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eBook Experts Look to Bright New Era for Digital Publishing

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An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with eBook Experts

February 2002

 

The death of digital books has been greatly exaggerated! In related news, a distinguished panel of top representatives from the eBook divisions of Microsoft, Adobe, Palm, Digital Media and MobiPocket were scheduled to discuss emerging eBook technologies at the Seybold Seminars in New York on February 21.

Curious about recent failures among eBook publishers, digital rights managers and about media proclamations that eBooks are a dying breed, Authorlink asked four experts to give us their vision of the digital industry today and for the near future. Far from seeing digital publishing as frail and gasping, these visionaries offer a fresh perspective—from publishing to production and distribution, and to hardware/software advancements. The interviewees are:

Ed Marino

Chief Executive

Officer Lightning Source, Inc.

Lightning Source, a subsidiary of Ingram Industries Inc., offers a package of digital fulfillment services to the book industry. The company, established in 1997, has pioneered the “on demand” marketplace, and its digital fulfillment system is revolutionizing the industry in the storage, management, and distribution of digital content.

Leo Dwyer

Chief Operating Officer

RosettaBooks.com RosettaBooks.com is the leading electronic publisher dedicated to the expansion of quality e-reading in the education and consumer markets taking full advantage of the rapidly evolving electronic media. Random House sued the promising neophyte last February over eBook copyright issues. A lower court rules against granting Random House an injunction against RosettaBooks.com. Random House has appealed the case, which is now in the hands of a three-judge appellate court. RosettaBooks.com has just received a substantial capital infusion from unnamed investors.

Kelly Leonard,

Executive Director, Online Marketing

AOL Time Warner Book Group

AOL Time Warner Book Group’s imprints, Warner Books and Little, Brown and Company, balance entertainment, quality literature, and informative non-fiction. Warner Books and Little, Brown and Company publish newsmakers, leading experts, literary success stories, and popular commercial writers. AOL Time Warner Book Group recently closed its iPublish eBook site, design primarily for new authors. The company’s eBook line now focuses on authors who already have successful track records in traditional print formats.

Richard Curtis

President

E-Reads, Inc.

Founded by literary agent Richard Curtis, E-Reads is an online publisher dedicated to bringing out-of-print books back in electronic and print formats. E-Reads is also committed to introducing new titles by established writers and talented newcomers

 

"We're damned upbeat about digital publishing!" —Ed Marino

 

1. Looking beyond the Sept. 11 attack on America, what are the two or three most important strategic editorial changes your publishing house or support service will make in the near future specifically for eBook titles (i.e., editorial themes or categories, length of acquired works, format changes, acquisition policies, printing and fulfillment)?

ED MARINO, LIGHTNING SOURCE:

In general, we’re damned upbeat about digital publishing! The month of December 2001 was our best ever. We did see a dip after 9/11, but we came back with flurry that ran well into January. We’ve been very pleased with the way this year started. What we’ve seen so far is a very natural reaction of the publishing community—to pull back a little and be more careful about how they spend their money. Many are saying, “I’ve got to rely on my balance sheet, and preserve cash.” Print-on-demand offers the biggest single advantage to conserving cash. Publishers are looking for ways to better monetize assets, and POD doesn’t require a lot of cash. Frankly, neither does eBook publishing. Our eBook unit actually had a strong fourth quarter. We met all of our internal targets for both print-on-demand and eBooks.

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

We’re sharpening our focus on educational titles. If you read it in high school, you’ll probably find it available at Rosettabooks.com. We’re concentrating on books used in the classroom.

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

E-Reads is promoting books relevant to September 11 th such as BRAVING THE FLAMES, a celebration of firefighters by Peter Micheels. We also have a biography of Muhammad, and a number of action adventure novels related to the Middle East. And of course, our list of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and romance make for escapist reading in these troubled times.

 

". . .major publishers are still supporting the format and publishing their bestselling authors and other titles in simultaneous eBook releases." —Kelly Leonard

 

2. Some have said the eBook industry is dead. True or false? Do you feel the overall health of the pure eBook sector and the print-on-demand sector, respectively, will be stronger, weaker, about the same in 2002? Why?

