Five e-book trends for 2012 and beyond

Millions of Japanese seniors could receive iPads under a programme to supply the elderly with specially equipped tablets that remind them when to take medicine and advise where to find community support services

With the arrival of new tablets, advanced e-readers and digitally enhanced content, the e-book market has seen tremendous growth over the last year. Readers are embracing digital books in all their formats, from short format e-books to digital textbooks that open up a whole new world of interactive, visual- and text-based learning.

According to a Harris Interactive poll published on March 8, close to three out of every ten adults (28 percent) in the US use an electronic reader device or tablet to read electronic books, up from 15 percent in July 2011.

In February market analyst Nielsen reported that in 2011 e-book production outpaced hardback book production in the UK for the first time. Market researcher GfK also found that e-book sales were showing strong growth within Germany. In a March 14 study, GfK revealed that e-book sales had increased by 77% in the country in the space of a year and equated to a total sales volume of EUR 38 million in 2011.

The market is developing quickly as traditional publishing brands adapt traditional works to the new confines of the digital landscape and authors discover the benefits of self publishing.

Angela Bole, Deputy Executive Director at the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), revealed that the "e-book market is developing very quickly, with consumer attitudes and behavior changing over the course of months, rather than years.”  

This month, North America’s largest publishing event, the Publishing Business Conference & Expo, will investigate some of the industry’s emerging trends. Highlights include an intensive workshop on e-book conversion, international trends in e-book consumption, the use of QR codes and the publisher-author relationship in today’s marketplace.

In the leadup to the conference Relaxnews has pinpointed some of the trends taking e-book publishing by storm:

In-app e-book purchasing increasing

Readers are bypassing brick-and-mortar book retailers when it comes to e-book (and physical book) buying, preferring instead to shop in online stores or via dedicated apps. A February 28 study by BISG found that consumers are buying more books from online stores and via in-app purchasing.  BISG said that “more than half of e-book readers increased their use of apps to purchase books and more than one-third increased their use of general retail websites such as” While book buying from brick-and-mortar stores is decreasing, nearly three-quarters of e-book Power Buyers (those who acquire e-books at least weekly) are purchasing more titles overall, said BISG.

E-reading on tablets and smartphones on the rise

Dedicated e-book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook or Sony’s Reader remain the most popular devices for electronic book reading but e-reading on tablets and smartphones is gaining popularity. BISG found that close to 17% of readers said that a tablet was their preferred e-reading device (up from 13% from the previous study) and 9.2% said they used a smartphone the most (up from 5.3%).

Digital textbooks come alive with interactive content

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, that he wanted to "transform" the $8 billion a year textbook market by hiring "great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad." Soon after the book was published Apple unveiled “revolutionary” digital textbooks for the iPad that were filled with interactive content, videos and images. Apple set an industry standard by pricing the textbooks at $14.99 or less and making the digital versions of popular textbooks more desirable than their printed counterparts. The company also showed off free software called iBooks Author that anyone can use to create their own iBooks textbooks.

The age of self-publishing

Self-publishing is becoming a big business for unknowns and famed authors alike. A wealth of self-publishing resources (many of which are free) have started to appear on the web, helping writers understand the ins and outs of writing and publishing their own e-books. Renowned authors including Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume and Seth Godin have already experimented with concept. In 2011 independent author John Locke became the first self-published author to sell one million Kindle e-books on Amazon.

Short format e-books
In January 2011 Amazon launched the Kindle Singles library. It contains short-format e-books that fit in the space between novels and feature articles in a magazine, typically ranging from 30 to 90 pages in length. The e-books are priced from around $0.99 to $4.99 and have been a hit with consumers. So much so that Amazon has sold more than 2 million Kindle Singles over the past 14 months. E-books in this emerging category of shorter works are also being dubbed novellas, mini-books, mooks, chapbooks and long-form journalism.

The Publishing Business Conference & Expo, will take place from March 19-21 at the New York Marriott Marquis, Times Square. Paris's Salon Du Livre (book fair) will be held from March 16-19 at the Porte de Versailles, Paris.