Continuing our examination of how the world of publishing is awakening to the power of the Intertubes (sorry, couldn’t resist), big daddy publishers have now come to terms with the fact that cyberspace is here to stay. Not only that, they are experimenting with ways to market and sell books online to harness the Web’s unbelievable reach, writes UK Guardian’s Nicholas Clee:

Three publishers have announced new web initiatives this week. HarperCollins has uploaded to its website the entire contents of several titles, including The Witch of Portobello by the hugely popular new age novelist Paulo Coelho and Mission: Cook! My Life, My Recipes and Making the Impossible Easy by Robert Irvine, who is described as a star of a US cable food channel. “It’s like taking the shrink wrap off a book,” HC chief executive Jane Friedman enthused. HC will make available a different title each month by Coelho, who has already gone beyond this strategy by offering links to pirated editions on his blog. You will not be able to download or print the HC texts.

Unclear yet is how both the author and the publisher plan to make any money off the initiative. Coupled with the fact that reading a book online is about as appealing as reading one on a t.v. screen, and, well, let’s just say bibliophiles are less than impressed. Clee notes,

Amazon reports that sales of its e-book reader, the Kindle, have exceeded expectations; but the company has conspicuously failed to provide figures. You can be sure that the number of trees spared is modest.

Here on this side of the puddle, Harvard is mulling whether or not to publish their faculty’s scholarly research online (free subscription required to read entire article):

Faculty members are scheduled to vote on a measure that would permit Harvard to distribute their scholarship online, instead of signing exclusive agreements with scholarly journals that often have tiny readerships and high subscription costs.

Although the outcome of Tuesday’s vote would apply only to Harvard’s arts and sciences faculty, the impact, given the university’s prestige, could be significant for the open-access movement, which seeks to make scientific and scholarly research available to as many people as possible at no cost.

The casualty in this trend would be scholarly journals, who engage in a rigorous peer-review process for research. Unfortunately, these journals are often outrageously expensive, which limits readership.

I have no idea which way this trend is going to go, but it’s interesting to note that publishers continue to explore ways to meld print with the increasingly long reach of the ‘net. Where the writers figure into this equation remains to be seen.

Problem is, when people get something for free, they tend to value it less. Wasn’t that what the WGA strike was all about?


About Kathleen Bolton

Kathleen Bolton is co-founder of Writer Unboxed. She writes under a variety of pseudonyms, including Ani Bolton. She has written two novels as Cassidy Calloway: Confessions of a First Daughter, and Secrets of a First Daughter--both books in a YA series about the misadventures of the U.S. President's teen-aged daughter, published by HarperCollins, and Tamara Blake, for the novel Slumber.