Wednesday, December 14, 2005

HarperCollins goes digital

I am no sort of commercial historian, but I seem to remember that there have been various battles in the past about which particular format would prevail. VHS versus Betamax and all that kind of thing.

Now something of the same sort seems to be happening in publishing. A little late in the day, major publishers have woken up to the fact that the digital revolution cannot be ignored. More to the point, it offers possibilities for increased revenue, if only someone can figure out how to do it.

Google, Amazon, Yahoo, MSN, and doubtless others, are all working on ways to unlock the riches in books, make those riches available to the public, and so earn a buck or two in the process. Until recently, the publishers have either been oblivious to these schemes, or have stood there open-mouthed, or have tried to block them. But now a new strategy has emerged.

First Random House announced its plans to digitise its books, and now HarperCollins has joined in. The Times has the story. It's all a little vague and woolly at present, and nothing much will happen, as far as the consumer is concerned, for a year or two. But what looks like emerging is another of those battles about format, so to speak.

Will Google beat up MSN? Is Yahoo coming up on the rails? Who is running a book on this?

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