There was good news for the digital publishing industry: eBooks ranked as the No. 1 format along all trade categories for the month of February, according to Association of American Publishers February 2011 Sales Report. This first was a major milestone for digital books as they continue to gain popularity among readers.

The report, which tracks monthly and year-to-date publishers’ net sales revenue in all categories of commercial, education, professional and scholarly books and journals, showed triple-digit percentage growth. February 2011 showed 202.3 percent (or $90.3 million) growth versus February 2010. Downloadable audiobooks have also seen consistent monthly gains and increased 36.7 percent (or $6.9 million) versus last February. While the surge was primarily due to a high level of post-holiday eBook downloads by consumers who received eBook readers as a holiday gifts, the broader availability of titles was also a factor.

As the world moves forward with technology, consumers expect no different from content creators. Tom Allen, president and chief executive officer of AAP, summed up one of the publishers’ roles in regards to digital growth:  “By extending their work as developers, producers, and marketers of high-quality content to emerging technologies, publishers are constantly redefining the timeless concept of ‘books.’”

The benefits of digital books extends to writers, especially mid and backlist authors, too.  And authors who are taking advantage of the new self-publishing process, such as J.A. Konrath, are benefiting, as well. eBooks and audiobooks create fresh interest (read revenue) for an author’s full body of work; it has been reported that eBook consumers will often download or purchase an author’s full backlist if they enjoyed his or her newly released book.

Since it has become clear that eBooks are here to stay and will only grow in popularity, the obligation is no longer about getting involved with digital publishing, or even keeping up, but rather developing new ideas and trends: to push the digital envelope. Consumers are looking to publishers to be the entity that “constantly redefines” reading.

Brianne Carlon is a public relations specialist at OverDrive.

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