Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Should Publishers Delay E-book Releases?


More big news in the ever-evolving e-book landscape as two publishers, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, told the Wall Street Journal that they would be delaying the e-book release of some of their important upcoming titles, HarperCollins told the New York Times that they would delay "5-10 titles a month," and Macmillan said they'd delay case by case.

Why are publishers doing this?

Carolyn Reidy, CEO S&S: "The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback."

David Young, CEO Hachette Book Group: "I can't sit back and watch years of building authors sold off at bargain-basement prices. It's about the future of the business."

One thing this doesn't seem to be is a short term financial calculation on the part of the publishers. Right now, according to most accounts, including the NY Times, publishers are receiving roughly the exact same amount for every e-book sold as they do for new hardcover sales. Yes, Amazon and Sony and others are selling many e-books for $9.99, but that doesn't mean publishers are making less money per title. The e-book retailers are taking loss leaders on e-books to sell more devices.

Instead this position seems to be borne out of fear of what's over the horizon: publishers are nervous that people will begin to feel that $9.99 is what all books should cost, wreaking havoc with print pricing models, and that Amazon and others will start turning the screws and demanding a bigger share of the revenue. (UPDATE: Along these lines, Mike Shatzkin speculates that this is really about controlling Amazon).

So is a long term fear about what's over the horizon worth potentially alienating some of your most motivated customers, the people who read so much and buy so many books that they plopped down $250 to buy an e-reader?

You tell me.

It seems to me that customers understand that there's a difference between print books and e-books and that they should cost different amounts - people know that printing and shipping paper and ink should cost more than sending electrons through the ether. It's understandable that publishers are frustrated that they can't control what Amazon actually charges, but they can't control actual retail prices for print books either.

And in the meantime, as we've seen repeatedly over the last decade, alienate digital consumers at your peril. People who read e-books want to read on their devices when they hear about a book, and the best deterrent against piracy is making a digital edition readily available for sale at a fair price. Resisting the conversion to digital sure didn't work for the music industry, and publishers are extremely fortunate they've had a decade of breathing room and lessons learned to prepare for the e-book wave.

All that said, authors may well be motivated to delay e-book releases since they may be receiving a better royalty for hardcover sales than they do for e-book sales. So for some authors, it may indeed make financial sense to encourage/force publishers to delay e-book releases if e-book customers will be motivated to go out and just buy the (higher royalty generating) hardcover during the delay period. This probably only applies to the top authors with rabid fans - everyone else will probably want to strike with e-books while the publicity iron is hot. In that sense, a case by case approach may indeed be warranted.

What do you think? Is this savvy business or misguided?






167 comments:

T. Anne said...

As an e-book owner, I'm a little ticked at the concept. I don't want to wait months to read books available in other forms now. If I buy the book in paper it defeats the purpose of my e-reader.

Bane of Anubis said...

It seems like they're trying to copy the movie studio mold of cinematic release --> DVD... though I imagine the profit motive/reasoning is dissimilar.

Since hardback books don't offer a significant advantage over digital copy (whereas the cinematic experience is usually significantly better than home theater viewage), it seems quite short-sighted. The pubs are grasping at straws that are quickly filling with swamp water.

Josin L. McQuein said...

The delay makes sense to me. They get as much as they can out of the hardback sales off the top.

However, I think there should be a compromise. If a reader shells out for the hardback, they should get a voucher inside (like with DVD's and digital copies) for an e-book "copy" as soon as it's available. That way, they still make the sales, but people with e-readers don't have to buy two copies of everything.

The ones who want to wait for the e-book can still wait. Everyone wins.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I blogged about this issue yesterday-- I understand the publisher's position, but it's a lost cause. They are just stalling the inevitable.

Maybe publishers are holding back on releasing e-books in some vain attempt to staunch the tide of book piracy. The newest Stephen King book is a case in point. The publisher held back on releasing the e-book because they wanted to maximize hardcover sales. But the book was pirated immediately and showing up on file sharing websites the next day. Stephen King said that his decision to delay the e-book was an attempt to help struggling bookstore owners. In the end, this decision backfired, because WalMart, Amazon, and Sears all got into a discounting frenzy and priced the book at $9.99, which is even less than wholesale. So independent bookstores got shut out of the sales anyway.

Mira said...

Oooo. A picture. Cool.

I always have the right priorities.

So, I'm copying what I wrote in the forums. I know there's alot I don't 'get' about business and the power plays, but here's my two cents anyway:

I think the pros of holding off on e-books are small, and the cons, large. Publishers would be wise to see the writing on the wall and start fostering good relations with e-book customers. They need to start looking at increasing quantity of sales, rather than holding out for high prices - which are doomed, anyway.

Personally, with a few exceptions, I have always refused to buy hardcover. I don't want it - it's bulky, hurts my hands to hold up and takes up too much space on my shelf. I'll wait a year or more for paperback. Pretty soon, I'll wait however long for an e-book. So, it's not like making me wait will get me to buy the book. I DO NOT want hardcover.

For example, I borrowed Dan Brown's new book from a friend. If I didn't have that option, I just would have waited.

The danger, with someone like me, is I'll forget to buy the book by the time it comes out in e-book or paperback format.

