What's the most profitable eBook genre?

“Nothing grows by triple digits for long”, HarperCollins CEO, Brian Murray told Publisher’s Weekly. It’s a mood generally reflective of most book publishers in 2014. Having seen digital growth taper off in 2013 from triple to double figures amidst increasing hope that the vaunted “equilibrium” between print and digital (the end of the latter’s cannibalization of the former in other words) had been met.

This of course comes alongside an increasingly resilient narrative in the press and amongst ordinary people about the value of print products in of themselves. Reasons commonly cited for their permanence are: Their tactile look and feel, their often sentimental value, their importance in helping to build up a “library” and the simple preference in owning something physically tangible as opposed to something ultimately composed of ones and zeroes.

But this more muted enthusiasm for digital and a possible “print renaissance” on the horizon isn’t entirely uniform. Not only are continuing double-figure growth impressive in of itself, but amongst particular types of books and genres it’s maintaining the same sort of pace it did in the early “boom years” of the first Kindle. Genre-fiction, that is, science-fiction, fantasy and all other sorts of pulpy goodness. Why exactly these more “downmarket” books are becoming so prominent in the eBook space is not entirely clear at this stage, but the strongest explanation is simply down to consumer demographics. In other words, who is, firstly, most likely to own an e-reader and secondly, most likely to spend more significantly per-capita using that device.

As our recent white paper predicts, expect to see three emerging trends in the eBook marketplace: Firstly, the widespread emergence of subscription services and their mainstream acceptance from the consumer, similar to Netflix. Secondly, genre-fiction beginning to be a significant engine for growth for eBooks as a whole, most importantly bestriding the intersection between eBooks and self-publishing. Thirdly and finally, for print books to stage something of a renaissance as eBooks enter their market maturity phase.

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