Dorchester has officially announced a decision to abandon production of mass-market paperbacks, and begin offering only E-books or trade paperback, print-on-demand books. This comes on the heels of a recent decision by RWA to remove Dorcester from its 2010 Nationals roster over billing/contract disputes.
What does this mean for Dorchester? It appears they are hoping to level out their decline in revenue. Their sales have dropped sharply as the popularity of E-readers has risen, and with this move, they are looking to adapt to the changing market. It may also (speculating here) ease those aforementioned troubles with contracts and payouts, once the ball begins rolling favorably again for Dorchester.
What does this mean for readers? For readers, it's simply a question of finding your favorite romances from this publisher in a new format. E-readers are sharper, more versatile, and more adjustable for the avid reader than ever (you can adjust the font size yourself for better readability). Go to your local electronics store, or ask a fellow reader, and you're bound to run into a few examples of this new gadgetry.
And finally, for authors, this is a look at the new face of publishing. More publishers are likely to follow Dorchester's example, because print-on-demand requires that they only produce as many print copies as are ordered, while E-books are popular because they are instantly available and can be stored in a mobile, hand-held library for the consumer's convenience. That increases selling power, as well as profit margin.
This may also level the playing field between old dogs like Dorchester, and relative new kids like The Wild Rose Press, both of whom will now be following a similar model. You may see greater competition between publishers, not only with regard to pricing, but for your most sparkling stories. Buckle down, scribblers, it's a whole new neighborhood out there. Bring your best game to the playground.