The transition to digitization continues in book publishing, an industry that is both susceptible to digital disruption, but also positioned to benefit tremendously from it, according to Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey who kicked off this year's Digital Book World conference. That said, a survey conducted by Forrester in collaboration with Digital Book World found that while 82% of publishers were optimistic about digital, the number was down from 89% last year. Indeed only 28% of those thought their own company would be stronger in the future, down from 51% last year.
The decline has a lot to do with a realization of hard work ahead for publishers to adapt to the new digital environment, according to McQuivey. He also offered these figures: 25 million people in the U.S. own an e-reader; 34 million people own tablets and eight million homes have at least two tablets. While publishers may be a bit daunted, they are rapidly organizing their firms for digital: 75% of publishers have an executive level person responsible for digital; 63% report that digital skills are formally integrated into all departments; 69% of the publishers expect to increase digital staffiing in 2012, while 22% expect overall company staffing to go down in 2012.
McQuivey said that "the love affair with apps is officially over," noting that while 75% of the publishers surveyed produce apps, 51% said they cost too much to produce, only 19% believe apps will change the future of books and 15% say apps represent significant revenue for them.
Looking forward into 2012 McQuivey said 54% of publishers believe print sales will continue to decrease although only 5% believe it will decrease "significantly." Book executives also believe Amazon and other online-only retailers will sell 41% of all e-books in 2012 (and Amazon doesn't care if it resets all the pricing downward). E-books sales are expected to increase 130% by the end of 2012. And 70% of the publishers surveyed believe that in the future publishers must have a direct customer relationship of some kind--and 66% of publishers expect to invest in acquiring customer data.
Eighty-five publishing companies took part in the survey.