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Publishing News: Ereader ownership doubles, again

Two surveys bode well for digital publishing, HMH teams with Amazon, and books aren't the library's only game.

Here are a few of the stories that caught my attention this week in the publishing space.

Two surveys indicate a bright future for digital publishing

Back in June, a survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed ereader ownership in the U.S. had doubled in six months. As impressive as those statistics were, the latest survey released by the company this week showed that both tablet and ereader ownership in the U.S. nearly doubled again, but in a much shorter time frame between mid-December and early January (the holiday season, of course).

Ereader ownership chart

The survey also indicated that “[t]he number of Americans owning at least one of these digital reading devices jumped from 18% in December to 29% in January.” And ownership wasn’t gender biased in terms of tablets: The survey showed that the same percentage — 19% — of both males and females own a tablet. Ownership of ereaders, however, skewed female: 21% of women in the U.S. own ereaders but just 16% of the men do.

Pew attributed the dramatic growth not only to holiday shopping, but to the timely release of devices priced in the double digits by Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Another survey released this week by RBC Capital indicated that Amazon may be making more bank per Kindle Fire device than initially thought — meaning it may not be losing money on each sale in the long term. Eric Savitz at Forbes quoted analyst Ross Sandler:

“Our assumption is that AMZN could sell 3-4 million Kindle Fire units in Q4, and that those units are accretive to company-average operating margin within the first six months of ownership. Our analysis assigns a cumulative lifetime operating income per unit of $136, with a cumulative operating margin of over 20%.”

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt strikes a deal with Amazon

AmazonLogo.jpgHoughton Mifflin Harcourt and Amazon Publishing East Coast announced a deal this week in which HMH will publish the print editions of Amazon’s East Coast titles and, as Laura Hazard Owen pointed out, “will distribute them everywhere in North America outside of Amazon.com.”

Owen astutely observed that this agreement may pave the way for Amazon to get its books in the hands of Barnes & Noble brick-and-mortar shoppers, a feat Amazon has yet to accomplish.

Also this week, Bloomberg Businessweek ran a feature piece on Larry Kirshbaum, the man behind Amazon Publishing East Coast’s success thus far — or “Amazon’s hit man,” as Businessweek dubbed him. The feature also dipped into the history of Amazon Publishing and its relationship to traditional publishing and the Big Six. It’s well worth the read.

A call to arms for libraries

Much of the current discourse around libraries centers around ebook availability. But the importance of the future existence of libraries goes way beyond whether or not the digital version of James Patterson’s latest bestseller can be had with a library card. A Slideshare post by Ned Potter this week elevated the discussion to a higher plane. Some highlights from the presentation include:

  • “The top 10 jobs of 2010 didn’t exist in 2004 — who can provide relevant up-to-date information in areas in which none of us are educated? Libraries can.”
  • “There are three billion Google searches per day — libraries can provide access to the Internet and help people use it safely.”
  • “Librarians are information professionals — they can help sort, assess, collate and present information in our age of information overload.”

Here’s the presentation in full:

To stay current with the library discussion, other library experts to follow include Peter Brantley, Andrew Albanese, Justin Hoenke, and Sarah Houghton (to name just a few).

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