Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Digital Book World: Examining the State of the E-Book

On the same day that the president delivered his state of the union speech, Digital Book World offered its own look at the state of the e-book, be it enhanced, amplified or what have you. The afternoon session, Delivering Enhanced e-books, offered a look at a variety of successful multimedia-driven e-book products including presentations by Hachette (Ansel Adams app), Penguin (Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth) and S&S (Nixonland).

But the panel Beyond the e-Book offered a line up of digital publishers—“digital producers” seems to have emerged as the new nomenclature —who laid out their vision of where the enhanced e-book is going. Publisher/producers from Aptara, Zinio, Vook and Sideways outlined the market as well as their experience using trial and error to develop multimedia authoring tools that make the production of multimedia products easier and more efficient. Apatara’s Sriram Panchanath outlined a future of enhanced e-books created under HTML5 and ePub3—evolving standards for multimedia on the web and the ePub standard—that will include interactive advertising, e-books that can adapt to readers tastes and needs, subsidized content and more, all integrated with social media functionality. “Dedicated e-readers will evolve into tablets,” said Panchanath, “offering tailed content. Every e-book app can serve as a bookstore and backlists will be repurposed for new kinds digital products. Publishers that adapt will only grow stronger.”

And all the digital producers were showing off new authoring tools that they say will speed up the ebook/app development process, make production cheaper and more efficient and attract a new generation of publisher/producers to e-book development. Vook producer Matt Cavnar discussed the rapid growth of Vook—from 4 to 26 employees in a year, producing 120 titles—and hyped MotherVook, an enhanced platform for multimedia content creation that Vook hopes to extend to its publishing partners. Sideways founder Charles Stack showed off M3, his own multimedia authoring platform, as well as highlighting a new e-book feature he calls “buddy reading.” The feature allows a user with an iPhone to synch to another iPhone in another location (say a child at home) using the iPhone’s new Game Center and can then read aloud and turn pages simultaneously in a remotely shared e-book. “When people worry about the sales of print titles dropping, remember,” said Stack, “Right now it’s undefined, but the publishing space we’re entering is a lot bigger than the one we’re coming from.”

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