Digital D-Day

<p><a href=" the worst kept secret in publishing is finally out in the open.</a> <a href="">For months publishers and retailers have been gossiping about Waterstone's plans to stock the Sony Reader from September.</a> The companies' plans to reveal the launch on Thursday also fell victim to gossip, with several opportunistic electronics websites breaking the embargo of the press release a day early.</p>
<p>However, this probably won't affect the magnitude of the launch of the Sony Reader. It's probably the biggest thing to happen to the publishing industry this year. Aside from the geeky tech excitement related to yet another piece of shiny electronic kit, there are several knock on effects for the publishing industry.</p>
<p>Publishers have been falling over themselves of late to convert their lists to the .epub format demanded by the Sony Reader. Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House are&nbsp; gearing up for an autumn roll-out of their own e-book titles. With a definitive outlet for e-books selling in more than 200 stores and online, more publishers are bound to leap in with their own e-books. Will Simon &amp; Schuster and Hachette be the next to roll out their e-book programmes for example?</p>
<p>What will also be interesting is to see what Seattle's finest do in response. Amazon's Kindle has been sold in the United States since November but the UK business has consistently refused to discuss a possible release date. Will their hand be forced now? It's highly unlikely they would want to see Waterstone's, and to a lesser extent Borders', reap the benefits of e-book sales.</p>
<p>The battle between agents and publishers regarding e-book royalty rates will probably gain volume in the coming months. Random House c.e.o. Gail Rebuck has already proposed a royalty of 15% of net receipts on digital sales. Granted, it's higher than the standard 10% royalty rate on hardbacks.</p>
<p>However, the figure is lower than the 25% currently received by authors in the US for e-book sales. Simon &amp; Schuster in the US was rebuked this week by The Authors Guild after it attempted to set e-book royalty rates at 15% of the &quot;catalog retail price&quot;. These arguments are bound to come across the Atlantic in the coming months.</p>
<p>However, the most interesting thing that will happen over the 12 months is whether the public are convinced. A &pound;199 price point is attractive to early adopters but according to our features editor Tom Tivnan, the only member of The Bookseller to use the device, it is clunky to use. With the likes of the Nintendo DS and iPod on the market, the public is used to beautifully designed products that scream 'must have'. Will the Iliad and Sony Reader capture the imagination in the same way?</p>