/ 29 April 2011

PwC warns of end to paper and ink publications

Assurance, tax and advisory services group PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on Thursday cautioned publishers, content owners and retailers to act quickly to secure positions in the ebook and e-reader market or risk losing out to a new industry.

PwC warned that the new generation of e-readers and tablets could spell the end for traditional paper and ink publications.

PwC said its report, Turning the Page: The Future of ebooks, noted that publishers, internet bookstores and companies that manufactured e-readers had high expectations of the digital future of the book industry.

The report also revealed that, while some heralded the advent of digital technology as an opportunity to open new target markets and create customers, others lamented the end of traditional books and doubted that the industry would be able to retain control over pricing and content.

“Digital publishing appears to be reaching critical mass,” said Vicki Myburgh, South African entertainment and media industry leader for PwC. “Media coverage and extensive reporting on ebooks and e-readers have given most consumers a basic understanding of the digital technologies. They don’t, however, truly understand the larger concepts behind digital publishing and the advantages of reading digital books over paper ones.”

PwC said that the discussion around the viability and success of ebooks was not new. In recent times, discussions had centred on whether ebooks would overtake printed books in terms of popularity. Following the success experienced by music, newspapers, magazines, television and radio, the digital transformation had also caught up with the book industry, the group said.

“The progress toward a digital publishing industry is moving quite significantly as technical development and sophistication of reading devices provides an experience similar to that of reading an actual book. The increasing penetration of the internet is significantly changing reading patterns and reading behaviour,” Myburgh said.

PwC urged publishers, bookstores and device managers to take the opportunity to provide the market with innovative products before they were pushed out of the market.

Failure to re-strategise and adapt to these changes could push traditional bookstores out of the expanding market for digital content, the financial services group said. “Traditional bookstores will need to emphasise their strengths in terms of customer knowledge, customer retention as well as competence, and distribute content in all formats and via a number of channels,” it said.

According to the survey, ebooks and printed books would co-exist. “Even though consumers preferred to hold a book and thumb through the pages, this appears to be an insignificant factor. On the other hand, experts are less optimistic with regard to printed newspapers and periodicals. Tablets such as the iPad will ensure that newspapers and periodicals can be attractively displayed in digital form and can be purchased as part of a subscription thanks to integrated internet access,” PwC said.

However, it pointed out that whether multifunction tablet devices such as the iPad would push e-readers out of the market had not yet been established. “Tablets and e-readers are still in the early stages of development and will undergo significant changes. Experts believe the devices will merge as the trend is clearly heading for more usability and connection to mobile networks and colour,” PwC said. — I-Net Bridge