By Erin L. Cox
Last week, Steve Haber, President of Sony’s Digital Reading Business, has proven why Sony is lagging behind in the digital publishing and e-reading race. Both at Mediabistro’s eBook Summit and again on the Huffington Post, he called for publishers to “Make your content more interactive” and stated “It’s time for the publishing industry to join them [the projected 10 million-plus consumers with eReaders] in their movement by narrowly focusing on finding ways to enhance their digital reading experience, before it’s too late.”
Now, I’m no expert, but I am pretty sure that words – either printed on paper or an e-ink screen — have fared pretty well throughout, well, history.
I’m also pretty sure that people buying e-readers, such as like myself, are not buying a device because of its ability to play a short film in the middle of Anna Karenina to break up the bleak, Russian storytelling. People are buying e-readers because it’s easy to store a lot of books in one small device, because you can buy your newspapers, magazines, and books in one place and, because it affords you the opportunity to read a short sample of a book before buying it. In short, e-readers are convenient and easy.
In my letter to publishers in our Frankfurt Edition, I warned AGAINST this kind of thinking that Haber is asking publishers to do. Publishers are not in the business of creating dynamic content (though some can), they are in the business of finding powerful writing that will engage a reader. If the writing is strong enough and the story compelling enough, it will compel a reader to buy it in whatever form it exists.
As someone who just packed eight hardcover books in my bag along with my eReader, I think we can safely say that printed books aren’t dying. Do publishers need to be wiser about their e-book strategy and pricing? Perhaps. But do they need to start putting more bells and whistles in the middle of a novel? I think not.