Advances in the Way the World Reads for 2014

As e-Book sales have flattened as a new year begins, new approaches to book access may change the way that we read, and increase how much we read.

With The Book Industry Study Group’s latest report showing that e-Book sales have flattened out at 30 percent of units sold in 2013, the new year story is about how the world will be reading books. The changes will not only affect the book publishing industry but also book marketing in 2014 and beyond.

Although book subscription models have been discussed in the recent past, 2014 will see the concept put into practice with two startups testing waters with different approaches. The first model is one of an unlimited reading subscription from Oyster, a New York-based startup that offers unlimited access to over 100,000 books for $9.95 a month. The other current subscription model is the limited-subscription. The frontrunner in this model is eReatah e-book subscription service that offers 80,000+ titles. Subscribers can choose to pay $16.99 a month for two new titles; $25.50 for three books; and $33.50 for four.

Both services make their titles available for iPads, iPhones (iOS) and Android devices as well as tablets and dedicated e-Book readers. In addition, they both offer personalized recommendations based on the user's reading history and on similar selections enjoyed by other members, which is likely to have a positive effect on book marketing for some titles. Of course, an author and book publicist could have concerns about each model. Many wonder if it will further erode e-Book pricing with consumers wanting an even bigger bang for the buck.

The intersection of a flattening e-Book market and the changing face of what some consider an endangered public library system is also seeing the potential for greater e-Book lending via the library. The last several years have seen all of the major book publishers selling e-Books to this channel.

Unfortunately, many libraries face challenges buying deep into the various lists and catalogs due to publisher restrictions such as checkout limits, high prices and long waits for best sellers. To combat many of these challenges, new lending and discovery models have emerged for libraries across the country which can impact volume and how people read.

Several early partnerships have resulted in development work to fully integrate e-Book lending into the online catalog and discovery products. These technology integration projects aim to provide all aspects of e-Book discovery and lending through the same interface library patrons use for other materials. The new lending and discovery models allow the library to show the entire catalog of the participating publisher to the potential reader.

The library only pays for the book when the patron checks out the specific book. This allows libraries to offer a much deeper backlist of books without incurring the upfront costs. The increase in lending and discovery technology in the library can be an additional channel of passive book marketing, but it remains to be seen if this will be effective for known and unknown authors alike.

Libraries are also experimenting with listing e-Books with other materials within search results for purposes of awareness and encouragement of patrons to make selections and borrow. Infrastructure is changing to allow patrons to download selections into their e-Book readers or devices, request a hold on specific titles currently charged to other users, and see e-Book checkouts within their individual library accounts. This approach will allow libraries to work with multiple e-Book lending services and providers while increasing the passive book marketing of titles to patrons.

While the subscription models as well as library lending and discovery are sure to have an impact on the way we read in 2014, it remains to be seen to what degree. What is certain is that publishing continues to evolve as new forms of access affect book marketing for authors as well as the book publicist. Since an author and his/her book publicist are focused on increasing sales and the bottom line, the unknown for the near future is whether or not these new and evolving means of access can jumpstart the flattening e-Book sales for some or for all. For those needing a boost to their e-Book sales, Smith Publicity offers expert services on e-Book marketing.

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