KELLY LEONARD, AOL TIME WARNER BOOK GROUP:

False. While the eBook market has not taken off as well as initially hoped for in the past 18 months, major publishers are still supporting the format and publishing their best-selling authors and other titles in simultaneous e-nook releases. And, eBook customers are buying, reading, and evangelizing the convenience of reading books on hand-held and mobile devices.

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

I definitely don’t think the eBook industry is dead, though it’s slower developing than projected two years ago in the Internet euphoria. Unfortunately everything in the electronic commerce arena has been tarred with the same brush, but I ask you what does an eBook have to do with Pets.com.

In the near future, equipment manufacturers will introduce big advances in reader devices and screens, and these advances will accelerate the adoption of eBooks in the marketplace. Companies such as E-Ink, Xerox at the Park Research Center in California, and Phillips are developing screen technology that emulates ordinary paper, and Microsoft will soon deliver the long awaited Tablet PC.

I recently viewed a handheld appliance with an eInk display at the National Institute of Standards & Technology conference and believe that the display technology will be huge. It works the way paper works, from reflected light rather than emitted light. The surface is opaque so that you look ‘at’ the surface, not ‘through’ it. The matte surface eInk display eliminates glare problems, and, like paper, as you move from a bright room to dark room, the page automatically adjusts because it works on reflected light as opposed to current back lighted screen technologies which require adjustment to brightness and contrast settings. Initially, the screen technology may be expensive, but should fall rapidly because the thin film screen technology will ultimately be produced in flexible rolls, just like paper. Tablet PCs, Pocket PCs, Palm OS readers and other appliances will adopt the new display technology. It is worth pointing out that eInk won’t increase the number of file formats that publishers have to worry about, it simply increases the display options for existing formats.

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

Despite some notable failures, the eBook industry is healthy and growing at a satisfactory pace. Many well-managed and profitable companies are currently in operation. Our own model of business has proven profitable (we disbursed $50,000 in royalties in our first full year of operation) and though we wait for the eBook revolution that we know is coming, we are still making money thanks to a user base of readers who have no problem reading from a screen.

ED MARINO, LIGHTNING SOURCE:

First, eBooks came about with a big flurry of excitement. But, consumers usually don’t adopt such new technology fresh out of the gates. Change first occurs in business-to-business applications. We see the same situation with electronic books. For example, look at the journals market. This segment already relies heavily on electronic delivery. The very nature of the content, methods of delivery, and consumption lend themselves well to journals.

E-books, on the other hand, started, more or less, with the mapping of existing physical books to electronic format. This approach doesn’t take full advantage of the technology. Two things throttled consumer adoption.

First, the reading experience was arguably not a good one. The reading experience needed improvement, and with advances in technology it has gotten better. It will continually get better as the eBook market evolves.

Second, the industry didn’t take advantage of what the electronic medium had to offer. This was true not only with respect to content, but to the business model. The industry needed to get its arms around the fact that the eBook is not a displacement technology. People perceived that eBooks spelled the end of the physical book. In reality, traditional books and eBooks will coexist.

We think more commercial and academic applications will develop first. When they do they’ll be the Trojan Horses we’ll use to improve the technology and readability to make eBooks more acceptable to the consumer.

Take digital photography for instance ¾ an industry that some saw as a replacement for film. Digital photography and film in today’s marketplace work, not against each other, but in tandem with each other with digital and film complementing each other. More film is sold today than before, and digital photography is growing by leaps and bounds. Sometimes, we just lose perspective. If in the beginning we had put clumsy digital cameras in the hands of consumers, the digital photo industry might have failed.

The eBook is learning to get its legs in the marketplace. When new technology is introduced it takes time for consumer adoption. Acceptance will most likely happen first in the commercial and academic sectors. When it does hit the consumer market within a couple of years, it likely will take off like a rocket.

