BookMobile, the Minneapolis book production and distribution company specializing in serving the needs of university and literary presses, is using its know –how regarding print book design and e-book conversion to break new ground. Company representatives will introduce to publishers gathered at AWP in Washington this week Ampersand, a poetry app that will enable e-readers and other electronic devices to display poetry without inappropriate line breaks and arbitrary indents. The Ampersand app and a companion Web site selling the poetry e-books with the app is scheduled to officially launch this summer at

BookMobile CEO Don Leeper told PW that the company has been looking for ways in which customers who are poetry publishers can take full advantage of the e-book revolution without losing the integrity of their book design. “It’s frustrating that e-books don’t support books where the design is an integral part of the text,” Leeper said, recalling that last year, Coffee House Press wanted to produce 2010 National Book 
Award finalist Karen Tei Yamashita’s I Hotel in an e-book format. “We struggled,” Leeper explained, “It was an absurd task to make it into an e-book because of the book design. I Hotel has poetry, notations, and there are a lot of special layouts.” In the end, Coffee House and BookMobile gave up on that project.

BookMobile, which has offered e-book conversion services since 2008, will create the e-books using PDF files of the book’s interior provided by the publisher, thus maintaining the original design of the print book.

Michael Wiegers, executive editor of Copper Canyon Press, is enthusiastic about Ampersand and intends to partner with BookMobile on this venture. Copper Canyon is a long-time client of BookMobile’s book design and printing services. “Poetry is an art form written in lines. Most e-book presentations I’ve seen don’t respect the poet’s intentionality,” he declared, “When you don’t pay attention to line breaks and stanzas, you undo poetry. A poem is not just the words; it’s how they fall on the page. [Ampersand] allows the poem to be read as it’s meant to be read.” Copper Canyon has received a grant from Seattle’s Paul Allen Foundation to launch an e-book imprint. Wiegers told PW that the development of Ampersand solves “many of the problems” the press has been encountering in developing this new imprint.

Ampersand isn’t the only news coming out of BookMobile this year. Recently, the company partnered with OR Books, providing all printing and distribution services for the unconventional book publisher. Orders for OR Books by both individuals and retailers are automatically transferred to BookMobile’s database, where they are fulfilled, usually in a 24-hour turn-around. BookMobile also sets print runs for OR titles based on pre-orders, thus resulting in lower returns. The company maintains about three weeks’ worth of OR inventory in its Minneapolis warehouse, with prints runs scheduled weekly for some titles. “We’re always looking for solutions for publishers during these changing times. Publishers need to focus on acquiring, publishing, and promoting their books. We’ll take care of the operating side-- for print books and e-books, “ said Nicole Baxter, BookMobile customer service manager. She promises an announcement at AWP about a new partnership BookMobile has just negotiated, providing e-book conversion.