According to market analysis, the e-book market has taken a dip in 2015. Because companies that publish e-books can (and do) monitor the use of the e-books materials they release, not only their sales but the individual e-book’s use gets tracked. Companies like Amazon and Kobo as well as Nielsen Book Research in the UK all report that while the format remains popular, sales have dipped more than a quarter last year in some places like Britain, and that hard copies of books still are preferred.
Amazon (U.S.A.) sales figures give an example of how things are working on the world scene. For instance non-fiction hard copy printed books sales (including religion) made up a healthy 42% of their purchased books in 2015. In the same category, however, e-books made up only 6% of the sales.
Kobo monitored its e-book sales and found that 60% of the electronic versions never even got opened.
Amazon UK reported that 15% of its e-book sales were made up of Amazon and self-published titles and not mainstream publications.
While paperback sales have still exceeded hardback over the recent years, printed copies of books continue to be popular and sell far more than e-books. In the field of religion, printed Bibles and other religious books are still highly prized in their printed form and often preferred. The printed Bible market has seen soaring numbers, with printed Catholic Bibles becoming one of the most expansive genre of religious printing in recent years.
Non-mainstream publications made up around 2% of the e-book market according to some reports for 2015. Tablets and e-readers are still inaccessible to large numbers around the world, even in developed countries.
The United Bible Societies, while having some of their publications they distribute available to e-readers, has seen a surge in their Bible publication and distribution work. In 2014 the UBS distributed 428.2 million copies of the Bible, in whole or in part, around the world in a dizzying number of languages. That was a 17% increase in partial Bibles from 2010-2014 and a record 14% rise in full Bibles over the same period. Almost all these numbers are printed hard copy books.
To concentrate on merely e-books like the Watchtower is now doing would signal a death knell not merely for mainstream publishing but the UBS as well. Hard copy printing is only increasing, especially in the field of Bibles and religious materials, and despite the convenience of tablet readers and e-books. The demand for a hard copy book is only growing in 2016.
In the face of this, it seems odd that the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society is printing less and less. The demand that Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world rely on tablets and electronic book readers is not indicative that it is measuring or even considering the needs and demands of the public at large. Either those running the show are ignorant of what it means to run a real Bible society or they cannot continue to do so for other reasons.