3. Publishers are more risk-averse: Since its publication in 2003, The Da Vinci Code has sold over 80 million copies, yet in the last five years no title has sold over 20 million copies. Lower sales mean lower profits and increase the risk of publishing new authors. Likewise, the crowded market created by developments like self-publishing makes it harder for new launches to stand out — the ‘window of opportunity’ for new titles is now as brief as four weeks.
4. Shrinking volumes: The Federation of European Publishers says ebook sales have stabilised at 6-7% of total book sales — lower than once feared. But there are digital challenges from other quarters: social media competes for consumers’ attention, as does people’s growing habit of ‘binge watching’ boxsets and streamed TV series.
5. Self-publishing creates new content: While not a totally new phenomenon — Jane Austen and Marcel Proust self-published — today digital production options mean it’s easier than ever to get into print (or onto an e-reader device).
6. Special interest publishing: With short run and on-demand digital book production models, tying up capital in inventory is not an issue, and every hobby or passion becomes a niche opportunity for publishers. Publishing in minority languages becomes economical. No book need ever be out of print — for example, Munich publisher Goloseo specialises in reviving treasured children’s literature in both printed and digital form.
7. ‘Digital natives’ want physical books: People feel overwhelmed by digital media. In 2017 a survey by Two Sides found that 72% of respondents prefer printed books and newspaper, and 69% turn to print to ‘switch off’ from their digital devices.
8. Consumers expect multi-platform content: When they’re not ‘switching off’ with a book, these digital natives are adept at viewing content on multiple devices simultaneously — be it the written word, audio, or video.