Boom time in Digital Book World

News, Tech


Last year, 2011, was a depressing year for those in the printed book industry. August, traditionally one of the biggest months for book sales, was down 8% on 2010 figures. WH Smith reported that it saw sales drop both on the High Street and through their travel outlets at service stations, airports and train stations. Even Supermarkets, who have on the whole fared better than traditional book sellers, saw their sales dropping a big 12%.

While printed books may be in decline, the market for e-books is growing rapidly. Since Christmas, Nielsen Bookscan has recorded a phenomenal increase of e-books sales, with sales rising by 355%.  The market research company, YouGov, also reported that 1.3 million e-book readers were sold over the Christmas period, making them one of the most popular gifts of 2011.

Publishers such as Bloomsbury have increased their e-book sales by offering out of print books such as crime writer HRF Keating and the politician Alan Clark. The e-book revolution is reviving publishing houses’ fortunes; Bloomsbury reported a healthy £9.1million profit in 2011 after seeing a 38% increase in e-book revenue. Pearson, the educational publishing powerhouse, is also keen to profit from e-books and has launched a new partnership with Apple’s iPad.

Talking of education, one of the world’s highest achieving educational systems, South Korea, is already putting plans in place to make its entire curriculum available online by 2015.  The USA, keen to keep pace with countries such as Korea, has also invested heavily in digital learning. Barack Obama launched the USA’s new national centre to advance digital and learning facilities last month.

Apple hopes that its new e-textbook resource will fulfil this growing demand from counties such as the USA and South Korea. The new Apple e-textbook resource will take on Amazon’s popular Kindle device and the Barnes and Nook ‘e-reader’. Apple will aid publishers to create interactive titles and resources by enabling authors to have free access to its free iBooks author programme.

iTunes U, designed for university students, has also been expanded to attract university students to download its resources. Moreover, teachers and lecturers can use the App as a learning management system to upload seminar and tutorial notes.

Pearson is extremely happy with the results so far and see this as a real area of growth.  Genevieve Shore, Pearson’s director of digital strategy, said, “We’re delighted with the results and we hope that readers, students, teachers and parents are too. We see enormous potential to create these kinds of programmes for more students, more stages of learning and more geographic markets.”

The growth predicted by Shore for Pearson is also likely to safeguard jobs in the publishing house, as well as boost the numbers of IT jobs in the UK; timely and welcome news for the British economy. In particular, the benefits are most likely to be felt by candidates searching for IT jobs in London, due to the capital’s concentration of digital and high tech industries, as well as being the home of Pearson.