Publishers Weekly recently broke the news that HarperCollins will drop its traditional bound catalog and go digital. For fall 2009, HC will produce a digital catalog with the standard information, plus “reviews, interviews and promotional videos.” Unlike a paper catalog, this digital one won’t be stagnant. The online catalogs will be “updated frequently, reflecting any evolving changes with the publication details or marketing efforts surrounding titles. The digital catalogues will also feature access to authors' backlists and, on select titles, link to browsable galleys. The search functionality will allow users to create lists of titles based on categories like genre, format and on-sale date.”
HarperCollins is not the first publisher to go green, though. In 2007, Clarkson Potter, a Random House imprint, started using e-galleys. At that time, Publishers Weekly reported concerns about the security of electronic files. Those concerns have lessened, but not disappeared. There were also concerns about getting reviewers to read digital files.
Mary Kate Maco, head of publicity at Harvard University Press, wanted to invest in e-galleys until she heard what review editors had to say on the subject. Maco had her marketing staff contact book review editors at PW, the New Yorker, the New York Times and other publications, and all the respondents said they wouldn't accept electronic editions for review. Other publicity directors, many at Random House, agreed that press folk still want bound galleys. “At the moment, I think the world at large is not ready [for e-galleys],” said Knopf publicity director Nicholas Latimer.While a lot of the print reviewers are still reluctant to embrace ebooks, other reviewers are not. And now HarperCollins is testing the waters to see how many booksellers are willing to browse online digital catalogs.