Digital book companies jostle for dominance in NY

Fri May 27, 2011 2:35pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As American publishers gathered in New York this week to promote the best of what's coming in the year ahead, more and more attention was focused on the growing influence of digital publishing.

Companies at this week's BookExpo America agreed that while the book publishing industry is losing money overall, the increasing sales of e-books and e-readers are offering investors a chance to bet on the winners and losers in the future of publishing where print books may become obsolete.

While digital companies this week were still relegated to one small corner of the massive exposition floor space, the number of companies and traffic through it increased as the publishing world agree e-books and e-readers are here to stay.

"I used to joke about it as the digital ghetto," said Kobo chief executive Michael Serbinis, who launched a new touch edition of their e-reader this week for $129.

The Canadian company, which also sells books online and has apps for mobile devices, said this week it has closed a C$50 million ($53 million) investment round.

In the first quarter of 2011, e-book sales increased more than 159.8 per cent to $233.1 million, according to the Association of American publishers, while during the same period print books saw a 23.4 percent sales decline from the previous year. Online retailer Amazon said this month it now sells more digital e-books than paper books.

Serbinis recalled that just two years ago the digital section of such book fairs consisted of "a few lonely people sent off in the corner or the basement while everyone else gets to enjoy the fair in the center of it all."

That digital ghetto is getting far more impressive in scale and traffic, he said.   Continued...