The future - digital, for a few years at least

Liz Thomson
News - Publishing 13 Oct 2008

E-content will overtake traditional book sales by 2018 - that's the key statistic in a survey conducted by the Frankfurt Book Fair, which opens tomorrow. The findings are based on responses by more than 1,000 industry professionals from 30 countries. Asked who was driving the move towards digitisation, only 7% felt that publishers were leading the way. Consumers are believed to be in the vanguard of change (22%) with Amazon and Google close behind, with 21% and 20% respectively.

As to who is leading the industry in digitisation, 51% said the US, with Japan in second place (15%) and Europe in third (11%). Only 5% name the UK as a dominant mover. And asked who will be leading the way in five years' time, 29% said the US and 28% China. Europe lagged, on 17%, with the UK trailing at 3%.

While 70% of respondents declared themselves ready for the digital challenge, all recognised the need to work together to tackle the major issues, with copyright the chief concern (28%), followed by digital rights management (22%).

On the question of their company's preparedness to tackle the issues arising, 26% put knowledge and strategy at the top of the agenda, while 22% felt networking and co-operation with new business partners was a prime concern, and 20% the technical infrastructure.

With Frankfurt celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, the survey asked what industry professionals considered the most important developments over the course of those six decades: 39% cited online publishing, 20% marketing, 15% book fairs and 17% chain store retailing.

As to the next 60 years, inevitably, there was some less than cheering news: 25% predicted the total demise of retail booksellers, and 21% said that agents would disappear. But the book as we know it will endure: 12% of respondents thought the e-reader 'a passing craze' that would itself be obsolete by 2068.


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