The following research focuses on the competition between the publishing companies and electronic books (e-books). The paper provides the background of the problem, conducting the comparative analysis of the revenues from the sale of paper and electronic books, and explains the potential reasons for the increase in the market share occupied by the e-books. It also provides the overview of the problem from the perspective of the publisher and the consumer – the two-way analysis of the current situation. In the next section, the paper identifies the most attractive consumer group for the book publisher (the students) and justifies this choice. The selected group becomes a subject to a comprehensive analysis by using the methods of observation (the identification of the reading habits) and interview (the determination of the personal preferences of the respondents). The results of the analysis are used to develop a consumer-oriented marketing strategy for the publisher, in which the book-selling business is presented as a service. The proposed strategy primarily focuses on the remarketing of the product line, which includes lowering the prices and making special offers. Another important measure is the introduction of the modern technologies to the sale process, including the specific software for monitoring the consumers’ needs and the management of the sale channels. The final recommendation is focused on the implementation of a set of additional services for the customer, namely the online purchase, timely delivery to any part of the country, and optimization of the search for the required book.
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The Marketing Strategy Problem
The digital technologies have influenced almost every aspect of the human life, including reading. Nowadays, the books in an electronic format displace their paper competitors. Moreover, it is about not only the sale of the electronic content but also the distribution of the paper books. The Internet trade recaptures the niche that has been recently held by the supermarkets with the traditional bookstores due to the low prices, large turnover, great discounts, and low margins. In particular, the American publishers have received about 7.12 billion dollars of revenues by selling paper books in the retail stores (Information Today, Inc., 2013). At the same time, the revenues from the online orders and e-book sales have reached 7.54 billion dollars (Information Today, Inc., 2013). Therefore, in 2013, the sale of electronic publications brought more income than the sale of paper books. Moreover, the sales of e-books have increased by 10% over the previous year and reached 512.7 million copies (Information Today, Inc., 2013). In addition, during this period, the analysts have recorded a decrease in the average cost of the e-books. This trend can be attributed to the massive spread of portable electronic devices, which allow reading the e-books anytime and anywhere (Information Today, Inc., 2013).
From the perspective of a publisher, e-books can be considered a dangerous competitor as in the recent years, the interest in reading has been steadily dropping; many bookstores have closed while the new ones have not compensated for the decreased amount. The books went far from the modern realities of people’s lives. Moreover, they are almost not advertised in the media; therefore, they have to compete with such time-consuming activities as television, computers, and the Internet. Therefore, for the publishing industry, it is most important to preserve as many readers as possible, so the rapid growth of the e-books sales is a negative trend for it. On the other hand, from the perspective of a consumer, e-books are preferable as they have a set of advantages over the paper copies. The e-book can be tailored to the reader, be read anytime and anywhere: in a train, elevator, or queue. Moreover, it is of a rather small weight, making reading more convenient. However, the most important advantages include the lower price (digital books save the family budget) and the environmental protection (such books preserve the integrity of the planet) (Liu, 2008). Therefore, it is clear that the stakeholders of the book market view the current situation in a completely different way, which makes the development of an effective marketing strategy rather difficult. Consequently, the presented problem is of the combined nature. In such a manner, for the reanimation of the paper books sales, it is advisable to select a particular consumer group and focus the new marketing campaign on it.
The Consumer and Consumer Issues
It should be noted that currently, the paper and electronic books have different audiences. The average reader of the non-fiction printed books is 40 years of age or older while the average user of e-books is much younger. However, there is a particular consumer group that uses both paper and electronic books – the students. They are one of the most dynamic groups; therefore, they have a significant impact not only on the rest of the youth but also on the members of the society outside of this age group (Molesworth et al., 2011). Often, students act as the pioneers of consumption. This fact makes this consumer group particularly interesting for almost any publisher and retailer. For the publisher, the students seem to be an attractive market segment because they use a wide variety of media in their learning process, including the printed textbooks, encyclopedias, and collections of articles. Moreover, it should be noted that the demand of this consumer group is of a periodic nature as it usually increases at the beginning of the academic year and during the midterms (Molesworth et al., 2011). Therefore, the consumption can be easily predicted; it also contributes to the attractiveness of this consumer group. On the other hand, the students are adept in the modern technologies, including computers and various electronic gadgets, which allow reading the e-books. As mentioned before, many consumers, namely those of the young age, consider e-books much more convenient than the paper copies (Molesworth et al., 2011). However, this fact also provides certain opportunities. In particular, by winning the share of this consumer group from the e-books, the publisher may not only improve its position on the market but also maintain it in the long-term perspective. Therefore, it is clear that the students as a consumer group should be the main focus of the newly developed marketing strategy. However, in order for it to succeed, it is imperative to define the group’s preferences and needs by conducting a comprehensive consumer analysis.
