Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Around the Word: Global e-Book Publishing Trends

By now we all know that the nature of traditional publishing is being revolutionized by technology, as the e-book industry continues to gain strength and force. And the dynamics of e-book publishing are also changing, given the advent of an increasingly globalized playing field. So what's going on in the international e-book marketplace? We're glad you asked.

Source: Digital Media Diet
The explosion of the e-book industry in the United States and the United Kingdom is expected to replicate itself the world over, especially in continental Europe, Brazil, Russia, and China. With the facilitation of free exchange of goods, services, and information per the World Trade Organization, a lot of the barriers to entry for accessing international readership has diminished. The dominant e-book retailers in the US and the UK—Amazon, Google, Apple, and Sony—have also localized their presence in diverse countries, from the Nordic region all the way to the Far East.

However, despite some developments, there is a lot of uncertainty with regards to the health of the overseas e-book industry. Here are some key facts, figures, and trends that highlight the challenges and opportunities of e-book retailing on a global scale.

o Regulatory Frameworks

In most countries around the world, printed books are viewed as goods, while e-books are considered services. Governments charge a value-added tax on distribution, raising the average price of the e-book even though there are no printing costs involved.

In France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Slovenia, the VAT on e-books is up to 20 percent. In some cases, a lesser VAT is charged on printed books as well. However, in some countries, such as Brazil, no VAT is charged on books, digital or otherwise.

Naturally, a higher VAT on e-books limits widespread digitization in publishing, and, consequently, the market share of e-books is as low as 1–2 percent. In the U.S., where there is no price regulation on either printed or e-books, the market share of e-books is as much as 6 percent.

o Cultural Attitude 

In most of continental Europe, there is a strong attachment to printed books because of their historic or cultural value. These countries also tend to be extremely protective of the literature produced by local authors. In France, for example, global e-book retailers like Amazon and Google do not have as much of a presence as local publishing authorities.

In Germany, almost 80 percent of people say they don’t want to read from a screen. Although people are becoming accustomed to book titles being published in various formats, print books remain the priority of the German publishing industry.

So while the scope of digital publishing gradually increases, English editions of texts are becoming more available, but not to the complete exclusion of local print publishing.

o Pricing Strategies

In most of continental Europe, publishers calculate e-book prices based on fixed rates, so strategies are not competitive or dependent on the market forces of supply and demand.

In general, in Germany, France, and Italy, print books are the most important factor affecting the price of e-books (at a discounted rate of approximately 20 percent).

o Future Projections 

In these noted emerging e-book markets, while the prospects for growth are increasing, the rate of such increase is staggering. There are still lots of barriers to entry with respect to e-book publishing, especially in English, in most continental European countries. The high taxation on e-books, as well as language and cultural barriers, further discourages publishers from offering them as a viable alternative format.

The international publishing landscape is becoming more complex, with differentiated patterns of growth and development despite the overall move towards global integration. The bullish nature of e-book publishing in the U.S. and the U.K. has not yet become an international phenomenon, either economically or demographically speaking.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, even in 2015: “Emerging e-book markets outside of the U.S. and the U.K. are all estimated to currently represent at best 1 percent of the overall book market, making projections of future dynamics of growth extremely difficult.”

For more detailed information on this topic, please click here.

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