A short history of ebooks – also called digital books – from the first ebook in 1971 until now, with Project Gutenberg, Amazon, Adobe, Mobipocket, Google Books, the Internet Archive, and many others. This book is based on 100 interviews conducted worldwide and thousands of hours of web surfing during ten years.
I don’t think many publishers are sitting there saying ‘What are our digital experiments, how are we measuring them let’s see how they’re working.’ I’d like to pretend I was structuring it that way but effectively I’m going ‘What can we do with this book. What are we doing that’s interesting? Let’s have a go and see what works.'
The risk of undertaking a long-term research project in an area like digital publishing is that the goalposts are constantly shifting. When I first put together my proposal for the Unwin Trust Fellowship in early 2011, the Australian publishing industry was a significantly different place to what it is now. Most publishers were lucky to have around 2-3% of sales in digital, and there were still a few Australian publishers who weren’t selling ebooks at all. Amazon’s Kindle was available to Australians, but only by ordering internationally. The sight of an e-reader on public transport was a novelty. Nobody had heard of the Kindle Fire. REDgroup retail had only just gone into voluntary administration, and it was unclear then precisely what the fallout from the loss of almost a quarter of Australia’s book retail presence would be.