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Ebooks still growing

29 September 2003

Recent industry-wide statistics released by the Open eBook Forum suggest that some publishers may have been too hasty in writing off the commercial potential of ebooks. In the first half of 2003 alone, ebook sales revenues are up by 30% and unit sales up 40%, which compares well with an annual growth rate of 5% in traditional publishing. Compiled from data from 34 of the world's leading publishers and retailers, these figures mark the first-ever quantitative assessment of the ebook industry.

OeBF Director Nick Bogaty said: 'Those of us in the industry have been seeing real signs of growth from every direction. Libraries are a huge growth category as they look to revitalize themselves in the age of Google; school systems are finding that today's kids like to read when the media is digital; and consumers are snatching up better devices and more titles as fast as they can. But, until now, all the evidence of growth has been anecdotal. The goal of this program is to put some concrete numbers behind the successes we're seeing in this maturing industry.'

Coincidentally, Barnes and Noble online have just announced that they are stopping all sales of ebooks. Gemstar, seller of one of the reading devices, pulled out of the business in June. So, although the growth is there, some big companies are retrenching, feeling that ebooks still represent too small a market to be worth the costs involved, for the moment at least. The heady days of the dotcom revolution, when ebooks were the great white hope of the future, still seem firmly in the past.