11 November 2009

A Supply Chain Perspective on ebooks

For the last five years or so, I've attended the International Supply Chain Meeting at the Frankfurt Book Fair. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation from Peter Kilborn (BIC: Book Industry Communication) on "The Limits of Technology".

Here's just some of the highlights:

"E-book readers will be introduced in the UK later this year, and have already proved popular with American users. From the Barnes & Noble web site, user comments include: ‘I don’t know how I got along without it’, ‘I will never go back to paper again; the future has arrived and it’s great.’"
(The Bookseller, June 2000)

"Simon & Schuster US has unveiled its first ebooks list. It is the latest in a tide of publishers to enter the US e-book market, which is believed to be on the point of explosion"
(The Bookseller, December 2000)

Yes those dates are not a misprint. He was speaking about how slow the industry is to react and how we respond to change overall. We all know e-books are getting A LOT of coverage, but let's try and keep a few things in perspective.

Kelly Gallagher from Bowker also did an interesting presentation on e-book sales. I'm assuming his figures were for the US but in 2008 e-books accounted for 1.5% of all book sales. In the first half of 2009, this went up to 2.2%. Another interesting stat was that for buyers over 50 years of age, e-books are growing at 183%. Sony e-book readers have an average age of 49.8, Kindle 48.9, PDAs 28.0 and the iPhone 37.9. Device presentation was also interesting - 40% were pure downloads to computer. 26.8% were via the Kindle, 13% from iPhone, 6.4% from the Sony e-reader. So beyond computer downloads, Kindle has the market share.

Thought the feedback from the meeting would enhance this blog and will continue to monitor industry alerts for interesting stats and quotes about this growing - and fascinating - market segment.


  1. It's difficult to see where the great leap forward in e-books is going to come from. At the moment the devices and particularly the e-books are just too expensive to make a convincing financial case for moving away from print. Readers still aren't that easy to use although the Kindle has started to address this issue. Don't get me started on formatting; I've bought a couple of e-books at premium prices that have been so poorly formatted that I was tempted to send them back and ask for a refund.

    From what I can tell, e-books have only been adopted so far by people who like gadgets which is why you see so few of them about.

  2. True. I've had a few formatting issues from EPUB files downloaded from Gutenberg. They read badly as there were big gaps in the text. They were free I guess? To date I haven't had any issues with my Sony downloads but no doubt I will blog about it when it happens!!!

    BTW One interesting comment made at the Supply Chain meeting was in relation to Apple. They discussed Amazon most of the time but they said when Apple release this rumoured iTablet of theirs, "it will be cool and everyone will want one". It seemed to be the general consensus.

    And as a gadget e-readers are limited by functionality. It will be fascinating to see how Apple enters the e-book market don't you think?

  3. From what I can tell, e-books have only been adopted so far by people who like gadgets

    My perspective is skewed because I mostly read romance and ebooks are probably a bit more well known and accepted in that market. Also, ebook readers appeal to readers who have storage problems, given the number of romances published each year. I'm a cheapskate, but it's getting to the point where I'm considering buying an ebook reader because I'm missing out on (I'm told) great digital-only books (reading on a computer totally ruins the experience for me so I tend not to read ebooks that way).