Scholarly eBooks on the Rise

By Simba, Special for  USDR

Scholarly and professional e-books sales increased globally by 7.7% in 2014 and will grow an additional 6.9% in 2015, according to the latest report from media and publishing intelligence firm Simba  Information.

The report, Scholarly & Professional E-Book Publishing 2015-2019, found that, although the book market as a whole has taken its lumps due to declining print sales, e-books have greater appeal with library customers, which has led publishers to reinvest in their  collections.

Book publishers watched the decline of the scholarly monograph for decades. In the 1960s, American Research Libraries could reliably be expected to provide a financial underpinning of hardcover sales in the thousands of copies. However, as spending on books slipped from 50% to 5% of many library budgets, print runs fell from the thousands to the hundreds. Many major players drastically cut back their book  output.

Books were seen as a dying business by many scholarly and professional publishers with neither the cash flow nor growth opportunities of journals. But e-collections have started to change that. Unlike individual books, collections can be sold as part of a big deal, they can be  licensed.

When a publisher signs a book series with an Italian applied statistics society, it creates a future string of books that can be sold as part of a mathematics collection and part of an Italian collection. The chapters of those books can be searched across millions of other documents. In most professional topics, this is how books are used. Reference works, monographs, law books and conference proceedings are not read cover to cover. Like journal articles, they are accessed by chapter or even  paragraph.

Just as journal articles, individual books or chapters can be sold individually, pay-per-view or accessed for free if already part of the collection. Individual books are rarely selected by stressed and under-staffed libraries. At least in the academic libraries so dominated by scientific, technical and medical journals, e-books are only relevant when they are part of the document collection, discoverable alongside electronic databases and online  journals.

Furthermore, new discovery tools and search engines find information gems far richer than old card catalogs or even indexes. In social science and humanities, this means searching Google collections of classic titles from the world’s largest libraries, orders of magnitude larger than the average library. In the sciences, it means the “journalization” of books — finding a long forgotten thesis or possibly an experimental result whose significance and application can only now be unlocked by advancements in other  areas.

This burgeoning market is not without its challenges. One of the sore points between publishers and library customers is what appears to be the arbitrary pricing of e-books. While centuries of evolution have fine-tuned print book pricing models in the mind of both publishers and their customers, the rules of e-books are still new and somewhat unsettled. When the ratio between print prices and e-book prices for the same content vary between publishers, the differences appear arbitrary and lead to charges of “price gouging”. Publishers are addressing the issue by developing prices based on anticipated usage  patterns.

Scholarly & Professional E-Book Publishing  2015-2019 provides an overview and financial outlook for the global scholarly and professional e-book publishing markets based on specific research and analysis of the leading competitors’ performance. Company performance is projected through 2015. The overall market is divided into law, science and technology, medical, social science and humanities and business publishing. Market categories are projected through 2019. The report also discusses trends, challenges, pricing models, usage, major e-book publishers, aggregators and platform providers.  For more information on the report please visit:

About Simba  Information:
Simba Information is widely recognized as the authority for market intelligence in the media and publishing industries. Its extensive information network delivers top quality, independent perspectives on the people, events and alliances shaping the industry. Simba routinely assists clients and the press with publishing and media industry analysis. Follow us on Twitter and  LinkedIn.

SOURCE Simba  Information

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