This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Awash in E-Books
Nov 07 2000 12:00 AM PST

Last week New York hosted the ePubExpo conference, and this week it's E-Book World, so there's plenty of news today from the electronic literary front.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reported from E-Book World about a day of arguments about the best business model for making money in the new world of e-books. Foley set up a clash between the status quo - represented by keynoter Richard Sarnoff, president of Random House New Media - and the upstarts, personified by Tony Hendra, original publisher of the National Lampoon (and the voice of Spinal Tap's manager).

Sarnoff dismissed with a sound bite the threat that self-publishing on the Net might pose to established publishers: "Low-cost distribution leads to high-cost branding and marketing." Likewise, Sarnoff gave little credence to talk of disintermediation in the book business: "We're likely to have the same number of intermediaries, but taking different slices."

By contrast Hendra sounded ready to clear out the stables. "The idea is to exploit this cluster of (e-book) innovations and to clear the channel between the writer and the reader," he opined. Hendra's new Web site,, will split revenues 50-50 with writers.

David D. Kirkpatrick was busy talking to a different set of people at Random House. He reported in the New York Times that the giant publisher plans today to announce its own 50-50 revenue-sharing deal with writers. Someone might have thought to inform Mr. Sarnoff.

Several outlets ran an AP story on the years-old battle of freelance writers to get paid for electronic reproduction rights. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the New York Times, Time, Lexis-Nexis and others violated the freelancers' copyrights by putting their works into databases.

M. J. Rose turned in a collection of e-publishing items for Wired: new cash awards for e-books, pricing strategies for reading devices and a HarperCollins initiative to build and host Web sites where its authors can converse with their readers. - Keith Dawson

New Flare-Up in Battle Over E-Books

Publisher Sets Policy on E-Books
New York Times
(Registration required.)

Freelance Writers' Dispute Heads to Supreme Court (AP)

E-Books Garner Another Award
Wired News