and Andy Gall (Red Bull Media House).

 

A fair number of the sessions are available on video online, as are many of the presentations.

 

Media saw “a bold setup” in the conference ¬†(The Bookseller) as well as clear signals of optimism (“Am Ende der Angststarre”, in buchreport).

 

But as of now, preparations have already began for Publishers’ Forum 2016, which will be held on April 28 & 29. Save the date, and stay tuned at www.publishers-forum.com¬†and on twitter at @PublishersForum !

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The Publishers’ Forum (April 27 and 28, 2015 in Berlin) analyzes and discusses the transformations in the German book market in an international context and from a variety of different perspectives. Three reasons why this is relevant for you:

Reason 1: financing ‚Äď what options are available to independent publishers?

First off, the subject of publishers’ objectives and their finance strategies. A glance at the global book publisher rankings makes one thing clear: the biggest publishers obtain their financing via the stock exchange or via bond issues (traded on a regulated market). But what other options are available to classical publishing houses (family-run businesses) that wish to remain independent? Management consultant and investor, Aljoscha Walser (GER), poses this question in his presentation on the theme “Money and Strategy” at the beginning of the conference.

Reason 2: e-books for people who simply cannot buy traditional books

Or, secondly, “the potential of e-books”. Certainly, scrutiny of their modest growth in many areas is important as a barometer for the development of the market in Germany, but it takes an organization like Worldreader (www.worldreader.org) to reveal the truescope of the¬†potential of e-books.

15,000 titles on mobile phones for 180,000 people

Launched five years ago, Worldreader is already active in more than 50 (developing) countries and provides mobile access to a catalog of more than 15,000 titles to more than 180,000 people who would otherwise have little or no access to books and thus to knowledge and learning.

Rights acquisition: a fine balance between asking for donations and supporting local publishers

In Berlin, Colin McElwee (UK), one of the three founders of Worldreader, will tell us which advanced technologies made the initiative possible in the first place and what priorities their rights acquisition policy sets. Special attention is given to the acquisition of books from local publishers in the target countries, while major publishing groups are encouraged to donate the use of their digital titles.

Reason 3: how investing in IT helps learning more about the user

In our third example, the challenges facing a non-profit organization like Worldreader overlap with the practical guidance of IT professional for the traditional publishing industry. For example, Matt Turner, CTO of MarkLogic (USA), whose motto is ‚ÄúPutting Content and Context into Action”. Matt will discuss¬†options that facilitate personalized solutions for individual users and target groups.

Or Steve Odart, founder of IXXUS (UK), who demonstrates how these adjustments have to be reflected in the organization of the entire company.

What to think next: the solutions of today as the challenges of tomorrow

And, last but not least, a recapitulatory and forward-looking discussion chaired by the proven navigator Brian O’Leary of Magellan Media Partners (USA), under the title “What to think next?”. All the theories and findings of the previous two days will be probed to see whether they are sound or where new questions arise.

Tailored to your needs: from presentations to discussions and hands-on workshops

The conference agenda is structured such that the main themes are introduced in keynotes and presentations before we delve deeper during podium discussions. The practical aspects of implementing the ideas presented are then covered in the numerous workshops. This ensures that big ideas don’t just evaporate right away and can instead be refined for application to the specific business environment in a group discussion.
Check out the agenda in detail, and register online!

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A long list of outstanding speakers has been announced for the Publishers’ Forum which is to open in Berlin in just two months.

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The ambition is to combine strategic outlooks for an industry in full transformation, with hands-on practical advice in key challenges ranging from investment strategies, to strategic IT decisions, to how publishing houses can integrate a new Direct-to-Consumer approach in marketing. But also the old practices, and working relationships, will be debated with their new opportunities, by taking a fresh look at the ties between the author and the publisher, the changing cultures of readers versus new fan audiences, or in extending book publishing into new formats, and more complex value chains.

Confirmed speakers include many top executives from both leading German and international houses, like Jacob Dalborg, CEO Books at Bonnier Media Group, Timo Steinberg, CEO of Edel, Birte Hackenjos, MD of professional publisher Haufe Group, Volker Smid, CIO of Holtzbrinck Group, or Lance Fensterman, Executive VP of ReedPop (and head of New York Comic Con).

Conference attendants will be introduced to many innovative ventures, including new full color on demand printing technologies (from BoschDruck/Canon, but also from BOD and CPI companies), cutting edge database services (e.g. from MarkLogic), firsthand insights on subscription (or flat rate) ebook providers (Skoobe, Mofibo), or the innovative concept of a multi media company spanning from books to TV to the web (Red Bull Media House).

More details and registration are open now.

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Announcing the next set of details on the Publishers’ Forum Berlin programm and agenda, as the Early Bird discounted reggistration closes nxt Monday (February 2, 2015).

