Gene Therapy: Climbing Aboard the E-book Bandwagon
Publishers who are using master distributors will find that these distributors are either already providing or are about to provide e-book distribution services themselves (IPG, NBN, Midpoint, Ingram Publisher Services, Chicago Distribution Center’s BiblioVault, Perseus). As far as I can tell, it will still remain up to the publisher to decide which formats to use and to manage the conversion.
The Current State of the E-book Market
The concept of a lightweight reading device that can store dozens or hundreds of books does have great appeal to the habitual reader who commutes or travels extensively—not to mention lunchtime reading compulsives, students or field-work professionals. The real viability of such a device, however, has always boiled down to functionality/user-friendliness, economics and the availability of content.
Today, through the development of e-ink—a wafer-thin, plastic “electronic paper,” which holds minute electrically charged cells that form its images—portable readers provide a reflective rather than backlit surface that closely simulates the adaptability of the paper surface. Moreover, since e-ink technology uses power only when it changes an image/display, the battery life of the reader is extended considerably compared to a computer battery. This is the technology now being used by the Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle.
While the technology continues to advance, another major barrier—access to content—still exists. Proprietary operating software for various e-readers has not helped to make offering content in e-book form any easier for publishers, as it has required the same title to be published in multiple formats. This has created a small industry of conversion houses that, for a fee, will create and distribute files in various formats for publishers.
These formats/platforms, in addition to the Kindle and Reader, include the Adobe Reader, Mobipocket, Microsoft.lit, Palm and Franklin. (Fictionwise, a major independent online e-book retailer, provides a comprehensive and easy-to-understand explanation of e-book formats at www.Fictionwise.com/help/ebook-formats-FAQ.htm.)
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.