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Sales on e-books 'held back
29.01.09 | Graeme Neill
Sales of e-books are being held back as there are not enough titles to meet growing demand and the companies producing them are reluctant to expand.
David Kohn, Waterstone’s head of e-commerce, told delegates at the retailer’s supplier conference on Friday that publishers need to step up production of e-books to meet a growing market. But publishers have told The Bookseller that while they support Kohn’s argument, their hands are tied as there isn’t enough capacity among the companies producing e-books to significantly increase the number of titles available.
Waterstone’s has sold more than 30,000 Sony Readers since its launch in September and over 75,000 e-books through its website. Kohn said: “If one thing is holding [e-books] back, it’s the fact that not enough e-books are out there. When you are publishing a new title there should be an e-book alongside it. There should also be more good back catalogue e-books.”
Genevieve Shore, global digital director at Penguin, said that e-book production was an “enormous undertaking” for publishers with “significant costs” attached. She added: “Publishers are throwing relatively large amounts at this project but the number of conversion houses and their workload capabilities are not enough to cope with demand. These houses are worried about over-expansion because once backlist has been digitised, demand will decline.”
David Roth-Ey, director of digital business development at HarperCollins, said: “If we could have every book as an e-book we would, and it’s something we are working towards.”
The publisher has produced around 2,000 e-books and Roth-Ey said factors such as ensuring the quality of the e-book file meant that production is not as quick as he would like. He said: “There’s also a long, drawn-out process of negotiating royalty rates that are not in backlist contracts.”
Waterstone’s became the third high street retailer to sell an e-book reader in September after Borders and WH Smith began selling the iRex iLiad.
There was growing speculation this week that Amazon will announce a new version of its Kindle e-reader in February for the US, as well as rumours the e-book reader could introduced to the UK this year.