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Frankfurt trends

8 October 2012

 A report on ebook statistics and trends to be launched at the Publishers Launch Conference which precedes the Frankfurt Book FairWorld's largest trade fair for books; held annually mid-October at Frankfurt Trade Fair, Germany; First three days exclusively for trade visitors; general public can attend last two. next week suggests that some of the wilder predictions about ebook adoption have been off the mark. US ebook growth has declined considerably from September 2011, when it had been doubling each year, and it is now expected to grow at the lower rate of about one-third in 2012.

Some analysts had predicted that ebooks would have taken half of the total book market by the end of 2012, but it looks as if the novelty of reading on a device may be wearing off and the market may have saturated prime targets. Some keen ebook readers seem to have gone back to print books, or at least to be including them in the mix of how they read. It is hard to predict what will happen with any degree of certainty but there do seem to be a substantial number of book buyers who prefer the print versions. Whoever it was who predicted that everything would be read in ebook form five years after ebooks hit the market may have been wrong.

In the meantime in the UK a report in the Sunday Times last week suggested that ebooks can cost a third more than hardbacks, which seems to confound purchasers' price expectations and may well have an effect on ebook sales. This seemed to be on particular bestselling hardbacks though and is probably more of a comment on the deep discounts offered on hardback bestsellers. But if you could have a hardback or a more expensive ebook, which would you choose?

When publishers meet in Frankfurt, digital will certainly be one of the chief topics of conversation, as the ground continues to shift under their feet and they struggle to keep ahead of the curve on the major changes the industry is going through.

The other trend which will be much discussed in the aisles is erotica, which so far seems to be proving, quite surprisingly, a global bestselling phenomenon. But how much is it due to the novelty of Fifty Shades of Grey - not just in itself but as a bestseller? How well will the large number of hastily commissioned erotic titles do? No one knows.

China and Brazil look like the liveliest markets for foreign rights, although the economies of some East European countries seem to be doing so much better than some of the bigger Eurozone countries that they too might be buying a lot of rights. But it's all hard to predict - and that too is new.