This is one of the reasons books have historically been a low sale item. Forcing hardcover books first slows the market down. It leaves out entire segments of the population who would have bought at a lower price, but forget about the book by the time it comes out in paperback.

You have to move your product when it's ready. If you're advertising for it now, meet the market demand, and match what the market is willing to pay for it.

Go to the market. Don't try to force the market to come to you. Some may come to you, but the rest may just get distracted by bright shiny video games, DVDs, movies and you-tube.

Thermocline said...

Delaying the release of e-books only makes sense if people who own e-readers are willing to buy a more expensive hardback. I haven't read any research that suggests this will occur in large enough numbers for it to create a net gain. If not, then publishers are just alienating a segment of their audience who are willing to pay for immediate access.

It's a risky strategy - accept a lower price in return for an immediate e-release versus the hope that the reader will be frustrated enough to go buy a paper book.

Annoyed customers = Increased hardback sales?

I'm thinkin'- not so much.

My guess is that e-reader owners are more likely to wait for a new title to be released in an electronic format. I can't speak from personal experience since I don't have one. Any thoughts on this from those of you that do?

Angela Korra'ti said...

Significant delays of e-book releases do absolutely NOTHING for me as a reader. Since I've been shifting heavily over to buying electronic copies of mostly everything I read these days, it will NOT make me more likely to buy a hardback book. Electronic copies are still significantly cheaper than hardbacks, and if I don't want to buy a hardback book, making the e-book come out later is not going to change my mind. Especially if I can't afford the hardback.

All it will do is _maybe_ make me check the book out from the library if I have to read it right this instant, but more likely, I'll just go buy some other book.

atsiko said...

I don't read e-books. And I don't particularly like them, either. But the same thing goes for hardbacks. I never buy them, even if I am desperate to read a sequel, or a much-touted new book. I like my paperbacks. So, keep that in mind when considering my response.

While I can appreciate the reasoning behind this decision to some extent, I think it is a bad one. It will not likely convince aanyone to buy the hardback if they were planning to buy the e-book. it will make e-readers unhappy. It may cause some people to forget about the book. I do it all the time unless I have a list in hand in the bookstore. As much as I support print, I have to weigh in on the side of the e-book readers.

Mark Terry said...

I hope that in the publisher's boardrooms they're viewing this as an experiment. At the moment they can probably say that e-books are only a relatively smaller percentage of overall sales; well, to clarify, let's assume the authors they're talking about come out in hardcover, e-book, and mass market paperback. 99.99999% of the time the order and apparently most profitable way to introduce that is: hardcover, followed by a mass market paperback approximately 11 months later, to be followed the next hardcover a month after the mass market paperback.

So, where to put in the e-book. Simultaneously? Well, if e-books were selling as well as the hardcover, then "instead of" perhaps, but at the moment that's probably not the case, so if publishers are viewing it (as they probably should AT THE MOMENT) as ancillary revenue as opposed to replacing revenue that came from the hardcover, then treating as three separate products with three separate schedules and release dates makes sense.

I just don't think it'll last. I think it's only a matter of time, particularly with the e-books priced so much lower than hardcovers, once we get a decent market penetration for e-readers (what would that be, 30%, 50%, 75%????), that publishers will be forced to reverse the schedule--release the e-book first, because that's where the bulk come out, release hardcovers for libraries (maybe) and for collectors, then mass market if mass market can survive at all (actually, my bet over 20+ years is that hardcovers will be for collectors, most everyone will get e-books and possibly mass market paperbacks, although I'm not sure I'd sink my money into a bet on MMP.)

Paperbookwriter said...

[I'm copying what I posted at Quill & Quire (Canada) yesterday]

James McQuivey suggests these publishers are being shortsighted, that the analog business model is on life support, while the digital model requires fresh thinking:

http://blogs.forrester.com/consumer_product_strategy/2009/12/urgent-note-to-book-industry-theres-a-better-way-to-window-ebooks.html

There is no easy fix, that’s for sure. I’m a novelist and vast consumer of print. Every available space in my home is shelved and booked. But I do like technology and have started to read in multiple platforms to maximize time: audiobooks on the road, or when my hands are occupied cooking, cleaning, gardening, walking; e-books when stranded with only my i-Phone, or in bed (no lights to keep hubby awake).

I recently consumed one novel (necessary for research) in all 3 formats and have consumed others in at least two. McQuivey [and others] suggests bundling e-books with hardcovers. I’d pay for that. I’d pay more than $9.99 to have an e-book (and/or audio version) available on day of release, in some cases, too. Maximize our choices, don’t limit them.

Anonymous said...

I think the publishers are shooting themselves in the foot over this one. I don't want to wait. I don't want DRM. I don't want to pay hardcover prices for electrons that I won't be able to read 10 years from now.

I think you are absolutely correct when you suggest the best way to minimize piracy is to make what the consumer wants readily available at a good price.

Adrianne

Anonymous said...

Yeah, e-books should come out at the same time as hard backs. So should paperbacks.

No, seriously, if you're pissed off, tough. I have to wait 18 bloody months for the paperback to come out. It costs less and its not as bulky, and thats why I do it.

If you have to wait 24 months for something that costs even less and is even less bulky, I'm thinking that's fair.

In the meantime, you can read something else.

Chris

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of waiting to see how things fall into place.

