E-book sales may be relatively small, but according to spokespersons for McGraw-Hill and St. Martin's, they're growing fast, and both publishers are working aggressively to make more titles available.

Bob Bolick, v-p for new business development at McGraw-Hill, said that e-book titles are generating "hundreds of thousands of dollars a month" for McGraw-Hill's academic and professional e-publishing program. And at St. Martin's, Jeff Gomez, SMP's e-book and print-on-demand manager, told PW that e-book editions of the house's frontlist are selling across all genres.

The professional and academic market, Bolick told PW, favors Acrobat's PDF format for e-book versions of graphics-heavy textbooks and professional titles for use on laptop and desktop computers. The general trade market, said Gomez, wants multi-use handhelds for digital reading. Both publishers expressed interest in the MobiPocket reader, a newly introduced e-book format that will run on any handheld device.

Academic Market

McGraw-Hill, said Bolick, has about roughly 2,000 e-book titles (formats overlap so the figures will not add up precisely) available in various user platforms. Of the 2,000 titles, 800 are in PDF-based Adobe format, 325 are in MS Reader and about 700 are in the Palm and other handheld formats; and another 200 titles are available in the MobiPocket format, a cross-platform format developed by the French firm MobiPocket, which has partnered with Franklin Electronic Publishers to introduce its e-book technology to the United States. Bolick expects to eventually offer a total of 500 titles in the MobiPocket format.

"We are seeing a demand for laptop and desktop formats," Bolick said, "but Palm is getting up to speed." McGraw-Hill wants to "slice and dice" its content, said Bolick, selling chapters and excerpts from print works in e-book form. "Our market wants information in multiple formats," he said.

McGraw-Hill also plans to imbed a DOI (digital object identifier) in future e-books. The DOI icon provides a pop-up menu that the consumer can click through to purchase the print edition. Bolick said that by experimenting with the DOI in a recent professional title, the house recorded "a 100% increase in sales of the print book."

E-books for the Trade

Gomez told PW that SMP is releasing 25 35 digital editions from its print frontlist each month. "We're getting e-rights to everything we sign up," he said. SMP offers authors a standard out-of-print clause (three years without sales) for e-rights, Gomez said, adding that, "there are no complaints from agents." SMP also offers roughly 2,000 titles: 700 in the Palm format; 174 in MS Reader; 236 in Adobe; 974 in the Gemstar format; and another 50 titles in MobiPocket. "Offering multiple e-book formats is expensive," said Gomez. "For that reason, MobiPocket looks very interesting."

According to Gomez, trade e-book sales are driven by handhelds and, as a result, e-book sales in Adobe and MS Reader (which run only on laptop and desktop computers) were "flat," while Palm reader sales (particularly business titles) were "very robust and growing." The company also recently agreed to supply 50 titles across all genres to the e-book retailer Fictionwise.com.

Unlike McGraw-Hill, SMP is unconcerned about flexible DRM. "We want all our DRM at level five [top] security," said Gomez. The house is also leery of formats (such as Adobe) with voice synthesizer capability, he said, which may clash with audiobook rights.

Sales of science fiction titles are the strongest, but, said Gomez, "Everything is starting to sell: women's fiction, literary fiction. Our general list is moving. It's exciting."