How can large and medium-sized publishing houses adapt or upgrade their IT infrastructure to manage requirements that are rapidly increasing in complexity, and how can they finance such changes?
This is the crucial question facing management at almost every publishing house today. And the acclerating pace of innovation is exacerbating a decision making process already balancing day-to-day requirements and forward-looking strategy.

It’s a question of highly practical requirements:

Can ‚Äď and should ‚Äď books at trade publishers be produced right from the database? Does it make sense commercially to offer single chapters for purchase? Should the production and targeted mailing of the catalog of new publications be part of a single workflow (delivered either lavishly printed or in various electronic formats depending on customer preference)? And should it then include the dispatch of text samples and advance reading copies (printed or digital; PDF, Kindle Mobipocket or EPUB) to media outlets and booksellers, document the feedback and provide the results in a useful form to marketing and sales?

But answers to questions regarding the integration and practical use of user data are also pending. The keywords are: direct-to-consumer, social-media marketing and, still, multi-channel sales.

In most cases, the much-discussed subject of Big Data mutates for publishers into small data; into fragmented, heterogeneous data, whose analysis and the resulting knowledge are not always easy for marketing and sales to apply. Are innovative technologies such as semantic systems also interesting to small and medium-sized publishing houses?

And, at the end, fundamental, organizational decisions have to be made: where is the lead? Do previously autonomous business units have to become more centralized ‚Äď “for the sake of the IT”?

The theme “IT Goes Center Stage” is bringing a slew of top speakers to the Publishers’ Forum 2015, who, in keynote presentations, compact podium debattes, and practice-focused workshops, will “roll out” a uniquely board range of experiences and “lessons learned” for application in publishing practice.

To mention just a few names in advance:

Volker Smid, CIO of the Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, Matt Turner, CTO of the database specialist MarkLogic and Steve Odart, CEO of Ixxus, a leader in the area of publishing and media integration.

Case studies on the integration of innovative IT solutions in organizations and process will be the focus of several workshops with catalytic figures who are well-known to the German-speaking publishing world, including Florian Geuppert (CEO, BoD), Beate Kuckertz (CEO, dotbooks and venusbooks), Christian Damke (CEO, Open Publishing), Heiko Beier (CEO, Moresophy), and the Akademie der deutschen Medien (German Media Academy).

Find all the details on the programm and speakers at http://publishersforum.de/speakers-2015/

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Proudly announcing more and more details about Publishers’ Forum on April 27 & 28, 2015 in Berlin.

These topics and speakers have been announced earlier today:

At the end of April 2015, the Publishers’ Forum will illuminate two current, strategic challenges in publishing enterprises:

  • Which approaches to financing and which investment tools provide optimal support for innovation strategies in publishing?
  • Which specific challenges are making IT decisions play a more and more central role in all strategic processes?

Well-known speakers from leading German and international publishing companies will share insights into their decision-making practices:
The book business is growing in complexity. More and more often, publishers are delivering their content in different media and formats via an increasing array of channels ‚Äď both via booksellers and direct to the consumer. In the course of this development, Edel transformed itself from a music distributor to a publically traded media company. Timo Steinberg, Edel CFO and COO, will illuminate the specific challenges that accompanied this transformation and the prospects that it opened up for the medium-sized company.

Clearly, there is a varied portfolio of investment strategies available to decision-makers, each applicable to a different undertaking: whether the plan involves organic growth on the basis of the existing company structure, securing new business segments, or acquisitions or strategic partnerships, successful business development demands carefully consideration of the options and models.

On the CEO Day of the Publishers’ Forum, speakers with a broad range of backgrounds and experience in financing strategies will offer practical orientation with analysis of the market conditions and specific case studies. Aljoscha Walser will analyze various instruments and their fields of application.

The theme “Money and Strategy” continues on Tuesday with a look at prospects in newly emerging business segments as well as in fundamental waves of innovation which are looming on the horizon. David Worlock of the UK and US-based consulting company, Outsell, highlights how the “Internet of Things” is rapidly gaining relevance for the media industry.

Afterwards, we turn to innovations and expanded business models which are already successful today. R√ľdiger Schmidt will use the example of new production technologies to demonstrate how their reach can extend as far as the conception of books, through the customization of titles for title audiences for example, and how they can generate completely new product ideas. Marcello Vena reports how he equips the entire value chain to handle digital strategies for book and media groups. Revenues from rights and licenses are often neglected and underestimated areas of growth for publishers ‚Äď so argues Michael Healey from the international perspective of the US-based Copyright Clearance Center. Finally, Nathan Hull uses the example of the Danish flat-rate provider Mofibo to demonstrate how much more innovation is necessary in subscription models than just the conversion of one-off book sales to recurrent revenues.

All these strategies and innovations have a central factor in common: digital technologies are the fulcrum and lever. IT decisions take center stage in almost every strategy.

Don’t miss to be a part of the exciting conversations at Publishers’ Forum (early bird rates available until February 2, 2015).

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