Book businesspeople are about to make the same mistake that has devastated the music and newspaper industries: worrying about whether a new digital format will cannibalize their traditional business rather than focusing on how to make the new format more competitive with other digital media.
E-Books and Interactive Publishing
"Wherever women are, we are,” says Malle Vallik, director, digital content and interactivity for Harlequin Enterprises. You’ll hear this mantra uttered by other Harlequin executives, but it is much more than corporate speak. It is part of a “deliberate strategy,” says Vallik, and the driving force behind Harlequin’s evolution over the past 60 years.
People fear the unknown. It’s a simple premise that creeps into our lives more than we realize. Change brings a great amount of uncertainty … and therefore, fear. The changes happening in the book publishing industry right now are enough to prompt even the bravest publishing souls to cover their eyes, cautiously peeking through the space between their fingers to see if it’s OK to look.
The preliminary settlement agreement between the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and Google regarding Google’s Book Search project and its alleged copyright violation has been heralded by the parties involved as a victory. Other publishers and industry analysts also have voiced optimism over the settlement’s impact on the industry. But as the date of the final settlement review (the Fairness Hearing) approaches (June 11), many still are investigating the agreement’s details. Others have voiced concern and suggest the settlement demands some significant changes.
Judging from the prognostications that Pat Schroeder remembers hearing at publishing conferences a decade ago, most people today ought to be reading e-books and regarding print as a quaint relic of the past. That hasn’t happened, of course, and the president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) sees that fact as a useful caution when trying to predict the future of the industry. It’s easy to identify key factors, but misjudge their effect; trends that seem vitally important now could fade into obscurity, and the course of publishing could be shaped by things currently on no one’s radar screen.
It is a challenging time to be a publisher, to be sure. David Hetherington, a 25-year book publishing veteran, describes the current climate as a “perfect storm, as various forces converge to create what may prove to be a truly unique ‘weather system’ for the book publishing industry.” He believes that the combination of the credit crisis and an economy in recession, coupled with a skittish consumer mentality, rising oil prices and the fluctuating dollar, will have a different impact on each major industry sector. “The question will be one of degree. Which sector,” he questions, “will have the toughest time, and how will they respond to the challenges?”
Google's open-source Android mobile operating system, a device manufactured by HTC of Taiwan to operate on the T-Mobile network, didn't make much of a splash. The press was unabashedly nonplussed. Out of the gate, the launch of the first Android phone, called the T-Mobile G1 with Google, failed on at least one count: matching the appeal of the iPhone.
Australia-based DNAML’s DNL eBooks and Macmillan Publishing Solutions’ (MPS) Global Reader have joined forces in an effort to accelerate publisher adoption of the DNL eBook format (.dnl) and the Global Reader mobile format. The companies are encouraging publishers to submit either a PDF or XML file (preferably .epub) to MPS, which will then produce a bundle of products at a special price that will include immediate access to both the DNL eBook and Global Reader sales platforms. DNAML has over 110 million DNL readers currently active on laptops and computers worldwide, while Global Reader is on 80 mobile carriers in over 160 countries and
Startup publisher Flat World Knowledge has secured $700,000 in new funding from independent investors, bringing its total funding to date to $1.4 million. The company, which was launched in August by textbook-publishing veterans Jeff Shelstad and Eric Frank, publishes free, open-source college textbooks online, with the option to purchase alternate formats of its content, including print and audio, and other study aids. Shelstad, who serves as chief executive officer of Flat World Knowledge, says he was “pleased” with the amount of funding raised. “Our investors recognize that higher education is one of the few markets that actually benefits from recessionary economic environments,” he says.
Polymer Vision announced that it will present its Readius—the “first pocket e-book reader”—at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which will run Oct. 15-19. The new device will feature a flexible display and a wireless connection for downloading books, magazines and even e-mail. The Readius is about the size of a cellphone when it’s rolled up, and unrolls into a 5-inch diagonal screen, according to Polymer Vision. Polymer Vision will present the Readius to Frankfurt Book Fair attendees at the Forum Innovation on Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 10 a.m. Attendees may also view the device throughout the fair at the MVB booth. For more