Frankfurt E-Book Awards; New Indie Prizes
Calvin Reid -- 10/30/00
Just as the International eBook Award Foundation handed out its first set of e-book prizes, another program, the Independent e-Book Awards was being founded to make sure that small e-publishers, self-publishers and quirky new electronic literary forms aren't overlooked by the Frankfurt prizes. Former Random House editorial director Jason Epstein is one of the jurors, and the awards were organized by a group of independent e-book publishers with help from M.J. Rose, e-book author, e-publishing journalist and quite possibly the medium's first e-book celebrity.

Frankfurt eBook Award Winners
Grand prize(shared): E.M. Schorb's Paradise Square (Denlinger's) for fiction; David Maraniss's When Pride Still Mattered (S&S) for nonfiction.
Original e-book: Ed McBain's The Last Dance (S&S) for fiction; Larry Colton's Counting Coup ( for nonfiction.
E-book converted from print: Zadie Smith's White Teeth (Random House) for fiction; Vilim Vasata's Radical Brand (Econ Verlag) for nonfiction.
Technology: Peter Yianilos for developing the eBookman handheld reader for Franklin Electronic Publishers.

The winners were named at a gala event at the Old Frankfurt Opera House on October 20. The four category winners and the technical achievement winner each received $10,000, and the $100,000 grand prize was split between two books, with each author receiving $50,000. Alberto Vitale, former Random House CEO and chairman of the International eBook Award Foundation, said the awards celebrated "the authors and agents who are embracing this new medium as well as the publishers who are making all this possible." Vitale went on to say that electronic publishing is "in its earliest stages, with the potential to grow explosively in the months and years to come. As the industry matures, the Frankfurt eBook Awards will evolve."

Agent Maria Campbell, who was one of the judges, told PW the committee received more than 800 entries, 300 of them fiction. Campbell told PW that it was an opportunity for her to "learn what was out there in e-books. I'm a traditional print person, and this experience fast-forwarded me into the new medium."

The Frankfurt award winners were dominated by authors published by large houses, and the awards submission criteria has been criticized for excluding small, independent e-publishers. But Campbell described the quality of the original fiction entries as "disappointing," and told PW that all awards need some minimal qualifying standards: "All literary awards are criticized. I don't think our criteria--10 books a year--constitutes a big publisher. The thought that every single publishing entity could submit books is kind of terrifying." And Campbell was quick to point out that E.M. Schorb's Paradise Square, the original fiction e-book winner, was published by Denlinger's Publishing, a small indie house.

Award for Handheld Device
In the wake of Gemstar's announcements about its e-book devices, the technical achievement award was of
particular interest. The prize went to Yianilos, chief technology consultant to Franklin Electronic Publishers, for his work in designing the eBookman, a handheld device from FEP scheduled to reach the market this fall.
The eBookman will come in three models, priced at $129, $179 and $229. Each model features expandable memory cards for storing books, handwritten notes capability, sound (including MP3 player and voice recording), an organizer and much more. The devices can display e-books using Franklin's proprietary reader software, simple text documents and titles in Microsoft Reader format. eBookman's open system will allow other developers to produce reader software for it. Yianilos pointed out the eBookman's price and its "integrated engineering--a system that is secure but open. Anyone can write a program to run on it. FEP is positioned well for the new e-book market."

Independent E-Book Awards
"This is not a protest," said author and e-book journalist M.J. Rose when asked about the new indie e-book awards. "No one's angry. There are just a lot of small creative things going on in e-publishing on a different scale that deserve a place for recognition. The Frankfurt awards just aren't going to do that." Independent e-publishers and even self-published authors are encouraged to submit ("If we get 5,000 books, we'll have to come up with something else," said Rose). There are no cash prizes. "We're out to get exposure and national media coverage. To get people to see and explore the medium," Rose said.

Rose said she has thought about an indie e-book award for a couple of years. "When I saw the Frankfurt judges were all so uninvolved in e-publishing, I knew it was time," she said. The new award is also sponsored by the Mystic-Ink Community (, an online writers and e-publishing community. Judges include Rose; Epstein; Martin Eberhard, founder of NuvoMedia; Charlotte Abbott, Forecasts editor at Publishers Weekly; Carol Fitzgerald, president of the Book Report Network; bestselling author Seth Godin and others. The awards are in three categories: e-books in fiction, nonfiction and short fiction (less than 2,000 words); hypertext in fiction and nonfiction; and digital storytelling in fiction and nonfiction. Random House Audible has agreed to publish the short fiction finalists as audio books.

Rose said the unusual categories will also distinguish the awards. "We're not after the books that big publishing is putting out. We're looking for other things." Rose continued, "Frankfurt is the Academy Awards of e-books. We're Sundance. Indie e-publishers are doing hypertext e-books, multimedia, short digital stories. Their e-books will look more like a low-budget film."

And believe it or not, the International eBook Award Foundation agrees. Alberto Vitale praised the new awards: "I think it's great. There's certainly room for others. Another take by another set of people is fantastic. This is a completely new technology, and anything that helps the case for e-books is good."