Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Letter from America

The BEA lived up to its reputation for creating lots of news and the digital word was certainly hot on most people’s lips. So what caught the eye?

The Espresso Book Machine Model 1.5 machine sat boldly under the Crystal Palace for all to see. It is currently eight feet long and five feet wide and attracted much attention. It has a smaller brother apparently on the way but has still to drop in price to make those heads really turn. A StarBOOKs or Costabook could certainly be interested in serving books on demand as you wait for that skinny latte but this one is heading off to a library. Although it has 200,000 out-of-copyright books through the Open Content Alliance, 2,200 World Bank titles, and Arabic-language books from the Library of Alexandria, these are hardly titles to die for or to read over a doughnut and it remains to be seen whether the company can collate a sufficiently large base of attractive content.

Ingram Digital is no longer a ‘venture’ but a group. Interestingly the news that it had struck up a deal with VHP (Macmillan US) went largely unrecorded. In the digital world this was a significant story and leads one to speculate exactly what the global strategy is for Bookstore and MPS. However, it is good news for Ingram and VHP in the US.
There is a new digital appointment within the trade environment who enters not from music, newsprint , sales, editorial but from the major digital force that is Elservier and it is going to be interesting to see how Hachette-Livre is going to move now.

Rights reversals continue to bubble along. A close colleague used to say ‘ be careful what you wish for’. Publishers need to be wary of changing established practices that have stood the test of time just because the end format is changing. It is highly unlikely that any but the highest tier of authors would sign away their works for what would be clearly a lifetime plus. What could happen is the emergence of new term and revenue rules which would be easier to reverse and activate. This could lead to some works enjoying a second wind or even a first one.

We now have DADs (Digital Asset Distributors) which is different from Digital Asset Management and so on. The forthcoming Klopotek conferences in New York and London have certainly gathered all the usual suspects plus those industry gurus Shatzkin and Bide and should be a very interesting. I will be speaking as a DAD and hoping to introduce the wider digital family of Mum, son, daughter etc.