‘Screen fatigue’ sees UK ebook sales plunge 17% as readers return to print

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A tourist in Goa reads an Amazon Kindle – the market leader in ebooks. Photograph: EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

Consumer sales down to £204m last year and are at lowest level since 2011 – when Amazon Kindle sales first took off in UK

Britons are abandoning the ebook at an alarming rate with sales of consumer titles down almost a fifth last year, as “screen fatigue” helped fuel a five-year high in printed book sales.

Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% to £204m last year, the lowest level since 2011 – the year the ebook craze took off as Jeff Bezos’ market-dominating Amazon Kindle took the UK by storm.

It is the second year running that sales of consumer ebooks – the biggest segment of the £538m ebook market, which fell 3% last year – have slumped as commuters, holidaymakers and leisure readers shelve digital editions in favour of good old fashioned print novels.

“I wouldn’t say that the ebook dream is over but people are clearly making decisions on when they want to spend time with their screens,” says Stephen Lotinga, chief exeutive of the Publishers Association, which published its annual yearbook on Thursday.

“There is generally a sense that people are now getting screen tiredness, or fatigue, from so many devices being used, watched or looked at in their week. [Printed] books provide an opportunity to step away from that.”

Sales of consumer ebooks hit a high water mark of £275m in 2014, when they accounted for half of the overall ebook market. The decline in consumer ebooks has been led by a slump in sales of the most popular segment, fiction, which plummeted 16% to £165m last year.

Lotinga says that while there has been an increase in sales of ebooks and subscriptions in non-consumer areas, such as education and academic titles, there are certain types of consumer books people prefer to read in paper format.

Among last year’s biggest sellers were children’s books by JK Rowling (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and David Walliams (The Midnight Gang, The World’s Worst Children), which helped sales of print and digital kids books to soar 16% to £365m. Diet book guru Joe Wicks (Lean in 15) was also a huge hit.

“The titles that sold really well last year did not lend themselves to digital,” says Lotinga. “People prefer to give, or read, children’s books like Harry Potter titles in print, and healthy cooking titles and biographies sell very well in print compared to ebook format.”

Print sales of consumer book titles – fiction, non-fiction and children’s titles – rose almost 9% last year to £1.55bn. The total UK print book market, including non-consumer areas such as journals, rose 8% to a five-year high of £3bn.

“We saw a very marginal increase in overall print sales in 2015, but last year people flocked back to print in droves,” says Lotinga.

Issues with a slowdown in ereaders being bought, linked to the rise of smartphones, has contributed to the decline in ebook popularity and renewed surge in book sales.

“The ubiquity of larger screen smartphones and tablets appears to have impacted the demand for ereaders,” says Richard Broughton, analyst at Ampere. “However, for many consumers the screens on smartphones and tablets are not as conducive to reading, not as comfortable”.

With most Britons now carrying hi-tech, expensive phones many just don’t want to have the extra cost, and potential headache, of carrying and looking after more devices.

“For consumers travelling or on holiday having an additional ereader device to look after is awkward,” says Broughton. “A physical copy of a book is a disposable low-cost entertainment tool. It doesn’t matter if you leave it in your hotel room, on a train or by the swimming pool.”

The issue with consumer ebooks aside the UK book industry is in fine fettle. Total sales of print and digital books and journals climbed 7% to £4.8bn last year, the largest growth since 2007 when digital sales were first included.

Looking purely at the book market total sales rose 6% to £3.5bn, as an 8% rise in print sales outweighed the 3% decline in ebook sales.

Overall digital sales grew 6% to £1.7bn, with academic, professional and educational journals outstripping the fall in ebooks, to account for 35% of total revenues.

Despite this success Lotinga warned that with Europe the largest market for UK books, accounting for 35% of international sales, it is imperative that Theresa May’s Brexit deal protects the publishing industry.

“Whatever the makeup of the new government, they must ensure that any post-Brexit trade settlement it reaches with the EU and other countries reinforces this success,” says Lotinga.

Overseas sales increased 6% last year to £2.6bn, 54% of total revenues.

