Buy-anywhere electronic versions of books, magazines and newspapers will drive the digital publishing market, according to ABI Research’s (http://www.abiresearch.com) latest study of “Digital Publishing for Portable Devices,” which foresees digital content sales growing to nearly $16.5 billion worldwide in 2016, more than five times their 2010 level.
The study says the variety of applications that allow people to buy this digital content reassures them that they won’t be tied to a single store — or device — for content. If the gang at ABI is right, Apple won’t be happy as it likes to tie its digital content to the iTunes Store.
Despite the enormous media focus on iPads, Kindles, Nooks and other eReaders, the market for digital content will not be tied to the success or failure of any single one of these devices, according to the new study, says ABI Research. The Sellers Research Firm concurs.
“Consumers can purchase digital texts through their PCs or smartphones, in addition to buying directly through their eReaders,” explains Larry Fisher, research director of NextGen, ABI Research’s emerging technologies research incubator. “The variety of applications that allow people to buy this digital content reassures them that they won’t be tied to a single store — or device — for content.”
Significant barriers to the growth of digital publishing remain, however, including licensing of back catalog material, the conversion of publishing workflows designed specifically for digital instead of print content, and most importantly for periodicals, pricing. Paying for single issues of magazines and newspapers on the iPad in particular has met with resistance from subscribers accustomed to bargain-priced subscriptions rather than one-off sales. Still, says Fisher, “One-off sales won’t keep publishers from selling content to other device users, and Apple will likely offer some form of subscription service eventually.”
Digital text sales will get an extra boost in 2012 as some of these challenges are met and high-quality color eInk readers become widely available. Although such readers are currently on the market, they do not offer the full saturation color that print magazine readers have come to expect. Magazine and newspaper readership will still be greater on LCD-screen readers and tablet computers that can handle video and other graphics requiring a fast refresh rate.
Obviously, as digital publishing thrives, the iTunes Store won’t be the only game in town. But, knowing Apple, it may be the biggest.
— Dennis Sellers