Welcome Malle Vallik, Director of Digital Content & Interactivity for the Internet and Digital Division of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. Her current focus is on establishing Harlequin as a leader in digital publishing for women. Her responsibilities include eBooks and downloadable audio.

Harlequin leads the publishing industry by publishing its entire frontlist as eBooks as well as offering original editorial in programs like Spice Briefs, Silhouette Nocture Bites and Harlequin Historical Undone, enriched editions and prequels to many NYT bestsellers. Malle also continues to build Harlequin's strong relationship with its consumer via social media like Myspace and Twitter and eHarlequin.com's flourishing community.

Malle's previous positions include editorial, sales and public relations. Malle is also the author of 7 romance novels published under the pseudonym Molly Liholm.

Embracing eBooks  by Malle Vallik

Like most of you I have been a passionate reader from an early age. When I was allowed to check out my first library book I selected a title I had previously read and knew was an excellent book, HARRY THE DIRTY DOG . For some unknown reason, convincing my mother to take me to the library had taken a lot of work and I worried there was some secret kind of "test" that they (the adults) had. I imagined that if I didn't pick a good enough book they might not let me take home any more books. I wasn't taking any chances.

So, it was only natural that I grew up to have a career in publishing. A very happy portion of my working life has been as an editor but more recently I've been part of the Harlequin digital team: online content, eBooks and social media. I have this incredibly cool title, Director of Digital Content & Interactivity. My one-sentence elevator pitch when asked what I do is that I create and deliver digital content, and expand and strengthen Harlequin's relationship with readers.

Because of my digital focus I spend a lot of time thinking about eBooks. According to the International Digital Publishing Forum's statistics (Wholesale) Trade eBook sales were $8,800,000 for January, a very significant 173.6% increase over January 2008.. While eBooks remain a very small part of the book market it is growing at a phenomenal rate.

Today readers have multiple choices. They can read a hardcover, trade or mass market print book, they can listen to an audiobook or they can read a digital novel on their computer, dedicated Reader (like the Sony Reader or Amazon Kindle) or smartphone.

Some people insist they love the feel and smell of print books and that is fine, although the Internet does have a solution for you here. But do also recall the fifteenth century monks who scoffed over the quality of Guttenberg's printing press and mass production versus their meticulous handicraft. The paperback novel was also considered the scourge of the industry at its launch.

The last 2 months alone has seen some incredible changes. I have taken this timeline from Mike Smith, IDPF Executive Director, given during an eBook panel at BookBusiness Expo.

* Feb 5 - Google Book Search for iPhone and Android
* Feb 6 - Amazon hints at mobile device solution
* Feb 9 - Amazon Kindle 2 Launch
* Feb 16 - Adobe Reader Mobile SDK 9
* February 25 - Indigo Shortcovers launched
* March 4 - Amazon Kindle for iPhone Launch
* March 5 - B&N acquires Fictionwise
* Project Gutenberg conversion to EPUB reaches 20,000 titles
* March 17 - Sony and Google partner to release 500,000 Public Domain EPUB Books

At the same conference Harlequin won the Publishing Innovator of the Year Award in part for our digital activities. We were the first major publisher to convert 100% of our frontlist to eBooks along with launching several digital publishing programs.

This fact surprises many people and I completely understand because after all, isn't our audience women? Isn't the audience for eBooks sci-fi geeks and kids who text all day long? Harlequin's readers are women and women don't embrace technology because it is cool. We get no thrill out of connecting a doohickey to a whatucallit. A woman will, however, overcome obstacles to use technology if it makes her life better. And quite frankly, that is exactly what eBooks have to offer. I, like so many, am a dedicated eBook reader for its many benefits:

o I can download a book instantaneously anywhere anytime
o I can carry over 50 books in my purse
o I don't need more shelving in my house to hold my books
o I can find backlist
o I find reading on a dedicated device with eInk technology and the capacity to change font size to be a better reading experience than paper.

Sacrilege? Not to me. It's all about the story, not so much the format. That is why romance has proven to be the bestselling genre in eBooks. Women are readers and eBooks are a reading experience.

At Harlequin we realized digital afforded us several unique opportunities. We have launched 3 digital short publishing programs:Spice Briefs, Silhouette Nocturne Bites and Harlequin Historical Undone. Each one met a reader demand in the marketplace. We have expanded the range of editorial and found new authors.

Both Briefs and Bites have had print anthologies published, so the stories have gone from digital to print.

We also publish prequels and/or complimentary stories to an author's miniseries. For example Gena Showalter wrote the prequel to her Lords of the Underworld series as have Susan Mallery, Rhyannon Byrd, Nicola Cornick and many others.

eBooks can also be enriched with deleted scenes, extensive family trees, photos, recipes, hyperlinks, audio and video. In SILENT ON THE MOOR Deanna Raybourn provided an inside glimpse at a Second Life event we hosted for the book. In Linda Lael Miller's MONTANA CREEDS novels we added extra cover shots.

What should this mean to you as an author? As we work together to understand this new and growing marketing there are a number of questions you should ask yourself:

* Are your titles available as eBooks?

* Is your backlist available, or at least all the titles in a miniseries?

* Is there a back page ad or note somewhere inside your print books that lets your readers know they can find your titles in digital?

* Do you provide links to eBooks on your website (I am assuming you are taking advantage of author affiliate programs from online retailers and if you are one of our authors, from Harlequin).

* Are you using the publisher's browser inside the book widget on your website? (Okay, this isn't eBook related, but it is digital).

* Have you spoken to your publisher's digital team about digital promotions in which you could take part?

* Do you have a great story idea that might work better in an eBook program than traditional print?

At Harlequin we are very pleased with our eBook initiatives. Not every new project is going to be a winner but we learn from every experiment and I am constantly overwhelmed by the creativity and generosity of authors who are willing to brave these uncharted waters with us.

I'm looking forward to that future and reading more great books!

What about you? Do you read ebooks?