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U.K. steps up e-book production

While the Canadian publishing industry is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward e-books, the U.K. industry seems to be chomping at the bit to get on board. According to The Bookseller, two of the U.K.’s biggest book retailers “ Waterstone’s and Borders “ are preparing to get behind e-books in a very big way, prompting publishers to step up the production of titles.

Waterstone’s is in talks with publishers about the supply of e-books, and is understood to be planning a July launch for its programme. Borders is gearing up to sell e-books from its transactional website, which launches in April. Commercial director David Kohn said: “We hope to have an [e-book] offer in place by the end of 2008.” Gardners is also ramping up its e-book delivery service.

Agents are being inundated with requests from publishers to clear e-book rights at speed. Philippa Milnes-Smith of LAW, head of the Association of Authors’ Agents, expressed concerns that authors were being “rail-roaded”. She said: “We understand where publishers are coming from, but we’re concerned for authors that they get the right remuneration, and also that e-books are published to the same standard as printed books. Our overriding imperative is quality not speed.” Publishers are looking for blanket clearance of rights, she said. “We treat authors individually, not as a job lot.”

The industry’s burgeoning enthusiasm for e-books is especially notable in that the U.K. doesn’t even have the big e-reading devices yet “ the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle are currently available only in the U.S. Basically, U.K. booksellers are just getting ready for the splashy U.K. launches of those devices later this year.