The publisher was looking over its shoulder and saw Amazon rushing forward, planning to overtake the traditional firm and sweep up all sorts of digital revenues.
To meet the competition, Penguin created its own area where writers could self-publish their books and find a distributor, and one with an impressive name.
Take that, Amazon.
The writers had to pay for the privilege, however. A list of services and expenses came with the ability to get a manuscript into a digital form and then into the catalogue. The writers, as you'd expect, did a bit of complaining about the fees.
Would they recoup their expenses, as opposed to going on the cheap at Amazon's Kindle Direct Program? Did the Penguin name have as much value as suggested?
Pearson heard the patter of self-publishing feet as well, but rather than build new, they purchased Author Solutions. Penguin took note of this additional oncoming competition, and has now expanded Book Country.
Now you can create your e-book for free if you become a member of the Book Country community. In addition, the royalty rates are higher, to attract those authors who might have considered Author Solutions. And finally, the types of books that Book Country will allow has expanded to bring in those who were not writers of science fiction and fantasy.
There is one other place where a writer can go, and that is Smashwords.
It's completely free, but you have to do all the work yourself. And you don't have that Penguin cachet to use in promoting your work.
For an author looking for a way to get into the market, there are several choices and numerous options. Little wonder that publishers are unsure which way the market is going and where they should invest.
Digital publishing is part of the future of books, but that future is still just over the horizon, not yet clear. And all the competition is racing towards it, hoping to be on the right path.