Publishers are finding innovative ways to market e-books to a wide audience. Print and ebook retailing, while often done by the same businesses and for the same market, have differences in the ways the products are marketed and sold. The class of readers likely to read an ebook is the same as those who read books, but the type of distribution of the texts varies for ebooks and print books. Because of these differences, ebook publishers are developing innovative ways of distributing their titles.

One way some publishers are increasing sales of their ebooks is by marketing them as free of digital rights management (DRM) software: coding which restricts the number of devices ebooks can be read on without additional cost. Baen Books of North Carolina, for example, is a pioneer of this marketing strategy.

Another difference between ebook and print retailing is in the way publishers sell ebook forms of their products to libraries. Major publishers are worried that borrowing an ebook from a library database is as simple a process as purchasing one, and that thus more people will choose to borrow rather than purchase. But rather than not distributing these ebooks to libraries at all, some publishers are restricting how their popular titles are rented, to ensure access is fair for all parties—libraries, publishers and borrowers. This access is all the more important as public awareness of libraries renting out ebooks is increasing.

Other ways publishers are retailing their ebooks are through paid subscription services, which allow users to browse available material including books and videos before purchasing it. Reading Rainbow, the free educational app resurgence of the popular children’s television series on PBS, is an example of this paid subscription service. Now owned by RRKidz, Reading Rainbow claims that 46,000 books are read and more than 41,000 videos are watched on its service every week.

Some publishers are marketing interactive features to parents and educators. Scholastic’s free ebook application Storia allows parents to monitor the reading activity and progress of their child. It also offers ebooks with text, audio and games.

Aside from marketing for children’s literature, two other companies are doing big things with interactive media: Demibooks and Inkling. Demibooks has Storytime, which hosts interactive ebooks with animation, video and sound. All the books on Storytime have been designed with its special software called Composer, a subscription service that helps ebook developers create book apps ready for purchase. Similarly, Inkling, which hosts books on medical, business, fitness, cooking and more, has Habitat, which anyone can download and use to publish their ebook to Inkling’s digital storefront.

One final way a particular publisher is marketing its digital comic books is by advertising free copies for download. Dark Horse Digital, part of Dark Horse Comics, recently celebrated its anniversary by doing so, and recorded one million downloads.

From children’s educational media to developing book apps for consumption, these approaches show the variety of ways publishers and small companies are marketing ebooks.

Did You Know?
When people think of ereaders, the Amazon Kindle or the Barnes & Noble Nook might come to mind. But neither of these were the first ereaders on the market—nor will they likely be the last. Sony was the first to produce anything reminiscent of an ereader. The company created the Data Discman, intended as a research device, which enabled people to access their encyclopedias and reference books in digital format on the go. This ereader predecessor, which originally cost $500, could be used at the time to read publications such as the King James Bible and USA Today. It was released in 1991—seven years before the first ”battle“ of ereader models took place. This initial battle, which took place years before the competition between the Kindle and the Nook, occurred among NuvoMedia’s Rocketbook and Softbook Press’s SoftBook. The original Rocketbook held 4,000 pages, but the Pro version could hold around 40 books. The SoftBook, on the other hand, could hold about 100,000 pages. The SoftBook cost $600 (even more expensive than today’s newest iPad) or gave the buyer the option to pay $300 up front, then continue with a $20 per month ”content package“ plan. The Rocketbook did essentially what the original Kindle did, apart from wireless downloads. But because there was not a market for it at the time, it fell by the wayside. Eventually both the NuvoMedia and Softbook Press were purchased by Gemstar Ebook Group—but even they were forced to pull back on their ereader operations in 2003.  These devices were simply ahead of the market, a market whose customers would not see the benefits of an ereader for a few more years.