Friday, April 18, 2008

BPN 1072 Penguin to launch 5.000 e-Books

There is exciting news from Penguin, the UK publishing Group most famous for its orange paperbacks. In September the publisher will launch e-Books. Not just a few books to test the water, but it will present a list of no less than 5.000 e-Books. Even the titles in the back catalogue of Penguin will be given a new lease of life. Is this going to be a major break through in the publishing world or not?

Penguin, a division of the newspaper and book conglomerate Pearson, is a major player in book publishing. The fact that the publisher, with its imprints Dorling Kindersley and the travel books decided to publish the electronic books is a major decision, perhaps a signal to the rest of the publishing world. And that they are serious can be deducted from the decision to publish the complete backlist of titles electronically. At once the availability of e-Books is enlarged substantially. The decision of Penguin will put pressure on the book publishing world.

About the business model not much is known yet. The entire backlist of Penguin titles will be available. From September onwards Penguin will release e-Books at the same time as it produces the print edition. The electronic version, however, will be available at the same price as the printed edition. Penguin has not announced yet in what format the e-books will be available in neither has been said anything about the use of copy-protection technology (DRM).

The fact that the same price will have to be paid for electronic and printed editions, is curious. It indicates that Penguin does not have much confidence in the distribution and business models. It looks like the company chooses for the top of the price elevator which can only go down. It might also indicate that Penguin does not understand the marketing of electronic products. In 2006, I questioned Penguin’s marketing knowledge of marketing electronic books and I was wrong as it concerned a printed book. But this time it looks like the business model might be questioned. The costs for printing and physically distribution are not in the calculation of e-Books. Of course format conversion and perhaps DRM are in the calculation as well as the electronic distribution.

It is clear that digital paper has given a stimulus to this decision. Penguin presupposes, that this new generation of e-Books will be a new wave. And it is a courageous step of Penguin, regardless of the business model used. It looks like safety has been built-in, in case; the price for the e-Book can still be lowered. On the other hand, there is still not a firm plan regarding the format and DRM. Working with the iPod business model, the Penguin model still lacks some success factors. But one thing is sure: Penguin has become a great promoter for e-Books before it even has published one. Which other renowned publishing company will follow?

Blog Posting Number: 1072

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