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Book publishing – some recent innovations

Book publishers experimenting with new models; books fighting binge drinking in Italy

Netflix models

An article on Wired.com looks at a new online fiction service called Rooster in which a book publisher adopts a magazine model to make itself more like Netflix!  The service uses a subscription based model that sends content to iPhones and iPads.  The daily chunks of content should take about 15 minutes to read and will deliver two books’ worth of content over a month.  Similarly, Waterstones in the UK has announced Read Petite – a ‘rich reading experience for time-poor readers’.

Another innovation learning from the Netflix model is Epic!  This app aims to encourage children to read by offering rewards for completing chapters or starting ‘reading marathons’.  For a monthly subscription, children have access to a library of over 2000 titles and can rate the books they have read.  The app also allows parents to monitor their children’s reading habits.

Book buying and book borrowing and struggling readers

The latest Pew report shows the link between highly engaged library users and book buying.  The report shows that ‘Library Lovers’ – the heaviest users of libraries and about 10% of the US population – are also frequent buyers of books, despite many of them experiencing a drop in income.

The UK Charity Quick Reads found that reading e-books can be particularly helpful for adults who may be struggling with their reading while 48% say e-readers  have encouraged them to read more.

Binge drinking – books to the rescue!

Sadly Neknominate, the social media drinking game, has spread around the world. In Italy a literary alternative to the game has been developed.  ‘Booknomination’ follows similar rules but instead of drinking, the nominated person must read a passage from a book over a webcam.  The initiative is on Facebook on the hashtag #booknomination.

Sources: Springwise; DigitalBookWorld; TheLocal; Pew Research Center; Publishing Perspectives; Wired.

e-content and e-reading

Is our long history with writing for and reading print on paper affecting the way we create and publish content on digital and connected devices?  Are many of us still struggling to ‘forget the paper paradigm’?

The increased ownership of mobile and smart devices means we are already adapting our content publishing processes and there will be even more change in the future - wearable devices; smart TVs; speech-based interfaces let alone new devices and channels we haven’t even begun to imagine!

Content breaks free!

In a fascinating post for Harvard Business Review, Karen McGrane explores the new models we should be using to help us move on from the print-focused content.  Her advice includes:

  • Stop thinking about ‘pages’  - focus on content ‘chunks’
  • Content ‘chunks’ can be  assembled in different ways for different channels
  • Don’t focus only on text - the new content is a mixture of graphics, video and interactivity
  • Because content presentation will change with each platform, content must be separated from ‘form’
  • Content creators need to understand how digital publishing is different from print

e-books vs. paper – a blending of the best

The growth in e-book adoption and innovation has been well recorded here and elsewhere.  Several initiatives are looking to take the best of these different reading experiences to enhance the user’s experience.  Springwise has noted the launch of the Booke app which sets out to combine the best of paper and digital reading.

The app allows readers of a physical book to upload a picture of the front cover (or the ISBN) and search for keywords (using typed or spoken commands); save comments, notes and sections of text and share their activity with others.

The app reflects several key trends in reading including social/shared reading.

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Children, reading and e-books

The popularity of e-books

The digital landscape for children and young adults is changing rapidly. Research from Digital Book World and PlayScience is aiming to monitor these fast moving trends in 2013.  In the latest report, The ABC of Kids & E-books: understanding the e-reading habits of children aged 2-13, the researchers have discovered:

  • 54% of children are reading e-books (double the number of adults)
  • 85% of them are reading digital books at least
  • Tablets are the preferred device for e-reading

An increase in e-reading is also explored in another recent study, this time by Scholastic.  Focusing on a different age group (9-17 year olds) Scholastic’s key findings include:

  • 51% in their age range report they have NOT read an e-book – and have no interest in doing so
  • 58% said they always wanted to read paper books, even if e-books are available
  • Interestingly, children prefer e-books if they don’t want friends to know what they are reading.  Hard copy books are preferred for bedtime reading

The popularity of reading schemes and the importance of libraries

In the UK, according to The Reading Agency (TRA) a record number of young people are involved in local library-led reading schemes.  750,000 children have participated in TRA’s Summer REading Challenge, supported by over 4,000 volunteers.

