After acknowledging earlier this month that it was "ramping down" its e-book operations (News, June 9), Gemstar—TV Guide International announced last week that it is folding its e-book group and will cease selling e-book content effective July 16. Gemstar has already stopped selling its Gemstar e-book reading devices.
A spokesperson for Gemstar said the company was exiting the e-book business because of market conditions. The spokesperson declined to answer questions about the future of the e-book group's staff.
The company will maintain its customers' online e-book accounts—digital copies of the books purchased remain available to customers in online accounts—for three years on the Gemstar servers. Customers who have periodical subscriptions can receive a refund.
Although Gemstar e-books were sold only through the Gemstar Web site and online bookseller Powells.com, the format generated a consistent level of sales from a very dedicated customer base. Darren Sennett, director of "web stuff" at Powells.com, told PW that closing Gemstar was "no fun for us. Gemstar sales are a big piece of our e-book sales."
Publishers were also disappointed about the announcement. "Gemstar users are very dedicated e-book readers and we hope that they migrate to other formats," said Simon & Schuster's Keith Titan, who noted that the publisher has been seeing growth in other formats. Titan added that it wasn't the idea of a dedicated device, but rather Gemstar's execution, which involved a closed-distribution system, that hurt sales. "We still think that with the right timing and the right price, a dedicated device can work," Titan said.