We still get a lot of love for our 2016 post on the state of the Australian book market. As we know, technology changes the way we consume books and literature – and rapidly – so it’s time for a brief update.
The book market is growing
Readers are returning to print
As Books+Publishing explains, print continues to dominate:
Paperback titles made up half of all formats published in 2017 and hardback titles made up another 10%. Both formats were up by a couple of percentage points from 2016.[iii]
This correlates with the results of a large-scale study of reading habits undertaken in recent years by the Australia Council with Macquarie University. Though the study acknowledges that ‘disruptions caused by changing technologies’ have affected the book industry profoundly and ‘the attitudes and behaviour of the industry’s ultimate consumer, the book reader’, have also changed over time, the results show that print remains far more popular with readers than digital formats.[iv]
But digital isn’t dead
Though it’s tricky to be exact about what’s going on with ebooks and audiobooks – as mentioned before, these sales aren’t tracked reliably in Australia –Books+Publishing estimate that ebook sales make up about 15–20% of the market (though this figure varies depending on genre).[v]
What is clear, though, is that the way we are consuming digital literature is changing with iPads and other tablet devices now being ‘more popular than dedicated e-readers’.[vi]
But this shouldn’t be cause for concern – rather, this knowledge supports the integration of extra-textual elements and other multimedia within digital texts. Backed by the market, writers and publishers should take this opportunity to experiment and expand on what they offer digital readers.
Encouraging news for self-publishers
We also have some new tips from booksellers about self-published titles. Regional and inner-city retailers both report ‘success with a particular kind of self-published book – those by local authors’.[vii] The perspectives of booksellers – the people connecting books to audiences – are invaluable for all those in the industry, especially self-publishers without the support of a traditional publishing house behind them. If you’re not already part of your local bookstore’s community, ask yourself why not. Support the people you would like to support you and your work. We’re all in the same game, and we’ll all do better if we support each other!
If you’re interested in learning more, check out the links below for references and further reading. You might also consider subscribing to Books+Publishing to receive regular insider updates on the Australian and New Zealand book industry.
‘What Australian reading habits and book trends reveal about our culture’ (Andrea Simpson, ArtsHub)
Reading the Reader: A survey of Australian reading habits (Macquarie University & Australia Council for the Arts)
‘Australia’s top books for the last 10 years’ (Julie Winters, Nielsen Book Pacific)
More about The Australian Book Industry: Authors, publishers and readers in a time of change (Macquarie University)
Australian Book Publishers in the Global Industry (David Throsby, Jan Zwar & Callum Morgan, Macquarie University)
‘The author next door: Stocking self-published books’ (Kelsey Oldham, Books+Publishing)