Based on some promotions we participated in recently, we downloaded roughly 90,000 eBooks in January 2002 alone. What that means is ten’s of thousands of people have now been introduced to eBook technology and a new way of reading. Until certain hurdles are overcome, eBook growth will be slow and gradual. But eBooks will not displace printed books anytime soon. The two will exist side by side.

If we had relied exclusively on eBook for our welfare we would not have fared as well as we have, but because we’ve been around the block, we know that these things take time. Consequently, we have print on demand.

POD looks like an eBook until it hits printed form, and it was a key step in the direction of building a digital infrastructure. The eBook was the next step. As Richard Sarnoff at Random House has said, “In a hundred years does anybody have any doubt we’ll be reading electronically?”

The introduction of a digital infrastructure will institute a far more rapid rate of change than the book industry has ever seen. Changes in publishing will move faster because technological advances will penetrate the marketplace. At Lightning Source we already deal with over 1500 publishers who have adopted POD technology. Little by little, the whole infrastructure is changing. That means products will change. The only thing that will not change is the fact that we are, indeed, moving toward a digital world.

The change will happen in two ways: readability will improve, and the content itself will be rendered in more exciting ways. We’ll be able to do sexy things that make eBooks far more entertaining or informational.

Movie production houses and publishers fundamentally do the same thing. They decide what’s a good story and then they finance the production of the final product. The book publisher works in house, while the production studio out-sources everything. Could it be that as content becomes more complex, a new breed of multimedia publishers will emerge with a different look and feel? I think so. Perhaps the publishers with whom we work today will lead the charge, and that they will have a decidedly different bent, and take full advantage of the technology.

 

"Our revenue from print-on-demand sales is a very significant component of our royalty disbursements." —Richard Curtis

 

3. What changes have you seen in “online” sales specifically for eBooks, and specifically for print-on-demand titles during the past 18 months?

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

Until that revolution hits, the reading device of choice is still the printed book, and E-Reads makes sure that every one of its books is available in print format. Our revenue from print-on-demand sales is a very significant component of our royalty disbursements.

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

Print-on-demand is a fantastic technology for managing working capital invested in physical inventory, but since RosettaBooks.com is a 100% electronic publisher, POD is really off of our radar. As for the electronic delivery of content, we see networks developing where a publisher places a title at one location, and it feeds to many online bookstores.

 

And how has digital publishing been helped or hindered by the boom in self-publishing?

ED MARINO, LIGHTNING SOURCE:

We identify a category of publisher with whom we work with as ‘author services.’ Author Services organizations are companies that facilitate self-publishing. POD and eBook technologies have been a tremendous boon to author services companies by lowering the threshold cost of publishing a book from thousands of dollars to hundreds of dollars. We have seen thousands of new titles coming to Lightning from these companies. We don’t try to pass judgment on whether book is good. We let the buyer do that. We’ve had some author services publishers who’ve been seen on Oprah, and we’ve seen some phenomenal sales from niche or regional content. For example, we have a Scuba diving book that has been a big seller. Many regional and niche books would never have been published without POD.

Lightning Source works as well with some of world’s most discriminating publishers, including Cambridge University. We produce hardbacks for Oxford. So, print on demand embraces more than author services. Author Services, is and will continue to be integrated into the publishers business process.

 

"Front-list publishing for eBooks is a way in the future." —Leo Dwyer

 

4. What role do you foresee the pure eBook playing in the future of publishing for the next two, five, ten years? What role do you foresee for print-on-demand?

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

Front-list publishing for eBooks is a way in the future. We’ve got to wait until we have a huge active audience reading electronically. Right now the market doesn’t justify creating content specifically for electronic publication. Ultimately, though, electronic publishing will grow to the point that it can exspect front-list titles. Companies will have the potential to become great electronic publishers predicated on their ability to pick quality books, as opposed to any legacy infrastructure. That’s what publishing was all about before the massive consolidations, and that’s what it can be about again as a result of electronic publishing.

