An effort to conclude this series with an overview of “other” critical players in the e-books space has revealed, once again, that the book publishing industry is undergoing a revolution impacted not only by large corporate forces based far from the New York publishing world, but by feisty, independent innovators created, grown, and flourishing on the ubiquitous web.
E-Readers from Sony, et al. In addition to Apple’s notoriously slick, fully web-enabled, and full-color iPad; Amazon’s Kindle; and Barnes & Noble’s nook, numerous other devices exist in the U.S. and abroad that can be loaded with digital documents, publications, and books of all sorts.
Sony now offers three versions of its Reader: the Touch Edition, the 3G wireless Daily Edition, and the Pocket Edition, currently ranging in price from $150 to $300. One of the biggest differences in the comparably sized Sony Reader to the Amazon Kindle 2 or the B&N nook: the Reader’s lack of wireless capability. One of the biggest Sony advantages, however, regardless of Reader edition, is its support of the PDF and ePUB formats, which allows consumers to access titles not only via the Sony Reader Store, but from more than one million free public domain titles via Google Books and other sites—and from public libraries.
Other handheld e-readers in production or currently in market include the:
Google Books…and Editions While Google Books hasn’t been in the headlines a great deal since the Google Books settlement, that’s due to change. Currently anyone with a web-enabled computer or handheld device “can search over the full text of some seven million books” via Google Books, access free public domain titles, and learn about availability of copyrighted titles at bookstores and libraries.
Very soon, however, Google Books will make millions of out-of-print books downloaded into the Google Library also “available for preview, reading and purchase in the U.S.” through Google Editions. While these books may be copyrighted, their current status as out-of-print makes them generally unavailable. Copyright owners will have the option to make their out-of-print titles available for preview and/or purchase via Google Editions or to “turn off” such options.
Books currently copyrighted and in-market, including bestsellers, will also be listed on Google Books either for preview or purchase (or both) via Google Editions, depending on copyright owners’ individual, by-title, offerings.
Also revolutionary will be the access Google Books will offer to library collections across the country. Public libraries, universities, and other organizations will be able to buy institutional subscriptions that will give patrons, students, faculty, and other personnel access to “the complete text of millions of titles while compensating authors and publishers for the service.” This tremendous electronic library will “combine the collections from many of the top universities across the country.”
Since Google Editions books will be read on web browsers, the web-enabled devices used to “download” and read such digital files will not matter. As Evan Schnittman, vice president of global business development for Oxford University Press, was quoted as saying in The Wall Street Journal, “This levels the retail playing field….[publishers] won’t have to think about audiences based on devices.”
E-Books Buzz and Beyond While the buzz around a printed book certainly impacts sales, an e-book may very well live or die by the amount of on-line buzz it generates. We’ve already featured the social publishing site Scribd, and have since discovered another social e-book resource—Wattpad.
Established in 2006, Wattpad is touted as the world’s most popular e-book community. With its far-reaching, international bent, it offers titles in 20 (!) languages and has members from multiple countries. Wattpad members submit stories, read others’ works, and share their feedback, even voting for favorites in order to move them up in Wattpad ratings, which are also impacted by Facebook Likes and Twitter Tweets. Writers can add tags to their stories, poems, novel segments, or screenplays to help others locate their writings, then promote their work on-line via their blogs or Facebook or Twitter accounts.
Online fiction writing has taken off so much that MediaBistro’s eBookNewser site now features a regular Digital Writer Spotlight as well as a Best Online Fiction Writers directory. Writers are recommended by editors from social digital writing sites such as Wattpad. Other similar sites include TopWebFiction for fantasy, sci-fi, modern fiction, and young adult, as well as Fictionaut for literary short stories, poetry, flash fiction, and novel excerpts.
Fictinoaut states its mission is to “bring the social web to literary fiction.” Founded in 2008, the site is described by its founder and editor, Jürgen Fauth (also an editor at of Mississippi Review) as “both a social network for readers and writers and an emergent magazine where every member is also an editor.” Fauth explains the site “relies on collaborative filtering mechanisms to draw attention to work that is worth your time,” adding that “any member can post stories or poems to the front page, and a recommendation algorithm creates a list of community favorites.” Favorites that can launch a writer’s career and sell a lot of books, regardless of format.