Author: Mark Sweney
Twitter: @marksweney
Source: https://www.theguardian.com

How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’

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Books as objects of desire: photographs by Jennifer Cownie. Composite: Jennifer Cownie/@cownifer

Just a few years ago, the Kindle was being blamed for the death of the traditional book. But the latest figures show a dramatic reversal of fortunes, with sales of ebooks plunging. So what’s behind this resurgence?

Here are some things that you can’t do with a Kindle. You can’t turn down a corner, tuck a flap in a chapter, crack a spine (brutal, but sometimes pleasurable) or flick the pages to see how far you have come and how far you have to go. You can’t remember something potent and find it again with reference to where it appeared on a right- or left-hand page. You often can’t remember much at all. You can’t tell whether the end is really the end, or whether the end equals 93% followed by 7% of index and/or questions for book clubs. You can’t pass it on to a friend or post it through your neighbour’s door.

A few years ago, I was given a Kindle. I had become a student again. I was reading lots of books and I needed them cheap and light. But now the Kindle has slipped to the back of the desk drawer behind the Blu-Tack that comes out only at Christmas. Meanwhile, the stack of hardbacks and paperbacks on the bedside table has grown so tall it has spawned sub-stacks on the floor; when I get into bed at night, it is like looking down on a miniature book city. I don’t want to speculate about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms but I suspect it might be something similar, because figures published today by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. So why is the physical book winning through?

Ten years ago, when the Kindle launched, the idea was miraculous. Here was the ability to carry hundreds of books enfolded in a tiny slip of plastic, countless stories in a few hundred grams. It seems hard to believe when you look at the thick, black plastic surround – stylistically it bears more resemblance to a cathode ray tube TV than a tablet – that it predated the iPad by two years. Within five hours, it had sold out, despite a price tag of $399 (then £195). A decade on, lay a Kindle next to a smartphone or tablet and it looks so much older, while the reading experience it delivers has scarcely progressed.

“It was new and exciting,” says Cathryn Summerhayes, a literary agent at Curtis Brown. “But now they look so clunky and unhip, don’t they? I guess everyone wants a piece of trendy tech and, unfortunately, there aren’t trendy tech reading devices and I don’t think people are reading long-form fiction on their phones. I think your average reader would say that one of the great pleasures of reading is the physical turning of the page. It slows you down and makes you think.”

Indeed, the take-up of tablets among book buyers has slowed since a flurry between 2012 and 2014, according to Steve Bohme, UK research director at Nielsen, which conducted the research for the Publishing Association. There are fewer new readers of digital books, and they tend to consume physical books as well. Oyster, the so-called Netflix for books, folded after a year.

Another thing that has happened is that books have become celebrated again as objects of beauty. They are coveted in their own right, while ebooks, which are not things of beauty, have become more expensive; a new digital fiction release is often only a pound or two cheaper than a hardback. “Part of the positive pressure that digital has exerted on the industry is that publishers have rediscovered their love of the physical,” says James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, which published a special Christmas edition of Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, more than 80,000 copies of which have been sold by the chain. (He, in common with most people involved with the publishing of physical books, reads on a Kindle, but afterwards buys the books he loves.)

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Young readers much prefer the immediacy of a book rather than an ebook. Photograph: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

“The physical book had become quite a cheap and tacky thing at the turn of the millennium,” Daunt says. Publishers “cut back on the quality of the paper, so if you left a book in the sun it went yellow. They were gluing, not sewing. They would put a cover on a hardback but not do anything with the hard case underneath. Nowadays, if you take a cover off, there is likely to be something interesting underneath it.”

And that something interesting is likely to gain traction on #bookstagram, a celebration of the aesthetics of books, where books are the supermodels and where readers and non-readers can see cats and dogs reading books, books photographed in landscapes, books posed with croissants, sprays of flowers, homeware, gravestones and cups of coffee, colour-matched and colour-clashed with outfits, shoes, biscuits and in what can only be described as book fashion shoots. You just can’t do a shelfie with an e-reader.

