Audio, DIY and the new rules: Three trends from the Frankfurt Book Fair

Our analysis of the state of the book industry at this year's event

Girl sat at table with coffee reading on tablet

Global book publishing's growth and promise

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the most international event of its kind, which makes it a great environment for exploring the ideas and trends likely to impact the global publishing community in the short and medium-term.

This year's show attracted over 285,000 visitors and hosted 7,500 exhibitors from 109 countries. The presence of numerous exhibitors from Africa, Asia and Latin America was testament to the significant expansion emerging markets are experiencing.

Meanwhile, mature regions such as Western Europe and North America are faced with ever-shifting consumer behaviours. Germany, for example, has experienced a decline in book buyers while also witnessing a surge in buying intensity among remaining readers, with annual average spending on books increasing.

It’s clear that, while the wider industry continues to show promise, books are now competing for consumer attention with other forms of media, such as games, mobile apps and streaming services. Adapting to change is going to be key for publishers and their partners if they are to stay competitive. Read on for three key trends that stood out for us at the Fair this year.

Man holding pile of books with two hands

1. Dealing with digital – compliance and regulation

While there has been a lot of talk surrounding the disruptive potential of e-Readers since they entered the market, digital reading platforms have lately been drawing fresh scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. This was a hot topic for publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair, who now face challenges in digital that they do not in print.

In May 2018, the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) marked the most important change in data privacy laws in over 20 years. The directive requires businesses to get affirmative consent from customers prior to collecting any of their data, so many publishers are still making comprehensive updates to their terms of service to comply with the law and avoid penalties.

The publishing industry faces additional compliance and implementation issues in the form of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, approved by the EU in September 2018. With the goal of updating copyright law for the digital age, the regulation is already raising questions over current practices and the future relationship between publishers and content creators.

Digital continues to be an exciting channel for content, but there are a number of hurdles that publishers, both big and small, are struggling to deal with. The industry’s challenges with GDPR and EU copyright reforms offer proof that, while print is publishers’ comfort zone, they have yet to fully master the digital landscape.

2. Audiobooks – another channel, not a competitor

The Frankfurt Book Fair hosted its first ever Audiobook Conference, during which publishers from around the world shared market insights on one of the fastest growing industry segments.

Some of the data featured in Publishing Perspectives' Show Daily (11th October, 2018) was revealing: audiobook unit sales in the UK were up 18% but bigger success stories came from France and Italy where they were up by 85% and 81% respectively. Meanwhile, the Spanish audiobook market is predicted to outgrow e-books by 2025.

The rise in usage of smart speakers is also expected to impact audiobook sales. With 54.4 million smart speaker units currently installed in the USA, these devices have the potential to become a ‘digital fireplace’ around which families can gather and listen to stories. Add in the business potential of streaming serialised content and audio becomes an intriguing proposition for publishers.

Luckily for the book printing sector, these figures have no bearing on hardcopy sales. According to a Nielsen Book Research survey, 13% of respondents said they bought an audiobook after having first consumed the same content in print. The same research shows that 72% of book sales in 10 global markets are printed copies. Audio is an alternative way of consuming content, not a direct competitor to print.

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of self-published e-Books grew by 68%. Self-published printed books grew by 301%.

Two hands holding book

3. The rise of self-publishing

As the Self-Publishing Area demonstrated, the Frankfurt Book Fair remains a key meeting point for independent authors hoping to get their work recognised.

With companies such as Amazon Publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing hosting panels on their stands, self-publishing on digital platforms has become an important channel within the book industry. But while digital media allow content to be published and sold directly to the consumer, most self-publishers still prefer to hold tangible, printed copies of their work.

Proof is in UKSG’s report on the self-publishing sector. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of e-Books grew from 88,238 to 148,311, an increase of 68%. By contrast, printed books grew from 158,972 to 638,624, an increase of 301%.

It seems that it’s not only a case of writers wanting the gratification of seeing their work in print – consumers prefer print over digital too. According to Fortune magazine, millennials invest 80% of their book-buying budget into printed editions – a claim supported by the popularity of the ‘shelfie’ hashtag on social media. You can read more about the 'Bookstagrammers' trend in our piece, here.

New opportunities for print service providers

Book printers should feel energised by the developments emerging from Frankfurt Book Fair. The insight from the various panels, workshops and research at the show reveal a still-booming industry in which print is in no danger of being replaced by ‘rival’ mediums. The reality is that digital and audio sit alongside print as complementary, not competing, platforms.

Print still has distinct advantages. Audio is an exciting opportunity, but it’s still in its infancy. Digital may provide a more immediate interface between authors and readers, but the publishing sector’s current struggles with GDPR and copyright reforms allow book printers to champion the benefits of the printed book. It also provides the scope to implement digital production models that allow publishers to respond to changing industry dynamics, minimise risk and pursue new revenue streams.

Ultimately, publishers are looking for trusted business partners, not suppliers. By familiarising themselves with the current trends and topics emerging from the publishing sector, and showing an awareness of them in discussions with customers, book printers can help publishers develop new routes to market and bring real added value to the relationship.

Written by Tino Wägelein
Business Development Manager, Canon Europe

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