ED MARINO, LIGHTNING SOURCE:

Retail ordering systems will begin to treat on demand printed books in a way that takes full advantage of the technology, and when they do, we’ll see tremendous growth. POD books must be recognized as ‘not on shelf and yet in infinite inventory.’ Some booksellers, such as Amazon.com, have already begun seeing POD this way. Amazon made changes in their ordering system last July that should result in increased POD sales.

Overall we’re seeing retailers and wholesalers making software changes to accommodate the print-on-demand or “virtual warehouse” technology. Then there’s the human factor. Training personnel to deal with new systems takes time. We’re getting there.

As we look to focus our resources at Lightning Source, we often look at the book industry as one. But it’s really two—information and education on the one hand and entertainment on the other. Recently, I chaired a panel for the Association of American Publishers. The professional and scientific content represented by this organization is a good example of information that lends itself well to POD. Here’s an organization that is an early adopter to digital publishing in the journals business. There are many corporate examples as well, such as McGraw Hill. Entities such as these are leading the way in new publishing mediums.

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

For us, eBooks give readers the chance to access books they can find nowhere else because the originals went out of print. E-books will eventually replace mass-market paperbacks as the reprint vehicle for all but a handful of blockbuster books. Print-on-demand will be a major option for people who like to hold a good old-fashioned paper book in their hands and to put it in a bookcase after reading it.

 

"The pre-9/11 popular categories continue to dominate . . ." —Kelly Leonard 

 

5. Are certain categories of eBooks doing better than others since Sept. 11? If so, which categories? For example, has nonfiction taken precedent over fiction in recent months? Do you sense any increase in demand for more stories of hope or heroism?

KELLY LEONARD, TIME WARNER:

The pre-9/11 popular categories continue to dominate—and name authors, business books, Science fiction. An interesting development as a result of 9/11 is that frequent travelers are cutting down on the number of items packed and carried on the plane to get through security checks more efficiently. Many are learning that it’s easier to take along a 450-page book electronically on their hand-held device rather than pack a heavy bound book.

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

We’ve seen no change in demand among the various categories.

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

War books, male action adventure, and (as I said earlier) all kinds of escapist literature seem to be flourishing right now. But of course, they did so before September 11 th, and will always do so.

 

"Reading tastes haven't changed . . . in front-list titles." —Leo Dwyer

 

6. In what way have personal tastes and the moods of eBook readers changed since 9/11?

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

Reading tastes haven’t changed in our categories, certainly not in front-list titles.

 

7. What eBook lines or imprints are you expanding and why? Which ones are you limiting?

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

We hope to do more and more original, never-before-published books in due time.

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

As I said, we’re focusing on schools because this is where we believe that early adoption will occur. Also, this strategy fits what’s available to us with respect to acquiring electronic rights. We’re limited to titles released between 1920 and 1995—titles released before 1920 are generally in the public domain while electronic rights for titles released after 1995 were usually demanded by physical publishers as a precondition to physical publishing (Rights I might add that the physical publishers more often than not have warehoused and refused to sublicense.)

 

8. In today’s tough, competitive market are you restricting new eBook title releases to include only big, known authors, or are you still considering the release of first-time authors in eBook format? Why?

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

Our only policy is that books we accept must have been published previously by legitimate publishers. Once we establish our credibility as a “branded” destination site, we will begin introducing originals. At first, however, those books will be by authors with a track record.

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

We’re focusing on perennially popular titles, classics that continue to be read. We’re not accepting original works. The electronic industry is small. We can’t afford to pay advances that compete with the physical book industry. The physical industry says ‘We won’t publish you unless you give us electronic rights.’ But this may be changing. We are currently discussing an eBook deal with an author who actually carved away the eBook rights from a major publisher. Our lack of focus on front list titles isn’t because we’re disinterested. It’s because we’re precluded from participating because physical publishers are demanding to retain rights they’re not using. One has to wonder about that. (See question No. 11 for more).

 

"I think eBooks are an effective medium for self-published authors . . ." —Leo Dwyer

 

9. What is your feeling about eBooks as an effective medium for self-published authors? Does the medium work for this group of authors? Why? Why not?

