Many people in the publishing industry claim that the primary reason Penguin and Random House merged was to not only account for 1/4 of all books printed in the world, but to have better negotiating power with Amazon. We have all read the stories about the feud between Amazon and Hachette and this is a situation that will likely never occur with the new publishing juggernaut.
Penguin Random House are in the perfect position now to try new things, without disrupting their traditional business model of selling both print and eBooks. One new initiative that formally launched at the beginning of November was a Cloud Reader app, that allows readers to check out of eBooks and read them online. The primary benefit behind this program is to be able to read books on any internet browser on a PC, smartphone or tablet, without having to download an app.
Pelican Books is UK based educational imprint that was discontinued in the latest 80’s, due to sagging sales. It was relaunched this year as an imprint that both prints paperback books and also digital content. There is only a handful of titles that can be read online at this point, but this project enjoys ‘startup’ status within Penguin Random House and allows for more risks to be taken with it. And specifically digital risks, which is exactly what traditional publishers need to be doing.
Currently the Pelican browser experiment involves just five digital titles, and more are planned for next year. There is mind boggling title on economics, one on human evolution, another on the brain, plus the history title of the Russian revolution and a book about Greek and Roman political ideas.
Readers visiting pelicanbooks.com on any device can sample one of the books by reading a chapter for free online. If you dig the sample, there is an option to pay £4.99 to be able to read the entire book in the browser.
Reading eBooks in the cloud is nothing new. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Overdrive all offer similar services. The main difference between what they are doing is that those guys are retailers and booksellers, while Penguin is the publisher. I think this is a very interesting program and developing and maintaining a cloud reader is more cost effective wihhout the need to develop and maintain a fleet of apps for Android, Blackberry, iOS or Windows.