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Mythconceptions: A reality check on e-Books from the publisher’s POV

SNCR Research Brief, about 2000 words

Special to The New Communications Review

Copyright © 2009 by Danny O. Snow

In late 2009, the long anticipated migration of periodicals from print to Web is undeniably underway. Major daily newspapers including the Christian Science Monitor are already replacing unprofitable (and environmentally unfriendly) print editions with leaner, greener, more timely online distribution. As much as newsprint is a beloved institution, most informed observers agree that the transition from paper-n-ink to bits-n-bytes for newspapers and magazines makes good sense in today’s world — and certainly in tomorrow’s. It’s a better match between form and content.

In the book world too, the word on the street these days is e-Books, e-Books, and more e-Books. The scuttlebutt among book publishers is that they must rapidly jump on the e-Book bandwagon, or risk getting left in the dust. Having observed how record labels were blindsided by music downloading over the last decade, most book publishers are taking this risk seriously.

One motive for publishers to embrace e-Books is that sales are growing exponentially. “Convert from print to digital distribution,” they hear, “and tap a booming new market while earning as much per copy as you did with tree-Books… maybe more!” But early adopters are now learning that this widely circulated notion may be overstated for the moment, as reported below.

Likewise, book publishers are told that the emerging e-Book industry standard EPUB format is a kind of silver bullet. “Convert your production files from PDF to EPUB,” they hear, “and your books will almost magically become marketable for reading on nearly every conceivable electronic device from the Kindle to the iPhone, and everything in between!” Like the misconception that e-Books are rapidly supplanting tree-Books in the marketplace, in 2009 the full promise of EPUB is still unrealized.

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