|Since January, the Open eBook Forum (OeBF; http://www.openebook.org),
a nonprofit trade and standards organization, has been promoting its "Open an eBook" campaign (http://www.openanebook.org),
which was launched to foster the acceptance of e-books and further literacy
and accessibility. From August 512, the campaign featured "Open an
eBook Week," which showcased the launch of new e-book titles and special
promotional discounts. OeBF members include businesses that publish and
sell e-books, as well as technology companies that offer e-book software,
such as Adobe Systems, Microsoft, and OverDrive. Obviously, these companies
all stand to benefit greatly from a campaign that furthers the adoption
of e-books. Wisely, the OeBF urged libraries, schools, and educators to
join the campaign, as its members include educational and government agencies,
such as the Library of Congress, the American Foundation for the Blind,
and the Maryland State Department of Education.
In late July, the Open eBook Forum released a report that provides industry
statistics, which the organization says show solid growth in electronic
publishing and a significant shift in the perception of electronic book
publishing. The report's results were announced by Nicholas Bogaty, the
OeBF's executive director. "The initial hype that surrounded the early
days of e-books has overshadowed the steady growth of a burgeoning industry,"
he said. "By providing concrete numbers on the solid growth of this market,
we're able to tangibly assess its impacts on the traditional publishing
world and on consumers."
The statistics and analyses in the report focused on the number of users
who are adopting e-books and related software, the creation of new technologies,
and the increasing use of e-books by publishers as marketing tools that
work in tandem with traditional book sales efforts. The OeBF members that
contributed data include Adobe Systems, AOL Time Warner Book Group, HarperCollins,
Microsoft, OverDrive, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Palm Digital
Media, and McGraw-Hill.
The following statistics were cited in the report as demonstrating
significant growth in the e-books customer base:
Random House reported that during the latest quarter ending in March, its
e-book revenues were the highest since the company began selling them in
PerfectBound, HarperCollins' e-book imprint, sold more e-books in the first
5 months of 2002 than in all of 2001.
The average monthly downloads of Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader increased by
approximately 70 percent from 2001 to 2002.
In the first half of this year, Simon & Schuster saw double-digit growth
in e-book sales over the same period in 2001.
Over 5 million copies of Microsoft Reader have been distributed for use
on desktop, notebook, and Pocket PC systems.
Palm Digital Media reports that nearly 180,000 e-books were sold in 2001,
a more than 40-percent increase from 2000.
This year McGraw-Hill Professional's e-book sales are up 55 percent over
the same period last year.
New Technologies, Products
To highlight the vitality and activity in the industry, the report
also pointed to recent technological developments and OeBF members' new-product
announcements. For example, Random House has coordinated with its compositors
and other print partners to standardize e-book production and create print
and e-book formats simultaneously. Adobe is now offering Adobe Content
Server 3.0, a new automated library lending functionality that allows patrons
to check out an e-book and check it back in. (See the news story on page
Other developments include the following:
OverDrive (a provider of e-book, digital rights management, and media marketplace
technologies, and a key sponsor of OeBF) claims that 450 publishers and
independents offer a commercial e-book library.
HarperCollins' PerfectBound is providing exclusive "eBook extras" on its
Microsoft's forthcoming Tablet PC is being positioned as a perfect platform
Shortly after the OeBF issued its report, OverDrive announced the launch
of a new eBookLocator service (http://www.ebooklocator.com).
According to the announcement, the free Web-based search tool offers"up-to-the-minute
information on tens of thousands of eBooks from over 400 publishers worldwide."
Each e-book record delivers information on where to immediately purchase
the title and provides links to e-booksellers, including barnesandnoble.com,
WHSmith Online, eBooks.com, Fictionwise, eFollett.com, and more in the
U.S. and abroad.
Twenty-three of AOL Time Warner Book Group's New York Times bestsellers
for 2001 are available as e-books.
"eBookLocator.com is an important enhancement to our industry and illustrates
how e-books are continuing to grow in adoption and acceptance," said Bogaty.
"By providing current bibliographic data 24/7, consumers, librarians, and
researchers can get the information they need quickly and easily. It's
a tool that everyone who reads and buys e-books will come to rely on."
New Marketing Efforts
The OeBF report also highlights some recent efforts by publishers to
link their electronic and print marketing efforts—obviously in the hope
that cross-promotion will increase sales across the board. All eight of
Random House's trade divisions are supporting digital editions and have
a commitment to publish lead titles in e-book and print formats simultaneously.
HarperCollins' PerfectBound promotions have reportedly increased the sales
of individual titles as much as 5 to 10 times by offering an author's older
titles for free in electronic form as a means to publicize his or her latest
In addition, the report notes that in a recent Adobe survey of librarians,
41 percent of respondents indicated an intent to offer PDF e-books to their
patrons. According to a company representative, a general survey on library
interest in and the use of e-books was e-mailed to 11,182 ALA members. Adobe
received 901 replies, representing an 8-percent response rate.
So time will tell whether the OeBF's Open an eBook campaign is paying
off and if the growing acceptance of e-books continues.
Paula J. Hane is editor of NewsBreaks, contributing editor of
Information Today, a former reference librarian, and a longtime online
searcher. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.