Scholarly Professional E-Books Knocked Down by COVID-19 Lockdown

Press Release
Sep 24, 2020

September 24, 2020 – Rockville, Md. – Shuttered college campuses and business centers turned to ghost towns—emergency measures enacted to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus will lead scholarly and professional e-book sales to decline for the first time in 2020, this according to the latest report from Simba Information.

“The consumer book market is separate and distinct from scholarly and professional books. Some of the post lockdown trends in trade publishing are very positive for e-books, with people spending more time at home reading and e-books being easier to acquire. But those trends don’t necessarily flow through to the professional market where the uncertainty at the university level and in boardrooms will impact budgets,” said Dan Strempel, senior analyst business and professional group at Simba Information.

Scholarly and professional book publishers are generally less reliant on sales to individuals. Academic libraries and corporate customers make up a larger portion of the sales. Librarians are planning for reduced budgets with some reporting cuts as high as 20%. Businesses have adjusted their planning monthly and have built in contingencies based on performance.

The report, Scholarly & Professional E-Book Publishing 2020-2024, examines the scholarly and professional market including e-books in law, business, scientific and technical, medical, and social science and humanities. It found that scholarly and professional e-books sales increased slightly in 2019, but will decline in 2020 anywhere from 2% to 9% depending on the segment examined, with STM publishing being the most stable and law and business publishing seeing the worst declines.

Scholarly and professional books face steep challenges. Academic library budgets are under pressure, which has hurt books particularly hard after decades losing budget battles to journals and databases. Law school enrollments are declining in the large U.S. market. Print sales and total sales are down, and these trends can be expected to continue.

Although, e-books have greater appeal with library customers, the market is showing signs of maturity. Grow in professional e-books had largely leveled out in recent years. Individual e-book sales have tailed off. Institutions have already moved to purchasing collections and the growth to be borne from that transition may already be realized. Professional e-books will be relatively flat through 2024.

“What is clear is that as print books fall out of favor with professionals, the e-book hasn’t been the direct replacement for all of that demand. These sales are also being supplanted by applications on tablets and mobile phones, electronic references and other online services,” said Strempel.

Scholarly & Professional E-Book Publishing 2020-2024 provides an overview and financial outlook for the global scholarly and professional e-book publishing markets based on specific research and analysis of the leading competitors’ performance. Leading competitor’s performance is projected through 2020. Scholarly and professional market categories are projected through 2024. The report also discusses trends, challenges, pricing models, usage, major e-book publishers, aggregators and platform providers.

About Simba Information:

Simba Information is widely recognized as the authority for market intelligence in the media and publishing industries. Its extensive information network delivers top quality, independent perspectives on the people, events and alliances shaping the industry. Simba routinely assists clients and the press with publishing and media industry analysis. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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