In July the Centraal Boekhuis published an infographic on the progress of Dutch language e-books in the Netherlands. In spite of the upbeat tone of the accompanying text stating that the e-book market is developing rapidly, the reality is that the Centraal Boekhuis expects some 2 million e-books to be sold in 2014 against some 40 million physical books. Given the fact that, according to the same infographic there are some 1.2 million e-readers, 7.6 million tablets and 9 million smartphone – some 18 million mobile reading devices – the 13.5 million literate Dutchmen of 10 years and older buy an average of 0.16 e-books per year. Just to put things in perspective: in the US the marketshare of e-books in the total consumer book sales is 20%. For the UK one out of every four consumer books sold is an e-book. The rest of Europe is trailing with an e-book share of up to 5% in 2013. So, yes, The Netherlands is amongst the leaders of the rest of the e-book pack.
Of course the low percentage of e-book sales doesn’t mean that people are not reading e-books. They just don’t buy them… yet. The reasons for this phenomenon vary; prices are perceived as high, it is easy to pirate e-books, the number of available titles is still low, DRM is a nuisance, etc. Whatever the reason is, most probably a combination of the above, the e-book in the Netherlands still has a long way to go. But there is hope. Earlier this year we reported on the initiatives of public libraries to lend e-books. Although at the start of the initiative there were only some 5000 titles available it clearly sent a message to library readers. Within 6 monhts of the start of the library initiative it grabs 15% of the e-book sales + loans according to the same infographic. A quick increase of available titles could just boost e-book adoption to UK and US levels.