Physical books even feature in this spring/summer’s Fantastic Man magazine, which advises its fashion-literate readership to take five unread books to the sofa and spend five minutes with each one. “The difference between having read Proust for five minutes and for zero minutes is small, but it is also significant.” (This is how I’m going to crack my lifelong embarrassment about never having read Proust.)

Once upon a time, people bought books because they liked reading. Now they buy books because they like books. “All these people are really thinking about how the books are – not just what’s in them, but what they’re like as objects,” says Jennifer Cownie, who runs the beautiful Bookifer website and the Cownifer Instagram, which match books to decorative papers, and who bought a Kindle but hated it. Summerhayes thinks that “people have books in their house as pieces of art”. One of her authors’ forthcoming works features cover art by someone who designs album covers for Elbow. “Everyone wants sexy-looking books,” she says. She distinguishes these from “coffee-table books”, which is what we had before #bookstagram. This helps to explain the reinvigoration of independent bookshops, which offer a more styled, or curated, experience.

“We had a near-death experience,” Daunt says, referring to the recession. But, he adds: “When you come under pressure, you have to raise your game, and that’s what has gone on throughout the industry.”

There are other reasons for the decline of consumer ebooks. Children’s books, which represent an area of significant growth, just don’t work well on e-readers (although there are lots of children’s reading apps). Neither do young adult titles, even though this age group might be expected to opt for the most technological reading experience. Daunt’s children “can stick their noses in a book and they are lost in that book”. But when they try to read on a digital machine, “the allure of Snapchat pinging away, it’s a disaster. They think it’s a disaster.”

However, none of this is to say that digital publishing is the enemy of physical book publishing. At Forum Books in Corbridge, Northumberland, founder Helen Stanton has recently collaborated on a Silent Book Disco at the Biscuit Factory art gallery in Newcastle, where visitors could wander around and look at books (rather than works of art) while listening to an appropriate playlist. “A lot of my customers have bought e-readers and are now coming back to books,” she says; the shop is regional winner for the north of England in the Independent Bookshop of the Year category of the Nibbies. “We do a lot of events. We are really trying to connect readers with the author, to bring the book to life.”

Stanton is talking on the phone from a train down to London, where she hopes “to buy equipment” so she can do more silent book discos. Maybe, she says, customers could wander around the bookshop and hear poems at certain places on National Poetry Day. “It’s totally wireless, and if customers didn’t want to hear it, they wouldn’t hear it.”

Fuelled by the success of podcasts such as Serial, the rise of audio is one area of digital success, with downloads up 28%, according to the Publishing Association. Audio is becoming something of a new battleground in publishing, where audio publishers want to see books on submission at the same time as physical publishers, while physical publishers have become disinclined to acquire books without audio rights. In the US, the Audible Originals programme is commissioning new work – such as Tom Rachman’s interconnected short stories about Donald Trump – which is debuting in audio before print.

To complicate matters, some publishers of physical books are treating ebooks “almost as a marketing tool” before a book comes to print, says Summerhayes. One recent title, for instance, had little interest in its forthcoming print publication, so the publisher released it as an ebook for 99p. It began to sell, to be noticed and get reviewed. At which point the publisher went to the supermarkets that had previously spurned it and they took it up. (In music, this idea echoes how the first releases by artists such as the Weeknd and Frank Ocean were mixtapes given away online; by the time they released “proper” albums for conventional labels, they already had a big fanbase.)

The figures from the Publishing Association should be treated with some caution. They exclude self-published books, a sizable market for ebooks. And, according to Dan Franklin, a digital publishing specialist, more than 50% of genre sales are on ebook. Digital book sales overall are up 6%.

“It’s not about the death of ebooks,” Daunt says. “It’s about ebooks finding their natural level. Even in the years when ebook sales were rising greatly – and clearly cannibalising physical book sales – it was always very clear that we would have a correction and reach an equilibrium.” The UK, he says, has “adopted” ebooks and they will remain a substantial market (while in France, for instance, ebooks are only 3% of the overall market). The last thing he – or any seller or publisher of physical books – wants is the death of the ebook. “We want people to read. We don’t mind how they read,” he stresses. He knows that people who read, sooner or later, will buy books.