In order to define the consumer preferences in terms of the paper and electronic book, a survey among the university students has been conducted. As mentioned before, this consumer group was selected for the particular reasons. First of all, nowadays, the transition of the educational process to electronic textbooks is discussed all over the world. Next, the students often employ various media, both printed and electronic, in their studies; therefore, it is easy for them to make a comparison. Finally, the students are adept in the modern technologies, including computers, gadgets, and, more specifically, electronic readers; thus, they fully utilize the possibilities offered by the devices.
In the research, the students were provided with the electronic readers, which allowed them to read their textbooks, along with the other literature, in electronic format. By the end of the school year, nearly two-thirds of the students (about 65%) have stopped using the e-books at all or worked with them only occasionally (Aaltonen et al., 2011). Moreover, some of those who continued using the device regularly, have tried to supplement the e-book with its paper edition. Others have become less attentive in achieving their objectives in reading while some students have developed a less desirable reading style.
One of the key conclusions arising from this research is that the students, like all the people, read differently. Sometimes, it is important to immerse fully in the text and read without interruption. Sometimes, only a particular fragment is interesting and crucial, in order to learn about the meaning or main arguments quickly. Moreover, the paper books can be used to find the information on a specific topic quickly. In few seconds, one can skip some of the text, or return to the previous sections to make a comparison. It is also possible to make notes in the margins or highlight the important parts of the text. In addition to supporting different reading styles, a paper book contains many subtle hints on its structure and content. In the other words, one makes a cognitive map of the book when reading. In particular, one unconsciously notes the physical location of the information on the page, as well as in the text as a whole. These mental constructs help remember the place of a particular idea in the text. The readers use cognitive maps to memorize and reproduce textual information more efficiently. Therefore, such maps are a useful tool for the students who read academic texts in order to learn specific information (Aaltonen et al., 2011).
On the contrary, the e-books hide these kinesthetic signals, and this is another reason for so many students to be disappointed with the option of electronic reading. When students have no possibility to create the above-mentioned cognitive maps to rely on, the process of finding the required information takes more time, reducing the mental and physical resources for the other tasks. As a result, the desired level of performance also decreases. Certainly, it is possible to implement such tools as reading room scrollbars and progress bars that can help in the creation of the cognitive maps for e-books, but it is unlikely that a digital book will ever be able to provide rich and intuitive set of physical signals, offered by a printed publication (Aaltonen et al., 2011).
In particular, the observation has shown that some students used kinesthetic cues such as folded corners of the page to find the required content quickly. The students claimed that they would like to visualize the important places in the book. However, their physical experience with the text had changed dramatically when they started using e-books. They lost these kinesthetic signals and had to spend much more time for searching for the information than before. As a result, many of them quit the electronic versions of books as they wanted to remain on their former level of the reading efficiency (Aaltonen et al., 2011).
Another question relates to the electronic texts in general, regardless of the device used to view them, and their advantages and disadvantages in comparison with the paper books. In this context, a survey conducted at the University of California is of particular interest. It has demonstrated that students still prefer the printed books to electronic ones. Many students complain that they have problems with retention and concentration on the information when reading from the screen (Keller, 2012).
The Library of the University of California has conducted a large pilot program for electronic textbooks in 2008. By the end of 2010, about 2,500 students and teachers have been interviewed to assess the results of the program (Keller, 2012). In general, 58% of respondents said that they used e-books in their activities (Keller, 2012). These figures ranged from 55% for students, 57% for faculty, and 67% for graduate students (Keller, 2012). Another question was about their preferences in the choice of materials for their research. In particular, 44% of the respondents said they preferred the printed books, 35% favored e-books, and the rest did not express any explicit preferences (Keller, 2012). The preference rate of the printed books was the highest among the students – 53% against and 27% for the e-books (Keller, 2012). The preferences among graduate students were as follows: 45% for the printed books against 35% for the electronic ones. For teachers, these figures were 43% and 33% respectively (Keller, 2012).
The most revealing part of the survey includes the respondents’ answers concerning the causes of their preferences. From the statements of the participants, it became clear what had influenced their choice. Electronic books are often used when there is a need to search for a particular fact in the book. On the other hand, in the case, there is a need for mandatory reading and in-depth and careful examination of the material, the preference is given to the print media. The typical explanations are 1) e-books dissipate the attention; 2) paper books make the reader more focused and protected from various distractions that can occur when using the computer or gadget. Moreover, many students claim to have difficulty with concentrating on a long passage when using e-books, as reading from the screen makes the perception of the information harder (Keller, 2012).
