JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG
The Wall Street Journal
A nonprofit group that provides continuing education for lawyers is making its books available for sale on Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle, underscoring the widening appeal of the digital reader.
The discounts off print prices for digital works from the Practising Law Institute will be much smaller than those typical of Kindle best-sellers.
The Kindle edition of thriller writer Lee Child's new novel, "Gone Tomorrow," for example, costs $9.99, a 63% discount from its $27 hardcover price. By contrast, the PLI titles and later supplements will be sold at only a 20% discount from the print edition.
For example, the three-volume "Art Law," by Ralph E. Lerner and Judith Bresler, carries a Kindle price of $220 instead of the $275 print list price, while the Kindle edition of "Copyright Law: A Practitioner's Guide," by Bruce P. Keller and Jeffrey P. Cunard, is priced at $236, a 20% discount from the $295 print price.
"There are a lot of practical reasons to believe that the digital market may well be more profitable for publishers of legal, medical and educational texts," said Andrew Frank, a vice president at market-research firm Gartner Inc. "Since these texts are reference material, the ability to index them and set up bookmarks, which you can do easily with the Kindle, will save time and money for users."
An Amazon spokesman said via e-mail that "in general our goal is to price books as low as possible for customers" but declined to further discuss terms.
The PLI said 67 of its 90 titles are now available in the Kindle format. "Our average book is easily over 1,000 pages, and a number are multivolume sets, so you're talking about a lot of information," said William Cubberley, who oversees the PLI's publishing program. "You'll be able to carry an entire law library on your Kindle." The PLI's publishing operations reaped $10 million in revenue last year.
Traditionally, lawyers buy PLI books whose binders allow them to insert new material and discard the old. PLI customers typically receive annual supplements priced at $125. With the Kindle, users will be able to delete old versions of their texts and substitute new books. The digital editions are also searchable.
Arthur Klebanoff, a New York literary agent who advised the PLI during its talks with Amazon, noted that many PLI titles are extensively footnoted, with the information often provided at the end of each chapter. The Kindle e-books treat the footnote numbers as "links," enabling a reader to toggle between text and footnote.