Only two years ago, a veritable lifetime in the world of computers and technology, Penguin was reported by Reuters as being the first publisher to sign a deal allowing access to English-language e-books in China. In the first quarter data for 2009, Penguin’s e-book sales were up seven times over that same period from the year before. Fast forward to first quarter earnings for 2011 and e-books are still big business for publishing giant Penguin.
To be such a steadfast traditional print publisher with some high-profile authors printing from its house, Penguin has certainly embraced digital publishing, possibly being worthy of the title of trendsetter for the entire publishing industry. Instead of fighting the shift towards e-publishing, Penguin has grabbed on with as much energy for digital publishing as for traditional. Penguin’s parent company, Pearson Pic, has already committed to big plans for their digital imprint, practically likening it to its print counterpart within the house in terms of focus and money.
Their digital success should come as no surprise since Penguin Group USA announced the soft launch of its online writing community, Book Country, early last week; in that short time the site has already garnered headlines from a number of publishing news outlets. Part peer-review site, part social media tool, the key to the success of the concept may be that Penguin has enlisted the help of some well-known and respected literary agents who are lending not only their expertise to the site, but their credibility as high-profile leaders in the publishing industry as well.
Despite the naysayers who have already come out of the woodwork to express dubious opinions about Penguin’s motives and its ability to maintain the site purely for the furthering of the craft, Book Country exists to encourage writers and readers to come together via the web to read, review, and discuss each others’ manuscripts in order to bring them to the point the authors wish. The official launch, which will take place in late July, will undoubtedly grab more attention for the digitally-minded publisher.