The ebook question
As a book publicist, I spend a fair amount of time pondering ebooks. Will ebooks really catch on? (For all the talk about ebooks, anecdotally, I’d say pretty much, well, no one actually owns an ereader.) How much should publishers charge for them? Will the “iTunes of ebooks” emerge or will we still be reading ebooks in half a dozen formats? Will publishers continue to struggle with DRM (Digital Rights Management) to protect files from being pirated or will we throw caution to the wind? When will book publicists be able to promote upcoming titles with egalleys and ebooks? How do booksellers feel about ebooks? Why can you preorder thousands of (tree) books on Amazon, but when it comes to Kindle books — which would seem like natural candidates for preorders — only 118 not-yet-published titles are available? These are the issues that keep me up at night. (Actually, nothing keeps me up at night as my college roommate will attest, but that line sounded good.)
At any rate, these are the issues that are keeping a lot of people up during the day. Last week on Talk of the Nation, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg debated the cultural effect of the Kindle. And All Things Considered considered DRM. On Monday, Oxford University Press executive Evan Schnittman (quoted in the ATC story) posted about the economics of ebook publishing on his new blog Black Plastic Glasses and tackled a question oft bandied about by ebook fanatics: why aren’t ebooks free? The piece was picked up in short order by Teleread and GalleyCat and garnered dozens of comments.
Meanwhile, as publishers and readers work through the thorny issues that have hamstrung digital publishing — and while we all await Apple’s rumored ereader — don’t forget your Smell of Books. (And no, this is not an April’s Fools Joke. Or is it.)