Blair truth about publishing: The future of the (digital) book

In an earlier post, I promised you a monthly column by publishing whiz and company president Carolyn. May slipped past us this time while Carolyn was attending Book Expo America (BEA) in the big apple, but she’s back this month to update us that was going on there. BEA–the premier event for publishing industry pros–is where you have to track the trends in book publishing.

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For me, this year’s Book Expo America was technical overload. Rather than buy the argument that the digital age means the destruction of the physical book, I prefer to believe that this is an exciting time  in publishing.

When someone from Voyager Japan Inc., a mobile phone app company, announced during a BEA panel discussion that they sold more than $600 million e-books last year–with 80% of those to Japanese women in their twenties–I began to envision the possibilities of expanding the small number of  leisure-time readers we have in this world. Sure, those women were reading Manga comics on the subway, but who says smaller publishers can’t find the next Manga comic fad? Just as  Harry Potter books torpedoed the theory that young males were not readers, I think the digital age is going to bring a whole new audience to our industry.

And with that new audience comes new products. Two in particular  caught my eye at BEA.

The first is Google Editions, Google’s forthcoming online e-book store  set to open in mid-summer. Purchases made at the universal-access bookstore will be stored online and linked to a customer’s Google account. Google Editions is giving independent booksellers an opportunity to participate in e-book sales, which is good news for us.  I like that Google is going to make it relatively simple for publishers without expensive IT staff to have a relatively level playing field in the e-book market.

But there’s another product coming out this summer, this time with the brains of Ray Kruzweil behind it. From Baker and Taylor, Blio e-reader software is also making it easy for smaller publishers to participate in the e-book craze. Blio can preserve a book’s printed format, including layout, fonts, and images true to the book’s original form, and in color. If you haven’t seen a Blio demo yet, take a look at this to see where electronic reading devices are heading:

Times are certainly changing in our industry, and we’re still testing the waters to see what works and what doesn’t.  I hope you hang on for the ride.

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