But I will say this. Authors must start thinking about e-books very seriously. I just heard a story that no one could have predicted four years ago. Many writers were paid a flat rate (25.00) for short stories that were published in print books. Some in many print books by this publisher. And now the publisher is selling these print books in digitial format, and the authors will never see a royalty check for their work. It was a sneaky situation, and no one could have predicted a publisher would do this. But I hope writers will not sign contracts with any publisher unless there is something that says they will receive quarterly royalties from digital books. These quaterly royalties can add up eventually.

David Kubicek said...

This is a difficult issue that could have lots of ramifications. But as an author, I'm against releasing the e-book version simultaneously with the hardcover. That would mean authors are competing with themselves. In the olden days books were published first in hardcover, and then about a year later in a less expensive paperback edition. I think if the hardcover and e-book are published at the same time, hardcover publishing will be on the way out; hardcover books will be too expensive to publish and not enough people will buy them to make publishing them worthwhile.

Marilyn Peake said...

It sounds to me like the big publishing houses are afraid to let go of the idea that paper books are "real" books ... or, much more likely, they own a lot of the infrastructure devoted to the business of printing paper books but don’t yet control a large enough sector of the eBook industry or know how to make huge enough profits from eBooks to let go of their older model of producing books. The corporations that own many of the printing companies, distribution companies for paperbacks and hard covers, and brick-and-mortar bookstore chains don’t yet own a large enough sector of eBook production to make it worth their while to promote eBook sales. The Amazon Kindle is perhaps the most popular eBook device around right now. Amazon’s started running commercials for it on TV and Dr. Phil gave away Kindles to his entire audience on his TV show today. Amazon owns the Kindle and is getting a huge amount of publicity for it. I heard today on TV that the Kindle is the #1 selling item on Amazon. My guess is that, once the big corporations invent some brand new eBook device that does something much more amazing than the current devices do, or one of them actually buys Amazon, or they figure out how to produce and sell eBook devices very cheaply, they’ll start selling off their infrastructure to increase profits and will then put their hearts and souls behind producing and selling eBooks.

subets said...

Since a few people have mentioned the movies/DVD comparison:

You go to the theater for an experience.
Getting a DVD is owning a thing.

Reading an e-book is an experience.
Buying a hardback is owning a thing.

When publishers delay an e-book release, they are getting the model exactly backwards.

Jamie said...

I honestly can't give a decent opinion - I am nostalgic and am not warming up to the e-book concept - it saddens me greatly to think of books in print going by the wayside.... so from my emotional corner I recognize my opinion would have nothing to do with good or bad business, but history and not wanting to change.

Anonymous said...

The real problem here is Amazon's penchant for predatory pricing practices.

They give one Kindle discount to some publishers, another, much lower one, to others.

Small presses are offered a smaller discount than large. Take it or forget about selling your e-book on Amazon.

Publishers are right to worry that if Amazon completely controls the pipeline they will control the discounting rather than the publisher.

I look forward to seeing Apple's newly announced e-reader. They have stated they'll be offering the same discount to all publishers--a more generous discount than Amazon gives all but the 800 pound gorillas.

If Apple can draw e-book business away from Amazon then we might see competition set a price that is fair to all parties in the deal.

Laura K. Curtis said...

Horrible mistake. I don't think they understand either genre fiction readers *or* financial concerns at all. Right now, they're making a LOT more money off me than before I bought my Kindle, and one big reason is that I am willing to pay $9.99 not to wait for paperback. Several other people I know feel the same way. None of us, however, are willing to:

A) Pay $17-$20 for the hardcover (which is usually what you'll get it for discounted)

B) Lug the hardcover around with us.

On the other hand, if I really love an author, and I am collecting signed first editions, I will not only buy the hardcover to keep, I'll buy the Kindle edition AS WELL, so I can read it.

Deke me out of the ability to buy my $10 Kindle edition and I won't buy the hardcover, I'll just wait til the paperback comes out so I can get it for $6. Or less. On my Kindle or in paperback, whichever is cheaper and/or comes first.

And if you delay my $10 Kindle copy in the hope that even if I won't buy the hardcover, I'll be so anxious to read the book that I'll pay $10 to read it, say 6 months before the paperback comes out (since there's usually a year between the HC and the MMPB), it won't work. I won't pay the premium price because I'll be too irritated.

So I think they're cutting off their noses to spite their faces, and authors should revolt. This is a great way to drive your publishing house, already faltering, into bankruptcy.

Michael Pickett said...

Should a $5.99 mass market paperback edition come out the same day as a hardcover just because the publisher is afraid that people who don't want to pay for the hardcover won't buy the book at all? No one is quite sure yet where ebooks fit into the publishing framework, and these publishers see big problems on the horizon in they take over and Amazon decides that it doesn't want to take a hit with every ebook it sells. That wouldn't be problem if the cost to produce an ebook was significantly lower than the cost to produce a printed book. It isn't. They still have to pay the author, editor, designer, marketer, etc. Paper and ink make up a very small portion of publisher's costs. You cut into their revenue and they'll produce fewer books of less quality, and none of us want that. I don't blame ebook reader owners for being annoyed at this, but you laid down the money before the dust really settled on ebooks.

A name will be forthcoming. said...

