Paperback books have been dying for years now. Soon libraries and bookstores will follow. E-Books are clearly the future and their popularity in Korea has been growing for the past few years now. Thanks to mobile phones and tablets that make it easier than ever to download books, users can access more books than ever before. Half the traditional Korean households have a tablet or e-reader. Four in ten surveyed said that they have read an e-book or webtoon in 2016. It is possible that by 2020, reading on screens becomes the norm. The fall of bookstores has already happened in America. In 2011, Borders Books filed for bankruptcy.
There are many advantages to E-Books aside from being cheaper and easier to carry. Users can insert comments directly into digital book texts which will come in handy for teachers. Users can also chat with the author in forums and chatrooms through E-Books. Editing and revisions can be done in a matter of seconds just by updating a new patch. With Korea’s booming tech infrastructure, Korea is the perfect place for E-Books to truly take off.
The Publication Industry Agency of Korea shows that Korea’s publishing industry had $6.6 billion in sales in 2015 which was down close to 4% from a year ago. The numbers for 2016 should be out soon but the result should be even more drastic. Comparing this to E-book sales shows the danger these publishing companies will be in, if they do not adapt. E-book sales increased by 25% to reach over $110 million in 2014 and then to $113 million in 2015. With the rise of portal sites in Korea as well as mobile carriers running services for E-books and webtoons, 2016 to 2017 should see the biggest jump with an estimated $120 million.
Koreans love their comics and most of the E-books are based on webtoon series. Koreans are also attracted to education-related publications which take up over half of the total books sold. With more and more small-sized Korean book stores closing down, more and more online bookstores are opening. Buying books online almost double that of buying books offline.
LINE Webtoons is one of the biggest digital comic portals in Korea. Owned by Naver, Line Webtoon was launched worldwide in 2014. Now it has over 10 million unique readers which can be accessed on the web and both iOS and Android apps. They have not only found success in Korea but also globally with hits like “Dents”, “2 Broke Girls”, and “New Brooklyn”. Some of these comics are being adapted for T.V. in the United States as well as Asia. LINE recently was able to get Stan Lee on board to do a new project called “Backchannel” for LINE Webtoon.
As Korea’s E-book market continues to grow, there will be new opportunities for amateur writers looking to break out and a source for content for T.V./Film industries looking for new and exciting storylines.