image "Print-ready PDFs will be converted into .epub and other formats as required in order to distribute the electronic file format to the leading e-content vendors," says the Perseus Book Group about its new Constellation service for small publishers.

Amazon’s Kindle’s unit, Ebrary, OverDrive and Sony Connect are among the partners for the service’s e-book side, and the POD side brings in BookSurge and  Lightning Source. Participating in the short-print-run side is Edwards Brothers. BarnesAndNoble.com will power the See-Inside-the-book features, while Google will offer its Google Book Search service.

Natural extension of existing Perseus activities

Perseus already distributes physical books, so this service could be a natural extension.

See a news release and New York Times article for other details. The Times mentions "hundreds of small, independent publishers" as potential users of the service—could the actual number be still higher? Also, what about international possibilities for publishers outside the U.S.?

Constellation is apparently a follow-up to the MacArthur-funded Caravan Project, which seems to be in similar territory, and which was started by Peter Osnos. He’s executive director of Caravan as well as founder and editor-at-large of PublicAffairs Books, part of Perseus. Peter is also the publisher of ex-White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s memoirs, through PublicAffairs, and writes media-related commentaries seen in the TeleBlog and elsewhere.

Friendly suggestion: I hope that the Constellation service won’t lock publishers into DRM and will give them a choice of whether or not to "protect" their books. I’d also welcome experimentation with compromises such as social DRM. That way, the ePub can truly be generic, ready for use on many devices, rather than, say, those that work with Adobe DRM.