I don't see the difference between waiting for the electronic format and waiting for the paperback. There are certain authors, and certain books that I purchase in hardcover. There are certain books and certain authors that I will wait for paperback. Since I doubt I will completely switch to e-books unless I have no other choice I don't mind waiting for the electronic release.

scott g.f.bailey said...

If ebooks still only account for 5-10% of total book sales, then who cares? Maybe this model won't work in the future, but tell me how it's significant today.

Nathan Bransford said...

scott-

I personally think it's significant because it's a quickly growing market, and early habits are tough to break, both in terms of arrangements between publishers and retailers and between consumers and e-books. People are still conditioned to think it's okay to pirate music, and I'm really wary of publishers opening up a window for piracy to thrive.

Laura Martone said...

I'm with Mira - I won't be forced to buy a hardback. I've bought very few in my lifetime - and usually, those have come from the bargain tables. With all my traveling, I don't have the space for hardbacks.

Hence, why I adore my e-reader.

As Mira did with THE LOST SYMBOL, I borrowed the first two TWILIGHT books (hardback) from my stepmom, then paid for e-book versions of the other two.

From a reader's standpoint, I want to be able to purchase the e-book now... or else you risk my forgetting about it (at least for a while).

From an author's standpoint, I'm a little concerned. Royalty agreements are already pretty low for authors. What will happen to their piece of the pie when the pie costs less to consumers?

Oh, I'm so befuddled! Thanks a lot, Nathan. ;-)

scott g.f.bailey said...

Nathan,

That makes sense. Unfortunately, publishers are having to develop strategies when they don't have control over the final product. Which is to say, people buy e-readers and then want books for them, so the books have become accessories to expensive toys. Random (or the immense German conglomerate who owns Random) should market its own e-reader. And then sell them on Amazon.

Rick Daley said...

I think it's a short-sighted decision based on the perspective of the publisher (which includes the author) but without equal weighting to the incentives and behaviors of the consumer.

An equally important question is: how are the publishers going to market the ebook release if it is delayed?

A delayed ebook release will require a second marketing push. While I assume that ebook marketing has some nuances that are independent from standard marketing (co-ops, etc.), there must be marketing strategies and tactics that are effective for both mediums.

If they are running two separate marketing campaigns, they are increasing expenses and most likely paying for the same thing twice.

If they have one consolidated campaign and release print and ebooks at the same time, they may get a better return on their marketing dollars and see a higher margin.

If they only have one marketing push, at the time of print release, and then expect that people will remember the title months later when it's available as an ebook I think they are overly optimistic about the attention span of the American consumer. They would be shooting ebook sales in their little digital feet.

scott g.f.bailey said...

Laura Martone said, "From a reader's standpoint, I want to be able to purchase the e-book now... or else you risk my forgetting about it."

Don't you ever go to bookstores?

Laurel said...

This decision is based on the current market. Kindle is dominant but Sony and Nook are making inroads. If Amazon decides to play 800 lb gorilla down the road what's to stop publishers from releasing eBooks on their own in a format for the inevitable universal reader? Direct to consumer from the publishing house. They already have websites advertising their titles and authors so just add a click here to buy feature.

I don't understand why publishers aren't already aggressively looking into this. It would give them a lot more leverage and make them far less susceptible to the limitations of only three or four major book buying accounts in the country.

So no, I don't think the answer is to delay the eBook. The answer is to stay ahead of the trend instead of play catch up later.

Anonymous said...

I personally don't care which they release first, or if they release any version first over the other, as long as author's royalties don't suffer - period.

However, I do take issue with the comment that people who buy e-readers are the "most motivated" readers. I beg to differ. I have an e-reader because I can afford one, and I don't mind reading books on them. My best friend does not have one because she hates e-readers. The woman reads 3-4 books a week. She is not less motivated as a reader.

Courtney Price said...

Misguided. I like the idea of a digital copy included with hardbacks... like they do with DVDs now... a lot of my kids' disney ones come with digital copies now. Good idea!

JoeGKushner said...

They need to be charging far less anf hope for market penetration through casual buyers as opposed to dedicated fans. The authors of the future need to think more about incorporating more value in physicially printed products and more e tools in electronic books if the prices are going to remain so high. An e book should be cheaper than a paperback by at least half. The limitations of electronic media verus say the price of free, needs to be seriously considered.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@1:47-

I didn't mean to suggest that people who buy e-readers are the most motivated customers, though I realize it came across that way in the original post and thanks for pointing it out. I just meant that they are among the most motivated (you'd have to be to pay for an e-reader). I adjusted accordingly.

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Scott!

Sure, I go to bookstores. I love them!

Although I love my e-reader, I still like books of the printed kind. But I'm more likely to purchase a mass-market paperback or even a trade paperback over a hardback book... and oftentimes, I'll find a book in the bookstore and then download it later to my e-reader. As a travel writer who moves around A LOT, I have to keep my packing amount relatively low.

Soooo... If said publisher wants me to purchase, let's say, the latest Stephen King, I'm more likely to buy it upon its release if it's available as an inexpensive e-book or paperback. If they delay such options, I'll purchase something else... and as Mira said, that particular publisher takes the risk of losing my business altogether. Without the urgency, I might forget about that particular book for a while.

Alas, I can't read everything! Time and money are major issues for this wee travel writer. :-)

Matt Heppe said...

