Current Trends in Book Publishing
For a couple of years, adult colouring books were all the rage. Interest in them waned in 2016, and now a fascination with the Danish concept hygge is taking the publishing industry by storm. Hygge refers to a sense of comfort, and we’re seeing it reflected in cookbooks, lifestyle books, and even some parodies. Both of these trends suggest that adult readers are looking for comfort during these turbulent times.
Beyond these subject trends, which come and go all the time, we’ve seen some major shifts in the industry over the last couple of years that we expect to continue for the near future.
Ebook growth has plateaued
Since Amazon first launched the Kindle in 2007, the book publishing industry has worried about how ebooks would transform the landscape. But the industry now feels that ebooks and print books are coexisting peacefully, and about 90% of North American publishers are currently producing ebooks. One of the big surprises of the last few years is that ebook growth has slowed substantially. In fact, the Association of American Publishers has reported that adult ebook sales in the U.S. have dropped in several quarters over the last couple of years, as other formats (particularly paperback and audiobook) have grown.
Why? Maybe it’s that we’ve reached market saturation for dedicated reading devices. Maybe readers are experiencing digital fatigue. As we spend more time on electronic devices, we value time away from them. The Codex Group found in a recent study that about a third of book buyers below the age of 44 want to spend less time on digital devices. As we’ve reported before, contrary to popular belief, more millennials choose to read print than any other age group.
Growth of audiobooks
On the other hands, audiobooks are now exploding at a phenomenal rate, just as ebooks were almost a decade ago. The majority of North Americans own smartphones, so we’re mobile and prepared to access downloadable or streaming audio files from anywhere. We’re also used to multitasking, and audiobooks offer a convenient way to “read” books while doing other things: cooking, cleaning, walking dog, commuting. The rise of celebrity podcasts and high-profile audio shows such as Serial is also playing into this trend.
In fact, Penguin Random House Canada has just announced that it will start publishing its own audiobooks in 2017, and we’re hearing rumours that some other major tech players will be launching audiobook publishing programs this year. The potential for this format has become clear.
Professionalization of self-publishing
We’re also noticing the rise of the professional self-publisher: someone who wants to ensure their books are edited, designed, distributed, printed, and marketed in a professional way, so their book stands out from others in their category. As Mark Coker, the founder of the ebook distributor Smashwords, wrote in his “2017 Book Industry Predictions” on his blog, “Each year the indie author community raises its game to become more sophisticated and more professional. Indies are learning to implement—and in many cases pioneering—the best practices that motivate readers to choose one ebook over another.”
Pricing books cheaply (or free) used to be a critical strategy for a lot of indie authors, but as the number of self-published books has exploded, this strategy is no longer as effective. Authors need to find other ways to compete.
Increased focus on international publishing
Finally, one of the other big changes we’re seeing in publishing is that publishers and authors are increasingly focused on bringing their books to international markets. Print-on-demand technology means they can easily list their books for sale around the world. And technology has also made it easy to send files to overseas printers who can ship books to distributors in their local markets, eliminating the need for costly and slow shipping. In our negotiations with publishers, they’re increasingly insisting on world rights or world English rights, particularly independent houses that don’t have distribution divisions or multinational parent companies to support them.
It’s never a dull business.
We founded Page Two with a desire to embrace innovation in publishing. We love being part of some of these changes and figuring out how best authors can adapt to them.