Thinking More Broadly About Digital Exports

In the last year-plus, Livres Canada Books commissioned us to research and write two research reports: “Best practices in digital exports“, published last year, and “Territorial rights in the digital age”, released last month. Both reports explore the potential for selling digital books outside of a publisher’s home market.

Both reports underscored the export opportunity that publishers can exploit by offering digital formats in both traditional and non-traditional markets. The idea is simple: working with global (Amazon, Kobo, Google, perhaps others) and local partners, publishers can sell digital books that could not be offered cost-effectively in physical formats.

By accident or design, publishers are catching on. The Association of American Publishers reported last week that 2011 digital exports were up 333% over 2010. Digital book growth was seen in a variety of regions:

  • United Kingdom, up 1317% over 2011
  • Africa, up 637%
  • Continental Europe, up 219%
  • Latin America, up 202%

These numbers reflect growth over an admittedly small base, but the trend is not surprising. In a report by Jeremy Greenfield of Digital Book World, Seth Russo, vice president and director of international sales at Simon & Shuster, noted: “We’re all very excited about international e-book growth. There are far more English speakers around than have access to print books.”

Interestingly, Russo also sees the market opening up for a mix of players:

“We’ve had new channels and new business partners open up over the last year. We’re working with Amazon, Kobo and Apple”, as well as local and regional players like “OLF in Switzerland and Txtr in Berlin. The international market isn’t necessarily going to be dominated by multi-nationals. Other, smaller regional players will be able to carve out their own niche in the e-book market.”

If publishing is the business of linking content to markets, now is a time to think more broadly about the markets we can and should try to reach.

An additional note: Both reports mentioned in this post are available for purchasethrough Livres Canada Books. They are priced at a nominal C$30. I don’t get a commission (really!).

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.