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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 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.

VAT on books and e-books – global survey

The International Publishers Association (IPA) and PriceWaterhouse Coopers have published the results of their latest global survey of VAT charged on books and e-books.

The research covered 51 countries, including 34 European countries (the US was not included because of the ‘complexities’ of its sales tax regime).  The report gathers current tax data and also analyses trends.

Since the last report was published, standard VAT rates around the world have been increasing and are, on average, higher in Europe than the rest of the world.  EU law also stipulates that booksellers must charge the full VAT rate for e-books while printed books are often granted discounted rates.  France and Luxembourg have reduced the rates charged on e-books and the European Commission has initiated court proceedings against them.

All of the major publishing markets in the survey (Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK) provide for reduced VAT rates or exemptions, at least for printed books.

Overall, approximately 50% of countries surveyed continue to apply the standard (i.e. higher) VAT rate to e-books.  Overall, Denmark applies the highest VAT rate – 25% on both print and e-books.

The report concludes that the trend towards bringing e-books into special VAT regimes should be encouraged to create a level playing field for all publications, irrespective of the format.

The IPA further stated that the current regime in Europe discriminates against e-books and is “inconsistent, technophobic … and unfair.”

The full report can be downloaded here

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

10,000 students have their say on textbooks

This summer the e-textbook publisher surveyed nearly 10,000 students in Europe and the US about their use of printed and e-textbooks.  (The results for the Netherlands, the UK and the US have just been released – further results for Denmark and Germany will follow).

The findings are of interest to publishers, librarians and academic staff – and highlight some differences between students in the US and the rest of the world.

The results show that students in the US are further down the line in accepting and using e-textbooks.  Price continues to be a barrier for students everywhere while another issue that drives purchasing decisions is whether only a portion of the textbook is required reading.

Key findings US

  • More than 75% of students do not buy required textbooks.
  • Over 90% of students feel textbooks are too expensive
  • 58% prefer digital textbooks
  • On average US students spend $655 per year on textbooks
  • The majority are buying second hand books

 Key findings Europe

  • In Germany, Netherlands and the UK only 30-40/% prefer digital textbooks
  • In the UK 83% do not buy required textbooks
  • 95% say textbooks are too expensive

You can read more about the survey, and see some interesting infographics, on the Bookboon blog.

Measuring the value of e-books in academic libraries

How should academic libraries determine the value of e-books?  A Springer White Paper (Scholarly eBooks: Understanding the Return on Investment for Libraries) explores why libraries should measure value – and how they should go about it.

RoI is a complex issue and different institutions are using a range of measures.  Factors that may be considered include:

  • Effect on research output
  • Time saved by library staff and researchers
  • Space saving
  • Cost saved on content acquisition
  • Usage figures per e-book (vs usage figures per print copy)
  • Use of e-resources can lead to increased number of citations – which can influence grant applications

Key lessons for librarians

  • Stay current with relevant RoI research – and be ready to refer to it in discussions with University administrators
  • Partnering with publishers to promote e-resources encourages efficient searching and usage
  • Enhanced discoverability of e-books encourages multi-disciplinary work
  • Usage statistics vary between publishers
  • Additionally, e-book users tend to read chapters not whole books, but most usage statistics do not reflect this
  • Libraries will continue to have to prove value for money – librarians need to focus on having comprehensive RoI data available.
  • Learn from the lessons of e-journals – consensus about usage figures will emerge, just as they did for e-journals
  • There is much work to be done in collaboration with publishers – including developing usage measures and deepening understanding of user needs

The White Paper is available (free of charge) at

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, 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.

Equitable access to digital content

As the amount of content being delivered digitally increases, libraries are facing new challenges to their goal of enabling broad information access to their communities.  The American Library Association’s (ALA) new report E-content: the digital dialogue  features a number of articles and opinion pieces outlining the current challenging e-book landscape in American public libraries.

The ALA report explores a number of issues, including library-publisher relations and the wide variety of licensing models that are muddying the waters.  The publishing model has changed dramatically, and the lessons of the music industry are reverberating.  Publishers are struggling to find new ways to retain their financial viability while new competitors and business models are encroaching.  Major distributors such as Apple and Amazon are competing with both publishers and libraries by becoming e-book publishers and lenders.

The current uncertainty is reflected in the sheer number of licensing and purchasing models – from Harper Collins’ infamous 26 e-book loan limit to Random House’s offering of perpetual access to e-book purchases – but at a higher unit price.  Other big trade publishers are simply not selling e-books to public libraries at all.

Other models being tested include the ‘metering’ or pay per download model that enables publishers to get revenue for backlist titles, but is more challenging for libraries that have to be able to predict usage in order to set budgets.  The simultaneous access model allows libraries to buy broad access to e-books when they are popular and scale back after the initial demand is met.  Rent to buy, subscription plans and annual packages (called ‘bookshelf’ models) and ‘embargo’ models are also available.

The challenge is finding models that are deemed equitable for and by all stakeholders in the process – publishers, patrons, distributors, authors and their agents as well as libraries.  These parties have some common goals but also some conflicts.  The ALA believes that the debate is fundamental because it addresses why libraries exist and what their role will be in an increasingly ‘e’ world.

The report is free to download from the ALA website.

Librarians’ views on five years of ebooks

To celebrate its first five years in ebook production, Springer has consulted with a number of stakeholders to produce the report STM eBooks: Librarian Perspectives on the First 5 years.  The report outlines the challenges and opportunities that ebooks present to key stakeholders.

Key findings – end users

  • Technology innovations including interactive video and the ability to make notes are highly valued by users
  • Lack of standardisation across platforms confuses users
  • Complex sign-on processes are a barrier to use
  • Some technical books are difficult to read on certain devices

Key findings – librarians

  • Concern about long term availability of ebooks
  • Need to develop ROI measures for ebooks
  • New roles may develop for librarians – as information literacy experts or as one participant outlined ‘as the interface between patron and the publisher’
  • Improved metadata from publishers will help improve discoverability


  • Ebooks will continue to develop more elements that the print work cannot feature, including supplementary materials and interactive content
  • Increased emphasis on usage statistics to help manage collections and anticipate user needs
  • Development of more flexible access and pricing models
  • Standardisation of metadata
  • Mobile devices will continue to inform the way ebooks are developed
  • Demands of users who will expect easy 24-hour access to high quality content will shape developments

The report is free to download from the Springer website.

Students benefit from digital literacy skills

The University Library at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) gave 16 students e-readers and studied how they accessed their reading lists, used discipline-related e-books and articles and how they used the resources to assist them in their own academic writing.

Students, keen to participate and experiment with new tools, attended workshops at the beginning and halfway through the project.  Students expect and appreciate ‘always available’ resources that are easy to access – preferably with one-click.  They must develop and improve their digital literacty skills, and the library can help them do this. 

For the library, being linked with new technology, and the regular contact with enthusiastic students had its own benefits.  

The full story of the project is published here