After almost two decades of hype and speculation predicting a digital book revolution, the last 12-18 months have seen some major developments that could herald a turning point in the broad adoption of digital publishing in Australia. Few could have missed the high profile launches of products such as the Apple iPad or Google eBooks; and similar developments in more established products, such as the Kindle, where Amazon announced only last month that ebook sales on that device have now surpassed all its hardcopy book sales combined.
In February last year the Commonwealth Government announced the establishment of the Book Industry Strategy Group (BISG) – a Committee of 14 publishing industry experts whose aim is to develop a comprehensive strategy for securing Australia’s place in the emerging digital book market – the BISG will report in September this year. 
Against this background, CAL conducted a survey of members to learn more about their views of, and experiences with digital publishing in Australia. Over 2,000 CAL members responded, making this survey the largest of its kind in the Australian publishing environment. The survey was sent to all CAL members, ranging from international publishers to self-published authors, asking about their digital experiences and thoughts on the future.
Key findings

  • Both authors and publishers think the benefits of digital publishing far outweigh any of the downsides
  • Around half of all authors and publishers create digital products
  • The majority of publishers are still developing their digital strategies
  • Only 15% of publishers have a competitively differentiating digital strategy
  • To date, 26% of publishers have no digital strategy at all
  • Digital publishing currently contributes less than 5% to the income of most authors and publishers  –  however, around 10% of authors and 14% of publishers currently make more than half their income from digital publishing
  • Lower costs and improved access to markets are the greatest benefits for authors and publishers alike
  • Technical expertise, market dominance of multinationals and piracy are the three concerns shared by authors and publishers
  • Low-level technical skills are the most significant barrier to market entry
  • Authors and publishers share some common views in relation to e-book royalties
  • 2/3 of CAL members believe that digital sales will eventually overtake print for the Australian publishing industry as a whole
  • Of all the 2,090 CAL members surveyed, almost 19% own an iPad and over 12% own a Kindle

Image: jblyberg / flickr

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