Far be it from me to harp on a single issue every week. There’s a whole lot more to publishing in the 21st Century than just ebooks. But ebooks are the hot topic in publishing right now, and it’s proving an impossible subject to avoid when I settle down to write my FWJ column each week.
This week saw some surprising news and predictions about the future of the ebook marketplace, and these details are far too juicy not to share and contemplate. For starters, did you hear that that the New York Times is planning to compile and publish some additions to its famed “Bestseller” lists? These new categories will be entirely devoted to ebooks. The “New York Times Bestseller” is arguably the most prestigious designation for any published book in the American literary world, so if they’re taking ebooks seriously, that should tell you something. Now ebooks will take their rightful place alongside their printed-page brothers, and be worthy of bearing the very same label.
If you ask me, the addition of ebooks to the New York Times Bestseller Lists is long overdue, so frankly I see this news more as the Times playing catch-up than breaking new ground.
Elsewhere, there’s a new study that predicts that by the end of this year (2010), ebook sales will top the one billion dollar mark. And that’s just in the United States. That’s a lot of coin. For perspective, only seven movies in history have ever managed to top the one billion dollar mark.
Last but not least, a French study on the growth of the ebook marketplace has deduced that by 2015, ebooks will comprise about 25% of the publishing industry. Since ebooks are only taking up about 5% of the industry at the moment, that’s a sharp climb for this fledgling industry over just five years’ time. And traditional print publishers have to be concerned that their longstanding business model is being encroached on to the point that 20% of their standard business is going to fall away in the next half-decade.
How long will it be until that margin increases to 50% of the publishing industry? Or even more?
What more is required to convince traditional publishers that we’re living in a brave new world? Writers are jumping into this wide-open new playing field in droves. Publishers will either do the same, or be left behind.