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Baby Steps for Publishers

publishing, booksTraditional publishers are stepping into the digital universe on their own. It might not be enough to make a dent in sales of e-books on Amazon, but publishers are beginning to move beyond books printed on paper to ones stored in the cloud. Baby steps, as an article said.

Penguin Books, according to a report in TechCrunch, is “making Pelican e-books available to read online in the browser, on any device you fancy. So much like Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader, but trailing in its wake by three years.” The article goes on to say, “Readers visiting pelicanbooks.com on any device can sample one of the books by reading a chapter for free online. Or they can pay £4.99 to be able to read the entire book in the browser. So it’s kicking off with a freemium model.”

The Pelican imprint is one that Penguin had discontinued in the 1980s, but was re-launched as a digital imprint. There are a limited number of titles, however. Unlike, say, with Amazon’s digital library.

Another big publisher, HarperCollins, has entered into an arrangement with JetBlue to offer free downloads of some of its books, to passengers with the airline. A press release from the publisher says, “Beginning today, customers on JetBlue flights equipped with Fly-Fi, the inflight Wi-Fi, will be able to read excerpts from more than twenty bestselling books published by HarperCollins.” It’s only excerpts – customers can then click to buy one of the books from a variety of retailers (though presumably not the publisher itself)

So publishers are experimenting with digital delivery, and fairly reasonable e-book pricing, and reaching out to readers with digital excerpts. It may not do much against the dominance of Amazon, a company publishers loathe and fear in equal measure, but it takes a while for old ways of thinking to evolve.

In any case, what about publishers’ relationships with independent booksellers? They’ll continue, of course, but at this point, but publishers will doubtless concentrate more and more on the e-book and electronic retailing.

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