E-books have made impressive inroads into the English-reading world, but their success in Europe — even among wealthy, tech-savvy countries with robust publishing industries — remains spotty at best. In the United States and Britain, sales of e-books represent between a quarter and a third of the consumer book market and, by 2018, will edge out printed and audio books as the most lucrative segment, according to projections by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. But the picture is radically different in continental Europe. Last year, digital books made up 8 percent of the consumer book market in France, less than 4 percent in Germany and Italy, and 1 percent in Sweden and Norway.
(In Asia, Japan led e-book markets with 15 percent of the country’s total consumer book revenues; China and India, meanwhile, lagged far behind with 3 percent each. )
The reasons for Europe’s slow embrace of e-books vary from country to country, said Rüdiger Wischenbart, a publishing analyst based in Vienna who studies emerging e-book markets. In the case of Sweden, he said, e-books are popular, but are mostly lent out for free through the library system. In France and many other European countries, Mr. Wischenbart said, there is a cultural attachment to print that’s hard for readers and publishers to shake. “When you read a book, you define yourself as being part of a cultural elite, and that elite is very conservative,” he said. “They don’t want their high status to be undermined by some new gadget.”
Mr. Wischenbart said the biggest challenge affecting the success of e-books in Europe was pricing. Germany and France have been reluctant to discount e-books for fear of hurting their print business. As a result, the average price for a digital version of a best-selling novel in Germany or France is over $20, compared with $9 in Britain.
from: NY Times