At its national sales meeting in Bermuda this past weekend, Random House told its field sales reps that they'll soon be receiving a fancy gift: a Sony Reader. According to RH spokesman Stuart Applebaum, “We have bought several hundred of the devices.” Random's announcement follows on the heels of similar initiatives at other big trade houses, including Hachette, S&S and St. Martin's, all of whom are buying Sony's e-book readers for their sales, marketing and editorial staffs in order to reduce paper waste and expense, to expedite a manuscript's passage through various hands and departments, and to lighten the bags of employees used to carrying three or four heavy piles of paper every day.

Daniel Albohn, Sony's manager of new business development, who initiated the Reader project in the U.S., anticipated publishers' enthusiasm for the Reader: “It has big advantages,” he said. “For paper-intensive tasks, it can reduce the tonnage of paper, toner or ink. When you add the electronic delivery of files, you can also reduce shipping costs.” The Reader can display MS Word files.

Phil Madans, Hachette's director of publishing standards and practices and the head of the company's just-completed Sony Reader rollout, was amazed at how quickly staff took to using the devices: “We started this around last Thanksgiving. I've been here 17 years, and I've never seen anything accepted so quickly.” More than 300 Readers were handed out in the U.S. and England. Hachette is using the Reader across departments, Madans explained: “Editorial is asking for digital submissions; once the manuscripts are accepted, we move into the sales and marketing area, where they get the manuscripts in process. For this spring's list, we put everything on the Readers.”

Matt Baldacci, v-p and director of marketing and publishing operations at St. Martin's, is equally excited: “There can be a major saving in time—we don't have to photocopy manuscripts. We can get one to a sales rep in San Francisco, for instance, in a couple of minutes.” Baldacci also noted that editors can quickly switch among hundreds of books: “If you see something and say, 'hey, that's not for me,' you can immediately go on to something else.” St. Martin's is still testing the product in-house, but hopes to distribute hundreds soon.

Applebaum expects speedy results from the distribution of Readers at RH: “Our goal, which we hope to reach quickly, is to eliminate altogether manuscript dispersal to our sales group.” Madans also envisions a quick return on Hachette's investment. “We looked at how much we were spending on paper, postage, ink. A 400-page manuscript would cost $7 to print,” said Madans. “In the first couple of seasons, the Reader will pay for itself.”

Amazon KindleBook Store* Sony eBook Store†
1 A New EarthEckhart Tolle Dutton 7th HeavenJames Patterson Little, Brown
2 The Power of NowEckhart Tolle New World Library The Other Boleyn GirlPhilipa Gregory Scribner
3 Three Cups of TeaGreg Mortenson Viking A Change of HeartJudi Picoult Atria
4 Eat, Pray, LoveElizabeth Gilbert Viking The First PatientMichael Palmer Macmillan
5 The SecretRhonda Byrne Atria/ Beyond Words A New EarthEckhart Tolle New World Library
*Since the release of the Kindle on 11/19/2007 Last 30 Days

Amazon Promises More Kindles Soon
If you're planning to buy an Amazon Kindle, or if you've already ordered one and are waiting for it, chances are you won't get it tomorrow, but, according to Amazon, you won't be Kindle-less for long. Heather Huntoon, Amazon's PR manager in charge of digital products, won't say exactly how much longer you'll have to wait. “We're hoping in the coming weeks that we'll be fully stocked up again,” she told PW. The $399 Kindle sold out within five and a half hours of its November 19 release. At the AAP annual meeting on March 5, Steve Kessel, Amazon senior v-p, worldwide digital media, acknowledged that the Kindle had been out of stock on and off throughout the winter, and said Amazon was working to meet backorders. Two weeks later, however, delays continued, prompting CEO Jeff Bezos to post a letter on the Amazon homepage on March 20: “We had high hopes for Kindle before its launch, but we didn't expect the demand.... We've been shipping on a first come, first served basis, but many customers have had to wait as long as six weeks after ordering.” Bezos went on to thank customers for their patience. “Our goal is obviously to fulfill orders as soon as possible,” said Huntoon, who also acknowledged “there has been frustration” among customers.