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Consumers drive book digitisation, says survey

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Book digitisation is being driven by consumers, online retailers and search engines, according to a survey by Frankfurt Book Fair.

Over 1,000 industry professionals from over 30 countries responded to the survey, issued via the Frankfurt Book Fair Newsletter. Of these, 22 per cent said that consumers were pushing the move towards digitisation, 21 per cent said it was being driven by the likes of Amazon and 20 per cent put Google as the driver. A further 13 per cent attributed the digitisation push to the telecommunications sector. In contrast, just 7 per cent of respondents thought that publishers were driving this move and only 2 per cent thought the push came from authors.

The survey also concluded that China’s digital influence in international publishing will increase threefold in the next five years, with 28 per cent expecting it to lead the marker in five years’ time. This is very close to the 29 per cent of respondents that predict that the USA will still be leading the market (compared with 51 per cent who say that the USA leads the market today).

Current opinion is divided on the future of the e-books and digital content versus the printed word. According to the study, 40 per cent of respondents expect e-content to overtake traditional book sales as early as 2018. However, a third of respondents predict that this will never happen.

In addition, almost 60 per cent of respondents said that they do not currently use e-books and e-readers at all, and 66 per cent of industry professionals still expect traditional books to dominate the market in five years’ time, with very few expecting e-books (7 per cent) or e-readers (2 per cent) to be the main sources of revenue by 2013.

Top concerns with e-books included copyright, digital rights management, having a standard format (such as epub), and retail price maintenance.

‘The results offer a fascinating insight into how digitisation – identified in 2007 as publishing’s major challenge – might shape all aspects of the book trade in years to come,’ observed Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair. ‘The results are thought-provoking: such as China’s predicted dominance in the digital sector in coming years, the recognised need for new co-operations with other industries, and the expectation that despite technological developments, the printed book will still be around in years to come.’