'Big bang' launch for e-books

<p>Waterstone&#39;s and Borders are poised to swing decisively behind e-books for the first time, prompting a rush from publishers to ready their e-book lists. Waterstone&#39;s is in talks with publishers about the supply of e-books, and is understood to be planning a July launch for its programme. Borders is gearing up to sell e-books from its transactional website, which launches in April. Commercial director David Kohn said: &quot;We hope to have an [e-book] offer in place by the end of 2008.&quot; Gardners is also ramping up its e-book delivery service.</p><p>Agents are being inundated with requests from publishers to clear e-book rights at speed. Philippa Milnes-Smith of LAW, head of the Association of Authors&#39; Agents, expressed concerns that authors were being &quot;rail-roaded&quot;. She said: &quot;We understand where publishers are coming from, but we&#39;re concerned for authors that they get the right remuneration, and also that e-books are published to the same standard as printed books. Our overriding imperative is quality not speed.&quot; Publishers are looking for blanket clearance of rights, she said. &quot;We treat authors individually, not as a job lot.&quot;</p><p>Publishers stressed the value of a concerted UK e-books push to consumers. Penguin has 5,000 e-book titles already available, with another 5,000 scheduled for the end of the year, including all key frontlist titles. At Pan Macmillan, Sara Lloyd, head of digital publishing, said the publisher was &quot;significantly&quot; ramping up its digital programme for back and frontlist.</p><p>Fionnuala Duggan, Random House Group digital director, said RHG was &quot;working actively with the whole distribution channel&quot; on its e-book plans. RHG aims to have an e-books list in the low thousands by the end of the year, with a mix of frontlist and backlist. It is building in a review period to its agreements with authors to allay agents&#39; fears.</p><p>The news comes as Sony is believed to be readying itself for a third quarter UK launch of its Reader in conjunction with a UK retailer, and Amazon is understood to be planning a 2008 UK launch of its Kindle. In the US the internet giant rolled out a programme of 90,000 e-books when it launched the Kindle. Amazon, Waterstone&#39;s and Sony declined to comment.</p>