However, a report from Bowker Market Report notes that libraries in the US have lost the top spot when it comes to young people finding reading recommendations, with family and friends becoming the most important source.  The library retains the top spot for the place where children obtain their reading for pleasure books.

The future of children’s publishing

According to an expert panel speaking at Children’s Publishing Goes Digital, platforms are growing in importance and popularity with children, parents and teachers.

US trade e-book sales trends

In a blog post published ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Publishing Perspectives explores sources of data on the e-book marketplace in the US.  Two major sources are the BookStats project (run by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group) and StatShot, which collates actual revenues reported to AAP by a growing list of participating publishers.

2012 trends

  • Slowdown in e-book growth – e-book growth is no longer doubling year on year – 2012 should see growth rates of approximately 33%
  • Adult e-book sales increase slowing down (they drove much of the increase in e-book sales between 2010 and 2011).  The latest figures suggest a ‘modest increase’ of 27%
  • Emergence of a digital children’s market – children’s e-book sales have gained much more
  • Total trade e-book revenues have comprised 23% of sales for the first four months of 2012
    • 27% of the adult trade market
    • 13% of the children’s market

Individual publisher reports for first half of 2012

  • Simon & Schuster – digital content responsible for 23% of worldwide sales
  • Penguin – e-books  account for 19% of total sales (30% of US sales; 15% of UK sales)
  • Harlequin – digital accounts for 20.5% of sales
  • Hachette Book Group – e-books account for 27% of US revenues and 23% of UK sales

Students – leading the way or falling behind?

Two interesting pieces of research look at how students are interacting with digital information and e-resources.

A recent CourseSmart survey finds that more students are bringing laptops to class than a print textbook.  Only 5% said that a print textbook was the most important item in their bag.  90% of respondents said that the use of digital devices, e-readers etc helps them to save study time.  68% estimate they are saving at least two hours a day by using technology.

On average, students are using three devices per day – and 40% of them claim they can’t go for more than ten minutes without using some form of digital technology.

Easybib, a service which creates citations, has analysed the websites that students use most frequently – and discovered that four of the top ten are user generated sites including YouTube, Answers.com and Wikipedia.

Easybib has created an infographic (available here) which shows the key role of librarians in helping develop students information literacy skills.  The company will also work with the American Library Association to spread awareness of the importance of digital/information literacy.

Users of e-content ‘read more’

New research from the US exploring the reading behaviour of consumers has uncovered some interesting insights, in particular that those who read digitally claim to be reading more.  One fifth of US adults have read an e-book in the past year and 30% of readers who read e-content claim that they are reading more.

Summary of key findings     

A range of devices

  • Of those who had read an e-book in the last year:
    • 43% used an e-book reader
    • 42% used a computer
    • 29% used a smartphone and
    • 23% used a tablet device

The importance of recommendations

  • Users of e-reading devices are more likely to use recommendations than printed book readers:
    • 81% of e-reading device users get book recommendations from people they know (as opposed to 64% of hardcopy readers)
    • 31% use recommendations from bookstores (23% of hardcopy readers)
    • 56% use online recommendations (35% of hardcopy readers)

Reading more

  • On a typical day, 56% of e-reading device owners are reading a book (compared with 45% of the general book-reading public)
  • 30% of e-content readers say they are reading more
    • 41% of tablet readers say they are reading more
    • 35% of e-reader owners say they are reading more
    • E-content readers have read an average of 24 books in the past 12 months (compared to 15 for hard copy readers)

What about libraries?

  • Owners of e-reading devices are more likely to purchase than borrow
    • 14% of all those surveyed obtained the last book they read from a library
    • 75% of e-book readers begin their search for reading material online
    • Only 12% start their search at the library

The e-book behavioural research was prepared by Princeton Survey Research Associates International for the PEW Research Centre’s Internet and American Life Project and the Gates Foundation.

