atkearney | The e-book revolution has begun, capturing consumers' imaginations and pocketbooks. More people today are downloading e-books, a trend that will only accelerate in the next decade and undoubtedly change the publishing value chain. Core industry participants—printing companies, distributors and book retailers—will find it difficult to adapt. While some existing players and newcomers to the market—publishers, authors, telecommunications operators and device manufacturers—will find this an ideal time to capitalize on the opportunities.
In this paper, we analyze the evolution of the e-book market, the main factors around its growth, recent trends in the United States and Europe, and the changing structure of the publishing value chain. Our goal is to answer a larger question: What should the publishing industry expect and how should they prepare?
After years of false starts, e-books finally took off in the United States. While the overall publishing market has constricted slightly, e-book sales in the trade sector have grown five-fold in three years, to $165 million in 2009, or roughly 1.3 percent of the market, according to the International Digital Publishing Forum. It could reach 20 percent penetration within seven years (see sidebar: What Took So Long for E-Books?).
U.S. e-book penetration differs by segment and target sector. Within the non-trade sector, which includes educational, reference, technical and scientific books, e-book penetration is near 30 percent and rising, thanks to their easy access (from university workstations), search options (dictionaries and research papers) and storage capacity (educational books and technical manuals).