More Signs of the Publishing eRevolution

07.27.07 | Comment?

Two articles caught my eye today during my morning skimming of feeds. First, GalleyCat reports on a proposal for a radical realignment in how university presses operate . The proposal suggests that universities leverage their material into searchable, online collections. The report suggests that these works could be sliced and diced into smaller segments of information so that consumers don’t have to buy an entire book when they’re only interested in a particular piece of information. It’s a fascinating proposal, but speaking as an e-publisher I can safely say that it’s also more easily said than done. Not all types of books can be broken down so easily, and trying to made each part of a work stand on its own can (in some cases) ruin the strength of the work as a whole. Still, for other types of books this may very well make great sense.

The other piece of news that caught my eye was new information about the Cybook e-reader posted at MobileRead.com. The Cybook is being touted as a gen-3 device, but I’m only familiar with one previous generation of e-ink. Then again, who am I to argue? The third generation  e-ink technology in question is called Vizplex, which promises faster page “turns” (i.e. screen refreshes) and even better contrast. In terms of form factor, the Cybook reminds me of Sony’s E-Reader. It’s thin, it’s lightweight, and it has a 6 inch screen. Sigh. It looks like my dream of a reader device the size of a hardback or trade paperback will have to be denied a while longer. On the other hand, it says you could use the device for up to a month on a single battery charge. The other good news is that the new device will support Mobiepocket format (which is great news, since Mobiepocket was recently purchased by Amazon and thus book selection won’t be a problem), as well as PDF, HTML, RTF, TXT. The only downside? No new industry standard e-pub format, unless they’re rolling that into “html”.

So, take these two pieces of news together and what do we have? Well, certainly a critical mass of consumers using a portable e-book reader could benefit university presses as much as commercial publishers. Speaking of the education market, I’m there there are many students (both k-12 and higher ed) who would love to be able to carry their textbooks around in single lightweight device instead of slogging around like Sherpas with 15 pounds of wood pulp on their backs. I’ve read that textbook publishers like to use their own proprietary formats, and with the high price of textbooks I’m sure they are DRM laden. I’ll have to do some research on what types of formats e-textbooks use, and how they’re bought and sold. Can any of my readers enlighten me?

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