Saturday, January 13, 2007

HarperCollins Embracing Digital Technology

Today's post comes from this morning's Wall Street Journal (WSJ):

Eager to tap into what it thinks will be a growing market for the digitization of books, News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers has bought an equity stake in a company that digitizes, electronically warehouses and distributes books via the Web.

HarperCollins has also decided to license its internally developed digital technology for use by rival publishers, giving HarperCollins the ability to influence the digital revolution sweeping the book industry.

HarperCollins (HC) was one of the first publishing houses to fully embrace digital technology.

I first blogged about HarperCollins and its move to create its new "Browse-Inside" initiative on August 24, 2006. The feature, similar to Amazon's "search inside," permits readers to search the HC titles at here. HarperCollins started with their better-known authors, but has plans to expand the service to include all its titles.

The developer of the technology behind Browse-Inside, Libre Digital, also offered the service to all book publishers." Back in August, they announced the LibreDigital Warehouse "that allows publishers to offer their catalogs and titles to online consumers for browsing while maintaining control over the display and access to content." (Publishers Weekly)

At that time, I asked the question: Does this sound like a company poised to take advantage of publishers' mistrust of Google's book scanning program? Craig Miller, the general manager of LibreDigital, freely admitted it. Miller pushed his program, saying his company will give publishers greater control and better quality than Google.

Now HarperCollins has announced it purchased "an equity stake in NewsStand, Inc., a closely held Web concern whose businesses include LibreDigital" (WSJ). The Wall Street Journal talked to Brian Murray, group president of HarperCollins. HC has digitized 12,000 of its own titles and put 2,000 of these online.

Publishers Weekly also addressed this story in their Friday edition:

Through the alliance, HarperCollins and LibreDigital will offer publishers end-to-end digital services in discrete, modular segments, including digital typesetting, production, digital warehousing, Internet distribution and online marketing. Publishers can select a combination of HarperCollins proprietary electronic typesetting and digital workflow tools with LibreDigital's proprietary digitization, digital warehousing, and Internet display and distribution technologies.

I know there are writers who continue to blow off the e-publishing revolution, saying it is going nowhere. I listened to one of those writers recently at a meeting of one of my writers' groups. I think these naysayers are wrong. I'll say it again. The only thing holding the e-publishing back from swamping the industry and changing it forever is the lack of a viable reading device. Following the release of Apple's iPhone, I wonder if that company will be the one to bring a successful reader to market. Sony's new reading device fell short.

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