I'll just wait for the ebook. And if I hear bad reviews about the hardcover, I might not purchase at all. The delay could cost them a sale.

Kalika said...

Their stupidity is astounding. There are two ways to get ebooks. Legally, and less than legally. If you close one option, people will go with the other. It's what I'd do anyway.

It's not a good thing to spit in the face of people who love books so much they're willing to pay lots of cash for Kindle or similar e-readers.

jtb said...

It's going to be like the mircowave was to the cooker; people are going to want both sometimes and maybe have their purchase bundled as such.

Some people thought the microwave was going to change cooking it didn't. Same for the ebook.

As for when to release it, I think publishers need to get out there and test the water and try a combination of things. But I tell you this: the ebook will actually improve the quality of some paper-based, handhelds.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I realise we can't just change the entire publishing industry ourselves, but I do see another option that no one here (or anywhere) seems to have considered.

Release the e-book and the paperback at the same time. There's not much difference in price between the two, and a lot of customers will buy these cheaper options.

After a while, release the hardcover. Include extras in it, like a foreword by the author, or a short story that won't be published anywhere else. Have the cover artist do a few illustrations inside. Make it special. Make it something the people who bought the cheap versions are going kick themselves for not holding out for.

Not only will you kill piracy, you'll double your income.

Chris (again)

scott g.f.bailey said...

@Kalika: You love books so much that you're willing to pay lots of cash for an e-reader (which is not a book) but you're willing to steal the e-file (which is a book). Huh?

scott g.f.bailey said...

Hey, Laura!

I wasn't trying to sound snarky; I was just wondering. I know a couple of people who can't remember the last time they were in a bookstore, and can't even tell you where to find one in this city.

Scott

Natasha Fondren said...

First, e-readers are of the convenience and instant gratification preference. They also want up-to-date, "NOW" stuff.

When the delayed release finally comes out, I'm more likely to buy what's NEW and not what's now OLD.

Second, I'll FORGET by the time it's released. Publishers don't market the paperback release a year (or whatever) nearly as much as they did the hardcover, and I don't expect the ebook release will be much different.

Third, if I want to read a book badly, I'll end up reading it in the library, with the intent to buy it when it comes out in ebook. But by then... again... I forget, because I've already read it.

Natasha Fondren said...

I also have to somewhat guiltily admit that I won't pay more than $9.99 for a book anymore, and often not even that.

Hardcovers are $27-$35 now. I simply can't afford it. I can't. The money is simply not there. If I had lots of excess money, I'd buy them just to support the authors, but... I just don't have it.

My income has stayed the same the last ten years. My groceries and gas and necessities have quadrupled. That took all my book money. (I used to spend $200 a month on books!)

Kristin Laughtin said...

Economics is not my strong point at all, so I have to come at this from my viewpoint only as a consumer:

I don't have an ebook reader yet, but I do plan to get one in the future. Right now I usually do wait for paperback releases of hardcover titles because they're often significantly cheaper. I have a lot of books to read. I can fill the time while I wait. So I would probably be willing to wait for an ebook version, even if it annoyed me a little to have to do so. But it seems a bit pointless to me if publishers are making roughly the same amount on ebooks and hardcovers for most titles. I'm not going to buy the hardcover just because that's all that's available. Chances are if I have to wait too long, I'll borrow it from a friend or the library, and the probability that I'll buy any copy of the book diminishes greatly then (unless I really, really like it.)

However, a lot of people I know wouldn't wait, and I think it would only be a matter of time before book piracy became a major issue. I think the publishers are running a huge risk of shooting themselves in the foot.

Nick said...

Personally I've never bought hardcovers beyond the first release Harry Potter books (hey, I was like 7 when the second book went to print. They were kinda big for me and everyone else my age as they came out, though I admit I loved them less with each passing year to the point that the last one I read solely out of obligation to finish the series) and the first two books of Inheritance Cycle, because I picked those up on the cheap. Generally I find hardcover books too inconvenient (price, I don't mind so much, considering I've payed much more for forms of entertainment which have lasted me much less time). Honestly I'm already only paying like $10/book. Agatha Christie tends to run $7.99-$9.99 depending upon what I'm getting, most of the books I pick up just browsing are in the $6.00 to $9.99 range. Aside from Fleming and the occasional book (like The Ghost), most of the paperbacks I pick up are $9.99 or less. My solution would be to do away with hardcovers. I know, the bigger price tag on hardcovers is what helps recup publishing costs. Maybe I'm wrong here, but it seems to me paperbacks costs less because they're cheaper to produce. So it would cost less to do a paperback-only run, and it might coax some people who would otherwise keep in the Kindle Camp due to cost differences into buying a hard copy (which, for me, would be victory, what with my dislike of e-readers). And if worse comes to worse, go back to printing on pulp.

P.A.Brown said...

I'm afraid I've become a little suspicious and paranoid about Amazon's motives. They're selling ebooks dirt cheap right now and admittedly losing money on them and I have to ask myself why? It's not altruism or a desire to make ebooks more accessible to readers. It's certainly not because they want to help authors or publishers realize a profit. All along their goal has been to corner the book selling market. They've helped to drive out local independent bookstores because no one can compete with their prices. Now their goal is to corner the ebook market by encouraging the sale of their Kindle. If they ever achieve a substantial number of those on the market do you really think books will still be selling for $7.99? (It was announced today that Amazon dropped the price on a lot of new best sellers) Amazon can't keep losing money, so where is it going to give? Do we all just bypass publishers and publish our own books? I've seen some authors suggest that. I don't know what the answer will be, but I don't trust Amazon as far as I can throw a brick. This move to lower prices even more does nothing to increase my trust.

