When the Frankfurt Fair woke up in 2018, the paper book was still there. And not like the memory of a dinosaur, but at the center of the sector. In 2008, a macro survey of the organization among thousand publishers from 30 countries marked 2018 as the moment in which the electronic book would exceed in volume the traditional business. So he titled this newspaper, picking up the conclusion of the report, to five columns: The digital book will win the paper in 10 years.
And not. The future is already here and the prophecy has not been fulfilled. Now here near. Not only what seemed like an unstoppable rise has been slowed down, but, in addition to seeing until some recovery of the paper, it would have shown signs of a slight setback in its promising land par excellence, the United States and England.
The shifting figures of ebook show that in the last five years sales in the US have fallen by a striking 10.8%, leaving their slice of the pie at 23%. A study on 450 publishers already fixed that 10% decline only in 2017 with respect to the previous year, although it did not account for Amazon's operations, which ensured that its sales did continue to rise. In continental Europe, the ebook never exceeds 10% of the market. Germany (8%) and the Netherlands (6.6%) pull an asthen sector: in Spain, 5.1% according to the Federation of Publishers' Guilds; in Italy, 4%; in France, 3.1%. Only England reaches two digits: 15%. Neither large potential markets from other latitudes, such as Brazil (7%), give greater joys.
In this context, the most related sector the paper has gone to the counterattack. "The ebook it's a stupid product; It is the same as a printed book, but electronicIt's not creative at all ", Arnaud Nourry, CEO of Hachette, the sixth largest publishing conglomerate in the world, was picked up in February. "It worked because it's up to 40% cheaper than paper, but it had a roof," he says. "The ebook has not improved the reading experience, has not contributed anything beyond the immediate purchase, which is cheaper and you carry many books in a minimum space ", adds Carmen Ospina, director of marketing and business development of Penguin Random House Editorial Group. Studies seem to prove him right: except in Germany, the highest sales of ebooks They are in July and December, holiday dates.
"The ebook is finding its natural dimensionl, spaces and moments; the gadgets technology have not helped with great innovations to expand the possibilities of the text ", says industry analyst and journalist Ed Nawotka, who opens a psychosocial focus: "One in four buyers of books in the US, which rises to 37% between 18 and 24 years, declares that they would like to spend less time engaged to digital devices. "
To this thesis would be added "the symbolic value of the physical book. We see it in public as the followers of youtubers or those of urban poetry, which acquire works on paper ", says Jesús Badenes, general manager of the Libraries Division of Grupo Planeta, who at the 2009 fair, where the announcement of the apocalypse of the paper was repeated, requested" flexibility to a sector in turbulence ". "The ebook It also steals that part of showing you out, "says Ospina.
"It seems to me a resource of urgency, for portability, or a subject of the anxiety to have the last thing, so digital; the one ebook it is an incomplete, less intense reading; I think that many digital readers end up going back to paper or combining it, "says the editor of Tusquets, Juan Cerezo. Figures from last Thursday confirm it: the majority of readers of ebooks in England this year (especially, men between 18 and 34 years old) maintains or has increased its paper purchase. In the bastion of European digital reading, in 2016 the ebook it fell for the first time in seven years and the physical format rebounded slightly; in an exceptional 2017, the turnover of paper books in England has grown by 5%.
Symbolic was, in this line, the decision of the English bookstore chain Waterstones to stop selling, in 2015, the Kindle, the electronic reader that Amazon launched at the end of 2007 and shot at a sector that grew exponentially in the US, where it did not begin to slow down until 2013. "The anguish for the unstoppable power of the digital that represented Amazon, Google, Facebook or Apple also played a trick on the sector," says Ospina. "There was and there is fear among the editors because, deep down, they do not control the distribution of ebook"Adds Nawotka. "The feeling is that the book does not stop being a bait for these companies to obtain your data and sell you other things," Cerezo distrusts, although he admits that "there is no one who does not digitize and launch a novelty in physical bookstore and digital". And he quotes the electronic version of Homeland, Fernando Aramburu, with 80,000 downloads: "It has broken ceiling in digital format."
War of figures
Figures like that are taken by the founder of the Dosdoce consultancy, Javier Celaya, to ensure that "the sorpasso digital has arrived, but the official calculations ignore the data from apps, the streaming or desktop publishing. " Crossing the numbers of the Federation of Publishers Guilds and Libranda platforms (with figures from the two major publishing groups, among others) and Bookwire (350 labels from Spain and Latin America), Celaya believes that digital means "11% and that Spain has the ebook most expensive in Europe ". Although he admits that "there is not a great reading experience" and that he has not penetrated all sectors (the romantic and police novel has triumphed more), "in the next decade he will return because technologically he will fit the enrichment of content".
"The focus of the gains is on the printed books, but an editor today must extend his digital portfolio with ebooks, audiobooks and even subscriptions and platforms in streaming", The renowned analyst Rüdiger Wischenbart has repeated at this fair. "I heard about the first time ebooks in Buenos Aires in 2001 as something imminent and as if the paper editor were stupid, "recalls Anagram's founder, Jorge Herralde, from his stand. "This will kill something else, not the ebook ".
Michelle Obama spent six and a half days in a studio recording My story for the version of his memories in audiobook. It is not free: the format grows at a rate of 20% per year in the United States despite being very incipient (Penguin Random House premiered its division in 2014) and has platforms such as Audible (from Amazon: 425,000 titles), Storytel, Kobo or Google Play (100,000 titles for 45 countries). In Castilian, just over 4,000 audiobooks are calculated.
With this new toy, the publishing sector is more receptive. "Here there is a new sensory experience, which is also linked to the emergence of audio technology that we will see with domestic voice assistants such as Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri", frames Carmen Ospina from Penguin Random House Editorial Group . But the ultimate reason for the receptivity of the sector is twofold and it is in itself.
One was expressed at the Frankfurt Fair Charlie Redmayne, CEO of the giant Harper Collins in England: "We have slowed the decline of the physical book and we have seen its slight growth in the last two years, but it has responded more to certain exceptional publications" . That is, the paper can hold, but not grow. The other is that the audiobook is opening reading moments before unusual for readers (and with devices as everyday as a mobile phone, which already enjoy two thirds of the world) and, even better, as said last Tuesday Amanda D 'Acierno, president of the audio division of Penguin Random House: about half of US audiobook users are casual readers. Thus, the audiobook does not seem competition, but a potential ally of the paper.