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The Global eBook Market: Current Conditions & Future Projections by Ruediger Wischenbart

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Chapter 4. Global Mapping Perspectives

With respect to the ongoing globalization of the book publishing industry, few surveys have been published with a broad international approach.

While professional and STM (science, technical, and medical) publishing has seen both systematic digitization of its value chain and global expansion for a decade, general trade houses have followed behind at a much slower pace. A few British houses (notably Penguin, but also Oxford and Cambridge University Presses and Harper Collins) have a longstanding tradition of significant operations across several continents.

After the acquisition of Random House, the largest US trade publisher, by German Bertelsmann in 1998 and similar moves by French Hachette and, on a smaller scale, Spanish Planeta, the new “emerging markets,” led by Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the so-called BRIC countries), have seen offices opened by Western publishers in recent years. But little of this has been the subject of systematic market research.

The most prominent exception has been the PriceWaterhouseCooper annual Global Entertainment and Media Outlook, which includes an analysis of and projection for the book sector, among other forms of media. The current edition of this outlook—for the years 2012 to 2016—builds on a theme that couldn’t be truer for the book sector: The “end of the digital beginning,” portraying in depth how “E&M companies reshape and retool for life in the new normal.” Digital, so the report says, is now “embedded in business-as-usual and moving to the heart of media companies worldwide.” Three perspectives are identified as key factors for successfully reshaping businesses in this new environment: to understand the “connected consumer” through data analytics, to devise new—or adjust old—business models, and to develop new organizational models.

The PWC outlook highlights China, which overtook Germany in 2011 and the UK in 2009, becoming the world’s third-largest entertainment and media market, after the US and Japan. With regard to publishing, China has arguably become the second-largest market, after the US, by 2011, overtaking Germany, which is ahead of Japan and the UK in that sector.

The expanding role of emerging economies as some of the most dynamic publishing markets has also been documented with data on global market developments by the International Publishers Association (IPA) and in the “Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry.” Both ongoing surveys are researched by the author of this report (for details and links see www.wischenbart.com/publishing).

A broad selection of emerging markets and developing countries has been covered in the report “Digital publishing in developing countries,” authored by Octavio Kulesz and released in October 2010. The research, which is freely available for download in several formats and languages, focuses on Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab world, Russia, India, and China, and documents relevant local actors and initiatives across those continents, with detailed references, providing a valuable resource even as market details evolve quickly.

A detailed account on how select ebook markets evolve was started by Bowker in May 2012 (see this press release with key findings). The “Global eBook Monitor” (GeM) is based on consumer surveys in ten countries: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the UK, and the US. It tracks ebook adoption and consumer attitudes. India and Australia, together with the UK and the US, are seen as leaders in ebook adoption, while consumers in France and Japan were the least likely to have purchased an ebook, at 5 and 8 percent, respectively. GeM has been widely presented and discussed at major trade events and book fairs and will be updated and extended to additional markets on a regular basis.

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