Yes, PhysOrg is reporting today that Random House, the world's largest English-language general trade book publisher, announced that it was making thousands of additional books available in digital form, including novels by John Updike and Harlan Coben, as well as several volumes of the "Magic Treehouse" children's series.
The publisher is almost doubling the books they have in electronic format - from more than 8,000 to nearly 15,000. I believe that this move is in accordance with Random House's increased e-books sales (according to their vice president for digital operations, Matt Shatz, sales have increased by triple digit percentages in 2008), as well as with their willingness to diversify their platform and provide more options to readers.
As their VP for digital operations reported much of the significant increase in e-book sales are thanks to Amazon.com’s Kindle reader. I wonder how the current economic will influence the sales of e-books in the next couple of month. My guesstimation is that we'll see very little growth with e-books sales because of the Kindle's relatively high price. Still, it's cheaper to buy an e-book than a book and therefore I think we'll still see sales growing and not decreasing.
All in all we shouldn't forget that we're still talking about a niche with market share of about 1% of the whole book sales market.
And what about the green aspect of this move? will thousands of additional books available in digital form be better the environment or not? well, e-books don’t need paper and therefore no trees are cut down which is a good thing. They don’t need transportation or physical storage and therefore no extra costs and extra footprint are required to bring the book from the publisher to the reader. Yet, other factors to be considered, especially with regards to e-book readers such as their production, materials used, energy required for the reader’s use, and how recyclable they are.
So what’s the verdict? We still don’t know as we’re lacking a full life-cycle assessment of reading e-books using kindle or other similar electronic book readers. Until we have that, we can’t really tell for sure if and to what extent e-books, including the new 7,000 Random House titles, are more environmentally-friendly in comparison to paper made books.
E-books vs. paper books - resources page on Eco-Libris website
eBooks - A Greener Choice or Not?
Raz @ Eco-Libris