The E-book Opportunity
The dual-screen Kno e-reader was developed to make e-textbooks more conducive to learning.
Amazon's upgraded Kindle app includes new audio and video functionality.
As it looks more to e-book releases tailored to a growing range of e-reader devices, Springer is moving to augment its current PDF e-books with releases in the ePub format, Boissy says. "We expect the ePub format to enhance the experience for users and attractiveness of our content in the trade market on a wide variety of devices," he says. "SpringerLink.com abstracts and book previews are also available to anyone with a device running a Web browser. We are currently experimenting with mobile apps for some of our publications, and we do have some medical content already available through intermediaries who have made apps for us. The market appears to be wide open to us for this."
The Pricing Question
How to price e-books in relation to physical books has been a persistent question for several years, with the recent effort by publishers to regain some control over pricing through the agency model as the latest attempt to discover a scheme publishers and retailers are both happy with. Under the agency model, publishers set the price at which books will be sold, with Internet retailers taking a predetermined cut. The arrangement allows publishers to preserve the "tiered" system of selling new books at a higher price point. In return, publishers like Macmillan have agreed to stop delaying the release of e-book versions of new trade hardcovers.
Edwards says it's "too early to tell" if the agency model will bring stability to e-book pricing. Charles Stack, founder of Books.com and now CEO of book and magazine app developer Sideways, believes that, with the "inventory concept" removed from distribution models, "a wholesale model becomes an historical vestige. So, absolutely, an agency model makes more sense."
Publishers need to ask themselves what their core business is, he says, especially with the increasing number of direct-to-author publishing services. "Digital books are ultimately democratizing for publishers," he says. "As costs of production and distribution slide to zero over the next few years, the advantage of size will be eliminated, although right now the effect is contrary due to the temporary high cost of adapting new digital publishing techniques."