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E-book revolution favors the agile

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But it's not the bigger houses, such as Macmillan or HarperCollins, that are moving the fastest. Instead, some of the most extensive restructuring efforts are being undertaken in the independent publishing world, traditionally a hotbed for innovation and experimentation.

Last month, in a much-trumpeted example, New York's Soft Skull Press announced it would begin to move its entire catalog online. Richard Nash, Soft Skull's publisher, tells the Monitor, "The aim is to have every one of our front- and back-list books available [digitally] by the end of the year." (Heavily illustrated books, which are very expensive and unwieldy to convert, will likely be the exception.) If successful, it would be a feat unmatched by any corporate publisher.

Meanwhile, Johnny Temple, the publisher of Akashic Books in Brooklyn, says he is in talks with Amazon and Sony, which produces its own digital reader, and hopes to begin making a swath of e-book content available as early as February.

"Right now, we're at the turning point," Mr. Temple says. "There are lots of reasons to get excited: economic reasons and environmental reasons. People are realizing digitization is inevitable."

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