Barnsley: e-book has "real future"

<p>Digitisation offers an end to unwanted inventory, no more returns, no more out of print titles and greater value attached to obscure titles, HarperCollins&#39; UK c.e.o. Victoria Barnsley has said. Barnsley delivered the speech &#39;Media&#39;s Last Diehard?&#39; as part of the London School of Economics&#39; series of public lectures. At the Hong Kong Theatre in Clement House last night (4th November), Barnsley told the audience that &quot;the electronic book has a real future, which offers untold possibilities for both non-fiction and creative writing&quot;.</p><p>She described the linear model of a publisher producing books to be ultimately consumed by a retailer as &quot;becoming circular&quot;. Readers are now playing a greater part in the publishing process, interacting with one another, the authors and producing content themselves. &quot;We need to have two models to deal with that therefore - what we do now, adding value by selecting, nuturing, marketing and finally selling content to the consumer - in whatever form they demand,&quot; she said. &quot;And a second model whereby we create value in the experiences around that content and facilitate the dialogue between writers and readers.&quot;</p><p>Barnsley discussed three initiatives HarperCollins is doing to take advantage of digital opportunities. One is an interactive online version of Doris Lessing&#39;s <em>The Golden Notebook</em>. Created in partnership with the Insitute of the Future of the Book, writers and academics will read the text online and submit comments, which readers can offer feedback on.</p><p>The second is Book Army, a social networking site organised around every book and author in print. &quot;It has all the elements of a traditional community site with a secret weapon that generates book recommendations based on feedback from other readers about their likes and dislikes.&quot;</p><p>The third is Authonomy, its social networking site for aspiring writers, which went live in September and Barnsley said has achieved more than two million page impressions in six weeks.</p><p>Barnsley said that while she thought &quot;within say 10 years more than half our sales will come from digital downloads&quot;, she was not writing the obituary for the printed book. &quot;Amazon&rsquo;s Jeff Bezos is, like me, a great book lover.&nbsp; But he believes that eventually digitisation will mean that books will go the way of horses after the discovery of the combustion engine. Nice to have but no longer essential. I don&rsquo;t agree.&quot;</p><p>However, she said the publishing industry was on the verge of a &quot;profound&quot; change in e-ink technology. &quot;The future is bright and awash with foldable, colour screens, screens that can handle moving images, with interactive clickable advertising.&quot;</p><p>Barnsley warned territorial book rights would be &quot;pretty hard to police when content is reduced to bite-sized chunks flying around in cyberspace&quot;. She also said it would be difficult to establish a profitable pricing model when most consumers are used to free digital content. But she welcomed Google&#39;s provisional announcement last week that it would channel payments for online reading back to the content owners and providers.</p><p>Despite this, she said that digitisation offered new openings for publishers. &quot;The new opportunities this throws up are an end to piles of unwanted inventory, no more returns (book publishing remains one of the few remaining sale or return businesses), no more out of print titles and more value attached to the &quot;long tail&quot; of obscure or niche titles,&quot; she said. &quot;We can also customise our books or sell them piecemeal.&quot;</p><p><em>The full text of Barnsley&#39;s speech will be available online at theBookseller.com/blogs later today.</em> </p>