Book trade facing 'Wild West' moment

<p>The &quot;biggest upheaval since Gutenberg&quot; is how Tom Holland, writer and chairman of the Society of Authors, describes the transition to digital in&nbsp; a piece in the FT, which assures us that &quot;for once the hyperbole surrounding the massive structural shift in the book trade rings true&quot;. Cannogate&#39;s Jamie Byng opts for an even more succinct analogy: &quot;It&rsquo;s like the bloody Wild West at the moment.&quot;</p><p>The challenges posed by the shift to ebooks are obliging everyone involved to submit to a round of existential self-questioning, according to the piece, with the &quot;most divisive issue&quot; royalties.</p><p>Holland wonders why when the costs of e-book publishing are &quot;tiny&quot;, and when the market remains so uncertain, are &quot;authors being pressured into accepting deals when they don&rsquo;t know what&rsquo;s going to happen? It strikes me as the rankest hypocrisy.&rdquo;<br /><br />But Charlie Redmayne, chief digital officer at News Corp-owned HarperCollins International, rejects the idea that publishers are being greedy. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s completely mistaken to think publishers are poised to make a killing on this,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;There are substantial costs involved in digital publishing &ndash; beyond operational costs, we are tracking every single one of our titles to prevent piracy.&rdquo;<br /><br />While Byng admits &quot;offering just 15 per cent royalties is hard to justify when publishers recognise they&rsquo;ve got no one to pay except the authors and themselves&rdquo;, though argues that a &quot;huge amount of work and investment goes into every book before the publisher even gets to which format it&rsquo;s coming out in&quot;.</p>