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

I think eBooks are an effective medium for self-published authors, but these writers will face the same hurdles they face in physical publishing. Electronic publishing offers them a way to get published, but they can’t be sure they’ll be read. E-publishing gets the author one step closer to being successful, but the hardest step is still getting people to read your work.

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

It’s very hard for new authors to “brand” themselves online. Readers still seek the familiar. However, it’s easier than it used to be when we didn’t have the Internet as a promotional tool.

 

10. Pricing books for a recession-minded public is a key issue in traditional publishing these days. Do you think eBook sales will benefit because electronic titles are lower priced?

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

Absolutely. Most of our eBooks are priced at $6.99 and that’s a bargain compared to mass market, trade paperback, and of course hardcover prices. Our print-on-demand books are a little pricey because of the high cost of manufacture, but if that’s the only edition to be found, most fans are willing to pay a bit more.

ED MARINO, LIGHTNING SOURCE:

The cost of producing a print on demand book will come down. Electro photo technology is sophisticated yet costly. Other technologies like Inkjet are more economical, but lack the desired quality and resolution. Here’s a case in point. If you buy an office printer, it’s probably a laser. If you buy a printer for home, it’s most likely an Inkjet. The reason is economics. Inkjet technology has to improve. When it wins on quality, performance and economy, then we’ll see prices fall by half. It will happen.

We see color coming along for POD within a couple of years. Technology is now making it practical and economical in a quantity of “one.” And this is a huge advance for print on demand. In the future, POD might be just as practical in quantities of two or 2500. At that point, it becomes far more mainstream. So, we see a pretty bright future.

In terms of real book titles in the Lightning Digital Library ¾ it took 2 years for us to reach 5,000 titles, one more year to reach 20,000, and another to get 50,000. Overall, we digitally store over 150,000 titles including research and scientific papers.

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

It’s so new. We are still feeling our way and trying to understand the dynamics. This year, we’ll look at some creative pricing options for time-based eBooks. I think the whole paradigm of selling the eBook in the same way that you sell a physical book—price, the purchaser owns it forever—needs to be reexamined.

 

11. What legal issues, such as ownership of rights, will impact the eBook industry in the short-term, and in what way? Can you speculate on the outcome of these issues?

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

Traditional publishers have been insisting on electronic rights to books they acquire. Authors and agents expect those publishers to “use them or lose them”. Otherwise, in the future, authors and agents will withhold those rights and sell them directly to electronic-book publishers. In the far future I foresee the eBook publisher tail wagging the traditional publisher dog, meaning good books will originate with eBook publishers who will treat traditional publishers as subsidiary rights outlets.

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

I understand that a respected in house attorney for a large publisher said in a recent open forum that “A publisher has every right to demand electronic rights as a precondition to physical publishing and then warehouse the electronic right.” That’s interesting when you consider a publishers fiduciary responsibility to its authors. One has to wonder if the practice of coercing the right and than warehousing might be impairing the development of a new (competitive) technology and, in so doing, hurting consumers and authors.

As for the continuing saga of David vs Goliath, the Random House appeal of the lower court ruling in favor of RosettaBooks.com has now been argued in appellate court in front of a 3-judge panel, which is currently contemplating a ruling. Certainly nothing was said in the courtroom that changed the facts which lead the lower court to deny Random House’s request for an injunction against us the first time, so we’re confident we’ll come out with another favorable ruling. As for timing, we expect that it could take weeks or even months for the court to decide.

It is worth pointing out that when Random House attacked Rosetta, it really was attacking all authors who hold the electronic rights to their works. While the light might be shining on Rosetta in its role as “David” an army of authors really supports us and authors’ representatives as evidenced by the strong briefs filed on our behalf by the Author’s Guild and the AAR (Association of Authors Representatives.)

As for RosettaBooks.com, we’re operating as if we’ve won. Just because somebody says you’re wrong doesn’t mean that they are right—no matter how big they are. In this case we definitely don’t think they’re right. Random House has a lot of money with which to try and intimidate us. But, if you think you’re right you don’t change what your doing. The court’s ruling effectively said that there is no reason to change what we’re doing.

