June 24, 2024

In E-Books, Publishing Houses Have a Rival in News Sites

Now they have to contend with another group elbowing into their territory: news organizations.

Swiftly and at little cost, newspapers, magazines and sites like The Huffington Post are hunting for revenue by publishing their own version of e-books, either using brand-new content or repurposing material that they may have given away free in the past.

And by making e-books that are usually shorter, cheaper to buy and more quickly produced than the typical book, they are redefining what an e-book is — and who gets to publish it.

On Tuesday, The Huffington Post will release its second e-book, “How We Won,” by Aaron Belkin, the story of the campaign to end the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. It joins e-books recently published by The New Yorker, ABC News, The Boston Globe, Politico and Vanity Fair.

The books occasionally snap up valuable spots on best-seller lists — “Open Secrets,” an e-book published by The New York Times, landed in the No. 19 spot on The Times e-book nonfiction best-seller list in February.

“Surely they’re competing with us,” said Stephen Rubin, the president and publisher of Henry Holt and Company, part of Macmillan. “If I’m doing a book on Rupert Murdoch and four magazines are doing four instant e-books on Rupert Murdoch, then I’m competing with them.”

But as much as news outlets and magazines would like a piece of the e-book market, it remains to be seen whether what they produce can match the breadth and depth of the work produced by traditional publishing houses.

“I’m doing something different than they’re doing,” added Mr. Rubin, who is in fact offering a book on the phone-hacking scandal at News of the World. “I’m going to get the book on Rupert Murdoch that is the definitive book for all time.”

The proliferation of e-readers has helped magazine and newspaper publishers find new platforms for their work, publishing executives said.

“On the one hand, a Kindle or a Nook is perfect for reading a 1,000-page George R. R. Martin novel,” said Eric Simonoff, a literary agent. “On the other hand, these devices are uniquely suited for mid-length content that runs too long for shrinking magazines and are too pamphletlike to credibly be called a book.”

Some publishers have joined forces with news organizations to produce e-books on a faster schedule. Random House, the world’s largest trade publisher, is partnering with Politico to produce a series of four e-books about the 2012 presidential race.

Many of the works sold as e-books are more of a hybrid between a long magazine piece and a serialized book. Each Random House-Politico e-book will be in the range of 20,000 to 30,000 words, and the releases will be spaced out over the course of the campaign.

“We think that the nature of a book is changing,” said Jon Meacham, an executive editor at Random House and a former editor of Newsweek. “The line between articles and books is getting ever fuzzier.”

Part of the appeal is cost. Instead of paying writers hefty advances and then sending them out on the road to report for months at a time, publishers can rely on reporters who are already doing the work as part of their day job. Politico, for example, has assigned Mike Allen, its chief White House correspondent, to write and report with Evan Thomas, a noted political writer. The e-book will be the combination of their efforts. 

“Our cost,” said Mr. Meacham, “is me and Evan.”   

The Huffington Post, which began publishing e-books this month, is not paying its authors advances for their work, but will share profits from the sales.

Some publishers are trying a different approach — one that requires even fewer reporting and writing resources. Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, for example, have created their own e-books by bundling together previously published works surrounding a major news event. 

When the phone-hacking scandal erupted at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in early July, Vanity Fair collected 20 articles on Mr. Murdoch, his family and their businesses and put them in a $3.99 e-book that went on sale July 29. Graydon Carter, the magazine’s editor, wrote an introduction. The articles were then grouped into six chapters, each with a theme that reflected various aspects of Mr. Murdoch’s life. 

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=79119608db688dd0a60fef62d14e7fc4

Speak Your Mind