Laura Martone said...

No worries, Scott. I didn't care if you were being snarky or not. I understand where you're coming from... I do think it's a shame that some people avoid bookstores like the plague. But it doesn't surprise me. Some people haven't been to the movie theater in years - they probably don't know there are other ways to see a movie beyond their own TV and/or laptop.

But not me. I love me some bookstores and movie theaters. Can't stay at home forever... no wonder there are so many agoraphobes in the world. ;-)

Elizabeth said...

Since I got my Kindle last May, I have read more books than I did in the last two years combined.

There are two reasons for this:

1) Instant gratification. I can see a book and buy it in less than one minute, at three in the morning, if I want. And I have.

2) Samples. Those samples are the biggest reason for the increase. Who has the time to stand in a bookstore and read the first chapters of five or six books before deciding which one to buy? Not me. But with the Kindle, I can read them at my leisure and then decide. Because of this, I have purchased books I may have passed over in the store. More money, PTB.

To penalize ebook purchasers because we pay a percentage less than the hardcopy books is ridiculous and shortsighted. Do they PTB really think that I will go ahead and buy the hardcover just because I can't get it on the Kindle? No. No, and no. (Ok, one exception, Catching Fire, I had to have it asap so I bought the hardcover. But most books will not elicit that type of response in me).

So if this is their stance, I will just wait until the ebook comes out, with the chance that by the time the ebook does arrive, I will have forgotten I want to read the book, which equates to lost sales.

My advice? Don't piss off the people paying the money.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

I'm a paper back reader.
I'm waiting for Dan Brown's offering on paper back over paying the same price for the hard cover edition at Asda!
Although, I am considering learning some e-book bad habits... Nathan, I hope you're on commission at iPhone and Kindle :)

Dawn Maria said...

More than anything, I'm worried about the fate of bookstores, both independent and big chain. Do we really want Target and Walmart being the only physical stores to walk into and buy books from? That's far more scary to me than debating about e-book release dates.

JoeGKushner said...

A similiar problem is potentially going to hit red box in that the studios want to delay releases to them. Hello stupid. If I see someone moving my merchandise that quickly but in a manner I don't like, I don't penalise them, I. Try and get them on my side with exclusive editions or limited availability merchandise.

as others have noted, with e books, you can find an electronic copy somewhere for nothing. Price it to move. Build bundles of products together like book clubs such as the science fiction book club do.

The loss of cost in terms of printing and distributing means authors too need to become much more involved in how their content is handled. The markets don't have to be contolled by a few large print houses if distribution is electronic but it requires much more author involvement.

These pricing factors need to include the buyers loss of ownership. Any one remember when Amazon showed they could delete a downloaded book? Are thesee e book sellers guaranteeing that ten years from now their format will be viable if they're not around? Can you buy them at a reduced price at a half priced book store or from a friend?

Becca said...

I already have trouble remembering about hardcover books that look interesting. I have to buy my books immediately or else I completely forget by the time that they come out in paperback. I don't currently own an e-reader, but I'm planning on getting one and if I had to wait to get copies of books that I want I might start to wonder what the point was of shelling out $250 in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Writing group buddies edit my novel: $0.0

Beg daughter to design cover art: $0.0

Publish my indie novel to Kindle: $0.0

Not having to compete with hardcover bestsellers: Priceless.

Thanks publishing industry!

AndrewDugas said...

Insane. A book should be rolled first as an e-book, then trade, then hard cover for the hard core collectors. Exceptions should abound for big names, but for everything else, why gamble with paper and ink until interest is proven?

Lisa said...

I guess I am the lone hardcover fan in the group. I hate mass-market paperbacks and will not buy them under any circumstances. Eventually, I will be moving my reading to an e-reader, and reserving my hardcover purchases for the books I love the most.

I think the publishers are making the same mistake the music industry did. I cannot remember the last time I purchased an actual CD. The music I buy, I download and obviously, lots of people were not willing to wait for easy and inexpensive ways to download. If you want to keep people from pirating eBooks, making them difficult to get is not the solution.

I also think another poster had a great idea: release the eBook first and make the hardcover the equivalent of the DVD collector's edition box set. Add the extras, add the special stuff, and the people who loved it will still buy it.

Charles said...

Well, first off, I don't think eBooks should necessarily be priced at under $10.00. (And that's a different can of worms.)

As for a delayed eBook release, that might have worked with older models of publishing (hardcover --> mass market paperback 9 months later) but that's not going to work out in the current climate. There's piracy for example, and while it might benefit less popular authors in the long run, when it comes to the major and famous releases, it's going to draw away customers who are dissatisfied with the publisher's practices.

Anonymous said...

Publishers are running scared and, behing a rather backward business, haven't figured out tech's advantages.

On the other hand, I don't always care to shell out for a hardback, so I wait for the paperback. This is the model publishers are using for eBooks, apparently.

