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Users have to navigate a forest of digital services


Summary of the report ”The digital development of the literature market and the role of libraries,” Seismonaut, January 2023.

Supported by the Agency for Culture and Palaces, Denmark

Users have to navigate a forest of digital services

eReolen is a valuable addition to commercial services with its diverse catalogue of genres and titles. For Danish publishers eReolen play an important role as a window for those genres and titles with less commercial options. eReolen also inspires more people to immerse themselves in literature.

The fight for the Danes’ attention has never been more fierce and the market for digital literature is saturated with both free and commercial services fighting to get the Danes to stream their content. Despite the big selection of services research shows that few actors make money. The willingness to pay as well as customer loyalty to commercial services are low and for many commercial services it is a losing proposition to be in the market for audio and digital literature. At the same time we know that Danes are streaming like never before and that the public library’s e-lending is on the rise. It all testifies to a hunger out there to access digital literature.

The fact that more Danes stream or take out digital loans does not mean that the physical book does not have merit and value. It’s more about audiobooks and podcasts giving people the opportunity to do other things simultaneously which according to several studies is a huge motivational factor behind the use of audio formats. For this reason we see people listening while doing all sorts of things simultaneously. The typical audiobook and podcast listener is between 25-50 years old. The reason, we assume, is because they are in a phase of their lives that makes it hard to find the time to read physical books.

The audio market is still growing and still more services arrive in the market, while the established players keep enhancing their products. One example is Mofibo [owned by Storytel] who is betting big on the production of their own content – the so-called originals. Trying to lure new users, Gyldendal is betting on the use of prominent narrators – an important factor for many users in selecting a new audiobook. Internationally, corporations are buying access to catalogues and investing in complex technologies to offer personalized services.

The fact that the base of audio users is expanding is also changing the way publishers work and evolve. Apart from betting on prominent narrators we also see a tendency for publishers to develop their own unique audio products to satisfy the hunger for audio-based content in the market.

Nobody yet knows the consequences of moving literature to an app, but the development of the audio book has meant an increase in the aggregate consumption of literature. Whether the increasing use of audio books manages to engage new user groups which didn’t consume literature before is too early to say.

Because the commercial services buy, curate and recommend the most profitable titles for them, there is an obvious opportunity for eReolen to really nurture its special role and present the Danes with a broad selection of genres and titles – and not just the newest ones. Because, with a diverse catalogue, eReolen supports the broad literary market and at the same time the Danes can access a public digital service giving them access to literature they won’t find promoted elsewhere.

eReolen’s core users are happy but there is also room for improvement

With its diverse catalogue eReolen allows its users access to a varied selection of formats, genres and titles, and the users have especially taken to the audiobooks. Users speak highly of eReolen, but there’s still potential to strengthen user friendliness as well as the unique aspects of eReolen compared to commercial services.

The user survey shows that eReolen’s core users consume more audiobooks than ebooks which is also supported by the tendency analysis, though podcasts are the least used format of the three on eReolen [translator’s note: podcasts is an experiment with a fraction of the titles of the other formats]. About 70% of the users never listen to podcasts on eReolen. A reason for this could be the few titles compared to the other formats.

The tendency analysis shows that users are very much active or on the go while listening to audio formats. This is true for eReolen as well. Many listen while travelling while others relax or go for a walk. Listening to audio books is therefore something users do both to relax and for entertainment during other activities. It points to the audiobook lending itself to many different user scenarios and that users make good use of this versatility in their everyday lives. Not surprisingly users are much less active while reading ebooks which do not allow for the same mobility. Most people relax at home, usually on the couch, while reading ebooks.

21% of the users in the survey subscribe to a commercial audiobook service while the figures for ebooks is 16% and podcasts 11%. Mofibo and Saxo Premium are the most popular commercial services with eReolen’s users. This is confirmed by figures from Kantar Gallup showing Mofibo to be the most used commercial service by eReolen’s users. The fact that most eReolen users do not subscribe to other services show that eReolen is the primary source for digital users for these users.

The users in the survey have a frequent use of eReolen. 39% use eReolen daily while another 26% use it weekly. It should be noted that the user survey primarily consists of eReolen’s core users and is not necessarily indicative of the average user.

According to the survey users are generally happy with eReolen, but there is still room for improvement. The user survey points to the relevancy for optimizing the user journey for both targeted searching as well as explorative searching where the user is looking for inspiration.

Also, the study as a whole points to the need for eReolen to clarify its profile and its unique value proposition in the total ecosystem of digital literature. It’s important that the users understand what eReolen offers compared to other services and why there are other terms and conditions for eReolen than other services (e.g., a limit on number of loans, fixed loan period, sometimes queues).

It’s also important that users understand they can always get the so-called blue titles on eReolen [40% of eReolen’s catalogue is in a free-for-all lending model] whether they have reached their maximum number of loans or not. In other words, users must not be in doubt about the products that eReolen has on its shelves, and that eReolen’s catalogue Is a goldmine.

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