by Patrick Hurley
On March 19th I flew from Chicago to New York City to attend the 2012 Publishing Business Conference and Expo. My primary goal in attending the expo was to answer an important question—a question my colleagues and I have been discussing for quite some time: Should the Great Books Foundation produce electronic book anthologies? The expo provided a great opportunity for me to meet other publishers and learn how they are approaching the rapidly expanding e-book market. I was heartened to learn that many of them seem to be in the same place as the Foundation and that there is a great sense of optimism about the potential for e-books.
A session conducted by Tom Burke, the chief of e-commerce at Scholastic, Inc., was especially informative. Scholastic’s mission is to "encourage the intellectual and personal growth of all children, beginning with literacy." Although Scholastic is a for-profit publisher, it’s similar to the Foundation. Scholastic has a wide-ranging audience in both the trade and educational markets, and it maintains long-standing relationships with its readers. I was happy to hear that Scholastic views e-books as a natural evolution that is consistent with their mission. I believe that the same applies to the Foundation.
If we are to move into the realm of e-books, we face a series of challenges. We need to determine what type of enhanced reading experience we want to provide our readers in both K-12 and Great Books Discussions markets. Scholastic, for example, has created a reading application called Storia, but also believes that potential reading enhancements such as music or games must be subservient to actual content story. The Foundation will also need to invest in both staff and technology, and negotiate permissions with the rights holders for all our non-public-domain works.
These are significant challenges, but I believe we can overcome them, and in the long run we will greatly improve the quality and scope of the Foundation's products and services.
Patrick Hurley is Production and Permissions Coordinator for the Great Books Foundation. He also writes speculative fiction, and his work can be found in the magazine Big Pulp, the e-zines Darker, Allegory, and Niteblade, and audio fiction podcasts The Drabblecast and Cast Macabre. When not training for marathons, he is at work on his first novel.