Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Monday, October 12, 2015

E-Book Readership May Be Hard to Track

Are e-books gaining on print books, or losing steam? It appears to depend on who you ask.

Not long ago The New York Times kicked off the debate with an article based on sales data from the Association of American Publishers (AAP), which purported to show that e-book sales drooped by 10% in the first five months of 2015. “E-books’ declining popularity may signal that publishing, while not immune to technological upheaval, will weather the tidal wave of digital technology better than other forms of media, like music and television,” The Times claimed.

But wait, said The Digital Reader. Its piece noted the AAP’s sales figures failed to take into account some $1.79 billion worth of e-book transactions. “While the majority of the AAP monthly data about e-book revenues comes from the Big Five U.S. trade publishers, the majority of the non-AAP e-book revenues goes to self-published e-books and indie-published e-books,” The Digital Reader said.

For its part, The Wall Street Journal did report that the Big Five saw dwindling e-book sales after they negotiated new agency contracts to set higher retail prices.

A new Pew Research Center report indicated more readers are borrowing e-books from their local libraries. In a survey of library patrons aged 16 and up, 27% had downloaded or borrowed at least one digital book in the previous year, compared to 22% in 2012.

The Bookseller cited a YouthSight survey of 1,000 respondents aged 16-24, which found 64% preferred to read print books over digital ones. Surveys of college students, conducted by NACS’ OnCampus Research, also indicate they’d rather be reading on paper, but they’ll buy e-textbooks if the price is substantially cheaper or to fill an immediate need.

E-book subscription services, often touted as a NetFlix for e-book readers, have had trouble getting off the ground and a couple of high-profile companies recently closed, as chronicled by Mashable. The problem there, though, wasn’t a lack of readers; it boiled down to publishers not agreeing to terms that left enough margin to sustain the services.

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