HarperCollins has launched retail e-book Web sites in four different countries to sell the fruits of its e-book publishing imprint Perfectbound. While other major publishers have set up sites to sell e-books directly to consumers, officials at HC said that the new site's technical infrastructure provides a range of special features.

Chris North, v-p, general manager, electronic publishing at HC, told PW that the site, at www.perfectbound.com, represents a comprehensive approach to e-book publishing and selling: "we're not just digitizing text." The four retail sites will serve the U.S., U.K., Canadian and Australian markets. The sites will allow Perfectbound to sell certain e-book titles (such as Michael Crichton's new novel Prey) simultaneously in all global markets, while restricting the sale of other titles to markets in which HC owns territorial rights. The four sites are structured to allow HC to sell its titles with different international pricing and promotions, or to offer original e-book-only editions in territories where the print version may not be available. E-books are sold in four formats, MS Reader, Adobe e-book, Palm and Gemstar.

While Perfectbound has published about 350 titles (front and backlist) since its launch a year and a half ago, the program is driven by the reading tastes of each region. Some titles are only aimed at certain national markets, but "surprise crossover hits" have emerged that sell well in print in one country and as e-books elsewhere, North said.

David Steinberger, president of corporate strategy at HC, said Perfectbound's e-book sales "have grown to three times what they were a year ago. Sales have grown consistently and rapidly from a small base." Steinberger noted that after a year of experience, HC has learned that readers want "a diverse mix of e-books. Literary fiction, romance and big fiction all sell consistently," he said.