Random House Goes Digital

The New York Times has this article about Random House publishing books only in digital format.\"Beginning in January, the house will publish under the name AtRandom a list of about 20 purely digital books, by authors ranging from the editor of Harper\'s magazine to a downtown dominatrix.\" \"All will be sold online as electronic books or in single copies printed on demand, but they will not be shipped to bookstores.\"

\"Random House becomes the second major house to begin a digital imprint, following Time Warner Trade Publishing, which this spring created a digital imprint of its own, iPublish.com.\"

\"All the biggest New York publishing houses are now moving quickly to prepare for the possibility that digital books will soon take off. Over lunches at Michael\'s, the Four Seasons and other industry hubs, editors are quietly courting agents and authors, trying to sign deals for the digital rights to their new and previously published books.\"

\"As they acquire new titles, they are beginning to establish the rules of digital publishing, from authors\' royalties to the prices consumers will pay. In many cases, especially for brand name authors and older contracts, authors\' agents have retained digital rights. For publishers, that means there is a vast pool of potentially profitable literary properties waiting to be claimed, sometimes from another house\'s list. Time Warner, for example, will publish the electronic versions of several books by the science writer, James Gleick, previously published in hardcover by Random House\'s Pantheon imprint.\"

\"Both Random House and Time Warner are hoping to build their reputations as desirable places for authors to publish digitally, much the way places like Random House\'s sister imprint Vintage are prestigious names to appear under in paperback.\"

\"Some in the book business wonder why the rush. Even Ann Godoff, president and publisher of Random House Trade Group and creator of the digital imprint, admitted that she had not yet managed to enjoy reading a book off a screen, or read a whole electronic book. Neither has almost anyone else in the industry. Many others, meanwhile, worry that online copyright protection is open to question.\"

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