Ever more eBook projects in the US, France and Germany
March 18, 2008 by ruediger

News come in regularly about just another project aiming at exploring possibilities and perspectives of books on digital platforms.

At the Paris Salon du Livre, the French Minister for Culture and Communication, Christine Albanel, said that “we must stop only endure the digital revolution”, but instead look out courageously for the potential. “The book”, she continued, “is one oft the very last domains where we still can anticipate (what is going to happen) and give it meaning and exact rules”.

Well, even if this reflects a genuinely French belief in rules and control, the statement points to one strong fact: The current wave of experiments and initiatives is probably driven by exactly the fact that many companies – and even public institutions – have grasped that closing the eyes with a strong belief that ever stricter policing of enhanced copyright legislation will not make those digital ghost disappear.

Anyhow, at the Paris Salon, amidst a huge controversy around an Arab call for boycot due to Israels presence as the guest of honour, digital readers and related stories were the “stars of the show“.

Right after the Salon, the “Gallica 2” book digitisation project is supposed to go live, with 60.000 digitised works at the National Library, and 2.000 more new titles from some 50 French publishers – who received some subsidies for their move, according to The Bookseller. (Link – with subscription required)

Also, the French encyclopedia Larousse promised to have its largest edition put online soon (here is a demo), and a new epaper reader called Bookeen was unveiled.

At the Germany Leipziger Buchmesse, Ronald Schild, the head of the German digitization project Libreka, announced e-commerce tools for booksellers and publishers,  allowing them to integrate an eBook shop on their websites, granting readers for instance access to a book for a limited period of time.

¬†A forum debate with various members of the book and publishing community had it that ¬†“the book will remain, even without paper.”

But when Torsten Casimir, editor in chief of Boersenblatt, the German Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association magazine, asked writer Michael Kumpfmueller about “user generated content”, the writer was sure that “writing fan fiction on things like Harry Potter will be over soon”. Well, well. A colleague of a nerdy Berlin group of online journalists and writers, Sascha Lobo of Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur,¬†dryly replied: “This is what I call fatal arrogance.”

I admit I felt more enlightened by a piece in Shelf Awareness on “Digital Change: A College Survey Course“, with Mark Nelson explaining at CAMEX in San Antonio, Texas, that “digital change could come as quickly as the iPod became a staple of college students: in four years, iPod adoption by college freshman went from 0% to 85%.”

Nelson also reminded professional book people how readers, especially at learning institutions, “want lower prices. They don’t want to buy a whole book if the professor doesn’t want them to read it all. And they want shareable content that they can interact with.” He cautioned, “If we don’t find a solution to these questions, someone else will.” Nelson also pointed to¬†several University projects that are worth exploring:

CourseSmart, an experiment launched by 6 major text publishers, Amazon is begining to sell textbooks over the Kindle and starts partnering with publishers, Ingram offers a growing inventory of content, CafeScribe is an affiliate program, and these are not the last examples of all that is going on out there – we will keep you posted.

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