30 October 2006

Being a digitally produced magazine, of course we're interested in all things e-pub. I just read this release from Publisher's Lunch about technical standardization of distribution for e-books. There's no little amount of suspicion of electronic methods of distribution among readers and writers, and some of that suspicion revolves around quality. When I sold my first story to an e-zine my non-industry friends and family were curious if it was a real sale, since it was online. Shrug. It was a paid credit, just like a story that appears in Electric Spec. I was happy with the zine, happy with the editing and quality, so I was thrilled with the sale. However, I recently read of a writer who declined a book deal with an e-book publisher. From what I could tell their main crime was being new, though they had verged on the vanity press arena since several of their books had been written by one author, who also happens to be an editor. The ensuing discussion centered mainly on marketing and distribution and retaining rights for print venues, and I think some good points were made. Standardization could alleviate some of these worries, be it books or magazines or music, and it's as much to protect the consumer as the writers and publishers. After all, we don't want our books sent to ten thousand pcs for free, do we?
"Today's announcement heralds the beginning of increased title availability and
lower costs for publishers entering the eBook and digital reading market,"
stated Neil de Young, Hachette Book Group USA...Over forty publishers,
technology companies and organizations were involved in the OCF Working Group,
the committee responsible for the creation of the standard, including Adobe
Systems Inc., Benetech, DAISY Consortium, eBook Technologies Inc., Hachette Book Group, Harlequin, iRex Technologies, Mobipocket (An amazon.com company),
netLibrary, OverDrive Inc., Random House, Simon & Schuster, WGBH and many
How does all this apply to us? Well, I believe in some standardization, even for e-zines, and focusing on distribution is a good start. I think the internet fosters a valuable free-for-all attitude, but when you download a file from Electric Spec, even for free, you've got to know that you're getting what we advertise: a well-written, bug-free, tightly edited story. I think we're achieving that so far, but some of the e-books and e-zines aren't always so stringent. I'd hate for them to put a black mark on the e-publishing industry as a whole, and standards will help the maintain the quality people have come to expect from print zines and books. I'm a firm believer in the power of blogs and e-zines and e-books, as well as more traditional forms of print, because I believe in words and communication. More writing and more reading and more availability can only improve the human condition, and, used wisely, the Internet is a path in the right direction.

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