Posts Tagged ‘future of publishing’

Enhanced E-books

August 24, 2010

Just when you thought you were beginning to understand what an e-book was, along comes “enhanced e-books.” These are e-book editions that are being “enriched” with multimedia content. These kinds of books (or whatever they are) were unavailable as long as there were only e-book reading devices like the Kindle that handled text only files. But now that we have the iPad and other multimedia tablet knockoffs on the way, the door is wide open for all sorts of “content enrichments.”

Publication of enhanced editions seems to have begun with  the release of an enhanced version of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth   on July 20 of this year.  It   coincided with the television mini-series and includes content from that series. It has material about the characters in the show, an author interview, music from the 12th century, and behind the scenes material. The edition is available at the iPad store.

Not to be outdone,  on July 29 Simon and Schuster issued  an enhanced edition of  Rick Perlstein’s  Nixonland. Embedded in the text are news clips of the Nixon-Kennedy Debates, the death of Martin Luther King, and of course, all things Watergate.

Every major publisher seems to have joined the bandwagon and are making daily announcements of  enhanced e-book editions.

It’s pretty hard to predict how this will play out by next month,  let alone  next year. But we can expect to see such enhancements as: cooking demonstrations in cookbooks, author interviews in reading book editions, film clips in history books (like Nixonland) and all sorts of ways of exploiting media spin-offs. I wonder whether psychological self-help books will have clips of the psychotherapist-author sitting at his leather chair and thoughtfully rubbing his chin while staring out at the reader   and saying: ” Hmm. I see.”

The creative possibilities are infinite. Ask the Agent will let the reader decide whether this opens up a brave new world of literary enrichment or whether we will descend into a McCluhan-esque inferno.  I’m a little concerned that I won’t be able to sit down and read the newest translation of  Cervantes’ immortal Don Quixote, without  having to listen to  Andy Williams singing The Impossible Dream  in the backround.

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Kindle Sales Are Soaring

July 20, 2010

According to Amazon.com, the Kindle edition e-books  have outsold hardbacks  for the last 3 months.   During this period Amazon said it sold 143 Kindle edition books for every 100 hardbacks. These figures don’t include the hundreds of thousands of public domain kindle downloads that are given away for free.

This is a pretty impressive figure and is indicative of the meteoric increase in e-book sales. The Association of American Publishers has stated that e-book sales are up 400% through May  over same period last year.

There appears to be a little spin going on.  Amazon’s earnings  are due out this week, so the company is putting  forward an optimistic report. What isn’t mentioned is the number of Kindle editions sold relative to sales of paperbacks.  One can only assume that paperbacks continue to outsell the e-books. But one must still be impressed about the growth of e-book sales.

On another note, there is an extremely thought-provoking article   in The Nation by Colin Robinson, co-founder of the progressive publisher OR Books   Robinson argues that the vast selection of books on Amazon has the paradoxical effect of reducing choice. He cites the book, The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz which argues that when consumers are faced with too much choice they tend to fall back on what is safe and what is being highly promoted. Robinson believes that this, in part, is what is causing publishers to abandon the mid-list books to focus on the siren song of the blockbuster bestseller. Robinson has been a major figure in progressive publishing, first as publisher of Verso Books and then New Press. His new venture, OR Books, is one of the few publishers that does not sell through Amazon. This article is worth thinking about.