I posted this on the YALSA list-serv after reading their discussion about eBooks, and thought it might be something that would be interesting to share here. Part of the discussion was the number of scholarly ebooks texts in libraries verses the amount of commercial fiction available. My thoughts:
Amazon and other ebook content providers are working like crazy to get more titles into their catalogs. What this means is they have to research who has the electronic rights to each work, and then negotiate with them. There are so many book contracts that were signed before this technology existed that the industry is still working on a fair royalty rate for the authors based on how much it costs to produce and distribute an ebook versus what it costs to produce and distribute a physical book. (And, unlike the traditional publishing model, with eBooks there are no returns, so that’s another thing to consider.) Until there’s a standard, many agents/authors will be hesitant to grant ebook rights to a publisher who did not originally have them. On the other hand, though an author can work direct with Amazon to put their book on a Kindle, Amazon’s main goal is not to publish eBooks, it is to distribute them. So, an author would have to find an eBook publisher on their own.
My guess is that the same thing that happened with audio books will happen with ebooks. Where there used to be two or three audio publishers to submit for audio consideration, there are now several independents as well as the major publishers’ audio houses (which produce audio versions of books that were printed both in-house and from other publishers.) Perhaps more independent ebook publishers that will buy electronic rights and then format the books to go across the various platforms and formats will help solidify eBooks as their own market.