Magazine article Newsweek

When E Stands for Eek: E-Publishing: When the First Awards for E-Books Were Announced, Most of the Winners Were. Hardcovers?

Magazine article Newsweek

When E Stands for Eek: E-Publishing: When the First Awards for E-Books Were Announced, Most of the Winners Were. Hardcovers?

Article excerpt

Byline: Malcolm Jones

If you want a progress report on the current fortunes of the e-book, you could do no better than the International eBook Awards, which were announced Oct. 20 at the Frankfurt Book Fair. And the winners were--drumroll, please--on second thought, hold that drumroll. Because it turns out the winners were just regular paper-and-ink, hardbound books. Which, yes, come in an e-book format, too. That's how they qualified for the awards. But there's nothing particularly e-bookish about either David Maraniss's "When Pride Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi" or E. M. Schorb's novel "Paradise Square." Upset by the high pulp content of the contest, at least one of the contest judges vocalized his dismay: Stewart Brand, who is also the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, called the whole affair "somewhere between a joke and a debacle."

Dick Brass tried to put a good face on it by saying that the purpose of the awards was to gain attention for e-books--and in that, at least, they succeeded. Brass is Microsoft's man in charge of e-publishing and the one who dreamed up the International eBook Award Foundation. Poor guy. When he announced the awards a year ago, e-books were just taking off and needed every scrap of publicity they could get. Then in March, along came Stephen King with a novella called "Riding the Bullet," which he published exclusively as an e-book, and 400,000 people ordered it in two days. That news incited a land-rush stampede among conventional publishers to convert books into bytes. What got ignored in the frenzy was the one salient fact about King's endeavor: he had published a book that, at 65 pages, would never have been published conventionally at that length. That's the beauty of e-publishing. It can be long or short and sliced and diced into a variety of formats. …

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