And here's another question: apart from author royalties and a modicum of profit for the "brave" publisher, why SHOULD an eBook cost even $9.99? It's ridiculous--the same idea as ATMs charging $2.50 for a withdrawal, when the costs to the bank are minuscule.

Anonymous said...

People have always had wait for the paperback after the hardcover (except mass market) so what's the big deal waiting for the e-version? Do you get to see newly released movies right away on your TV? (no, unless you're doing something illegal).

Marva said...

I wait for the DVD rather than wasting a bunch of money at a theatre. Heck, I can rent the DVD rather than buy it.

Why should I buy a hardback, when I can wait for the paperback or the ebook?

I'm probably not that uncommon a consumer. Publishers should provide their product in the formats that the public will buy. Holding back on the ebook may only mean that the book itself fades from the public consciousness. Sell it now in whatever format you can. Some prefer hardback, some paperback, some ebook. Why not supply every market?

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Publishing seems determined to cut itself off at the feet, despite plenty of hindsight provided by the experience of other media.

It's ridiculous to hold back the econsumer, as if in ten years we won't be reading MOST of our books electronically.

Anonymous said...

Savvy business, solely because prematurely changing a large machine can be a disastrous practice. It's a Hobson's Choice business model. The alternatives are go with the flow and change, or make no change, a decision to make no change is still a decision, one that's been rather difficult to navigate of late. The business world no longer dictates the supply-demand curve. Consumers do.

Critical path thinking currently is the physical book is the product. When enough minds wrap around digital books as products, the change will be a timely and accomplished fact.

Meanwhile, what happens to the printers who've been partnered with publishers? More manufacturing business moving overseas to less cost intensive factories.

Donna Hole said...

I only buy hard covers for series books I'm reading. I usually end up with several paper backs and the last few as hard backs because I couldn't wait that long to get the paperback.

I think e-books should sell about the same price as a paperback, and I can see the value of waiting until the hard cover has sold out.

Once I can afford an e-reader, I'm going to be all over purchasing everything I can on it. But I doubt I'll give up my bookshelf collections either. I like the look and feel of books.

......dhole

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

Misguided is not the word. To put it bluntly, the revenue of higher priced print books compared to lower e-book prices will hurt them.

What they don't realize is that times are a-changing and they need to get in the groove.

Readers love print but are also enjoying their e-readers.

I can understand offering first the print version before moving to ebook about 4 months down the line, that's smart business sense, but to come out and state 'bargain-basement prices' just shows their ignorance and greed as far as I'm concerned.

A business needs to cater to a wide clientele in order to survive. Some will buy print, others will buy e-books. Maybe they should begin considering using POD instead of printing an x amount of books and having them sit or returned. That will cut their costs.

Terry said...

I'm with Laura Martone - Befuddled! Perfect word for it:)

I bet a lot of publishers are befuddled too.

Mira,cute little puppy dog.

Anonymous said...

yeah i don't care. if the purpose is to sell more physical books, which generate better whatever, then it's fine and makes sense. if it's arbitrary, then it's still fine because at the end of the day they are the publisher and they have purchased the right to decide the release schedule of the book. "Should" isn't really up for discussion.

D. G. Hudson said...

It certainly appears to be an effort to control or retain the leverage the publishers now have with the authors and the buying public. Whether it's for the benefit of the authors or for the industry still remains to be seen.

It's the same as issuing the hardcover at a higher cost than the ebook or the paperback. It's a money grab directed at those who always want the next new thing first, whether it's a book or another product. Once that market is drained, then the masses get to have the product at a more reasonable price. Marketing is all about the bottom line - don't mistake that.

I think this is savvy business sense from the industry's viewpoint, but could well alienate the buying public, as Nathan said. I don't like it myself, I'd like the choice up front of whether I buy hardcover, paperback or ebook.

SozinTara said...

First off, I'd like to say I am classic, or as many would put it-"old school". I like the smell of fresh, printed books and the glossy covers with pictures on it and all. I love flipping pages(no telling how many trees got chopped for those six hundred page novels I read).

Yet, I am open to electronics, digital media. It frees up bookshelf space, it costs less for the consumer, and its happening...now. If publishers want to delay the e-book releases, so be it. I don't care. It just shows who comes first: the consumers? Or the publishers pockets?

Susan Quinn said...

This is a bad decision, exactly in the wrong direction, as the many comments above point out. I second Rick Daly's thoughtful comments.

A customer delayed is a customer lost.

Anonymous said...

I have no sympathy for publishers-why? Because they could have built Amazon themselves had they had the foresight.

Janeen said...

I always thought the idea of releasing the hardcover and ebook at the same time and charging the same for both until the paperback comes out made a certain amount of sense.

But perhaps the publisher simply cannot wield that much control over the purchase price and is therefore manipulating what it can: the release date.

Marilyn Peake said...

I posted something over at Nathan's Forum yesterday that's relevant to the discussion going on here. It’s information about a small startup company that's apparently giving Amazon and Sony a run for their money. Also, Google’s helping them along, probably because of Google’s rivalry with Amazon to control books...

