Highlights from a New Simba Information Report:
Scholarly and professional e-books sales increased globally by 7.7% in 2014 and will grow an additional 6.9% in 2015, according to the latest report from media and publishing intelligence firm Simba Information.
The report, Scholarly & Professional E-Book Publishing 2015-2019, found that, although the book market as a whole has taken its lumps due to declining print sales, e-books have greater appeal with library customers, which has led publishers to reinvest in their collections.
Book publishers watched the decline of the scholarly monograph for decades. In the 1960s, American Research Libraries could reliably be expected to provide a financial underpinning of hardcover sales in the thousands of copies. However, as spending on books slipped from 50% to 5% of many library budgets, print runs fell from the thousands to the hundreds. Many major players drastically cut back their book output.
Just as journal articles, individual books or chapters can be sold individually, pay-per-view or accessed for free if already part of the collection. Individual books are rarely selected by stressed and under-staffed libraries. At least in the academic libraries so dominated by scientific, technical and medical journals, e-books are only relevant when they are part of the document collection, discoverable alongside electronic databases and online journals.
This burgeoning market is not without its challenges. One of the sore points between publishers and library customers is what appears to be the arbitrary pricing of e-books. While centuries of evolution have fine-tuned print book pricing models in the mind of both publishers and their customers, the rules of e-books are still new and somewhat unsettled. When the ratio between print prices and e-book prices for the same content vary between publishers, the differences appear arbitrary and lead to charges of “price gouging”. Publishers are addressing the issue by developing prices based on anticipated usage patterns.