Traditional Publishers Face New Competition in E-Book Market

As if publishers don’t have enough problems. Julie Bosman and Jeremy W. Peters write in today’s New York Times that publishers have a new source of competition: news organizations, magazines, and newspapers, such as The Huffington Post, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, that have started to publish e-books. Their infrastructure allows them to get e-books on the market more quickly than traditional publishers, and the quality of the writing rivals what is offered by big publishing houses.

For example, here’s how Vanity Fair published a recent e-book:

When the phone-hacking scandal erupted at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in early July, Vanity Fair collected 20 articles, his family and their businesses and put them in a $3.99 e-book that went on sale July 29. Graydon Carter, the magazine’s editor, wrote an introduction. The articles were then grouped into six chapters, each with a theme that reflected various aspects of Mr. Murdoch’s life.

It’s like having a loose-leaf binder and shoving new pages into it,” Mr. Carter said. “E-books are a wonderful way to do a book and do it quickly. They don’t need to be fact-checked again. They do go through copy-editing. But you’re not reinventing the wheel each time.”

But some publishers are adapting. For example, Random House is partnering with Politico to produce a series of four e-books of 20,000-30,000 words each on the 2012 presidential campaign, which will be released periodically during the campaign.

And of course these e-books lend themselves to e-readers such as the Kindle and the Nook.

I wonder how many other traditional publishers will team up with a different content provider in order to publish e-books. Random House and Politico’s e-books won’t replace Theodore White’s The Making of the President series, but their frequency and timeliness will cause them to appeal to a lot of consumers.

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