Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Supply & Demand: Publishers Seek to Capitalize on E-Books

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Supply & Demand: Publishers Seek to Capitalize on E-Books

Article excerpt

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As traditional revenue channels for newspapers collapse, publishers are seeking new and innovative ways to make a profit without expending a lot of resources. Finding the appropriate niche is the key to survival, and newspapers that recognize this are dipping their hands into everything from cookbooks to bridal guides. This first installment in our recurring series on niche publishing looks at e-books as a means of bolstering the bottom line.

In late December, Amazon announced that 2011 was the Kindle family's most successful holiday season ever. More than 4 million Kindle devices were sold in December, and gifting of e-books was up 175 percent compared to December 2010. Couple those statistics with the iPad's continually impressive sales numbers and the growing market share of other Android-powered tablets, and there's clearly a massive opportunity for e-books to reshape the publishing industry.

THE RISE OF THE E-BOOK

Amazon announced in May 2011 that it's now selling more e-books than print editions, just four years after launching the Kindle. Amazon stated in a release that 2011 was the fastest year-over-year growth rate for its U.S. book sales in more than a decade, including both e-books and print.

Amazon said its Kindle Store has close to 1 million e-books available in multiple languages. In a report released in December 2011, research firm Juniper Research predicted that mobile e-book sales will reach roughly $9.7 billion by 2016, up from $3.2 billion in 2011. The company attributes this jump to the increasing availability and popularity of e-reader devices, and the rise of brand bookstore apps such as Apple's iBookstore and Amazon's Kindle Store.

NEWSPAPERS SIGN ON

The Boston Globe views e-books as one piece of a successful publishing future. "We're always looking for opportunities for long-form journalism," said Janice Page, the Globe's book development editor. The Globe has published paper books for many years, including e-book companions. With the popularity of e-books increasing, Page said the company is ready to place a sharper emphasis on e-book publishing.

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Several newspapers are dabbling with e-books as well, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.

"As a content company, we are enthusiastic about harnessing new mediums and business models that expand the reach of our unique storytelling," Los Angeles Times president Kathy Thomson said in a release. "The immediacy of e-book publishing allows us to easily adapt Times coverage to a convenient reader experience that's being heavily embraced."

A handful of other news organizations have released e-books, including The New Yorker, ABC News, Politico, Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, and Time. Topics have ranged from crime and justice to celebrities and entertainment; terrorism and foreign policy to business and economy; politics and government to history and culture.

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WHY E-BOOKS?

E-books have the potential to be a legitimate money-maker in the future, as more and more readers embrace digital options. Newspapers have a built-in advantage in this market, because they have an abundance of content available. "It's not a high cost to put out e-books, so it makes sense for us," Page said.

Final e-book prices to the consumer vary depending on several factors, such as length, exclusivity, and the amount of bonus material and multimedia. The Los Angeles Times priced its first e-book at $0.99. Multi-media-rich e-books produced by ABC News on the Amanda Knox trial and the British royal wedding were $9.99. Many news organizations have priced their e-books at less than $5.

One of the benefits to e-book publishing is the short production cycle available to publishers. While a printed book can take a year or more to be ready for distribution, e-books can be sold to the public in a matter of days from initial conception. …

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