epubBooks at Frankfurt Book Fair 2008

I was very lucky this year to be able to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair. As it was only going to be a one day affair for me I choose Thursday, the day of the Digital Lunch: Digital Publishing and the EPUB Standard’ seminar.

Before the session got under way I had a quick look around the ‘Digital Market Place’ Hall and came across the iRex Digital Reader stand where they were showing off their DR1000 model. Along with having a basic reader they also have two models with a Wacom touch screen and one of those with Wi-Fi. All models have a 10.2 inch display (1024×1280 pixels) – so no need to go zooming in on your PDF files now. This looks a great piece of equipment. After checking out the iRex stand I then made my way down to the IDPF session.

There were four speakers at the Digital Lunch, Michael Smith (IDPF Executive Director), Michael Vantusko (Overdrive – unfortunately Steve Potash could not make it), Fionnuala Duggan (Random House Digital Group UK) and Robert Nell (Sony Reader).

Mike Smith got things started with an outline of the IDPF and the ePub format. He discussed the amazing sales figures we’ve been seeing in the eBook world and the uptake of the ePub standard from publishers and conversion houses.

Then Mike Vantusko from Overdrive talked a little about the challenges of being the first distributor to offer ePub formatted books. He was also was very positive on the uptake from stores such as Waterstones, Borders and W.H.Smith from the UK.

Fionnuala Duggan from Random House UK was very positive toward ePub although she did have some reservations regarding piracy. This seems a common issue among publishers and although I agree that the one-click piracy that digital content offers makes it easier, with or without official digital versions, piracy happens. We all saw what happened with the Harry Potter books.

Random House are now working on having core user formats of both ePub and PDF. Fionnuala also mentioned that as from 2009 they will simultaneously release both Paper and eBook editions of all their new titles.

If you’ve been keeping your eyes open then you would of heard recently that Sony made an unprecedented move by relocating their entire eBook division from Japan to the U.S. to better promote the Sony Reader. Robert Nell talked very emphatically about the future of the Reader and told of their expectations for tens of millions of Readers being sold – Sony is serious about eBooks!

“Two years ago there was no [eBook] standard…now there is a standard, the IDPF ePub standard” – Robert Nell

I managed to grab a few moments with Robert after the seminar in the hope of getting some juicy details about the Readers future, but as one would expect, he was very careful not to give anything away. I asked about a release date for the upcoming Wi-Fi features and even when I offered up an October 2009 date, to tie in with their current one model per year schedule, he calmly said nothing. :)

Neither would he give a release date for the PRS-700 in the UK, although he did confirm that it would be released. I got the impression that we won’t see the PRS-700 in the UK until the latter half of 2009 – very likely September or October. If you’re from the UK and were holding off buying a Reader in case a PRS-700 release was imminent…I wouldn’t wait. So get along to SonyStyle.co.uk (or Waterstones UK) and buy yourself a PRS-505 – I’m sure you won’t regret it.

For their big push into Europe, Sony is continuing their partnerships, such as they have done with Waterstones in the UK. In France from the 23rd October, the PRS-505 will be sold at fnac and Germany will get theirs early 2009 in partnership with Libri GmbH.

Later in the afternoon I met up with Michael Smith for a couple of beers and had a great chat on all things ePub. Mike showed a real interest in ePubBooks.com so it was nice to get some positive feedback on my project. I very much got the feeling that as well as supporting the large publishers and conversion houses, the IDPF are also very encouraged and supportive of what is happening in the community with projects such as ePubBooks and Feedbooks.

In the evening we headed down to the Jazil Bar for more drinks, as did a number of other people.
Hadrien Gardeur from Feedbooks was hoping to make it to the fair, but unfortunately he didn’t show. I did meet Andrew Savikas from TOC O’Reilly, though only briefly, which was a real shame as it would have been great to have a good chat with him – alas I had my train to catch.

The big message I took from the fair was that publishers, conversion houses and distributors are serious about the ePub format. Everyone is getting excited about the growth of eBook sales in general and publishers seem to be almost relieved that we are now seeing an eBook standard developed, which in the long term will save them money and be better for the end consumer.

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One thought on “epubBooks at Frankfurt Book Fair 2008”

  1. Thanks for the write-up, Mike. I was sorry I couldn’t attend (especially given the IDPF presence) so it’s nice to read others’ reports.

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