If electronic books are the future—literary volumes optimized for the Kindle, the Sony Reader, the iPhone—how come two of this fall's hottest books won't be available in digital form anytime soon? Sen. Ted Kennedy's memoir, True Compass, had a dead-tree print run of 1.5 million but a pixel-version print run of zero. (It's currently No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.) Now comes word that Sarah Palin's memoir, Going Rogue, which will debut in November with a print run of 1.5 million copies, will not be available as an e-book until Dec. 26.
What gives? After all, other blockbusters, such as Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol or Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith (or, as I refer to it, Sundays with Schmaltzie) don't discriminate among readers. Jonathan Karp, editor of the Kennedy memoir, cited the difficulty of translating photos into the new format as a reason not to do an e-version. But such concerns didn't stand in the way of publishing an audio version of True Compass. Why shut out a group of buyers from purchasing the product? And why isn't Amazon.com, which possesses immense leverage over publishers as a big purveyor of plain old books and the dominant seller of e-books, making more of a stink?[read more]