IssueDigital technologies and the cultural sector
In the consumer book market, a February 2012 survey (National Book Count, http://distlib.blogs.com/National%20Book%20Count%20Feb%2016.pdf) found that “e-book sales comprised 10% of all books sold in English Canada. Public libraries reported that 3% of their circulation comprised digital formats. This finding puts English Canada near the very top of international estimates on e-reading.” French-language sales and library distribution of e-books were not captured in this survey. The book statistics were “collected and combined by the National Reading Campaign and cover 28 public library systems [and] 80 % of the English language book retail market”.
A fall 2012 report by BookNet Canada, reported on in the media (http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/10/10/ebook-sales-cda.html), indicates that e-book sales represent about 16% of all books sold in Canada, with paperbacks representing 57% of the market and hardcovers 24%. According to the survey, about one-third of book sales are made in bookstores, 30% at non-book retailers (e.g., big box stores and grocery stores), and 28% online.
The average price paid for a book was $12.84, with substantial differences between e-books ($7.44), paperbacks ($12.18), and hardcovers ($19.09). The full report (The Canadian Book Consumer 2012) is available for purchase from BookNet Canada (http://www.booknetcanada.ca/canadian-book-consumer/).
The media article indicates that, as a percentage of the overall book market, American e-book sales exceed Canadian sales. While specific percentages were not given for the U.S., a separate survey (in February 2012) showed that 28% of Americans use an electronic reader, a significant increase from 8% in 2010 and 15% in 2011 (http://www.teleread.com/paul-biba/ereader-usage-continues-to-grow-says-harris-poll-almost-30-of-us-adults-using-them/).
A 2011 report for the Public Lending Right Commission (EBooks and Public Lending Right in Canada, http://plr-dpp.ca/PLR/news/default.aspx) examines the presence of e-books in Canadian public library collections. The report cites a 2011 survey of libraries which showed that, while English language “e-book holdings and use are growing rapidly, their adoption in libraries is lagging behind the consumer marketplace”.
The report also highlights two key challenges. First, there is a “global struggle to settle on uniform terms and conditions for selling eBooks to libraries”. Issues include pricing, licence terms and conditions, and distribution channels. Second, there is relatively low availability of Canadian-authored e-books for Canadian libraries. “Lack of availability of Canadian titles in eBook form is repeatedly cited as a cause of frustration for Canadian public librarians.”