University presses not doing well with ebook sales

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That’s what’s reported in an article entitled The E-Reader Effect in Inside Higher Ed.  Here’s a snippet.  Lots more in the article.

University presses, in many cases, have been even less successful than textbook publishers in selling electronic versions of their books. A new survey by the Association of American University Presses suggests that as of last December, e-book sales or licenses accounted for less than 3 percent of total revenue for the overwhelming majority of university presses.

Meanwhile, 60 percent of respondents expressed “serious concern” about the viability of their current business models. In an era of flat or declining print sales, university presses might be discouraged by the fact that e-books, to which most sectors of publishing have pinned their hope for a rebound in an era of flat or declining print sales and scarce resources, have failed to gain traction.

But there is anecdotal evidence from some presses that e-book sales have jumped in the months since the association collected its data. Several presses contacted by Inside Higher Ed reported that their e-book sales have risen significantly in the first part of 2011. While e-books still account for a small proportion of total sales even in these cases, the presses see the uptick as an encouraging sign that there is a market for electronic versions of “serious nonfiction” works after all — and that market might finally be stirring.

Thanks to Michael von Glahn for the link.

2 Comments on University presses not doing well with ebook sales

  1. Academic presses aren’t doing well in nearly all categories and the reason, I think, is inertia — they’ve always operated in x fashion and can’t wrap their thought processes around y fashion.

    A year ago, I wrote “Can eBooks Save University Presses?” (http://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/can-ebooks-save-university-presses/) on my blog, suggesting new paths academic presses could take. I haven’t heard of any press considering any of the ideas (or any ideas that deviate from “this is the way we have always done it”), but I continue to see articles telling us what problems university presses are having in today’s publishing world. Conversations I have had in recent months with some academic presses makes me think stodgy was a word invented just for them :).

    There are lots of new, innovative ways that university presses can experiment with that for-profit presses cannot becasue of shareholder demands. The question is, “Why aren’t university presses experimenting?”

  2. Ebooks from university presses tend to cost $20 and up. I would personally buy quite a few if they were more attractively priced.

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