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On the move

More reading on smartphones, sizeable digital sales growth despite talk of a slowdown and deep divisions on pivotal publishing issues—these are among the headlines of this year’s Digital Census. Tom Holman picks the five biggest talking points

Mobile overtakes tablets and dedicated e-readers as the device of choice


Te shift to reading on phones is perhaps the most signifi- cant finding. Last year’s Digital Census found that for the first time more people were reading on iPads than Kindles, but now more than two in five (44.6%) respondents say they commonly read on a mobile phone, surpass- ing both of the other devices. Why the shift? Te advance of smartphone technology, especially around screen size and resolution, is one reason. Another is the diminishing appeal of dedicated e-readers, with more and more people opting to carry a single, multi- use device instead. But while the Kindle’s appeal

may be slipping, Amazon’s popularity is decidedly not.

It remains overwhelmingly the most common source of e-book purchases, with more than three-quarters (77.1%) of census respondents saying they regularly buy e-books from the online giant. Other e-book retailers, such as Apple’s iBook- store (11.8%), Kobo (6.4%), Google Play (6.1%) and Water- stones (5.7%), remain tiny by comparison.

Digital sales are still growing, but they are also slowing


For publishers, the year’s narra- tive has been the apparent slowing of e-book sales and the return to growth of print books. But the census has figures to dispute the theory that interest in digital content has peaked. More than two-thirds (68.2%) of publishers say digital formats


now account for more than 10% of their total sales, up from half (50.0%) last year. And for more than two in five (41.1%) publish- ers, digital formats now form more than 20% of their sales. Publishers anticipate more

digital sales growth. More than a third (37.7%) think digital formats will account for between 21% and 50% of their sales by the end of 2020, while a further fifth (21.1%) think they will contribute more than half. As one publisher says: “It’s part of the natural ebb and flow of inno- vation—e-books will continue to grow and evolve.”

Another theme of 2015

for publishers has been the retrenchment on apps and the rise of other multimedia content. Te percentage of publish- ers producing apps has fallen, from 50.8% in last year’s census to 46.2%, while those produc- ing audio content has gone the

other way, from 39.3% to 47.5%. Publishers have found that digi- tal technology makes producing and delivering audio much more straightforward, but many are concluding that apps are not worth the candle.

Self-love levels recede as many indie authors report lower satisfaction levels


Change is a constant among authors as well as publishers, and the eye-catching trend in the census is a cooling of enthusiasm for self-publishing. On a scale of one to 10, authors who publish their own books rated their satis- faction at 6.7—a point higher than traditionally published authors (5.7), but down on last year’s rating of 7.1. More authors are realising they will not make their fortune in self-publishing.

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