What are we waiting for?

With less than a 2 % market share, e-books are still to come in Denmark. 

The year 2011 saw a small breakthrough for e-books in Denmark.  However, we are still waiting for the big sales figures to kick in. While we are waiting, some questions are vital. Who will drive the Danish e-book market? How to deal with pricing? What kinds of business models will suit the digital book market? And how can we embrace the new possibilities?

In Denmark, we have followed the US market closely in order to get some indications about the increase of the e-book market worldwide. Knowing that we are far behind, it has been essential for us to see what is driving the e-book market abroad. We haven’t had the Kindle or Amazon.com to kick-start the e-book market in Denmark and other dedicated e-book reading devices haven’t been as successful as we could have hoped for. What did start the reading on digital devices were the introduction of the iPad on the Danish market in November 2010 and the significant increase of Smartphones in 2010 and 2011. Hopefully, 2012 will bring more reading devices in the hands of the customers. More importantly, we as publishers have to create more awareness of e-books through more and new products and especially through our marketing campaigns.

Danish e-book retailers are trying to get the sale on its way. Saxo.com, g.dk and riidr.com are all important participants in the development of a Danish language e-book market. So was the introduction of Danish e-books on iBookstore in the last quarter of 2011. It has taken more than a year to get sales fully on their way. In each of the four quarters of 2011, sales figures have only doubled, which has been a little disappointing. Still, it has been a fine entrance for a product that demands that you have a reading device. If the expected increase of reading devices in 2012 will take place the market will continue to expand. The e-books are out there – now we need the readers to grab them. How can we get the readers’ attention?

Testing prices, products and marketing

The awareness of e-books is already there. The media’s focus on e-books has helped this on its way and might have had a great impact on the consumer. The main topics have been pricing and convenience. At the moment, most new books in Denmark have a 30-40 % lower retail price on e-books than on p-books. Is this the right pricing? Nobody knows. We have to test the market all the time. Some publishers set their prices low, some set them high. We have to find a way for our small territory (5.5 million people) to approach this new market. Testing, testing and testing! Is it possible to make money in a digital world? Newspapers haven’t had the greatest experience and the music industry have changed their business model completely – we will also have to change our way of thinking books.

In November 2011 we released the first Danish app-novel. This crime story – Begravelsen (or The Funeral) – is a non-linear narrative made solely for the iPad. The release was met with a lot of publicity and was mentioned throughout the Danish news media. All in all it was a great experience and we learned a lot about the iPad as a platform, about what the readers expect, how to set the price and what skills it takes for the marketing department to promote an app. We did some testing and we will continue to do some testing with ePub3, apps and other digital formats to find out some more about this new world of opportunities. The publishing industry has to deliver what the readers want. Some have already killed the book-app as a new book format because it is too expensive to produce. They might be right – they might be wrong! The testing on different platforms must go on.

The convenience of the digital book has to be the answer to how to make money in a digital market. When you read news and reviews you do it on the internet, you are online and your purchase of a new book will take place simultaneously in the same environment. Marketing in the digital book industry has to adapt. Adds right beside the news and reviews! It has got to be easy. Convenience is key. And if buying an e-book is both easy and problem-free, consumers might be willing to actually pay for it.

Digital books challenge the mindset in publishing

The possibilities of the digital book world are at the moment way ahead of the Danish e-book and app market. Undoubtedly, the hype about digital books has created high expectations for the expansion of a blue ocean adventure for some publishers and frightened some other established publishers. In order to act in this new market you have to be open-minded. But you also have to be focused, pragmatic and wise enough to find your own business model for the present and the future. The digital books are here to stay; now the ‘old’ publishing world will have to adjust to this new and exciting future.

 

 

Comments

The ebook Revolution is coming to Denmark this year!

Thank you, Jakob Harden, for this insightful post!

And you´re quite right: the ebook revolution is on the verge of coming to Denmark and when it does, it will change the whole book market and maybe even shift power of distribution from some of the old publishing houses to proactive retailers such as saxo.com and riidr.

Being a fairly new author I cannot say that I have much experience in how the book market works and has worked outside Denmark, but what I can already conclude locally, the publishing houses in Denmark are rigid and narrowminded when it comes to ebooks, but also when it comes to new authors. These two combined will, as I have come to conclude analyzing the industry´s relationship with both the costumers, that is the readers, and the suppliers, that is the authors, explode in the faces of the publishing houses if they do not rethink the way they deal with both of these groups.

Let me elaborate: during the past 20 some years, the publishers have chosen to bet on people that are already well known in the general public, regardless of their ability to write. Public figures such as Hanne Bech Larsen, the former national chief of police, Sidney Lee, a celebraty being famous for nothing but wanting to be famous and lately Frederik Fetterlein, an athlete, who´s book has just been released and is all about how he has had virtually no understanding of private economy, shows very clearly that the publishing houses´ main focus has been the person, not the book. While these have been promoted shamelessly, authors with a clear talent for writing have been shoved into the back room and left to their own marketing efforts´ success. Even well established authors such as Klaus Rifbjerg have been known to sell less than 400 pieces of new releases. Not because their product is rubbish, but because the publishing houses have gone for the quick and short term profit, instead of building up literature as a provider of ideas and values.

But even more interesting, these publishing houses have not only disregarded the voices of author, they have chosen the strange path of not listening to the demands of the readers. Not many days ago, saxo.com posted a simple question on its facebook page: would you buy the new book by Fetterlein?

Ususally posts on saxo.com´s facebook page will result in two or three responses, but this particular post was met with enough responses to fill a short story - and that even within just a few minutes! None of them were positive!

So much for the relations between the publishing houses and both authors and readers...

My other point is evenly important: the publishing houses´ understanding and handling of ebooks is, simply put, to use the easy way. Instead of putting work into the publishing of ebooks, they simply take the printed versions and put them out as ebooks. While this is, in itself, a good and sound business concept, they fail to percieve the perspectives of ebooks. Why only make ebook copies of printed books, when you have the chance to try out new authors here and now on the general public with minimal costs, because there is no need to design and set up a printed book and print it?

I was among the first to publish ebooks using the saxo.com selfpublishing platform and as I write these words, my two children´s book are at the very top of sales on the saxo.com site. "Nikolines sure tæ´r," (http://www.saxo.com/dk/item/per-holbo-nikolines-sure-taer-e-bog.aspx) a story for kindergarten children is right now the 8th most popular ebook for children and "Prinsesse Lila og Prinsen på Den Vrede Hest," (http://www.saxo.com/dk/item/per-holbo-prinsesse-lila-og-prinsen-paa-den-vrede-hest-e-bog.aspx) a fairy tale for early school children, has in 20 days sale on the site reached to being the 16th most popular ebook for children.

The latter was sent to a well known publishing house early in november 2011, but I have yet to recieve a reply from them. In the meantime it has shown it´s worth the effort to bet your money on.

Had they chosen to use the ebook as a testing ground for only mine but other new authors´ books, they might have had the extremely low cost momentum to bring them to a printed version with new authors in their stable, so to speak.

I foresee, that the first publishing house to seriously give new authors the chance to go public with their works in ebook formats, will be the house with the best chance of surviving the coming ebook revolution in Denmark.

Per Holbo, author

My author page on saxo.com: http://www.saxo.com/dk/author/per-holbo.aspx

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