Another big week for digital - just got bigger

<p>The pace of change engendered by digital has quickened again, <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/110915-apple-takes-on-amazon-with-laun... the launch of Apple's iPad yesterday</a> coming at the end of a week that has alread proved to be illuminating for some, and perhaps worrying for others.</p>
<p>First, who is this, sounding very like a classic publisher? &quot;We've identified these four manuscripts as examples of authors whose work we think deserves a larger audience, and we're excited to help these authors find their readers.&quot; It's Jeff Bezos, talking about Amazon's Encore programme, which is outgrowing its original self-published niche. So far the titles will only be available as a traditional volume in America, but they will be on a Kindle anywhere in the world. This is a merging of publisher and retailer into a single beast, unconstrained by territoriality.</p>
<p>Also in the US, Ian McEwan has reportedly sold the e-book rights to some of his backlist titles through Rosetta, exclusively to Amazon, a deal that gives him a whopping 50% royalty on sales. At the risk of considerable understatement, this is not a development to be greeted with unalloyed pleasure by supporters of the traditional publishing model.</p>
<p>This also was the week Apple when Apple unveiled its new e-reading device. Apple has already transformed two markets (mobile phones with the iPhone and mobile music with the iPod) and the expectation is acute that it will repeat the trick. The Sony e-reader and the Kindle are all well and good, but they lack the design pizzazz Apple is famous for, and this launch could move mass consumer acceptance of e-readers a significant step forward. With e-book prices still a matter of debate, not to mention when to actually release the e-book in the traditional publishing cycle, plus royalties still up in the air, e-books seem to offer more problems than they solve for publishers. The fear is that they rapidly cannibalise print but at a lower margin, and worse, if one dominant e-reader emerges, leave publishers at the mercy of a monopoly.&nbsp; And in all of this of course, one struggles to see a role for the traditional bookshop.</p>
<p>Clearly e-readers offer many revenue opportunities, but will conventional print-and-paper publishers be adaptive enough to capture them? It's an open question, and British publishers face the additional handicap of being an ocean apart from Amazon and Apple.</p>
<p>In the last 20 years the music industry has grappled with digital and emerged smaller and wiser. The book trade has the huge advantage of going second.</p>