It seems that after viewing e-publishing with a disdainful, leery eye that the mainstream publishers are finally realizing that like amazon, they mean to tap into the self-publishing cash cow. Random House has recently come out with three new e-imprints. Hydra for their sf/f line, Alibi for their mystery line, and Flirt for their "new adult" line, which I assume mean soft-core porn with words.
There are two excellent articles written by others that should pretty much give you a head's up on why considering this imprint is a bad idea. John Scalzi rips apart the Alibi contract in his recent column A Contract with Alibi. This is essentially a mini-primer on contract language and is worth reading just to understand what all that legal gobbledygook means. Also worth reading is Victoria Strauss's blog in the Writer Beware blog on the same subject, Second-Class Contracts? Deal Terms at Random House's Hydra Imprint. Pass these links along to other writers because this seems fairly evil to me, and the more people know about it, the better.
Now that I've completely scotched any chance of having a Random House publishing deal any time soon, I'd like to just say that I really don't understand why they are going to such lengths to alienate writers. Yes, the market is horrible. Yes, people can't get contracts. Yes, self-publishing is a last resort. But it's also a really easy resort. Seriously? Anyone with marginal computer savvy can put together a book in like, oh, twenty minutes from any of the more reputable self-publishing book companies out there. Amazon has entered into this venture with a vengeance (when do they do anything half-assed?) with their CreateSpace arm, and both Lulu and BookBaby can also set you up nicely. I think that BookBaby seems to have better covers the last time I checked out their site, but all of them offer professional services in terms of design, marketing, etc., for a price. So why would you go with Random House that strips you of all of your rights versus something like Bookbaby where you retain all your rights?
I guess they think that people are that desperate.