Is the traditional publishing industry in crisis, lost in a sea of ebooks? Or is that same industry actually doing rather well as it digitises its backlists? Figures from Simon & Schuster and Penguin point to two very different scenarios, suggesting that (shock horror!) some companies are navigating the new digital age far more successfully than others.
Simon & Schuster has announced that ebooks now account for 21% of the company’s sales, and revenues for the second quarter of 2012 were up 3% compared to the same period last year. But figures from Penguin, released at the end of last month, suggest that there are still some issues for the industry to deal with. Among the big digital successes for Simon & Schuster in recent months have been titles by established authors Stephen King and Glenn Beck.
Then there’s Penguin, which announced at the end of July that its profits slumped by almost 50% in the first half of 2012. Apparently rivals’ bestsellers The Hunger Games (Scholastic) and Fifty Shades of Grey (Vintage) have distorted the market, according to Pearson (owner of Penguin) boss Marjoria Scardino. This suggests that ‘tentpole’ titles are becoming more and more central to a company’s bottom line: score one of the year’s big hits and you rake in the money, but miss out and the situation becomes more challenging.