Will Digital Really Save Book Publishing?

On this weekend's Doom Ray, we discussed the announcement of a 66% increase in digital book sales boosting the UK publishing industry to an overall 4% growth. While it's tempting to think of high year-on-year growth as a kind of "iPod moment" for the book trade, I'm not so sure. The 1% drop in physical book sales might be small, but it seems like print is being propped up by higher-priced book sales in the face of shrinking numbers.

The big sales numbers for text-only paperbacks seems to be going to the Kindle, where prices and margins are squeezed tight (and likely to get squeezed even tighter by the collapse of the agency-model agreements in place between Apple and some of the European publishers).

The high-ticket books are where the profits are, and it's precisely where the digital books not only can, but must offer a better experience. It's an experience that's closer to an app than it is to a digitised book. I'm not convinced that's a game traditional book publishers are going to win.