CommentaryDecember 10th, 2014
Trendspotting—ten things we learned in 2014
What are the big lessons of the last 12 months in digital publishing, and what can we expect in 2015? Here are Firsty’s end-of-year reflections
1 eBook sales growth is slowing… for now
There has been much talk of a plateau in eBook sales in 2014—of the phenomenal growth of the last few years easing slightly. Figures from publishers and other sources bear this out, and some argue that all those who were likely to migrate from print to eBooks might now have done so.
It can be easy to overplay this trend. eBook sales have still grown substantially this year, and by the time Nielsen BookScan’s final figures are in, the print market will almost certainly have declined again. But this year has been a reminder that eBook sales are simply an alternative to print ones, not a complete replacement. Or as Anthony Forbes Watson put it in the Bookseller: “I think it has been a year in which everyone has realised that it is premature, if not downright ludicrous, to talk about the demise of the physical book.” It will be fascinating to see whether this trend continues into next year, or whether 2014 proves simply a blip in the rise of the eBook. The rise of browser-based reading is one reason to think that the digital transition has a long way to go yet.
2 Reading is mobilizing
This year brought the tipping point in readers’ shift from dedicated eBook devices to multi-use tablets and smartphones. The Bookseller’s annual Digital Census suggested that more people in the industry are now reading on iPads than on Kindles—the first time in the six years of the survey that this has been the case. What this means for publishers in 2015 is crystal clear: get websites fully optimized for mobile devices, or miss out in sales.