Friday, June 25, 2010

 Publishing Industry Holds Breath Over Electronic Books

The end of books? Jamie Byng, founder of Canongate Books, with Apple’s iPad

Kindles, iPads and electronic books: for once the hyperbole surrounding the massive structural shift in the book trade rings true. “This is the biggest upheaval since Gutenberg [invented the printing press],” says Tom Holland, writer and chairman of the Society of Authors.

The genteel world of publishing rarely lends itself to such rash statements, but the excitement and fear is almost unprecedented since the beginning of the book printing industry. As Jamie Byng, the founder of Canongate Books, publisher of Booker Prize-winner Life of Pi, puts it: “It’s like the bloody Wild West at the moment.”

The cause of the turbulence is the move towards publishing books for online download.

So far, sales of electronic books – or ebooks – in the UK have not even scraped 1 per cent of market share, while even in the forward-thinking US they have reached only 5-6 per cent. Yet as digital publishing is almost universally acknowledged as the future of the book, the publishing industry is braced for a massive upheaval.

Financial Times - the above is an excerpt only. You need to be registered with the FT to read the full piece, registration is free.

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