Information Today
Volume 19, Issue 8 — September 2002
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IT News Report •
Open eBook Forum Releases Industry Report
The organization says that the acceptance of e-books is gaining momentum
by Paula J. Hane

Since January, the Open eBook Forum (OeBF;, a nonprofit trade and standards organization, has been promoting its "Open an eBook" campaign (, which was launched to foster the acceptance of e-books and further literacy and accessibility. From August 5—12, 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.

New Customers
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 1998.
  • 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 37.)

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 frontlist titles.
  • Microsoft's forthcoming Tablet PC is being positioned as a perfect platform for reading.
  • Twenty-three of AOL Time Warner Book Group's New York Times bestsellers for 2001 are available as e-books.
Shortly after the OeBF issued its report, OverDrive announced the launch of a new eBookLocator service ( 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, WHSmith Online,, Fictionwise,, and more in the U.S. and abroad.

" 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 work.

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

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