In general, the research made it possible to define the strengths of the print and electronic books for a particular consumer group in a variety of situations. In most cases, people prefer printed books. Nevertheless, it would be better to say that prints are better in some situations while e-books are preferable in the others. Each of them plays its part. The electronic books are more suitable for the acquaintance with the material, relatively quick search (for example, in an encyclopedia), checking for the correct bibliographic citation, as well as reading individual chapters. However, for comprehensive work with the text, consumers prefer the paper book in order to make their own notes. Moreover, it was reported that people often used both paper and digital versions of the same book, to search for and detect the problem and go to the corresponding copy of the document for reading, writing notes, text comparison, and in-depth research. In particular, the two-thirds of the students claimed that it was important for them to have access to the printed version of the book even if the electronic version was also available. Therefore, by summarizing the results of the conducted research, it is possible to conclude that the competition between the printed and e-books cannot be classified as a harsh one, as these two options are able to coexist and complement each other. Moreover, despite the growth of the share of the e-books in the total book sales, the paper book market has the perspective for the further development and growth as it still has a strong consumer support.
By utilizing the results of the consumer analysis, it is possible to define a marketing strategy for the publisher. It should be noted that marketing in the book publishing industry ensures the contact between the publisher and the reader and contributes to the effectiveness of the committed exchanges. As a consequence, it is a purposive production launching and means to minimize the mismatch of supply and demand. Therefore, marketing sets and constantly supports not only the trade but also the exchange of information between the potential book market participants (Shankar & Carpenter, 2012). However, it should be kept in mind that the book market possesses a set of specific features due to the fact that its main product – the book – is the subject of culture. Therefore, one can determine the usefulness of the book only conditionally. As a product, the book is characterized by its consumer properties, and its exposure to the market is restricted to a certain life cycle. However, the book can be considered the eternal cultural heritage of the nation and a testament to the development of the society as a whole. In particular, many books have preserved their cultural value for years (Liu, 2008). Therefore, the actual market price of the book that the consumer is willing to pay is determined by the mentality of the society, as well as its cultural and educational traditions. The publishing and book trade business is a subject to the laws of classical business. However, from the modern publishers, it is required not to show the blind obedience to the mass market processes, which is often expressed in a simplified solution. In particular, a creative individuality of the book, as well as its spiritual integrity, should be taken into account and used as a base for the commercial decisions (Baverstock, 2008). Therefore, by summarizing and analyzing all the facts mentioned above, it is possible to provide the recommendations for the publisher.
First, since the demand for the paper books has started to decrease, it is necessary to implement the strategy of remarketing to revitalize it. In particular, it should be characterized by the policy of reducing the prices for goods and services; during the period of the declining demand, the competition between the enterprises producing similar products sharpens. Another measure to revive the demand is the implementation of complex sales with a significant decrease in the price of the central part of the commodity complex; for example, the educational literature for computers can be sold in conjunction with the software (Shankar & Carpenter, 2012).
Moreover, the publisher should appeal to the analytic tools. In a consumer society, the one, who can understand what the customer wants and satisfy such need faster than the competitors, receives the highest profit, as well as the competitive advantage, over the other market players. In this sense, the book business is no exception since one of its primary consumer groups is the students. As mentioned before, they are one of the most dynamic consumer groups that have a significant impact on the rest of the society. Therefore, it is important to monitor their ever-changing needs carefully. In particular, the modern technologies, such as specific software, gadgets and, of course, the Internet, allow the publishers and distributors to get information about the sales, buying habits, and preferences, to monitor the trends, and to respond flexibly to the fluctuations in the demand. In particular, it is also advisable to conduct an additional consumer research in the form of a survey via the Internet; it will allow getting a clear understanding of the consumers’ desires and expectations from the publisher. Moreover, the modern technologies, namely those used in the sphere of logistics and supply management also facilitate a fine-tuning of the shopping channel, resulting in an increase of its efficiency even if its capacity remains constant. However, in reality, there is a gap between the technological capabilities and the use of their potential, which is associated with the well-established business procedures and lack of sufficiently qualified personnel (Baverstock, 2008).
Finally, the publisher should present the book-selling business as a service. The sale of books, like any other consumer product, has demanded a shift of focus from the product quality to the quality of service. In the environment in which the paper book competes with the electronic one while the latter clearly wins in speed and ease of production, it is imperative to not only facilitate the process of buying books but also supplement it with the attractive additional services (Baverstock, 2008). In particular, the publishers and distributors may provide a quick delivery of books to most localities all over the country with the possibility of a free-of-charge return, system of personalized advice, and a variety of the additional services that make the company one of the options for the comfortable shopping experience. When dealing with the students, the price, speed, and availability of the entertainment are the determining factors. With regard to the paper books, the importance of the problem is doubled as the proceeds from their sales are still the main source of revenues for the publishing industry (Baverstock, 2008).
Therefore, the modern book marketing is considered the system of organization of all activities in the publishing and bookselling enterprises that are focused on the sales of goods and provision of services on the basis of a comprehensive study of the respective market. It also takes into account the requests of both actual and potential buyers to expand the activities of the enterprise, gain financial stability, and profitability. The book market continues to evolve due to the advent of the new technologies; today, it requires the new methods and opportunities that can be provided by the marketing.