Major Book Publishers Unveil Their E-Book Offerings
By Donna Loyle
Some of the country's largest book publishing companies recently unveiled major new electronic-book initiatives, bringing renewed energy into the e-book arena.
Time Warner's iPublish.com at Time Warner Books, New York City, scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2001, will offer fiction and non-fiction content created specifically for the Internet, according to company officials.
Meanwhile, Random House and Simon & Schuster, along with Microsoft, gave away copies of Michael Crichton's new novel Timeline, as well as some "Star Trek" series novels, all downloadable onto Microsoft's new e-book Reader software.
In June, CBS News and Simon & Schuster, both owned by Viacom, co-published an exclusive e-book based on the news organization's four-year project Class of 2000: A Definitive Survey of the New Generation. The release was in conjunction with a special edition of TV show "48 Hours: The Class of 2000" on CBS. The project was developed by CBS News as a way of presenting a portrait of America's problems and promise as seen through the eyes of high school students who graduated in 2000. The text ran about 35,000 words, which would have filled 125 traditional paper-and-ink pages.
Houghton Mifflin, New York City, announced in June plans to offer college course materials on the Internet. Using the electronic Publishing Clearing Service DRM solution, the publisher of educational textbooks and materials will post content in digital modules for college students nationwide, according to company reports.
Indeed, the e-book arena continues to heat up. In fact, e-book sales are expected to climb to $2.3 billion, or 10 percent of the overall book market, by 2005, according to a recent study done by Andersen Consulting.
Open E-Book Forum
The news came on the heels of meetings among technology professionals who are building the infrastructure for secure and efficient distribution of e-books. The Book Industry Study Group (www.bisg.org) and the Open E-Book Forum (OEBF), at their meetings held in May in New York City, outlined the challenges faced by p-book (that is, print book) publishers looking to tackle the e-book market. At the meetings, which were literally jam-packed with industry professionals, challenges such as guarding content from copyright infringement and determining appropriate e-commerce business models were heartily discussed.
OEBF officials also introduced the chairpeople of their new working groups and showcased version 1.0 of EBX, open e-book publishing standards, which offer publishers interoperability among e-book reading devices. You can download the standards from the OEBF Web site at www.openebook.org.
"Our goal is to reduce the costs and simplify for publishers content creation for the electronic medium," said David Ornstein, chief technical office of Nuvomedia and chairperson of OEBF, a non-profit industry-wide consortium of electronic content and device developers.
Among its many features, the system enables publishers to automatically convert a designed e-book into different formats readable by various e-book devices such as the Pocket PC, Rocket E-Book, or for viewing on a Web browser or as a PDF file. "We think this is the standard for the e-book world," said Ornstein.
Time Warner's new e-publishing venture will be comprised of three units
* iRead will feature published works from Time Warner and Little, Brown & Co in digital format, including new and early releases from brand-name authors, hundreds of backlist books and time-sensitive content, such as business books in e-format.
* iWrite will accept complete or in-progress, online submissions from aspiring authors for consideration by Time Warner and other editors. "iWrite is an open door for publishing consideration," said Time Warner officials. "The most popular works will be considered not only for digital publication through iWrite, but also for print publication through Time Warner Trade Publishing's off-line imprints and distribution channels."
* iLearn will offer lectures from brand-name authors and in-house experts on the business of writing, perfecting their craft, successful packaging and promotion, and more.
Gregory Voynow, vice president and director of online marketing and development for Time Warner Trade Publishing, heads the new venture. Claire Zion, most recently executive editor at Warner Books, serves as editorial director of iPublish.com.
They're overseeing a team of 15 editorial, marketing and technical staffers. Roger Cooper, former vice president and editorial director for Doubleday Direct, joined iPublish as consultant for editorial strategic alliances.
Said Voynow in a published statement: "We want to target our readers and publish for them more effectively. The evolving digital marketplace will allow us to do this."
According to Maureen Mahon Egen, president of Time Warner Trade Publishing, the company will convert a vast range of existing content to the digital format in the months leading up the iPublish.com launch. It will offer original e-books by well-known authors for distribution through its network of partners.
Egen said bestselling authors such as David Baldacci, Walter Mosley and Robert Kiyosaki have already signed on to write new content exclusively for iPublish.com.