British Publishers Predict Global Rise of Ebook

Posted on 7/8/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (1)

The British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies, which regularly surveys pricing trends, has released initial findings on the U.K. publishing industry. The industry, which is growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy, is the largest local media segment, eclipsing film, fashion, music and television. While publishers have always been a key image-licensing market, this year's big trend is the rise of the ebook, both in the U.K. and other leading and emerging global economies.

According to The Publishers Association, total 2007 revenues of U.K. publishers were £4.1 billion, the equivalent of $8.1 billion at today's exchange rates. Representing 0.33% of U.K.'s gross domestic product, 2007 publishing revenues grew by 6% from the previous year.

In contrast, the Association of American Publishers estimates that U.S. publishers generated $25 billion in 2007. While three times the size of its British equivalent, the industry accounted for 0.18% of the U.S. 2007 GDP. It is similarly behind in growth, with a 3% revenue increase from 2006 and current earnings in decline, down by 3.5% in April 2008.

While many countries see technology as posing problems for content owners, British publishers have used it to advance the industry. A BAPLA-organized discussion, which took place during the Picture Buyers Fair, singled out the ebook as the biggest consumer-publishing trend. "One major publishing house has made more from ebooks in the first two months of 2008 than during the whole of 2007," said Simon Juden, CEO of the Publishers Association, during the panel.

While conditions may vary by country, demand for ebooks is growing alongside technological advances. The rise in electronic publishing will contribute to the already booming growth of digital-only image uses around the world. Ebooks in particular have steadily risen in importance in many large emerging markets and cost-conscious industries, such as education. For example, in China, where students are spread over remote areas, using ebooks allows publishers to eliminate shipping and printing costs, which can be substantial, given periodic updates of educational materials.

In the U.K., electronic media and bundled rights have remained at the top of issues associated with image licensing. BAPLA research highlighted that over 90% of image buyers need bundled rights for print and electronic versions of the same materials. While licensing images for combined uses has become commonplace, it appears that most U.K. picture libraries do not have a pricing structure for standalone electronic use.

This poses a problem for the fast-growing niche of ebooks and other digital-only publications. It is also somewhat surprising, as large international agencies have already developed such license structures. For example, rights-managed images can be licensed through Getty Images for use specifically in ebooks.

Another major issue facing image libraries and their ebook-publisher clients is retaining control of their content. Entire ebooks can be shared online as easily as standalone images, without existing structures or processes for monitoring such unauthorized uses. Industry bodies are already at work on producing international standards; however, progress is slow.

The Association of American Publishers has gone as far as to establish a working group to combat online piracy of ebooks. The AAP Web site describes the group's activities as "periodic Internet monitoring," which sounds like manual policing of infringements, similar to what stock agencies did before companies like PicScout and Idée offered automated alternatives.

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


  • Bill Brooks Posted Jul 9, 2008
    Ebooks maybe, but didn't we hear the same predictions about books on CD 10 years ago?

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