It's Book Expo week and the e-book announcements are flying
With every publisher and his e-book cousin trying to make a splash at BEA, the announcements have come flying fast. This is the first official day of Book Expo America, which I'm watching from a safe distance in Los Angeles. It's far enough to -- almost -- keep track of the news as it gets thrust over the transom.
Here are some of the news items that have dropped already:
Otherworldly science fiction publishers Tor Books and Forge Books, part of Macmillan, will launch a DRM-free e-book store. What that means: Buy and download e-books there and they will have no embedded digital rights management restrictions, so they can be transferred from one electronic reading device to another. Publishers fearing piracy have been reluctant to sell DRM-free e-books, making the Tor/Forge move a bold one. The store is set to debut in July, and will include all e-books from Tor, Forge, Starscape, Tor Teen, and Orb (as previously announced), and possibly e-books from other publishers in the future.
That might include books from the independent publishers represented by distributor IPG. As I was typing the above, an announcement arrived from IPG saying that it will distribute DRM-free e-books for the publishers who seek that option. The Chicago Review Press, Toronto-based ECW, and Medallion have opted in to the DRM-free e-book program. The e-books are available DRM-free through IPG's website, although it has not yet found a way to showcase its DRM-free offerings.
Kobo is launching a platform for authors who want to self-publish e-books called Kobo Writing Life this month. It's playing catch-up with Amazon, which has KDP (which stands for Kindle Direct Publishing) and, to a lesser extent, Barnes & Noble's PubIt. Being late, Kobo hopes, means that it can address issues that have emerged, such as royalties, ease of use and portability and being able to sell e-books through a variety of vendors.
The New York Review of Books is launching an e-book series, NYRB Lit. The new e-book series will focus on contemporary fiction and literary nonfiction, with an eye toward works in translation. With 10 releases per year planned, the first five books have been announced: "The Water Theatre" by Lindsay Clarke (a novel), "Beirut, I Love You: A Memoir" by Zena el Khalil, Yoram Kaniuk’s "1948" (called both memoir and fiction), Kiran Nagarkar’s "Ravan and Eddie" (a novel) and Markus Werner’s "On the Edge: A Novel."
In a new partnership, the Bellweather Prize, PEN and Algonquin Books announced that the 2012 PEN/Bellweather Prize will go to Susan Nussbaum. Barbara Kingsolver, who founded the prize to highlight socially engaged fiction, announced that Nussbaum will receive $25,000 and her manuscript "Good Kings Bad Kings" will be published by Algonquin.
Riffing on his New York Times editorial about Amazon's business practices, bestselling novelist Richard Russo spoke to a luncheon of the American Booksellers Assn., whose membership is made up of independent booksellers. “I don’t want independent bookstores to survive. I want them to thrive,” Russo said. The ABA is launching a campaign called "Why Indies Matter."
One of the biggest book news items was announced 3,000 miles away at another conference altogether: "Wonderbook: Book of Spells," an impressive interactive book-slash-game for Playstation, written by J. K. Rowling, was announced at E3 in Los Angeles.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: At BEA, a promotional banner for Justin Cronin's upcoming post-apocalyptic thriller "The Twelve." Credit: Karen Fink / Random House