Meanwhile, The 2012 State of America’s Libraries reports that more than 67% of US libraries are offering downloadable e-books and 28% are lending e-reading devices.

Student attitudes to e-books

What is the truth behind student attitudes to e-and print books?  A report first published last year (by eTextbook provider CourseSmart in collaboration with Wakefield Research) and receiving some attention recently in a number of blogs, suggests that students are ‘technologically dependent’.

85% of the 500 students surveyed reported that technology saved them time when studying.  63% of students who owned a device said they had read an e-text book this way at least once – and 46% said they would be more likely to complete their reading if it was in a digital format.  61% said that e-books are easier to search.

A more recent study in the US (by the Pearson Foundation and Harris Interactive) found that tablet ownership amongst students was rising dramatically.  The survey found that more students are reading digital texts and that 63% of college students believe that tablets will replace textbooks within five years.

Meanwhile, a BML survey of UK undergraduates also found that the majority of students are now using e-books and online journal use is increasing but that printed books remain the most used resource.  48% of students are using the library to access printed books and 38% are borrowing e-books from the library.  Only 9% are buying e-books and price remains an issue.

Students and academic texts

Now that students (and their families!) are expecting to pay more for higher education, how have their attitudes to the delivery, format and cost of learning resources changed?  As part of a one day conference organised by the Publishers Association, a panel of students shared their thoughts, experiences and wish-lists.    They had interesting things to say to academic publishers, university programme directors, librarians and lecturers.

Key messages from the student panel

  • Too much information – students are often overwhelmed by the amount of information, across a variety of formats, that they are attempting to manage.  Although access to information is important, the critical skills to analyse and filter are greatly in demand
  • There is an overwhelming need for information analysis skills
  • Not all students want e-everything.  Several panel members expressed their love of the hard copy text book.  However, another called reading anything in print format ‘a chore’.  Most students recognised that a mixture of formats is necessary or even desirable
  • Overseas students sometimes need help in transferring to the UK model of education (especially if they come from an educational culture where they learn by rote).  Teaching tools for overseas students would be greatly appreciated.
  • Students would love, shorter chapters, chapter summaries, key learning points, revision aids etc.

Challenges and opportunities for academic librarians

The library is a trusted partner for many of the students. They rely on librarians to help them develop their information skills, to help with information quality assurance and to guide them to useful resources beyond the reading lists.  When it comes to recommended reading, students are often asking students in the years above them for their honest opinions on reading list resources.  At the same time, only one student reported that she was ever asked for her opinion on learning materials.  Several students reported that they would be uncomfortable with criticising material/text books written by their own lecturers.  Institutional librarians could perhaps help facilitate quality control and student feedback of learning materials and recommended reading.

Because of the cost of their education, students expect their learning resources to be made available by their institutions/ libraries – and think most of them should be free.  They should also be available in any format they can.  Libraries and publishers still have some way to go to ensure that e-textbooks are available to meet this demand.

 

The panel of students, from the LSE and the University of Greenwich, formed part of the Publisher’s Association one day conference ‘Students at the Heart of the system’ held in London on 21 November 2011

A ‘new’ model for ebooks

If Amazon’s Kindle device (other devices are available!) is ‘the iTunes for ebooks’ then what is the Spotify equivalent? (Spotify provides free and fee music streaming to users in a number of European countries).

This week, the Spanish initiative 24symbols has announced it is to offer on-demand access to a library of popular ebooks in a model similar to that of music streaming.  Integration with Facebook provides a social element to the service.

You can read more about 24symbols, including a review of its current, beta format on thenextweb.com.

A good airport read

Passengers at Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport can now take advantage of the world’s first airport e-library.

The English and Chinese language collection is available to read in the airport via thirty devices.  The books cannot be downloaded onto users’ devices or taken away which must surely lead to some people having to leave behind a good cliffhanger so they can board their plane.

The service is run by the airport’s duty free shop.  (This sounds like a set-up for a good joke.  Clever responses to that statement, including cringeworthy puns are welcomed.)