hello ebookreaders and welcome. it's great to see a publisher taking an interest in ebooks and participating in the discussion.
you raise some interesting points and i imagine that similar concerns are probably held by many publishers. i hope you'll take the time to look around this site and read some of the different threads ; many of these topics have been discussed here and you might find some interesting perspectives or new technical information.
i really applaud your openness to ereading. i'm sure that it will help you to gain a loyal customer base.
i would definitely encourage you to take a closer look at the EPUB format which is the emerging standard for ebooks. it is much more powerful than any current format and will resolve many of the layout problems publishers currently face. pdf is not a format adapted to ebooks because it is fundamentally print-oriented ; it is very difficult to use pdf on small portable reading devices and while there may be a market for A4 format readers i think many people prefer a smaller device which can easily be carried in a purse or pocket.
some of the advantages of EPUB have been discussed earlier in this thread and you can easily find more. but i would like to specifically address some of the points you raise in relation to epub.
you mentioned the problem of no standard format, which makes producing ebooks very complicated for publishers. you are absolutely right and this "e-babel" of incompatible, competing formats is perhaps the biggest challenge facing ebooks currently. epub will help to put an end to this, since not only is it designed to be an industry standard, but it can also be easily converted to other formats if there is a need.
of course publishers will need to put the tools for production into place, which will take some time, effort, and financial investment on their part. however once they are in place, they can become an almost invisible part of the workflow, requiring no significant increase in production cost, effort or time.
epub can already be generated using many tools and more will come. if you use InDesign, it can be exported directly as part of the book layout workflow. it will allow much greater control over the appearance of the book than any existing format, including true footnotes, true table of contents, proper pagination, and of course all text formatting, which addresses another of your concerns. the support for SVG (vector) image format will also simplify convertion of graphic-rich books. the main drawback encountered in this area is the smaller size of many reading devices, which can make it difficult to present complex graphs or charts.
Originally Posted by ebookreaders
True. I think that book scanning will become a nightmare for publishers and book retailers. You can already see the rise of torrents sites offering pdf files of textbooks for example. With a new generation of ebook hardware coming up that offer A4 sized displays, some people might be very tempted to download scanned documents and read them on this kind of ereaders.
i think this is probably one of the biggest fears of most publishers. i would like to respectfully point out that (as other posters have mentioned) there is no way to *completely* eradicate piracy, however the BEST way (perhaps the only way) to effectively limit it is to make legal ebooks easily available for purchase at a reasonable price, with no drm, in a format that is useful (epub...). according to people who have taken the time to look around, the majority of the illegal ebooks are not available legally (because the publiser or author will not release them, because they are out of print and demand is percieved to be low...).
in addition, authors who have addressed the topic have found that illegal ebooks have a trivial impact (if any) on their sales of legitimate copies, and can in fact be an advantage since they allow new readers to discover their work ; new readers who quite likely will purchase more books, if they like what they read.
Loss of income
The real question is, will publishers still be able to add enough value to a publication in the future? Many academic authors are perfectly able to create a book or an article themselves. They can even hire proofreaders or editors through the internet. Except for the recognized name of the publisher, its logo, marketing services and quality control, what reasons would there be for an author to turn to a traditional publisher, even if they offer electronic publishing as well? Publishers will be facing loss of income anyway, even if they do offer electronic publishing facilities.
i think publishers *can* still provide added value and retain a place for themselves through precisely the services you've named. but admittedly the structure of the industry is changing and they will need to revise their view of it as well and adapt to new demands and new possibilities. these can be seen as dangerous or advantageous ; i believe the only difference is one of perspective.
Loosing ground for competitors
True; if the competitors do offer the publications the customers are looking for; but if the publisher doesn't offer electronic versions of it's books at all, nobody can offer the ebook in the first place, so there still can't be any real competition in that case.
Additionally, please let me underline that most of the time, it's the authors that don't want us to make their book available in electronic form. They fear that it will be illegaly copied or that others can somehow alter their texts. Of course it takes time and we show ebook readers to our authors to convince them, but it's still very difficult.
this is what the publishers of the Harry Potter series and JK Rowling probably thought. however those books were available as illegal ebooks even before the paper editions in some cases. refusing to sell ebooks will have almost certainly the effect of encouraging illegal copies.
all of your points are interesting and worth discussing and i would certainly like to respond to each of them but i think i have written a long enough saga for one post !!!
i do hope you'll stay to continue the discussion, and take a look in some of the other threads which address your concerns.