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Publishing adjusts to digital age

Friday, August 19, 2011 - 02:53

Aug. 19 - Authors and publishers alike are moving to embrace electronic plaforms, but some worry the rush to e-publish is resulting in the triumph of quantity over quality. Kirsty Basset reports.

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With Amazon now selling more e-books than physical books, it's no surprise writers and publishers are moving to digital platforms. British author Stephen Leather, who's sold around 300,000 e-books, spotted the trend early. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AUTHOR STEPHEN LEATHER SAYING: "I read a press release about the Kindle, this new e-reader, where someone had said the Kindle was about to become the most gifted Christmas present ever. That on Christmas 2010, more Kindles would be given to people than any other present. And it suddenly occurred to me that meant on Christmas Day you would have millions of people looking to buy books." His intuition paid off - that Christmas his e-book titles shot to numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5 on the UK Kindle bestseller list. On that day alone he sold 7,500 copies, keeping in some cases up to 70 per cent of the royalties. Traditional publishers are also taking note. Richard Mollet is Chief Executive of the Publisher's Association in Britain. (SOUNDBITE)(English) CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION, RICHARD MOLLET SAYING: "E-readers are a fantastic opportunity for publishing houses to achieve a new audience, to achieve new distribution in the digital age. We're seeing incredible market penetration of those readers. I think there's various estimates of how many people in the UK have them, but we know our consumer digital sales have risen by 300 per cent, or over 300 per cent last year. So this is an exciting new market." He doesn't see it as a zero sum game - but believes e-books and physical books will co-exist. (SOUNDBITE)(English) CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION, RICHARD MOLLET SAYING: "Most of the people we talk to, and our members talk to are still very much in favour of having the physical book and I think that's going to be with us for quite a while to come." Nonetheless, publishers are experimenting with new concepts that take advantage of e-reader capabilities. (SOUNDBITE)(English) CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION, RICHARD MOLLET SAYING: "This goes way beyond an e-book and has all sorts of enhanced audio-visual features." Now almost anyone can become an author in just a few clicks. But that's not necessarily a good thing. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AUTHOR STEPHEN LEATHER SAYING: "At the moment it's a bit like the Klondike goldrush, where there's all these cheap books, all these writers. Every writer there is who's written a book, who's out it in his bottom drawer, or kept it on his hard drive is now taking it out, dusting it down, putting it up as an e-book. And it doesn't matter whether they're good or bad." Publishers, long the guardians of literary quality control, say their role remains as important as ever in the digital age. And with forecasts of more than 16 million e-readers being shipped around the world this year - a 24 percent increase on last year - the publishing world will no doubt be kept very busy. Kirsty Basset, Reuters.

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Publishing adjusts to digital age

Friday, August 19, 2011 - 02:53