Romance of books key in digital age, says Penguin CEO

Wed Apr 14, 2010 5:17pm EDT
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By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Reuters) - With the excitement around the launch of Apple's iPad and the growing popularity of other digital devices, it is a challenge to retain the romance of the printed book, according to the head of publisher Penguin.

The iPad, a cross between a smartphone and a laptop, is helping foster a market for tablet computers that is expected to grow to some 50 million units by 2014, and with it, also expand the market for e-books, which has been hard to crack.

So far, book publishers like Penguin have struggled to find an online model that works successfully in terms of content and the consumer's propensity to pay, said Penguin's John Makinson.

But with the iPad, book publishers see a new chance to get their electronic offering right and win more bargaining power if the iPad emerges as a viable rival to Amazon' Kindle.

"Large screen digital devices are opening up bigger opportunities for us: opportunities for interactivity with readers, and around social networking," said Makinson.

"There are opportunities not just in a marketing sense, but for actual content and new material," he said on a visit to India.

It is not just a younger demographic of readers drawn to the cool applications and greater interactivity that are flocking to digital devices, but also older readers who like the ability to for example, increase the font size, said Makinson.

While there is huge potential in India, the world's fastest-growing wireless market with more than half a billion mobile subscribers, rising levels of literacy also means that appetite for newspapers, magazines and books is still strong.   Continued...

<p>The old books collection area with several rare books is seen at the Municipal Library of Lyon January 15, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Pratta</p>