Electronic books to allow readers to turn the page with a mere ‘click’

It’s too early to say, insists William J. Lynch, president of the electronic division of Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the USA. He believes it is too early to speak with any certainty about books in the era of e-readers and downloading. Kathimerini caught up with Lynch by e-mail after Barnes & Noble announced in mid-July that it was starting a digital bookstore with more than 700,000 titles and will launch its own e-reader with the somewhat off-putting name of Plastic Logic. So far in Greece, only the Kastaniotis publishing house has made inroads into digital books with the eBook. Many fear that printed books will be the loser but Lynch disagrees. «This development doesn’t mean that physical books will disappear. What it does mean, is that we will offer our customers the choice of reading a book whenever they want and however they want. Our aim is to offer the millions of book-lovers who visit our stores instant, easy access to their favorite subjects, their favorite writers, in the format they prefer.» «For us, traditional bookstores are an advantage because they promote in their own way the same content that is in an e-book. In the future, many will combine the use of traditional and electronic books. With digital books, readers will have access to the book they want at any time, no matter where they are. We think that digital books will not replace printed books but will complement them.» To compete with the Kindle, Barnes & Noble is launching their own e-reader, Plastic Logic, in 2010. «Plastic Logic will contain a complete collection of digital books as well as magazines, newspapers and blogs,» said Lynch. He promised it would have the latest technology and the most advanced hardware, «our own, exclusive, e-reader.» A recent article in The New York Times commented on the minor panic among large American publishers concerning whether digital titles would be released at the same time as their printed equivalent. «We work very closely with publishers,» said Lynch. «We have common interests in the market. We believe that digital content will help expand the market together with printed books. It is still too early in terms of the digital content market to be more specific about the price of an e-book. I think that, in the future, we’ll see customer offers that combine purchases of digital and printed books. You’ll see subscriptions, too.» Expansion What about the economic crisis? Has its put the brakes on the development of digital books? «Ten years ago, there was no market at all for digital books,» said Lynch. «Now it’s constantly growing but it’s too soon to draw any conclusions. In America, some 41 million people buy around 13 books a year. If you have a look at how many buy digital books, it’s less than a million. So there are many opportunities to increase that number and it’s still early days. We are expecting massive expansion in the market in 2010.»