E-books continue to be an area of growth for publishers. What once equaled about 1.5 percent of a publisher’s sales is steadily growing and accounts for as much as 5 to 7 percent in the U.S., varying by publisher and genre. Though the numbers are constantly changing and are difficult to pin down, they are growing every day. At Barnes & Noble, for example, there are roughly 2 million titles that are available as e-books. In February of 2011, e-book sales amounted to $90.3 million, surpassing the rest of trade publishing for the first time in all categories (e.g., fiction, reference, etc.). Sales of e-books continue to grow quarter after quarter and year after year as the number of devices and consumers’ appetites for digital content increase. And as sales continue to grow, the desire for features, services and the amount of e-book titles also expands.
E-book lending is one such feature that has seen a rise in the past year, thanks to Barnes & Noble’s LendMe program and the addition of Amazon’s lending capabilities. Both libraries and vendors are trying to gauge the need and want for this type of content and figure out how to best offer it to readers.
In this research note, we look at the two business models currently ruling the e-book lending space, what they offer and where they are headed.