Indie Presses and eBooks: Analyzing AWP

This past weekend, we spoke to a handful of prominent indie publishers–Graywolf, Coffee House, and Melville House–plus some periodicals at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference. Clearly, all of them are eager to embrace the digital revolution, and the next few months is go-time.

It seems like indie presses have been waiting until there was a critical mass of devices and readers for eBooks before jumping in. This makes sense–there’s a lot of overhead for an indie press to get started with eBooks. Perhaps it also took this long for the necessary kinds of partnerships to be available and affordable. Both Graywolf and Coffee House are going with BookMobile for eBook converstion; BookMobile seems to be moving itself into the position of the big eBook clearing house for little publishers. Melville has the advantage of distributing with Random House, which already has its programs well underway.

As far as this blogger can tell, eBooks represent huge potential for indie presses, once lots and lots of their books are available digitally. These are books, remember, that one sometimes has to hunt down in bookstores, or that one wouldn’t know about unless one was following the scene. Once they’re digitized, they’ll be linked to by bloggers and readers, accessible from all points on the literary Web. By next year’s AWP, we’ll be reporting digital sales figures, strong ones, we’re willing to bet.