 

"I have often joked that the only two problems facing the eBook industry are supply and demand." —Richard Curtis

 

12. How effective are today’s eBook “readers” (hardware devices)? What hardware/software improvements do you see on the horizon?

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

I have often joked that the only two problems facing the eBook industry are supply and demand. For eBooks to take off we need a combination of factors. The right screen size screen size, bright screen lightning, attractive fonts, a comfortable price, multi-functionality, long battery life, and abundant content. It’s all coming together but we’re still waiting for that flash point. It happened for CDs, and last Christmas it happened for digital cameras. A day will come when it happens for eBooks. I will know it on the day I get on the subway and see someone reading a book on a handheld reader.

 

13. What changes and/or improvements do you foresee in the back-end distribution operations (digital rights 'management service bureaus) of eBooks? What impact will this have on the future of eBooks?

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

Electronic digital rights management companies such as Overdrive, and Lightning Source are building out their networks more completely. Systems get easier to use and more reliable.

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

The conventional publishing industry is mired in confusion over rights. Because every book contract is different–different term of copyright, different territory, different royalty, etc.–it’s very hard to create a fast-moving production line of content to be released into the eBook marketplace. New contracts are overcoming these problems and, as recently acquired books move through the system they will not be hobbled by digital rights management challenges made by authors, agents, and lawyers.

 

14. What staff additions or reductions are planned in your unit or company in 2002?

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

We have just completed a successful capital funding round in first quarter of 2002. We’re very happy about that [amount not disclosed].

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

E-Reads runs the tightest ship on the eBook sea. We have production under control, and we outsource every possible task to keep from becoming burdened by overhead. The most important addition E-Reads plans for the coming year is to hire someone to do promotion and marketing.

 

"We see a real significant sales increase this year." —Leo Dwyer

 

15. At your own imprint or division, what are the sales predictions (in percentages) for the first and second quarters of 2002, and for the year?

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

We see a real significant sales increase this year. We launched RosettaBooks.com in February last year. We spent the first 3 or 4 months after launch preoccupied with the Random House lawsuit, rather than focusing on distribution. Recently we listed 50 of our titles listed with Palm, and Gemstar will carry the bulk of our titles in the near future. It takes time. More quality titles are forthcoming. For example, we recently signed six Virginia Wolfe titles to our growing list.

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

In the last quarter of 2001 we took in about $25,000, which we split 50-50 with our authors. We are looking at a growth rate of 25% per quarter if all factors remain the same, meaning at least $200,000 in 2002. The more titles we put into distribution the sharper the upward curve. So, as revenues increase, production increases. And if the industry in general leaps forward dramatically, we will be in very, very good shape. But even if it doesn’t, we have survived the first turbulent round of industry growth.

 

16. What is your personal vision of eBook publishing within the next two, five, and ten years?

ED MARINO, LIGHTNING SOURCE:

My vision takes two pathways. First, today’s most practical model for POD is printing at the point of distribution, so we can take advantage of logistics and infrastructure to get books into consumers’ hands. In the future that’s not the only model. We envision many locations, not necessarily in stores. These sites would continue to improve service to consumers. Think of the eye care industry 20 years ago. What was the process like to get eyeglasses? First we got an eye exam, two weeks later we tried on our glasses, and yet another two weeks later we got our corrected lenses. Today we stop in at the mall, and an hour later we have glasses on demand. I’m not suggesting that every store or mall has a manufacturing facility, but the point of sale is conveniently located.

Twenty-five years ago it was common to wear contact lenses, but did any body hear of laser surgery? When technologies come into the marketplace they radically alter whole industries such as eye care. For some reason it hasn’t happened in the book business. But it’s going to happen. It will.

The second pathway is technological advancement. We will see this in vast improvements in the quality of the final product, and we will see it in such innovations as color in the interior of books.

