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Global e-books insight

Alan Wallace
| Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, 9:24 p.m.

Last week's official announcement of the iPad mini focused attention on the U.S. e-reading device market, but what about the global e-book market?

Providing insight earlier this month was Jo Henry, director of New Jersey-based Bowker Market Research, which does polling for publishers. Her opening keynote at Germany's Tools of Change Frankfurt conference on the eve of the annual Frankfurt Book Fair previewed the findings of Bowker's latest Global E-Book Monitor survey of 1,000 consumers in 10 countries.

The full report — a follow-up to a January survey — is due in November. Highlights of Henry's speech, according to Publishers Weekly:

• Emerging markets' growth is outpacing established markets'. For example: In India, 39 percent of respondents — up from 34 percent in the January survey — said they'd paid for an e-book or extract in the prior six months; the U.S. figure was 26 percent, up from 22 percent.

• About a third of respondents said they'd quit buying print books or were buying fewer.

• Most think e-books should cost about half what hardcover books cost, or about 80 percent of what paperbacks cost.

• About two-thirds said they'd never illegally download e-books.

The differing U.S. and India growth rates reflect the fact that the U.S. market — which has led the e-book revolution — has existed longer and thus is more mature than newer e-book markets elsewhere.

The findings on price and ongoing print purchases suggest that publishers would be wise to continue one of e-books' key attractions — lower prices — but must walk a fine pricing line if they want to keep selling print books, too.

And as for illegal downloading, the results could have been much worse for publishers. But with about a third of readers seemingly open to acquiring e-books illicitly, the industry still has much work to do in that area.

Entitlements, intelligence & invasions

New and upcoming titles of interest: “A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic” by Nicholas Eberstadt (Templeton Press) — An American Enterprise Institute demographics expert traces U.S. entitlement spending's growth from about a third of the federal budget in 1960 to about two-thirds today. He goes beyond numbers to examine what the publisher calls “the enormous economic and cultural costs of this epidemic” and its “very real, long-lasting, negative impact on the character of our citizens.” William A. Galston of the University of Maryland and the Brookings Institution, who's skeptical of linking government programs and dependence, and Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who contends dependence-related problems are even bigger than the author suggests, write responses.

“Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service” by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal (Ecco) — A former Knesset member who wrote official biographies of David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres (Bar-Zohar) and a leading Israeli journalist (Mishal) lift the shroud of secrecy from key operations of Israel's Mossad intelligence service, widely seen as the world's best. Among the exploits that the authors recount are Mossad's capture of Adolf Eichmann, eradication of Black September, destruction of a Syrian nuclear facility and elimination of key Iranian nuclear scientists. It's the stuff of spy thrillers, but not fiction, making this book a source of insight into how Israel has succeeded in its ongoing struggle to survive in the Middle East.

“The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau” (Crown) by Alex Kershaw — A best-selling World War II historian details the story of Felix Sparks, a U.S. Army second lieutenant who rose to colonel between the July 1943 Allied landing in Sicily and the May 1945 declaration of victory in Europe. This maverick 45th “Thunderbird” Division officer took part in amphibious invasions, bitter winter combat, the final hunt for Hitler and the liberation of Dachau. The publisher calls it “an ordeal that dwarfed, in drama and intensity, that of Dick Winters and his men in Band of Brothers, whose airborne troops were involved in just one invasion as opposed to the Thunderbirds' four.”

Alan Wallace is a Trib Total Media editorial page writer (412-320-7983 or

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