Some 85% of publishers representing three-quarters of U.S. trade publishing revenues said they were optimistic about the digital transition. This is up just a few percentage points from a year ago — though the comparison isn’t exactly fair because of different sample sizes.
With ebook reading still growing and tablet and smartphone device adoption nowhere near peak, publishers have good reason to be optimistic. At the same time, they are less sanguine about their own company’s prospects. About two-thirds say that their company is capable of competing in a digital environment; just over half believe in their company’s strategy; and only a third say that their company is stronger today because of digital.
Publishers now also believe that tablets are the ideal reading device (nearly two-thirds say so) and that e-readers will soon be irrelevant (nearly half say so). As opposed to last year, when publishing observers predicted that the rise of tablet would be bad for e-reading, publishers’ optimism combined with their support of tablets suggests that publishers believe the rise of tablets will help their businesses.
For this third iteration of the survey of publishers’ attitudes toward digital, Digital Book World and Forrester surveyed 53 publishing executives representing two-thirds of U.S. publishing revenues in the fall of 2012.
— Publishers still sour on apps: While 85% produce them, nearly half say they’re too expensive to make and only one-in-five say apps will impact the future of the industry. Conversely, one-in-five think there is positive revenue potential in apps.
— Given the Department of Justice’s settlement with some of the largest publishers in 2012, more than half of publishers believe that Amazon will become more powerful. A third think that the publishers who haven’t already settled will either do so or lose in court.
— Publishers believe print sales will continue to decline this year while ebook sales will rise by 21% — much lower than the 130% publishers predicted last year.
— Publishers, as a group, think that ebooks will account for half of all books sold by Dec. 2014. About a quarter of publishers believe that half of all books sold at their company are already ebooks.