Publishers still dragging their feet on e-books

Paul St. John Mackintosh’s recent post on the Guardian’s eco-unfriendly book review process brought to mind a recent article on Wired’s Underwire blog, by Rachel Edidin, venting her frustration at wandering Book Expo America accumulating increasing stacks of paper book swag that they would have to carry home with them, and nary an e-book in sight.

“I have to carry this home,” I tell a publicist trying to thrust a hefty hardcover at me. “Are you on NetGalley? Can you give me a download code instead? If I give you my card, can you send me a PDF after the show?” She stares at me like I’ve just asked her to strip down in the middle of the Javits Center.

Even though readers are embracing e-books in droves, Edidin writes, publishers are still dragging their heels. In fact, this reads like it could have been written several years ago, as she discusses publisher reticence to get backlist titles into e-print, and charging high prices for new-release books.

Of course, she points out, there are problems inherent to the format itself. E-book formatting can be unfriendly to the format of words on paper, and since every major bookstore has its own competing standard, publishers have to release everything in three different formats, rather than just one. There are companies that exist to do this sort of conversion, but it’s still a complicated process.

I will say that I’m not surprised at all the foot-dragging. After all, publishers have been dragging their feet on e-books for fifteen years, why would they stop now?

About Chris Meadows (4149 Articles)
TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows has been writing for us--except for a brief interruption--since 2006. Son of two librarians, he has worked on a third-party help line for Best Buy and holds degrees in computer science and communications. He clearly personifies TeleRead's motto: "For geeks who love books--and book-lovers who love gadgets." Chris lives in Indianapolis and is active in the gamer community.

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