What The Book Business Will Be Talking About This Week

The E-Reader Will Reach Critical Mass

Just how eagerly is *Google* wooing publishers these days? One indicator: At this year’s BookExpo America, the largest trade book fair in the U.S., Google (NSDQ: GOOG) doesn’t just have a booth presence — it has executives moderating three of the panels during the week.

Publishers, booksellers, bloggers, and librarians from around the world will be crammed into New York City’s Javits Center starting Monday (last year, nearly 22,000 people attended) to discover hot new books, meet authors, and bat around the latest digital strategies. From the latest trend data on the consumption of e-books, to the potential market for enhanced e-books and apps, to the future of Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) — here are the big themes of the week:

New e-readers and lots of Barnes & Noble buzz: Even before Thursday night’s announcement that Liberty Media (NSDQ: LINTA) had made a bid to buy Barnes & Noble, the company was getting a bunch of attention from CEO William Lynch’s comment about B&N now having 25 percent of the e-book market. That was higher than the numbers previously released by the company. Barnes & Noble is also widely expected to unveil its new Nook e-reader at its press event on Tuesday morning. Will B&N accept Liberty’s offer, or will another bidder step up? Is the Nook becoming a serious Kindle challenger? And what does all this mean for Borders, which is stuck in bankruptcy? Barnes & Noble will be the most talked-about company at BEA this year.

E-books in new forms: For now, many e-books are simply digital versions of print books: You may be reading the content on a screen, but otherwise it looks the way it would on the page. More publishers are experimenting with enhanced e-books and book apps, which include features that aren’t available in a print book–like video, author interviews and interactivity. Are enhanced e-books and apps a new revenue stream for publishers? Are readers willing to pay more for them? And if so, how much more–$2 or $10? The industry will be waiting to hear more about whether anyone has had real success in this space.

Long-awaited research on the consumption of digital media: The book publishing industry has traditionally lagged other industries in amassing information about its end users (readers). That’s because booksellers, not consumers, have been publishers’ main customers. Now that book-buying is moving online (and bookstores are facing plenty of troubles of their own), publishers are scurrying to figure out how to reach readers directly, and more companies are collecting data about those readers. Bowker‘s Kelly Gallagher and Book Industry Study Group‘s Angela Bole will present the latest data on student and consumer e-book buying behaviors and preferences from their ongoing project, “Consumer Attitudes Toward E-book Reading and Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education.” Also, the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group will offer a first look at its new annual industry data report BookStats, which tracks the size of the print and digital American book industry. Though the data-starved crowd will soak up any stats it gets, attendees will particularly eager for any intelligence on how e-book pricing affects sales and for sales data on enhanced e-books and mobile apps.

Authors bypassing publishers. The phenomenal rrecent success of self-published authors like Amanda Hocking–and bestselling author Barry Eisler’s announcement that he’d turned down a $500,000 contract to self-publish instead–is leading to a lot of questions, namely: Are we witnessing a tipping point, where a lot more authors are about to start going it on their own? Expect a lot of angst-y conversation about publisher-added value.

Google, Google everywhere: After this week, we should know a lot more about how much traction Google is getting in its books business. Tom Turvey, Google Books Director of Strategic Partnerships, will be moderating a panel of publishing executives on the future of e-books (expect a lot of questions on how much of their business is now digital, as well as questions about the success of new business models they’re experimenting with). In another panel, “The Three Rs of Google eBooks: Reading, Regions and Retailing,” Google Books Director of Product Management Scott Dougall will provide info on what the company has learned about Google eBookstore users–including the devices they’re using, what they’re reading, and where they live. And in “Seven Years of Google Books: The next chapter,” Google Books Director of Engineering James Crawford will talk about what the company–which has now indexed over 2 million books–is tackling next.

We’ll be covering BookExpo America all week. If there are topics that you’d like to know more about, please let us know.

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