Over the past two years, publishers have been steadily filling one of the largest gaps in the e-book catalogue poetry.
Adrienne Rich, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes and Wallace Stevens have been among the poets whose work recently became available in electronic format.
And Random House Inc, WW Norton and several other publishers now routinely release new books in both print and digital versions, including last month’s Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, Sharon Olds’ “Stag’s Leap.”
Poetry e-sales are a tiny subset of poetry sales, a perennial subset in publishing. But for publishers, and poets, it’s less about commerce than accessibility. Olds says she doesn’t have a lot of interest in e-books and has not seen the electronic edition of “Stag’s Leap,” but that she “certainly respected the fact that readers like to read in different ways.” Poet Philip Levine allowed such collections as the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Simple Truth” to be digitized, even though he also has little personal interest in e-books.
Part of the challenge is the devices themselves, with screens varying in size and feel from Apple’s iPad touchscreen to such smaller, standalone devices as Amazon.com’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. The e-book editions for Random House and other publishers will commonly include a reader’s note that suggests the proper font size for a given device.
Smaller presses have cited limited budgets as a deterrent to digitizing. But a top poetry publisher, Copper Canyon Press, last year began an e-book program funded by a grant from the Paul G Allen Foundation.