BookNet Canada released its annual report, The State of Digital Publishing, revealing that digital sales, which includes ebooks and audiobooks, accounted for 17% of purchases in 2016, down from 19% in 2015. The decline, said BookNet’s president and CEO Noah Genner, is "in line with what we have seen in other English language markets."

The annual survey covers 50 publishers, ranging from large conglomerates to small independent publishers and “accounts for 80-90% of the market,” Genner said. What is missing is a representative number of education publishers, which account for less than 10% of those surveyed. The survey also includes data gleaned from tracking 5,000 purchases from 2,000 customers.

The Canadian government supports smaller publishers in a variety of ways and, in particular, encourages these houses digitize backlist titles and produce new audiobooks. Thanks to this, the country saw an increase in the number of titles digitized as ebooks or audiobooks. “This accounts, in part, for the majority of publishers, 61%, reporting a rise in their digital revenues," Genner said.

As for pricing, Genner said that many publishers are employing a flexible pricing model depending on the channel. Retail sales often have an agency pricing contract attached, while library sales fall under other parameters. “Publishers like to have flexibility in pricing so they accommodate all manner of customers,” he said.

“When it comes to e-book retailers, Kobo continues to be the most-used by publishers (96 percent), followed by Amazon (93 percent) and Apple (84 percent),” the report said. Genner noted that Kobo, which is headquartered in Toronto, still benefits from its relationship with Indigo, the country’s dominant bookstore chain that originally launched Kobo. “It still matters to consumers that you can go into an Indigo in Canada and talk to someone who is knowledgeable about the Kobo devices and then buy one there. It’s a fairly important piece of that puzzle and an advantage that Amazon doesn’t yet have here."

Genner said that what jumped out at him about this year’s survey was the degree to which publishers seem to be comfortable with digital workflows. “Years ago, digital and print production [and[ digital and print marketing were all separate workflows. Now, they have all merged and a single digitized workflow is just how people do things,” he said. He then added: “There's no fear about digital now as there once was. Publishers may not always like digital publishing, but they have gotten good at it.”