I try to keep half an eye on what’s going on in the publishing industry, digitization-wise, because I think there’s a pretty clear connection between books and libraries. (I could be wrong, though.) And in a recent issue of Publisher’s Lunch I noticed the following:
- Tor Books is offering free online science fiction and fantasy books, with email subscriptions. No press release yet, and the wording on the website is a little vague (“free stuff on an irregular basis and while supplies last!”) but apparently the first free novel will be Mistborn. Newsletter subscribers will receive a link to download each book as it becomes available.
- Harper is offering online access to complete books for limited periods of time. Free to all comers, right off their website. Current titles are: The Witch of Portobello, I Dream in Blue, and The Undecided Voter’s Guide to the Next President. Apparently Neil Gaiman is asking his blog readers to vote on which of his books should be part of the project.
- Random House is piloting a program selling individual chapters of books online. Buy a chapter and get the introduction and index for free! First book in line is Made to Stick.
And that’s just one day’s newsletter. Clearly, stuff is happening.
The Kindle may not be the springboard into paperless reading that Amazon hopes it will be, but if not the Kindle, then probably something else before too much longer. The way people read is changing. Not just declining, but changing–we read blogs and buy individual chapters of books, consult and peruse, skim, and maybe only settle down to read a long narrative once in a while. Academic libraries may have a stranglehold on the long narrative longer than most other institutions, but I don’t think we can assume that it will reign supreme, always and forever.