The afternoon panels and presentations at yesterday’s International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) Digital Book 2009 were filled with promises of impending hardware and software innovations. Sony Director of Business Development Bob Nell talked about the number of outlets that will be selling the Sony Reader next Christmas–6,000, which is double last year’s number–and hinted that wireless and Mac-compatible readers are on the horizon. Adobe‘s Nick Bogaty demonstrated how the latest version of CS4 allows direct (and reflowable) ePub export from InDesign. Lexcycle‘s Neelan Choksi showed Stanza’s true range–the iPhone app comes in 12 languages, 21 fonts, and a stunning 135 font colors, plus background textures–and its 1.8 million users come from 60 countries.
But the major theme of all the talks was–ultimately, and appropriately–the consumer. As Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blogger Sarah Wendell put it, what all readers want is a device that is “durable, flexible, accessible, affordable….[Readers] can help you grow the digital book market if you stop creating obstacles for them.”
One current obstacle, said panelists at “Emerging eBook Business Models…and the Role of DRM,” is DRM. Here’s what Andrew Savikas, VP of Digital Initiatives at O’Reilly, had to say.
Direct book sales through O’Reilly’s website make up 10% of its business, and most of those sales are digital books. When customers buy eBooks directly through the site, they receive free lifetime updates–and the books are DRM-free. Meanwhile, because of those benefits, O’Reilly has been able to sustain an eBook price that is 80% of the print book price.
Best of all, eBook sales have impacted print sales positively. For example, O’Reilly offers its book iPhone: The Missing Manual by David Pogue as an iPhone app, a printed book, and an eBook. When O’Reilly raised the app’s price, fewer people bought the app AND sales of the printed book on Amazon fell. When O’Reilly lowered the app’s price, people bought more copies of both the app and the printed book.