RHP and E-books

RHP is continually looking into whether to publish their books as e-books but as yet none of our books can be purchased in a completely electronic format.

We do make available in PDF format, free of charge, the copiable material from our manuals published over the last few years. This is to help purchasers use the materials more conveniently.

A major feature of our publishing has been to work with authors to produce books in a wide variety of different formats to meet what we and they see as the specific needs of readers. Many of these formats are design-rich, and include forms, charts, illustrations, tables, bullet lists, etc. We have received a huge amount of positive feedback for this approach, which is markedly different from that of many other publishing companies.

Most e-book readers, for example Kindle, cannot cope with design-rich formats. So, for many of our publications, the only way we can provide them via such readers is to strip out the richness of design. This is costly but, more importantly, it would result in books no longer fit for the purpose intended by their authors and which might need to include statements about the electronic version not being a full and adequate version of the original printed book. In some cases, for example books on child protection, we might also need to state that we cannot recommend that the electronic version be used to guide practice.

Not many people have asked us about providing our books electronically but a second generation of Amazon's Kindle and other e-book readers like it have changed many readers' behaviours and expectations. The challenge for us now is to ensure our approach to publishing can be incorporated into a suitable electronic platform.

We are considering placing on readers such as Kindle a relatively small number of books that are not design-rich, whilst looking for alternatives for those - the great majority - that are. In this context we are currently considering working with BlikBook. www.BlikBook.com

BlikBook would not be able to cover all our publications as they only work in their selected student market areas. However, this does include social work, where we hope they will expand from their current emphasis on undergraduate to include post-graduate and continuing professional development.

Their technology and business model includes:
- facsimile reproduction of the book's pages
- highlighting and annotating text for renters' own studies and learning
- e-book rental on flexible timescales to fit students' timetables
- on-line communities of readers (and potentially of volunteer experts) to ask questions and discuss texts

We welcome comments on this overall statement of RHP's approach to e-book publication, by email to rupert@russellhouse.co.uk.