Publishers Weekly

by , Mar 30, 2011, 2:45 PM
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I read regional pubs of places I refuse to visit; enjoy enthusiast mags on subjects I'd never pursue. There is something about glossy paper, great photography and the printed word that speak to me. But we live in a digital age -- so I pretend to stay current. Thus, when I was given a Kobo e-reader, I gave it a whirl.

First the tech specs: offered via Borders, the Canadian-based e-book is less than eight ounces and newer models have Wi-Fi. The six-inch screen is easy to read, without backlight or glare, though I wish I could make it brighter. Navigation is via a four-way directional pad, so you can move quickly between screens, and side buttons list Home, Menu, Shop and Back. The set-up is a bit tricky until you master it. The good news for e-addicts: It has 1 GB of memory and the battery lasts two weeks.

Syncing titles via the Kobo site, a device-neutral platform, is a breeze. There is a Newsstand section, which offers free trials of various magazines and newspapers, in addition to 300+ free books. (It holds 1,000 titles.) Many are in the public domain, like Jane Austen, a fantastic read in any age. Plus, Austen is a bazillion times more insightful than Dr. Phil, who revels in misery -- probably because it's so profitable.

On the magazine front, the choices are much slimmer, though Kobo is adding titles. Among the roster: The Nation, National Review, Harvard Business Review, The Scientist and Publishers Weekly. I chose the latter; assessing a trade weekly on books on an e-book is just so post-modern!

Publishers Weekly was founded in 1872 and publishes 51 times a year. It is chockfull of useful industry news and features, but book reviews comprise a major chunk of each issue. PW was part of Reed Publishing for 25 years, until April 2010, when George W. Slowik Jr, a former PW publisher, bought it.

The e-reader version is similar to the magazine; click on the black-and-white cover and peruse the table of contents: Features, Department & Columns, Bestsellers, Reviews, News Briefs, etc. Here's a little story kismet: "E-books Poised to Overtake Mass Market Paperbacks." Excluding the lack of hyphen in mass-market (compound adjective), the Association of American Publishers reports the first 2011 sales saw e-book sales jump 115% to nearly $70 million -- at the 16 publishers that supplied results -- surpassing hardcover and mass-market titles.

True, hardcover sales beat ebooks overall, yet publishers must be sitting shiva for the mass-market stats; ebooks will become the third-largest trade format in 2011. Also alarming: 200 Borders store will close by late April and approximately 28 more by the end of May. Borders is like the U.S. government; both are threatened with shutdowns. (Kobo is 58% owned by Indigo Books & Music, with minority shareholders Borders, Red Group and Cheung Kong Holdings.)

Whatever happens, PW, the industry bible, will smartly cover it.

PW has 21,000+ subscribers. The ads run in the print version; none in the e-reader. Images are equally rare, save for the occasional photo or book jacket. I also miss the J-C Suares cartoon that once graced the back page. There are short, helpful reviews for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc. but one in particular caught my eye: The unnamed reviewer (a longstanding magazine tradition) considers David Thorne's "The Internet Is a Playground" the "funniest book I've read in years," calling Thorne part "social cartographer, psychologist and sociopath."

Who knew "sociopath" was a compliment? Politicians that vehemently insisted the country could not afford health care, but could spring for various wars, must feel redeemed.

Each section of the e-reader PW is preceded by a quote. Department & Columns opens with Charles Dickens' "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Not only prescient, but I'm positive Tale of Two Cities' bad boy Sidney Carton would go digital.

Overall, reading a magazine on the Kobo e-reader was a novel experience. Once acclimated, it was a fun one, too. First, it impressed the nephews. If you want to score points with anyone under 21, own something that begins with "i" or trumpet anything wireless. It's a change from whipping out American Cowboy at the symphony just to watch reactions. Then again, we can't all live to provoke. For those who love to read -- and downsize clutter -- the Kobo is a keeper.

MAG STATS
Published by: PWxyz LLC
Frequency: weekly
Web site: http://www.publishersweekly.com

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