Most ads for e-readers still feature a picture of a device showing black-and-white text in neat lines on a small screen. And basic text was what the earlier devices handled best (and, arguably, still do). With lush photo spreads and need to include patterns and illustrations, it's no surprise that publishers of craft titles were not the first out of the gate to embrace digital formats.
That's beginning to change, as the technology advances and the possibilities of the digital era come into clearer focus.
"Now that fixed format e-books are becoming a reality, it is possible to create very beautiful and useful books with heavy illustrated content," says Melanie Falick, publishing director of Abrams's STC Craft line.
Last month STC Craft announced a partnership with Open Road Integrated Media designed to capitalize on those possibilities. The publisher's e-book initiative will launch this fall with eight titles. While most are backlist bestsellers, such as Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Knitted Gifts and More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, Michelle Edwards's A Knitter's Home Companion, released earlier this year, is also on the slate. Falick says, "Knitting books are especially suited to the e-format because knitters have a particularly dynamic online community and also because knitting is so portable—thus making it useful to have access to book content while out of the house."
Embracing the Digital Era
Most other publishers in the category say they are also focusing on growing and developing their e-business strategy, not just in terms of e-books but other types of digital content as well.
California-based C&T Publishing released its first e-book in 2008 and began doing simultaneous e-book releases for all new titles in early 2010. C&T also now offers print and e-books bundles at a discount via its Web site. For example, Bari J. Ackerman's Inspired to Sew by Bari J.: 15 Pretty Projects (Feb.), can be purchased in the print edition for $24.95 or in e-book for $19.99, but as a print/electronic bundle for $29.99. C&T publisher Amy Marson says such bundling has yielded promising results, with e-book business up 175% this year over last, and plans to expand the program are in the works.
But C&T's biggest digital move this year was the May beta launch of PatternSpot.com, a new site aimed at becoming the destination source for online sewing pattern sales. The project grew out of a realization that the biggest segment of growth in the publisher's core quilting market was patterns, notoriously difficult to manage in print. C&T also noticed that more of its authors were selling pattern lines online, such as Sue Kim, whose Bags—The Modern Classics: Clutches, Hobos, Satchels, and More comes out in December. But the company found no single site was the main source of purchase. Built in partnership with company eBookPie, so far PatternSpot has 700 patterns for sale by 100 designers, with 2,000 shoppers signed up.
While the book and pattern businesses will be kept separate for now, Marson recognizes the potential for each to enhance the other. "From a publisher's perspective, everything is speculative unless you have a bestselling author," says Marson. "With this, we have all the data on selling, views, and can watch trends in a real way. It's an acquisitions incubator."
Potter Craft, an imprint of Random House's Crown Publishing Group, is also now publishing its new books simultaneously in print and electronic editions. Senior editor Betty Wong points to the online followings of Wendy D. Johnson, author of Wendy Knits Lace: Essential Techniques and Patterns for Everyday Lace (Aug.), and Clara Parkes, author of October's The Knitter's Book of Socks: The Yarn Lover's Ultimate Guide to Creating Socks That Fit Well, Feel Great, and Last a Lifetime (Oct.) as indicators of the "large and digitally savvy audience" for craft titles and the reason Potter Craft's e-book program has grown steadily.
While Wiley has begun to explore ways to transition its Teach Yourself Visually line to e-book formats, crafts publisher Cindy Kitchel sees the focus remaining on delivering beautiful print books. Packaging, she says, "is a key component to our publishing strategy, to create books with pattern packs, easy-to-use concealed wiro formats, and designs that complement the author's work and personal aesthetic."