Torin Douglas, BBC media correspondent hosted a discussion this morning at the London Book Fair in Earls Court on ebooks with contributions from Gail Rebuck, CEO Random House, Tim Hely-Hutchinson, CEO Hachette Livre UK, Victoria Barnsley, CEO HarperCollins UK and John Makinson, CEO Penguin Group.
Getting these publishing CEO luminaries together did not achieve wholesale consensus – more mixed levels of enthusiasm and caution. There was agreement that ebooks are becoming steadily more important and publishers need to seriously look at electronic sales and beyond the sacred sale of the paper product.
In fact, you walked away from the discussion with more questions and the feeling, certainly from UK publishers, that ebooks seem to represent a real challenge for them, particularly in the area of pricing and piracy. There just seems to be a sense of a development ‘timelag’ with publishers on this side of the pond in dealing with the ebook market and they seem content to sit back and watch their US counterparts make what positive running there is. Granted, technology and the availability of particular e-readers in Europe and less percentage download sales have had a strong bearing on this inertia.
The self-publishing fraternity in the UK may already be looking upon the departing masses from the Cromwell Hall at Earls Court this lunchtime with a wry but laboured smile on their faces. They have had to grapple with ebook sales by necessity rather than pure sales invention.
UPDATE – WED 22nd – Digital Zone & Sony Ereader Format
see Ohmynews International Science & Technology widens debate about UK Choice.
And also IBS Bookmaster’s poll of publishers about book digitisation reveals only half of publishers have any such plans as reported by thebookseller.com