laptopbookfairjoewikertFrankfurt Book Fair 2015 is in the rearview mirror.

But there were a few noteworthy tidbits gleaned from last month’s event, especially market-share gains by self-publishing and the Big Five.

At least, those trends stand out in a state-of-the-U.S.-market presentation from Nielsen’s Jonathan Stolper.

You can argue Nielsen’s data isn’t complete and thus far from perfect, but it’s one of the few resources available for market trends and analysis. And here is what I most noticed:

  • Self-publishing and the Big Five are crowding out everyone else. According to Nielsen’s data, from Q1 2014 to Q1 2015, self-published books have grown from 14% to 18% of the overall market. In that same period the Big Five’s share has grown from 28% to 37%. Meanwhile, the rest of the market, all the large, medium and tiny publishers, have seen their share decrease from 58% to 45%.
  • The print/e split is now roughly 74%/26%. Plenty of articles have been written about the plateauing e-book market. Most publishers report e-books represent anywhere from 15% to 30% or so of total revenue. According to Nielsen, the current state of equilibrium is closer to a 74%/26% split. That ratio varies widely by genre, by the way, but it’s worth looking at your own rate to see how it compares to the overall industry average.
  • Price drives e-book interest. According to Nielsen’s consumer survey, almost 60% of respondents said they’d choose E over P if the savings is at least $4 for the former. Additionally, approximately 50% said they’d do the same even if the e-book is only $2-3 cheaper than the print version. So as publishers wrestle back consumer pricing via the new agency model, driving e-book prices up, it’s clear they’re inadvertently (and sometimes deliberately) nudging consumers back to print.
  • Consumer prefer print and E, not or. 49% of consumers surveyed said they bought print and e-books in the past 6 months vs. 42% who only bought print and a paltry 9% who only bought E. Just because a consumer buys e-books doesn’t mean that he or she won’t also read print, and vice versa. Most publishers are overlooking a huge opportunity to create digital products that complement print.
  • Amazon dominates subscriptions, too. It’s been hard to find data on the all-you-can-read e-book subscription market but Nielsen is finally shining some light on the model. And just as they do pretty much everywhere else, Amazon is crushing it. First of all, according to Nielsen only 5% of consumers have signed up for any e-book subscription solution, so the market remains small. Kindle Unlimited led the way with the largest chunk of market share, jumping from approximately 40% in January 2015 to almost 60% in April. Scribd and Oyster were tiny players by comparison in that period, and they’re only getting smaller. Given their teensy share of a small segment, it’s no wonder Oyster is going away soon.

Incidentally, this was the first year for the Fair’s Business Club option and I hope it’s not the last. The Business Club was a terrific location for quiet meetings, away from the traffic and noise of the hall floors. It ranked high in serendipity value as well: I bumped into and met with at least a handful of other attendees I might not have crossed paths with otherwise. Highly recommended.

Reproduced with permission from Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies.


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