How e-Readers Impact Web Publishing, Web Standards, Print Sales

3 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar

There are indications that e-books and the reading devices, like Kindle and the Nook, are becoming more mainstream and as a result they are having an interesting impact on the way we interact with content, both online and in print.

NYT to Offer e-Reader Content as Separate Entity

The New York Times is planning to offer its Book Review as a separate digital e-reader product and will introduce a separate version of its Book Review for three e-reader platforms, beginning with the Sony e-reader in the next couple of weeks with versions for Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook to follow.

The content featured will be separate from the website or mobile platforms and could lead to the development of products designed specifically for special platforms, à la iPad.

Free e-Books Increase Print Sales

Although newspapers and magazines are considering e-reader interfaces for their content, the devices may be helping the sales of print books. Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that giving away an e-book seems to lead to at least a spike in sales of the print version.

They monitored the sales of 41 print books in the eight weeks before and after a free complete PDF version was released. Results showed that giving the books away resulted in higher print sales in the eight weeks following the giveaway than during the same time period preceding it for fiction (a 26% increase), non-fiction (5%) and Random House releases (9%).

Learning Opportunities

Adapting Content to the e-Reader (And Not the Other Way Around)

Finally, reading books via e-Readers have people talking about web standards. Theoretically, e-books are not websites and, therefore, as Joe Clark of A List Apart writes:

Web standards take on a new flavor when rendering literature on the screen, and classic assumptions about typography (or “formatting”) have to be adjusted.

Clark outlines the two problems that currently exist for electronically published books: semantics and production methods.

The first one requires a basic understanding of markups and tags, while the latter requires changes in the process of how e-books are produced. Currently many e-books are the product of scanned copies of the original print version. Clark acknowledges that

For e-books to have good code, good code has to be found at every stage of the production process.

e-Readers, like other new platforms and devices can offer users another way of looking at content, but it doesn’t mean that the current processes are still applicable. New formats need new styles and approaches. The sooner publishers understand this and adapt, the better the user experience will be.

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