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

What we need is a tipping point. We’re not there yet, but at some point the whole nature of how people get their books will change. One problem with the whole industry is the inability of people to project or imagine what can be. If you told me ten years ago that I’d be doing all my correspondence by e-mail, I’d have said, "you’re nuts." But when enough people had e-mail, everybody else had to sign on. The same thing happened with the fax machine. Nobody had faxes. They were too costly. Then in one year alone they sold three million fax machines, and everybody else had to have one. In the eBook industry, we’re still playing with the equivalent of an Apple computer built on a sheet of plywood in Steve Jobs’ garage. At some point over the next few years, the right device will be available—and it won’t be the screens and laptops you’re looking at now.

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

As a generation of youth matures that is comfortable accessing information and entertainment on handheld devices, we will see a steady increase in use of eBooks. The all-purpose nature of handhelds will carry the day. You may not buy a palm device to read books on. You may buy it to organize your life, to send and receive phone calls and e-mail, to listen to music, to play games, and to watch videos. But it will also carry books. It’s easy to imagine going to a foreign city and using your handheld to access a GPS street map and an audiovisual museum guide, a video preview of the restaurant you’ll be going to, and then display a novel at the end of the day when you go back to your hotel and kick off your shoes.

KELLY LEONARD, AOL TIME WARNER BOOK GROUP:

It’s my goal to help book lovers understand and appreciate that they can read eBooks and bound books with equal gusto and pleasure. Reading a book electronically does not take away that “warm, fuzzy” feeling one gets while reading a compelling narrative and beloved author. Bound book reading and eBook reading are different experiences just like watching a movie on video in your living room and going to the movies in a theater are two separate, but equally enjoyable experiences. I confess as a 15-year book publishing veteran, I was an eBook naysayer myself initially but that’s changed—I was so engrossed reading the eBook of UP COUNTRY by Nelson DeMille on my Palm Pilot this morning I missed my stop getting off the bus on the way to work.

 

"Digital technology is altering the landscape of the publishing sector . . ." —Ed Marino

 

17. What do you believe to be the most positive development for eBooks and/or print-on-demand publishing within the past year, and in the coming few years?

LEO DWYER, ROSETTABOOKS.COM:

If e-rights are allowed to flow in a liquid marketplace, free from control by physical publishers, we predict we will see the tipping point for electronic publishing sooner rather than latter. If the physical houses control all eBook rights, the content that schools want and need for the new generation of reading devices will not arrive in the classroom when it’s needed. But if eBook publishers have the content already assembled and ready to go at a reasonable price, it will be a whole different world within five years.

RICHARD CURTIS, E-READS:

In an odd way, the failure of several eBook ventures can be seen as a positive development because it helped us to see which business models work and which don’t. History seems to indicate that the hares don’t always win the race; the tortoises learn the course by watching the front-runners, learning from their mistakes, and adjusting their pace to the terrain. We’ve seen some spectacular collapses in the last year, and the survivors now have a better idea of what’s possible and realistic. I think of E-Reads as one of the tortoises, or perhaps as a marathon runner pacing himself for the long haul. No one invested in us, so we have had to use our resources more prudently than companies that launched with a splash, attracted millions of funding, and threw the money away. One of my associates compared us to the single girl who knows where all the free food and drinks are on a Saturday night. Now we hope to reap the rewards of our conservative development, and to share the benefits with authors.

ED MARINO, LIGHTNING SOURCE

It’s all about the digital wave. Digital technology is altering the landscape of the publishing sector, providing publishers new methodologies and options of getting books to market.

The future is not about product or packaging ¾ but process. The future is about educating and altering mindsets in coming full circle in our digital world. Book industry participants continue to shift and react daily to technological advances that boost publishing profitability, and alter previous non-digital thought processes that once were set in stone. Some publishers are reacting to the digital wave, migrating to digital asset management systems and altering their infrastructures to accommodate cutting edge publishing technology. With digital, publishers enjoy a new flexibility to meet the needs of the market.

Why wouldn’t publishers go along for the ride? Digital technology provides publishers choice—choice for greater profitability.