The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

The future is (maybe) now

Yesterday, after a 15K race, a hair cut (apparently my cut hair weighs 0.6 pounds, thank you very much) and an unfulfilled trip to Best Buy’s Geek Squad (Apple is looking better and better), I was lazing about on the couch, catching up on old episodes of Gossip Girl and 24 (yes — I watch both shows, which I realize is only slightly less bizarre than admitting I was riveted by both the series finale of Battlestar Galactica and the world premiere of Nora Robert’s Northern Lights).  I was, at the same time, attempting to sort through the stories in my RSS reader (which numbered 11,000+ a couple days ago.  Apparently it might not be such a good idea to try to follow more than 300 blogs when you’re holding a full-time job that does not consist of following blogs.)

Over the past month, Teleread, my favorite ebook blog, has posted numerous pieces about the new Kindle, Amazon’s iPhone Kindle application, the Sony / Google partnership and more.  It hit me, as I read one of their stories about digital newspapers, that this is something we fantasized about years ago.  When Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban opened in 2004, we oohed and ahed over The Daily Prophet, delivered to magicians (in real time and with “flash,” i.e., animation, to boot) on a piece of parchment.  Experts predicted we’d have that soon too — news delivered daily on a tablet screen.  Welcome to the Kindle.  Or the New York Times application for the iPhone.  How fast time flies.

Speaking of flying, for those of you new to the Twitter scene, some fellow by the name of James Bridle is at least a year ahead of you: he’s published My Life in Tweets.  Then there’s the Twitter story begun a week ago, featuring dragons (as best I can tell).

We’re at a crossroads in book publishing — ereaders are gaining popularity, yet digital publishing is bogged down by pricing, format and DRM (Digital Rights Management) issues.  On the publicity end, reviewers are beginning to ask for electronic review copies and publishing houses are starting to work with companies like NetGalley, yet the process of getting ebooks to reviewers remains cumbersome and plagued with fears that electronic material can easily be pirated.  (Providing reviewers with ebooks does not simply save time, money and space — ebooks can also facilitate the review process since they are searchable.)  Faced with both improved and increasingly accepted technology on the one hand, as well as thorny distribution issues on the other, now is the time for authors, publishing houses and journalists to collaborate — to share ideas and suggestions so we all can continue to promote reading and literature.

March 23, 2009 - Posted by | ebooks, review copies | ,

9 Comments »

  1. First a question, if you don’t mind answering, what was your time for the race?

    I think I dreamed of some sort of published medium different than paper when I was reading all those Star Wars books. Flimsiplast they called it, a plastic like material that now makes me think of the new ebook reader being developed by Plastic Logic. I doubt it will be a Kindle Killer, but they’ll compete, I’m sure.

    I’ve been using NetGalley for about a year or so and love the concept. When they add some better content I might use them more. They did say in an interview that they’re working on some sort of DRM feature that will allow them to work with more publishers and make their galleys more accessible, but I’m still waiting for that to happen.

    Meanwhile, I’m going to sit back and wait for the dust to settle on the e-reader. Sony vs. Kindle vs. ??? sounds just too much like Beta vs. VHS and HD DVD vs. BluRay DVD.

    Comment by TK42ONE | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  2. Would love e-galleys. Easier for you and less clutter for me. The finished book as hardcover is plenty of paper!

    Comment by MavenLady | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  3. Race time was 1:17:17 — a bit slower than my half marathon PR, but not a bad race!

    Comment by Yen | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  4. I refuse to accept printed review copies. For several months, such offers were all over Twitter (I guess for the Xmas buying season?). I kept asking if the ARCs/review copies were in electronic format. None were. So I refused.

    I have enough printed books in my life. I won’t buy any more. I use the NYPL to borrow until these are eBooks I can finally buy.

    I don’t think the publishing industry realizes the changes this “recession” (read: Depression) is going to force on them. When people wake up to the BULK of print, they’ll rebel. And really, try a yard sale with books. Most wind up getting thrown out. Even public libraries won’t accept them now, even with massive acquisition budget cuts. They don’t have the manpower to deal with the used free books.

    There are many ways ARCs can be distinguished from final formatted for-sale eBooks. With the right forethought, each one can be watermarked with the recipient’s name, to trace the idiots who dare to spread them around (such idiots who cannot make a convincing claim for theft of a device can then be blacklisted). I’ll gladly accept eARCs, but not pARCs.

    Enough with print:
    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/the-horror-of-paper-books/

    Comment by Mike Cane | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  5. As a book reviewer, I’m interested in e-galleys, though I don’t have an e-book reader, and I do most of my reading when I’m away from a computer. (On the train, mostly, or during lunch.) But to paraphrase Faulkner, between a PDF and nothing, I’ll take a PDF—what’s most important for me is that I have the text to work with. And like many reviewers, I’m sure I’ll break down and get a Kindle or other e-book reader.

    That said, I really like having a hard copy of any book that I enjoy or see some long-term value in owning, because I simply don’t trust the Kindle (or any platform) to exist in ten years’ time, giving me access in perpetuity to all the books I’ve purchased or received. I never have to worry about what file format a physical book is in; I always will with an e-book, and the technology will always change. (I’ve asked this before: How easily can you get hold of e-mails you wrote ten years ago?)

    Now, that’s my problem as a reader, not yours as a publicist—you just have to make sure the file functions properly during the PR cycle of the book you’re working. But I suspect that the resistence you’ll get on e-galleys partly stems from a fear that we won’t have a permanent copy of a book we love without having to (horrors!) pay for it.

    Comment by Mark Athitakis | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  6. TK42ONE I guess we can’t have the porn industry decide the Sony vs Kindle issue like the HD DVD vs. BluRay was decided.

    Comment by Brandy W | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  7. I’m easy…I’ll take either e-copy or print but now that I have a Kindle2, it’s easier to just upload and take along with me.🙂

    Comment by Mad | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  8. Mike – I love the idea of a watermark for the eARC. It’s so easy for PDFs too.

    Brandy – Who knows, maybe Larry Flynt is making his own e-book reader platform. But I’d be afraid to ask him what it looks like and what the features are.

    Comment by TK42ONE | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  9. Yes and No. Yes, because I love reading new books and can’t get enough. No, because as of yet I don’t own a ereader and am stuck to computer. I prefer print books over ebooks.

    Comment by Keira | March 24, 2009 | Reply


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