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Epublishing Rapidly Expands, Amid Uncertainty

Ebooks were the most-purchased tablet content by US tablet users

NEW YORK, NY (August 14, 2012)—Sales of ebooks and the devices on which people read them—ereaders, tablets and smartphones—are on a steady upward trajectory, according to a new eMarketer report, “Book Epublishing: The Price of Disruption.”

The new report analyzes findings from dozens of third-party research providers and interviews with industry executives, answering key questions about the opportunities and challenges of epublishing, including:

  • How many people use ebooks and reading devices (ereaders and tablets)?
  • What are the demographics of the ebook reading audience?
  • How will ebook pricing play out?
  • What are the issues affecting the ebook library lending market?

The US adult ereader user base is poised to grow at double-digit percentages this year and next, but in 2014 and 2015 expansion will slow to the 5% range. This reflects cannibalization from tablets, not a loss of interest in ebooks.

And people are using these devices—both ereaders and tablets—to read voraciously. The Online Publishers Association (OPA) has found that tablets encouraged book purchases. In March 2012, 35% of US tablet owners purchased ebooks on their devices—more than the number who bought movies or TV shows, purchased magazine or newspaper subscriptions, or bought single copies of magazines, according to OPA.

Difficulties in the ebook market remain though, and are primarily associated with content delivery and pricing. Although ebook production generates its own set of costs, consumers still feel that ebooks should be cheaper than traditional book formats. Whether or not publishers, distributors, retailers and technology firms agree, they are under intense pressure to meet consumers’ price expectations. And a recent suit by the Department of Justice against Apple and five publishers for ebook price fixing will result in a period of uncertainty over price levels.

Key Takeaways from “Book Epublishing: The Price of Disruption”:

  • The devices on which people read ebooks—ereaders, tablets and smartphones—are hugely popular with consumers.
  • Ebook sales are rising hand in hand with device sales.
  • Despite the success of electronic books and reading devices, the publishing industry is in the midst of a standoff over competing business models.
  • Ebook library lending is another area in which a surge of consumer interest is being mitigated by business disputes.
  • Marketers have an opportunity to participate in the ebook industry through ads on discounted devices.

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Media Contact:
Clark Fredricksen
Vice President, Communications, eMarketer
Tel. 212-763-6056
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Posted on August 14, 2012.