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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 14:35 GMT
E-book revolution moves slowly
E-books are no threat to books, yet
Sales of electronic books, or e-books, continue to grow despite many publishers shutting down their e-book divisions.

Publishing giants Random House and AOL Time Warner have shut down their e-book divisions and many in the industry were predicting the death of the new medium.

But the e-market continues to expand and while annual numbers for individual publishers remain small, US publishers Simon & Schuster, St. Martin's Press, HarperCollins and others report at least 10% growth over the past year.

"Publishing houses are still very much watching how this is unfolding," says Patricia Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers (AAP).


"This is a nation that always over-hypes technology in the beginning and then overreacts in the other direction," she said.

E-publishing is the key theme of the AAP's annual conference, which starts Thursday.

Publishers report sales in the thousands for titles as diverse as Webster's New World College Dictionary, fiction by Stephen King and Lisa Scottolini and business and self-help publications.

HarperCollins, which has just marked the first anniversary of its global e-book imprint, PerfectBound, releases less than 10% of its catalogue in electronic form.

"We're not just dumping thousands of titles out into the marketplace," said David Steinberger, HarperCollins' president of corporate strategy and international business.

Digital rights

The commitment to e-books can be measured by the lawsuit Random House filed last year against Rosetta Books, a start-up online company that offers digital versions of many books that predated the electronic era.

Random House, supported by the AAP and other publishers, argues digital rights are implicit in author contracts.

But last year, a federal judge in New York ruled that the right to print, publish and sell in book form the works in the contracts at issue did not include the right to publish them in the electronic format.

The case is under appeal but if Rosetta Books wins, electronic rights to countless old books could become available.

"This has a lot of people on alert about backlist rights," says Jeff Gomez, manager of electronic books for St. Martin's

"If the ruling goes Rosetta's way, all bets are going to be off."

See also:

20 Aug 01 | New Media
Penguin enters e-book market
12 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Leonard joins e-book authors
01 Mar 01 | Entertainment
The world in your hands
29 Nov 00 | Entertainment
King's e-book stalls
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