Half of all books sold in Europe by 2015 will be electronic

19 Aug 2011

The Western European e-book market grew 400pc in 2010 to exceed 10m paid-for e-books, but this will more than triple in 2011 to 32m e-books sold this year. By 2015, half of all books sold in Europe will be electronic.

“During the last 12 months, there has been a notable change in the industry’s attitude towards e-books,” says Fiona Hoy, market analyst at Futuresource Consulting, “with publishers and retailers alike underlining the importance of a digital revenue stream to help offset the slow decline of the previously stable Western European physical book market.

“And despite all this rapid growth in demand for e-books in Western Europe, the market is still in its infancy, representing less than 1pc of total consumer spending on books. Moving forward, there are enormous opportunities within the market and our forecasts show Western European e-book revenues will reach €1.6bn by 2015, accounting for 15pc of total book spend and representing one out of every five books sold in the region,” Hoy said.

The UK continues to dominate the European market and generated close to half of all Western European e-book spend last year, this despite only accounting for 15pc of the region’s physical book spend. The country is on track to achieve sales of stg£100m this year and more than 5pc of total UK consumer spending on books.

“The introduction of Amazon’s e-reading device and Kindle Store to the UK during August 2010 was a key catalyst behind the UK’s strong growth,” said Hoy.

“Within a five-month period, Amazon sold close to 400,000 Kindle devices and achieved e-book sales in the region of £20m. Amazon not only launched a premium brand e-reading device into a market which had previously been fragmented with unbranded dedicated devices, but also provided an extensive catalogue of e-book titles at loss leading price points from key publishers. In addition, aggressive aspirational TV and print advertising campaigns continue to drive demand,” Hoy added.

In Germany, which has the highest per capita spend on books in Western Europe – more than twice that of the UK – the opportunity for e-books is highly favourable, although local book pricing laws will restrict companies from replicating the loss leading pricing strategies that have been implemented in the UK and US.

With the installed base of dedicated e-reading devices in Germany currently below 1pc and the market relying heavily on the tablet as an e-reading device, the country is primed for both hardware and content opportunities.

The future for e-books in Europe

“By 2015, the tablet market will account for close to half of all paid-for e-book sales in Germany, compared to around one in three in the UK and France,” said Hoy. “The Kindle store launched into the market during the first half of 2011, though consumer demand for devices and content has so far been relatively low, in part due to low consumer awareness. However, strong promotional campaigns in Q4 will help stimulate demand and convert the market potential into real revenues.”

For many countries across the region – including Italy and Spain – 2010 was the first full year that e-readers were readily available at retail. However, a lack of local language titles and limited paid-for e-book services acted as key obstacles to legitimate paid-for e-book market growth. Since then, local language content and demand has started to develop; and combined with the strength of Amazon and Apple’s iBookstore for both the iPad and smartphone market, the significance of the Western European market on the world stage will continue to develop.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years