The Digital Boom
Regardless of the tactile pleasure of flipping pages, the digital format is one that all publishing executives need to consider. Of digital readers such as the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader, Temple says, “Culture changes, culture evolves and it moves forward. [As a publisher], you don’t want to be a curmudgeon, so I think we have to embrace it.”
Ed McCoyd, director of digital policy at AAP, agrees. “The fact that 90,000 titles are already available for use on the Kindle is clear evidence that book publishers are embracing digital distribution,” he says. And, so it seems, the numbers are only going to get bigger. “While e-books still only account for a very small portion of total book industry sales, their sales numbers have been increasing steadily for the past several years,” McCoyd says.
Even libraries are making adjustments to accommodate new publishing technologies. McCoyd explains, “Libraries purchase the books outright, and the encryption attached to the [e-]book permits a one-patron-at-a-time lending model,” which mimics traditional library lending. “The patron ‘checks out’ the book and reads it on the device of his or her choosing,” McCoyd says. “When the lending period expires, the book automatically ‘checks back in,’ and the next patron can access it.”
But while e-books have shown signs of success so far (the AAP reported sales of $67 million in 2007, a 23.6-percent increase over the previous year), Schroeder points out that there hasn’t yet been a huge surge in the market. “All of our members are doing e-books, so if people prefer reading it on-screen, they have that available,” she says. “Someday there may be a device that they will read books on,” in the same way iPods have transformed music-listening, “but most people [still] like to read an actual book.”
Financially, Schroeder indicates that smaller publishers initially may be frustrated with the emergence of e-books, since they’ll be pushed to make their product accessible in electronic form as well as print.