Publishers at The E-Book Starting Gate
by Rose Blessing
How many e-book content distributors should a publisher partner with? Which books should be made into e-books? How should the process be managed? What are the pitfalls?
If it's your job to figure that out at your company, take a tip from Kate Tentler, a publisher at Simon & Schuster Online in New York City who has been arranging to make Simon & Schuster books available digitally for about a year. Tentler's approach is to keep things simple, with an eye to the long term.
For example: how are online distributors chosen? Simple: They are evaluated one by one. Among the most important criteria is security--ensuring that Simon & Schuster Online's content cannot be widely distributed for free once it's been released in digital form. The security issue is so important that Simon & Schuster is asking for third-party security assessments.
In February, the company had confirmed arrangements with SoftBook, NuvoMedia and Peanut Press, but was talking with "many, many others," says Tentler. "We are not going to limit who we work with. Our goal is to sell books."
Next question: Which books should be distributed as e-books? Those decisions are made book by book. "We're focused very much on front list right now," says Tentler. One big reason: It is simply less work to gather the electronc files and permissions for a front list book than a back list book. Often, killing two birds with one stone, an author's back list books are released as digital books as the author releases a new book.
As she chooses e-book business partners and books one by one, Tentler is mindful that she is gradually setting up internal processes that her company may be following for a long, long time. Though they are not just like printed books, e-books do have proofing, production and delivery cycles too, she notes.