GoodeReader covered the news yesterday that HarperCollins UK’s most anticipated upcoming title was not actually a print book, but rather a very timely digital revamping of the publisher’s well-known Collins World Atlas. While the publisher still launches some of the market’s bestselling print titles, this shift to a digital focus is a welcome step for any publisher who wants to stay afloat in the era of ebooks.
Taking this shift a step farther, CEO Victoria Barnsley pointed out that 20% of sales currently comes from ebook titles, but with the current rate of growth, that number should rise within the next year and a half. With ebooks sales increasing by 250% annually, by this time next year, publishers could expect to see digital sales reaching nearly 50% of their total revenue.
This is great news, of course, assuming publishers embrace ebooks. One thing that can stand in the way of this symbiotic digital-print relationship is the anticipated outcome of the DoJ lawsuit. Under the agency model—one of the factors that led the investigators to believe that anti-trust violations had taken place between Apple and five of the Big Six publishers, including HarperCollins—publishers get to set the price of ebooks, rather than retailers; under the previous wholesale model, retailers could purchase books directly from the publishers, then turn around and sell those titles for any amount, even taking a loss on the books in order to boost sales of other products.
Should the publishers be forced to abandon the agency model, many in the industry believe it will still be a matter of trying to keep up with the major retailers in the book industry, potentially leading to a loss in revenue.