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Guardian: eBooks Killed 98 UK Publishers in the Past Year

8494677069_7216a109fdHave you seen the latest nonsense on The Guardian website?

According to Liz Bury, ebooks and digital piracy were responsible for the demise of 98 publishers in the 12 months ending 31 August:

Ninety-eight UK publishers went out of business during the past year, 42% more than the year before, figures which reflect an ongoing squeeze on publishers' profit margins driven by deep retail discounts and new digital business models.

Wilkins Kennedy partner Anthony Cork pointed to a clutch of reasons why publishers' traditional business models were so fragile: discounting, the growth of the ebook market, digital piracy, the growth of the secondhand book market, and the scrapping of the Net Book Agreement in 1997.

Niche academic and educational publishers are particularly vulnerable, because their model is being undermined by digital piracy and online secondhand book sales on sites such as Amazon Marketplace. Cork said: "The arrival of Amazon has transformed the secondhand book trade from a fairly minor nuisance to a serious threat. Where once you had to trawl the secondhand bookshops if you wanted to get hold of a cheap hardback or academic book, you can now be fairly certain of getting hold of what you want at the click of a button, and the publisher will not make a penny."

Growth in sales of ebooks, whose average price is £3 or less, compared with £5.50 for a paperback, has also undermined publishers' margins. UK consumer ebook sales rose by 134% to £216m in 2012, while print sales fell by 1% to £2.9bn, meaning that consumer ebook sales now represent 7.4% of book publishers' total sales, according to the UK Publishers Association.

Do you know what I find most ridiculous about this piece? It’s how no one thought to consider whether the ongoing recession might be having an effect.

Maybe, just maybe, niche publishers are struggling because consumers see some book purchases as luxuries. And perhaps the used book market is thriving because book buyers have had to tighten their belts and reduce expenses. That could be why they’re buying used books instead of new.

But no, The Guardian thinks the demise of 98 publishers is more likely due to ebooks now accounting for under 8% of the UK book market. Or piracy, even though no one has any real numbers to back up the claim.

BTW, if used books are such a threat to publishers then why haven’t more died off by now? The online used book market has been around for 10 years or more, so why is it only now that publishers are succumbing to its effects?

image by L’habitant

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The Rodent November 4, 2013 um 11:28 am

I think also some academic publishers may be hurting because their books are typically very expensive (for students, faculty, and researchers) in an age when the world scientific community is increasingly moving on-line and toward wider sharing of information, for free or at lower cost.

Victor Jalba-Soimaru November 4, 2013 um 11:36 am

Just one thing.

How can one business claim that it is going out of business because of another business.

Hey, that’s the business war folks. Adapt to it or die, die, die.

Otherwise it would’nt be a business.

Get it?

fjtorres November 4, 2013 um 12:25 pm

Remember that for the UK media, ebook = Amazon and Amazon is eeee-vile!!!!!
Because they only pay the taxes the law requires and they only collect the lowest VAT EU law requires. And because their customers prefer doing business with Amazon over more expensive less convenient suppliers.
So for the past few months they’ve been trying to pin everything since the black plague on Amazon. So, yes; ebooks and used books on Amazon are killing publishers left and right.
You can take it to the bank.

Victor Jalba-Soimaru November 4, 2013 um 12:38 pm

And all those years UK Publishing did what for an alternative?

Michelle Halket November 4, 2013 um 12:56 pm

I am so tired of ebook-trashing. I thought we were kind of past that now. But apparently not. What about all the publishers (like me) who have been able to start and grow a successful publishing business BECAUSE of ebooks? Without digital publishing, I would have never been able to grow my business to house over 30 authors – some of which now have financially successful writing careers.

fjtorres November 4, 2013 um 4:43 pm

Ah, but are you personal friends with the newspaper cliques?
That seems to matter here…

Nate Hoffelder November 4, 2013 um 5:47 pm

Ah, but everyone knows that new tech doesn’t create new opportunities; it only destroys legacy industries.

fjtorres November 4, 2013 um 7:43 pm

Of course, the tactless like me, might point out that when new tech kills old businesses, the old business has it coming. 🙂

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