Tuesday, 09 February 2016 23:34

Digital disruption hits book publishing industry


Digital disruption has hit the book industry hard, resulting in a significant drop in onshore book sales, according to an Australia first study by Macquarie University of the country’s book publishing industry.


The study uncovered the strategies being used by Australian publishers by analysing findings from interviews with 25 senior Australian publishers of various sizes, across trade, education, scholarly and literary sectors.

The study reveals that the book industry is now starting to fight back against digital disruption, employing innovative responses to the threat.

Dr Jan Zwar, researcher at Macquarie University’s Faculty of Business and Economics, said that as a mid-size industry, “Australian publishers have been forced to work harder in order to compete globally and deal with major changes that have been occurring across the industry.”

“We saw publishers develop defensive strategies to entrants such as Google, Apple and Amazon, for example the development of direct to consumer print and ebook sales. In some cases, such as Harlequin, the sale of ebooks is an extension of its postal mail order services to readers.

“While other publishers employed opportunistic strategies that leveraged digital technology, such as open access publishing and the use of metadata, apps and social media for promotion.”

 “For instance, Momentum was set up in Australia by Pan Macmillian to experiment with epublishing, ebook pricing and digital sales channels,” Dr Zswar said, adding that Kylie Scott, who is now a New York Times best-selling author, was “discovered through Momentum’s open submission process.”

“Other strategies aimed to open up new, different markets and to create new business models, for instance new types of royalty agreements between publishers and authors and moves to subscription models.”

The report also looks at the structural changes within the industry and the impact this is having on book sales.

According to the study, for instance, Big W is now believed to be the single biggest book retailer in Australia, and the online retailer Booktopia, purchased Bookworld in 2015 and is now the dominant Australian-based online retailer, with an estimated market share of 6 to 7%.

On education book publishing, Dr Zwarf said, “Education publishing is arguably undergoing more radical transformation than trade publishing because it is also affected by disruption in the education sector.

“In additional to technology, education publishing is affected by government policies to improve education and employment outcomes as well as financial constraints.”

The research was the second part of a larger project that looked at Australia’s book industry, which included a report on Australian authors that was released in October 2015.

The view more information on both reports click here.



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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).




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