Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Can E-Books move to the A-lists of university presses?

University presses may find e-sales growing in the most unexpected places...their backlists.

The E-Reader Effect
June 1, 2011   
For technology reputed to be the future of reading, e-books have had a hard go of it in higher education. Students have for years declined to purchase electronic versions of their textbooks, and instructors have largely refrained from assigning them except when they are given no choice.

University presses, in many cases, have been even less successful than textbook publishers in selling electronic versions of their books. A new survey by the Association of American University Presses suggests that as of last December, e-book sales or licenses accounted for less than 3 percent of total revenue for the overwhelming majority of university presses.
Meanwhile, 60 percent of respondents expressed “serious concern” about the viability of their current business models. In an era of flat or declining print sales, university presses might be discouraged by the fact that e-books, to which most sectors of publishing have pinned their hope for a rebound in an era of flat or declining print sales and scarce resources, have failed to gain traction.
But there is anecdotal evidence from some presses that e-book sales have jumped in the months since the association collected its data. Several presses contacted by Inside Higher Ed reported that their e-book sales have risen significantly in the first part of 2011. While e-books still account for a small proportion of total sales even in these cases, the presses see the uptick as an encouraging sign that there is a market for electronic versions of “serious nonfiction” works after all — and that market might finally be stirring.

Last year, as winter approached, the University of Kentucky Press found itself in a position similar to that of most of its peers at the time: Its e-books accounted for a negligible sliver of the press’s sales: 1.6 percent, according to John Hussey, the director of sales. But in February, e-book sales skyrocketed to 11.3 percent. (Hussey calls this “the Christmas boom,” speculating that a lot of people got Kindles and iPads as gifts.)

The boom tempered a bit between March and April, with e-book sales dipping to between 6 and 8 percent, month-to-month. But last month they jumped again, Hussey says; although May figures have not yet been finalized, e-book sales at Kentucky have crept back toward 11 percent.

Read the full article in Inside Higher Ed

No comments:

Post a Comment