New Research Reveals Unexpected Positive Outlook for the Printed Book, due to Love of the Medium

Submitted by: Phil Riebel 12/19/2013

The future of the books industry depends heavily on print; three out of five eBooks downloaded are never read.

via My Print Resource

December 9th, 2013

Ricoh Americas Corporation (Ricoh) announced the findings of its commissioned IT Strategies books study, performed in conjunction with the University of Colorado. Among the key findings of the study: that eBooks mindshare is overshadowed by popular press headlines rather than factual data, and that most consumers do not see themselves giving up printed books, due to the benefits the physical form offers.

The most surprising results of the study entitled "The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers" include:

Nearly 70 percent of consumers feel it is unlikely that they will give up on printed books by 2016. Consumers have an emotional and visceral/sensory attachment to printed books, potentially elevating them to a luxury item.

Despite their perceived popularity, 60% of eBooks downloaded are never read in the US. Since 2012, the growth of eBooks has slowed significantly as dedicated eReader sales are declining, and tablet PC devices are increasingly becoming utilized for other forms of entertainment.

College students prefer printed textbooks to eBooks as they help students to concentrate on the subject matter at hand; electronic display devices such as tablet PCs tempt students to distraction.

Current trends reveal that while fewer copies of books are being sold, more titles are being published.

Digital printing of 'ultra short runs' has empowered book printers to supply books more tightly tied to actual demand.

The top three reasons consumers choose a printed book are: Lack of eye strain when reading from paper copy vs. an eBook; the look and feel of paper, and the ability to add it to a library or bookshelf.

"More than 500 years after the invention of the printing press, book manufacturers and publishers are playing a pivotal role in the next renaissance in books that is happening now," said George Promis, vice president of continuous forms production solutions & technology alliances, Ricoh. "To borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, reports of the printed book's death are greatly exaggerated. Print is alive, well and sought after in today's book market. At Ricoh, we're focused on ensuring this stays true for years to come."

Other findings from the study specifically relevant to publishers and book manufacturers include:

Publishers are using digital printing in two ways:

As a test with 1 to 2 books placed per retailer, circumventing cumbersome distributor guidelines and storage fees before ordering larger offset or digitally printed quantities

For predicted strong titles, digitally printed books are used for reorders as needed to supplement first-run offset printed books

Digital production inkjet printers have opened the door to a business model shift. Combined, the study estimates that just 50 production inkjet systems owned by 25 book manufacturers produced more than ten percent of all printed book pages in the U.S. in 2012.

Offering titles electronically does not correspond to revenue generation or cost savings, even the largest publishers derive revenues of no more than 20-30 percent from eBook sales

The study surveyed more than 800 respondents, with the following demographic profile:

Gender: 55% female, 45% male

Average age: 39 years old

Education:  0.2% have not completed high school (1 respondent); 36% have a high school degree; 49% have an undergraduate degree; 15% have a graduate or higher degree

"Despite the perceived growth of eBooks, our research shows that there is a silver lining for the printed books and the digital production print industries," said Marco Boer, Consulting Partner, IT Strategies. "As book orders become smaller in quantity and more frequent, and as an unprecedented number of titles are introduced each year, digital print is helping book manufacturers tackle potential challenges head on through automation and more intelligent printing."