E-book sales have leveled off for the most part in 2015 to date, continuing a trend that began last year. According to BookNet CEO Noah Genner, figures from the organization’s consumer panel show that e-books now account for about 17% of industry sales—the same as at the end of 2013. Genner believes that the shrinking price differential between print and e-books is likely a reason for the slowing growth. “I think that digital sales are going to continue to grow, but they’ll grow at a much more controlled pace than they had in those first few years,” he says.
Robin Philpot, president and publisher of Quebec-based Baraka Books, says his e-book sales “have maintained” at between 10% and 20% of company revenue over the last few years, “which you don’t sneeze at, but it’s still not what people expected it to be.” He adds that “people still want paper books, there’s no doubt about that.”
HarperCollins Canada and Penguin Random House Canada both report that e-book sales now represent 15%–16% of their overall sales, a number virtually unchanged over the past two years, while Simon & Schuster Canada and ECW Press say the format represents 20% of revenue.
Children’s publishers, especially those who print lots of illustrated picture books—such as Pajama Press, Second Story Press, and Owlkids Books—report that e-books accounted for less than 10% of revenue. “We’ve been slower into the e-book market than we might otherwise have been because of the complications and costs of doing fixed-layout e-books for picture books,” says Owlkids Books publisher Karen Boersma. “There isn’t much of a demand for it in the retail market, frankly.”
One publisher doing very well with e-books is ChiZine Publications, Toronto’s indie publisher of dark genre fiction, whose e-books represent about 50% of overall sales. Copublisher Sandra Kasturi says ChiZine has offered e-books alongside print books since its 2008 launch and was one of the first publishers to offer a free e-book to any reader who buys the print version. “We publish genre fiction—sci-fi, fantasy, and horror—and these are genres traditionally associated with nerds,” Kasturi says. “And nerds are smart, embrace new technologies, and like gadgets. So it’s possible that we have a higher nerd quotient in our readership than more mainstream publishers.”