The team of directors spearheading a university press-branded consortium to sell collections of ebooks to academic libraries—Steve Maikowski, New York University Press; Eric Halpern, University of Pennsylvania Press; Alex Holzman, Temple University Press; and Marlie Wasserman, Rutgers University Press—is pleased to announce a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for $47,000, to be used to advance the venture toward its fall 2011 launch. Fifty-five university presses have expressed a strong interest in participating in this project. Managers at many of these presses understand that the separate efforts of individual presses are an inefficient solution to the challenge of disseminating university press ebooks to academic libraries. By working together to achieve efficiencies of scale, presses that join the consortium will put the needs of the scholarly community as a whole at the top of the agenda.
At a time when print book sellers like Barnes & Noble are in retreat, digital books on the iPad and Kindle hold a lot of hope for keeping books alive in the digital age. But so far most of the titles are just digital versions of printed books, with maybe a video or two thrown in. Slowly, however, as new capabilities are added to these digital books and they are linked to the living Web, some books will become more than just books.
One company experimenting with the form is Vook. Started by Brad Inman, who previously founded TurnHere and HomeGain, Vooks are electronic books sold in versions for the iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, and the browser. They generally incorporate video, sometimes produced by one of the TurnHere network’s 10,000 freelance videographers, but up until now they didn’t go much beyond that in terms of presenting a new experience.
In its next to last quarter as the owner of Newsweek, the Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO) wouldn’t be releasing details about the magazine’s performance in Q2, though its did likely improve slightly based on the most recent Publishers Information Bureau figures, which showed ad pages up 2.9 percent. There was a hint of how bad things were for the mag, as for the first six months of 2010, WaPo reported $9 million in discontinued operations, which was what Newsweek was counted as (in Q2, the discontinued losses were $2.3 million). Elsewhere, WaPo did have a lot more details about the mixed picture at its newspaper division and its healthy online ad growth.
At least at first sight, there are three reasons why the development of e-book markets is much slower in continental Europe than in the USA. Firstly, there is no European Amazon. The reason for this is quite obvious: thanks to linguistic diversity, there are no online retailers that could sell and distribute all the books published in all the European languages in the same way that Amazon distributes and sells almost all books published in English. Furthermore, many European online retailers are owned or controlled by bricks and mortar booksellers that are not interested in putting a question mark after the classical bookselling business model. As a result, not a single online retailer in continental Europe has either the interest or enough financial resources to jump into the e-book business in the same way that Amazon and B&N have done in the USA.