E-Book spurt in the education and comic segments

In 2012, adult e-book sales increased by 33.2% to reach USD 1.25 billion, representing 25.8% of all sales in the adult trade segment compared to 20.4% in 2011. More than half of publishers’ content is “digital waste”, as 65% of e-book publishers have converted less than half of their legacy titles, or their backlist, into e-books. As a result, the outsourcing potential for e-book production in the trade segment is still high.

08 May 2013 | By PrintWeek India

In a bid to attract clients, providers of e-book conversion services started offering proprietary tools to make the trade e-book conversion process more convenient, faster, and more efficient. This has led to a commoditization of the service, with price being the only distinguishing factor. Trade publishers are expecting prices to go lower with the increase in the volume of e-book conversions even though conversion has become a complex task of using one single solution to make multiple deliveries on different devices. One factor which adds to the complexity of the conversion process is the varied screen resolutions for various iOS and Android devices.

One way providers can supplement their top line is to pursue the education segment, namely K-12 and College publishers. Unlike trade e-books which are text that may have some illustrations, e-books for the K-12 and the higher education segment contain multimedia, animation, math and chemistry equations, illustrations, and more. Videos in these e-books will have to be converted to either Flash or HTML5 or both, depending on the deployment platform. Furthermore, textbooks typically are updated annually, and could result in a long-term contract.

Another potential publishing segment which can be tapped is the graphic novel or comic publisher. These publishers have their own backlists for conversion to e-comic books. The complexity of images processing and content layout based on device screen and readability requires a special kind of skill set which commands a higher price in the market.


To differentiate themselves from the competition, providers should consider offering publishers an online platform to sell their e-books. In a 2012 survey of publishers by Apatara, a significant proportion of publishers surveyed said they used Amazon (21%) and the Apple iBookstore (18%) to distribute their e-books. College (22%) and K-12 (33%) publishers, on the other hand, were the most likely to distribute e-books using their own e-commerce website. The exhibit illustrates the breakdown of distribution channels by publishers. By helping education publishers establish an online textbook retail store, providers may attract the first wave of publishers, and supplement their earnings by charging a small fee for each e-textbook sold using the service. Ingram forayed into this space with its e-textbook platform, VitalSource Bookshelf in 2006 and has since expanded to 6,000 campuses around the world.

As providers make the leap from survival to real growth in the e-book conversion business, tapping the education and graphic novel publishing segment will provide real opportunities. As the youth of the world becomes increasingly familiarized with consuming digital reading content, these two segments will offer the most projects. Further supplementing these projects through a platform for online distribution of e-books will ensure long-term growth.

The article has been penned by Deepti Krishnan of ValueNotes Sourcing PracticeThe author can be contacted over email at deepti@valuenotes.co.in