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Shorter books, longer life: Wharton Publishing goes digital

With ebooks on the rise, The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania has launched Wharton Digital Press. Under the direction of Professor Stephen J. Kobrin, who is also an international economics expert at the school, Wharton is going full speed into the digital world in a partnership with Constellation, a division of the Perseus Books Group, which will handle distribution as well as print on demand requests for hard copies of books.

"I took over Wharton School publications 3 years ago," says Kobrin. "A year ago, a depression hit the market. Given our size, having published 81 books in a seven-year period, we got every excited about digital and ebooks and see it as a tremendous market opportunity which can bring a lot to the school in terms of understanding and participation."

Kobrin says that going electronic allows for the addition of graphics, video and animation.

"We think there is a lot of potential for ebooks, and demand will build over the next few years."

He adds that in addition to the multimedia aspect of electronic publishing, there's a lot of flexibility with book length, and does not think the typical 250 page book is the way to go. "We want authors' ideas expressed exactly in the way they should be." Shorter titles may be ten thousand words; longer books can approach sixty thousand. You might think that authors are all from the Wharton faculty. Not so, says Kobrin, who reports that 60-70 percent of writers will be unaffiliated with the school, but the editorial board is made up of Wharton faculty. Kobrin points to the demise of brick and mortar bookstores, and says that the Digital Press will use all the Wharton name has to offer regarding marketing and promotion, responding to the rapidly changing world of book sales.

Wharton Digital Press will launch three business titles in June, from authors Michael Useem, Peter Fader, and Mauro F. Guillem.

Source: Stephen J. Kobrin, The Wharton School
Writer: Sue Spolan
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