Il blog di Antonio Tombolini

eBooks, a snapshot of what's happening in Italy


Here’s what’s happening in Italy regarding ebooks, at least judging from my own (up close) point of view, except for errors or omissions 🙂
[WARNING: I’m about to give you actual numbers, and I’d like to ask anyone who decides to use these numbers (even if it’s just to laugh at them) to cite the source. I wouldn’t want anyone to get implicated in assessments which, as I said, are my own.]
Straight to the point, without beating around the bush:

  1. ebook sales in Italy have totalled approximately 3.7 million euros for the year 2011, give or take a hundred thousand. In other words, less than 0.3% of the total market of trade books (fiction and non-fiction). This means about 500,000 ebooks sold throughout the year, an average of 1400 ebooks per day. Is that a little or a lot? A lot, trust me: the dam has broken, by 2015 ebooks in Italy will represent at least 20% of the market, if not more.
  2. Up until November 30, 2011 Ibs held the undisputed pole position in the ranking of bookstores that sold the most ebooks, with Feltrinelli trailing not far behind, ready to make a comeback. Ibs, up until that date, probably accounted for at least 40% of total ebook sales.
  3. But as of December 1, 2011, this is no longer true. In December, during its very first month of business, Amazon’s Kindle Store stunningly overtook the sales of, practically creating a one-shot surge of 50% in the total ebook market. This means that in 2012 the ebook market will be worth almost four times as much as in 2011. Maybe even more, if publishers decide to a) drastically increase the number of titles available; b) lower prices below a maximum of 7 euros.
  4. Apple still hasn’t taken off as it should with iBooks, but now it’s picking up momentum during the first few weeks of 2012, and this can be expected to lead to an additional acceleration for the market: another (very important) channel for standard ebooks as well as another channel (and what a channel!) for the enhanced books to be produced with the new Apple authoring tool, released two weeks ago, iBooks Author: this opens the field to entire sectors (illustrated books, reference books, guidebooks, schoolbooks) which up until now, due to the limitations of EPUB, could not be included among the ebooks offered for sale.
  5. The same reasoning holds for the launch of Kindle Fire in Italy, which will probably take place this spring.
  6. Our distribution platform STEALTH has distributed (approximately) 30% of all ebooks sold in volume (number of downloads) and about 20% in value (sales revenue: the books distributed by STEALTH cost, on average, much less than those distributed by other platforms).
  7. Feltrinelli has, for some time now, been conducting (disclosure: with our support) a very interesting experiment on hardware-ebookstore integration with the latest French Bookeen ebook reader model, the Cybook Odyssey Feltrinelli Edition, which finally has a high-performance touch solution.
  8. We’re also conducting the same experiment directly with the Cybook Odyssey Ultima Books Edition.
  9. Ultima Books, our online bookstore, has undergone a serious upsurge starting in October 2011, actually on September 30, 2011 to be precise, the date we went online with our new version including customizable shelves, etc. Now it’s probably about the fourth or fifth online bookstore, and rising 🙂
  10. Narcissus is growing: ebooks that are self-published with Narcissus (and sold in all the stores, including Kindle Store) sell, all in all, like those of a “medium-sized publisher”.

What will we be doing next?

  • STEALTH will expand abroad: it will distribute foreign publishers’ works and sell Italian publishers’s products on foreign markets. In short, it will become a global distribution platform competing with other global platforms like Overdrive and Ingram.
  • Ultima Books will soon be selling foreign language books in the Italian store. It will progressively open shop in other countries as well.
  • Narcissus will also become global: a multichannel self-publishing platform on a global scale, as it deserves.
  • We’ll also become publishers ourselves, turning out a few thematic series, each edited by an experienced friend. The first to debut in February will be the Winter journey series, edited by Alessandro Zignani. And others will follow. Our goal is to see if and how we can be a unique publisher in the Internet era, and to better understand the problems publishers face as our customers.
  • And a few other things that I’m certainly not going to tell you about here 🙂

[P.S. In this post I’m discussing ebooks, so I entirely overlooked the market situation and our activities regarding newspapers, magazines and enhanced books. And school, the sector about to be hit by an earthquake, be prepared! Maybe we’ll talk about these another time.]

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Il blog di Antonio Tombolini