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Book publishers fight the one-screen problem

Publishers of ebooks are meeting this week at the World e-Reading Congress, and a site called the Bookseller has an interesting writeup of one of the issues being discussed there: Whether the book market can compete with, of all things, Angry Birds. Apple's iPad has become, publishers say, a "one-screen" device, and that's led to a one-screen problem. Ebooks and other traditional media are now competing, on a 1:1 ratio, for time that could also be spent using apps and games. Book publishing, one of the panelists says, finds itself "competing vertically and horizontally against all other media."

That's an interesting take on the subject, and sure, you could argue that since your books and video games are now basically running on the same devices, the competition could be a little more direct than it's been before. But to some extent, this is much ado over little to nothing -- books have always "competed" with other forms of entertainment, and in many cases they've not only survived but come out on top. Just because opening a book now consists of launching iBooks, the Kindle app or another ebook reading app doesn't mean the rules have changed all that much.

Sara Lloyd from Pan Macmillan, puts a good final word on the subject: "We have just been constrained by book covers, but we can now evolve further. The only difference now is that we won't always make things that look like books." That's the key here -- instead of viewing other apps on the iPad as competition for the old forms of book sales, it's probably time to start looking at how that form of media can evolve as well.

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