However Wiegers says he thinks the issue will soon get out of the hands of the publishers. 'I don't think the government or publishers will dictate how this is going to play,' he says. 'And that's what Amazon is realising and fighting the battle with the end users.'
Falconer says she's not sure if there is a consensus yet among authors when it comes to electronic delivery of their works. 'It's early days and there are a lot of uncertainties such as author royalties, pricing and availability,' she says. The authors points to the recent struggle between Amazon and giant US publisher Macmillan on pricing as a closely watched fight in the industry, with 'everyone on the edge of their seats'.
'Questions authors ask are: 'How long after a new release before the ebook appears?' 'How much will it cost compared to the physical book?' 'What about unauthorised downloads? 'How do we safeguard the copyright?',' she says.
Even printers of physical books have been drawn into the debate. South Australian book printer Ben Jolly, who oversees Griffin Press, recently told AdelaideNow he believes there will always be a place for the printed word, with electronic books being complementary. 'We believe there is still going to be people out there who want the printed copy as opposed to some form of digital reader,' he said, although he noted some new readers could be attracted to start reading by the new eBook technology.
Many in the industry complain about large publishers' attitude towards eBooks. But one thing is clear: The giants of the sector are aware of the digital revolution going on, and are actively engaged in a dialogue about it.
Sometimes that dialogue is combative '” such as the struggle between Macmillan and Amazon in the US. But much of the time '” as it was in Australia just last week '” it can also be constructive.
Last week the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australian Publisher's Association hosted one day symposiums in Sydney and Melbourne that brought together over 400 members of the nation's publishing industry '” publishers, editors, booksellers, literary agencies, libraries and so on '” to discuss the eBook revolution.
APA chief executive Maree McCaskill laid out the future for publishers in plain speak. 'They're basically going to have to be prepared and geared for a very fast transition in publishing over the next 12 months,' she said.
However she also noted the future wasn't as bleak as some might have believed. 'With the recent release of a number of dedicated delivery services, we can now see the outlines of a future business model that is digital all the way to the consumer,' she said. 'What this means for Australian publishers and Australian authors is being worked out right now.'
Publishers such as Faber and Faber, Bloomsbury Publishing, Allen & Unwin, Macmillan and Spinifex Press spoke at the events. A good summary of the proceedings and the issues discussed can be found online at Bookseller and Publisher.
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