Paula Cocozza’s novel, How To Be Human, is published by Hutchinson at £12.99 rrp. To order for £11.04 with free UK p&p, visit bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846.

Author: Paula Cocozza
Twitter: @CocozzaPaula
Source: https://www.theguardian.com

6 Secrets to Creating a Successful eBook

Brafton-Features_3.16_Feature1.jpgUnseating whitepapers from their throne as kings of content marketing, eBooks have quickly become the gold standard in lead generation.

Many companies have taken notice of the trend. B2B brands love eBooks because 67 percent of their customers have read an eBook prior to making purchasing decisions. And of B2C organizations, 34 percent currently use eBooks in their marketing strategies, with 57 percent believing they are an effective form of content for generating leads.

No matter your industry, company size or product offerings, eBooks for marketing are a great way to collect prospects’ information, educate them and start them on the path to conversion.

So what makes a successful eBook? We’ve highlighted several top eBooks we came across in 2016. But if you want an asset that really shines and grabs your readers’ attentions, then check out our tips below on how to create the perfect eBook.

1. Take advantage of industry experts

Use subject matter experts, either internally or externally, to really make your asset stand out. Brafton Project Manager Eric Rubino said this can really boost the effectiveness of your eBook.

“Take advantage of SMEs to improve the quality and thought leadership-ness of your eBook,” he explained. “Their input is incredibly important to ensure you are providing your audience with unique and actionable insights, rather than just repeating commonly known information in a given industry.”

    Leverage insight from subject matter experts to lend a more authoritative voice to your eBook.

2. Keep it simple

EBooks are meant to be easily digestible, so make sure your copy reflects that! Avoid using long, drawn-out wording, and cut the fluff! Your readers should be able to quickly get the information they are looking for without having to skim through paragraphs of information.

Also, save your citations for the end of the eBook. Including citations within your copy will make your sentences too long and clunky, taking away from the engaging tone that a successful B2B or B2C eBook should have. As long as you are attributing your information somewhere within the eBook, typically on the last page, you’re covering your bases.

3. Think outside of the box

Piggybacking on the point above, don’t be afraid to have fun with your eBook! They are meant to be engaging pieces of content, and applying a theme or using more conversational language will only help you to meet that goal.

Sure, B2B companies are typically less likely to utilize a more informal voice, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stodgy when it comes to eBooks. Speaking directly to your target audience is a surefire way to engage with them, and even start them on the path to conversion.

4. Create custom imagery

Content that features visuals sees 650 percent more engagement when compared to text-only formats.

By definition, eBooks are assets that include both text and visuals to inform and engage readers.

Custom graphics, whether illustrations or charts, can quickly convey key information you want to highlight, as well as ensure your readers are entertained. You can also include screenshots or photos to show off product features, as this will really help drive your points home when talking about what your customers need.

5. Add interactive elements

Want to kick your eBook engagement up another notch? Consider adding interactive features.

One example would be to create a table of contents that allows prospects to click on a certain section and be taken directly to that page. Or you can include a button on each page that lets readers quickly navigate back to the table of contents. Or both!

Additionally, adding buttons that help readers navigate from page to page makes the eBook easier to navigate and sets it apart from traditional eBooks that require you to scroll through.

6. Pay attention to text formatting

Using the right formatting styles for your copy can make or break your eBook.

“While it’s a no-brainer to make your eBook visually compelling, too often do content marketers often forget about the formatting of text,” Eric said. “Use bolds and colors, and highlight data points or specific sentences in colored boxes or leverage other ways to allow your reader to skim and pull out the important information.”

However, be careful not to overdo the formatting. Highlighting too much, using bullet lists on every page, or over-using other stylistic elements will distract your prospects, and your message will get lost.

With some time, patience and effort, you can develop an effective and successful downloadable asset that takes your eBook marketing goals to the next level and increases your conversions.

Author: Tressa Sloane
Twitter: @tressasloane
Source: https://www.brafton.com