RANDOM House shuts down e-book imprint

Friday, November 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ In another sign that the electronic revolution has yet to arrive, Random House folded its e-book imprint, AtRandom.com, and dispersed the titles among other imprints at the publishing house.

``The e-book market was not as buoyant as we would have hoped,'' Random House spokesman Tom Perry said Thursday.

The change is more symbolic than material. AtRandom was already publishing both electronic versions and paper versions of all their books and that policy will continue at the other imprints. But Random House is America's largest and most influential trade publisher and shutting down AtRandom reinforces the feeling in the industry that e-books will complement rather than replace the paper kind.

AtRandom was announced in the summer of 2000 and offered fiction and nonfiction titles in both formats, although emphasizing the electronic versions. By the following spring, AtRandom had decided to shift from traditional literary works to such specialized titles as ``Dr. Ian Smith's Guide to Medical Websites.'' Sales were slow, often in the hundreds or lower.

Perry noted that Random House remains strongly interested in the e-book market and continues to digitize its massive catalogue. The publisher has confirmed that interest in court, suing a startup e-publisher for issuing electronic versions of such old, pre-electronic Random House books as ``Cat's Cradle'' and ``Sophie's Choice.''

Random House sued RosettaBooks in February, arguing that electronic rights were implicit in author contracts. In July, a U.S. District Court judge in New York ruled that the right to print, publish and sell the works in book form in the contracts at issue didn't include the right to publish the works in the electronic format.