When will e-books become reality?

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Leiden Uninersity
Faculty of Arts
English Department
Book and Digital Media Studies

When will e-books become reality?

Comments on William E. Kasdorf’s The Columbia Guide to Digital Media (Columbia University Press, 2003), Chapter One

Olivier Nyirubugara
6 October 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara, June 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara
Graduate in Publishing and Digital Media Studies
Graduate in American Literature.

I would like to discuss chapter one of W.E. Kasdorf’s The Columbia Guide to Digital Media, especially the part concerning the coming, or let’s say, the development of the e-book and the major obstacles on its road.

Kasdorf mentioned at least four times PROFIT as the major obstacle preventing further developments towards the long-awaited e-book. Both publishers and authors are not keen on moving forward before the “DRM” ( Digital Rights Management) issue is settled. Here, PROFIT is given a legal and less disgusting name of RIGHTS, but both terms mean almost the same thing.

On page 19, one can read: “Another important factor, however, is the rights issue. Trade book authors actually make a living-or at least some meaningful income-from what they write, and what they earn is based on their books’ success in the marketplace…”. And then some lines down “Trade publishers make a disproportionately large part of their profit from a disproportionately small number of their titles”.

This means that profit is the key problem delaying the coming of the electronic book and has even created enmity between publishers and authors. As the settlement of this conflict and of the DRM is not scheduled for tomorrow, which is very unfortunate, we have just to powerlessly accept Kasdorf’s conclusion that the “e-book will become mainstream if you can avoid predicting when”. (p 27)

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