E-publishing updates from the Bookseller

I seem to get "briefing" and "bulletin" emails every day from the Bookseller as part of my (very expensive, Christmas present) subscription. I think that these mostly find their way into the printed edition of the magazine each week, but I have not really worked it out yet. Here are a few highlights, in any event:

Waterstones have sold more than 30,000 Sony e-readers since last September's launch, and about 75,000 e-books, to their surprise. (On Christmas day, Waterstones sold more e-books than physical books on their website, and Random House reported significantly higher sales of e-books over the Christmas period, which they put down to people being given e-readers as presents.) The main bottleneck, says David Kohn, Waterstone's "head of commerce", is that there are not enough e-books out there. He thinks that every conventionally published book should simultaneously be released in e-form, but I think publshers might be finding that technically and operationally hard to achieve (even if economically desirable, which I am not sure about either). Amazon may be about to launch its second-generation Kindle at a press conference on 9 February (next Monday), according to rumours reported in the New York Times. I do not get the impression that the UK and the rest of Europe is likely to be able to buy it yet. Good news for those who read Spanish, though – you can download e-books for 5 euros. And good news for schools – which will increasingly be using this form of book.

Print on demand is another e-technology that is coming into its own with a vengeance. One POD provider, Lightning Source, reports that publishers are increasingly using its service to increase print runs. A book that would previously have had a print run of 250 is now more likely to get one of 1,000, thanks to this technology and the help it gives to publishing economics. Lightning Source printed 30,000 books in its first year of operation (2001); last year it printed 2 million. It has just printed its 7 millionth book in total. I have one or two Lightning Source books and like their production values – very white paper and large, dark print.

Although Borders is not doing well in some respects, being about to close down its shops at UK airports, its website seems to be increasingly popular, achieving third place (up by 56) in a ranking by Retail Bulletin. HMV is at number 29, Play.com at 35, Waterstones  at 43, and W H Smith at 104 – equal to Amazon, which must say something about this particular list. Whatever one may think about Amazon's principles, it has a huge amount of stock on its site, and is easy to use and order (even though its browse and search functions are nowhere near as good as they were in the old Google partnership days, as I discovered yet again yesterday when trying to find books about Shelley's poems — at least I found one in the end, which is one better than all the physical bookshops in Kingston). And returning to online for the minute, I am pleased to read today that Woolworths is to be reborn online! I wait with bated breath – but not in the hopes of finding anything there about Shelley.