Penguin Publishers reports that sales of ebooks in the first four months of 2008 have already surpassed ebook sales for all of 2007. According to Publisher’s Weekly, the jump was largely attributable to the growing popularity of ebook readers in particular the often overlooked Sony Reader. Now that the ebook bandwagon finally seems to be leaving the terminal, Penguin is jumping aboard and bringing Jane Austen with it. Sometime very soon Penguin will initiate a series of what they’re calling "enhanced ebooks," which are sort of lite versions of Norton Critical Editions. The first edition will be Pride and Prejudice, complete with a filmography, recipes, and nineteenth-century reviews. Evidently, scholarly and critical commentary won’t be included.
Jane Austen is a logical candidate to initiate a line of ebooks: she started publishing just before mass market publishing really took off, but her novels are more tightly constructed than the "literary industry" novels of Balzac, Hugo, Dickens, and other novelists of the early mass publishing era. It would be entirely appropriate if she helped usher in another major realignment of the publishing industry.