Research: E-Books at $10 Billion, Bookstores Under Pressure in 2016

By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

By 2016, e-book revenues from portable devices will reach nearly $10 billion and bookstores that don’t merge digital and traditional commerce may face extinction, according to a new report.

Already at $3.2 billion this year in worldwide revenues, e-book sales on portable devices are predicted to grow three-fold to $9.7 billion, according to the Mobile Publishing 2011-2016 report released today by UK-based research firm Juniper Research. At the same time, how people buy books is predicted to change.

According to the report, about 30% of e-books will be purchased on tablets, 15% will be purchased on smartphones and roughly 55% will be purchased on e-readers by 2016. And bookstores in general will be under pressure.

“Unless bookstores can marry the digital and the physical, then they’re going to go under,” said Dr. Windsor Holden, research director at Juniper Research and one of the authors of the report.

While Holden predicts that there will still be a need for physical storefronts in 2016, the ones he thinks will survive are those that leverage both digital and physical promotional methods, like Barnes & Noble, which sells books through stores, through its Nook devices and through other devices like tablets and desktops.

Some of the issues publishers will have to face in the next five years, according to the report, are legal challenges to the agency pricing model, Apple and potentially other booksellers blocking moves toward interoperability between reading platforms and reading devices, the rise of self-publishing and loss of revenue as out-of-copyright works are increasingly downloaded for free.

But the overall outlook for the industry is fairly positive. Holden predicts there will be growth in total revenues when combining both print and digital.

“We’ll see a gradual increase in the size of the industry, but pretty minimal,” said Holden.

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