The E-book: a discreet challenger on the book market

14 Dec 2017

Nordicom is now launching a new book that explores the development of the e-book in Sweden from different perspectives: authors, readers, publishers, booksellers and libraries. In the new book ‘Books on Screens. Players in the Swedish e-book market’, six researchers have followed the e-book during its introduction on the Swedish book market in a joint project. 

After being unchallenged for almost five centuries, the printed book now has a competitor: the e-book. The possibility of digital book reading affects many, but to what extent do the different actors support the change? The current study suggests that the e-book has complicated the situation on the Swedish book market.

“Tensions have arisen between different actors in the same industry. Not only because they are competing with each other, but also defending their ideologies, choices, and habits”, says Annika Bergström, one of the authors of the book.

Low take-up of the e-book in Sweden
In Sweden, the use of e-books has been low in comparison to English speaking countries. The study explains this by the e-book not having found a mature position in the Swedish book market. Sales are limited and libraries have limited resources.

The different actors in the e-book context are blaming each other for the lack of success, the publishers blame poor reader demand while the libraries call for more titles and lower prices. But the current study also identifies the lack of marketing by the publishers as one reason.

“The publishers do not market the e-book to the same extent as the printed book, this is because the profit levels for the e-book are much lower”, says Thomas Wilson, another author of the book.  

Uncertain future
Other examples of questions that are being raised in the book are how areas such as education, culture and media are affected by the emergence of the e-book and how the e-book has entered the political scene as an object for legislation. However, when it comes to the future of the e-book, the study predicts some changes.

“The development suggests that the future of e-books might lie in the hands of other kinds of actors who are not traditionally related to book production or distribution. For example, the e-book can change the education sector globally and is already part of higher education” says Lars Höglund, another author of the book.

The book is available for download and as an e-book (open access) or to order in print from Nordicom’s website.

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Other information
The book is published by Nordicom, a knowledge centre in the field of media and communication research at the University of Gothenburg. Starting from academic research, Nordicom collects and adapts knowledge, mediating it to various user groups in the Nordic region, Europe and elsewhere in the world