I saw an eReader called the "Cool-er eReader" being sold on QVC this week ... and thought, What the...? Haven’t even heard of that! Turns out there’s an interesting story behind it. A writer created the "Cool-er eReader" for his own startup self-publishing business, and now it’s in competition with the Kindle and Nook. Lots more information: here. Google - who’s been competing with Amazon - has apparently made one million public domain books available to the company that’s making the Cool-er eReader to post on their eBookstore site. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Methinketh (yeah that's a word--what of it?) that the hardback (HB) and ebook (eb) retail versions should be released simultaneously, BUT, with the following adjustment:

The HB version will feature a lottery-like number imprinted on one of its pages. A drawing will be held, say, 6 months after the release date, where a number will be drawn from sold HBs, and the winner gets $5,000 or some other amount determined by running appropriate risk management scenarios. That way there's an incentive to shell out for the HB, but for those who want the quick & dirty eb, it's always there for ya, like your drug-dealing "friend" you're glad you know but don't want to hang out with at important social events.

Anonymous said...

"If Obama's going to tax us everytime we exhale carbon dioxide, you're damn sure going to stop supporting the rape of the environment with your paper books."

Actually, and we've been down this road before on this blog, it's been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that most paper books these days are printed on recycled paper using farmed trees, and are therefore better for the environment than toxic material containing ereaders which need to be charged using the coal-burning grid and have their database support system run on said grid.

Paper books are greener than ebooks, just as real Xmas trees (since, again, almost all are farmed) are greener than artificial trees (most of which are made from petroleum products, end up in landfills forever and which are imported--shipped burning precious fuels--from China).

MzMannerz said...

I think it's a little from column A and a little from column B, because I want to assume publishers are employing someone somewhere who is adept at marking trends and predicting consumer behavior.

People do know the difference, but I think they are trying to force those who just can't wait to buy the pricier version. For example, I only download albums now; my sister buys CDs. CDs are pricier. Would I buy a CD if I were itching for a song but it wasn't available on Itunes for several more months?

Probably. Bitching and moaning all the way. :)

Holly said...

Hardbacks and paperbacks will eventually go the way of newspapers, and we all know what is happening there. Heck, I subscribe to the local paper because I need something to start fires in my fireplace...

Delaying e-book releases is the bubblegum over the crack in the dike.

I know e-readers are supposed to be greener, cheaper, faster, blah, blah, but I don't care.

There's something to be said for getting off your fanny, walking out in the real world with real weather and real people, and going to a bookstore with all the beautiful cover art and the incredible smells of fresh ink and brand new paper, and standing there, looking at it all.

I have very old books on my shelves that wonderful people gave me, including books with handwritten inscriptions. You just can't have that with e-books. I never thought it would happen, but I guess I have turned into a dinosaur.

Nathan Bransford said...

"Actually, and we've been down this road before on this blog, it's been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that most paper books these days are printed on recycled paper using farmed trees, and are therefore better for the environment than toxic material containing ereaders which need to be charged using the coal-burning grid and have their database support system run on said grid."

Uhhh... I've seen nothing but speculation from anons and non-experts on this viewpoint, it's far from proven beyond a shadow of doubt. From what I've read of actual studies, on balance e-readers seem to be better for the environment, though if you'd like to point me to some studies that suggest otherwise I'd be happy to see them.

Kate said...

E-books should be made available FIRST if for no other reason than the basic realities of physical manufacturing mean that e-books should logically be ready first.

Then, when the paper books are put on sale, they should INCLUDE e-book copies.

Of course, I should look like Angelina Jolie and be married to a guy who looks like Brad Pitt.

Seriously, though, I have to start adopting e-books because I simply don't have room in my house for any more p-books. There is significant environmental impact to keeping all these books in a nice dry environment.

Anonymous said...

Smart business. Amazon is a bully, and it's about time the publishers grew a spine and stood up for themselves.

Next on the agenda: bookstore returns. No other manufacturer of goods allows merchants to "return" items if they don't sell. Why should publishers fall for this nonsense?

Anonymous said...

Landfill-wise, eReaders can only be worse than paper books because they never decay and theyeir batteries contain mercury and other toxic chemicals.

Carbon-wise, there are simply too many factors to make a sweeping generalizaiton that 1 is more carbon-offsetting than the other. You can pit 1 specific book purchase against one eReader book purchase, where it depends on the materials the book is made from, but then again then you're ignoring the benefits saved over the life of the eReader negating the need for more paper books. But it is true that the eReaders use electricity, which does in fact come laregly from burning coal. So it is in fact up in the air.

But most people are not even thinking of these complexities when they parrot "eBooks are greener!" because they're assuming that it's only due to the fact that trees are not being cut down.

AM Riley said...

I think they are denying the inevitable by delaying release. There are so many excellent books available these days, if an author is not one I would want in hardcover, then I'll just wait for the ebook. There are very few authors whose books are worth carting around, or stacking in my library.

And if they are trying to delay release, along the movie-to-DVD model, as Bane suggested above, I don't think it will really make much of a difference. The fact that I CAN wait for the DVD release to see a movie often means that I don't bother to hire a sitter, pay for parking, and then the lines and expense of tickets, very often.

The future of the business is digital. The publishers who acknowledge and aggressively pursue this will be the ones that survive financially.

Anonymous said...

Another point to consider is that, geopolitically speaking, eReaders negatively impact the U.S. more so than paper books. This is because the electronic parts for most of the devices are imported from China--a country with horrendous human rights violations on record, and which competes with the US for foreign resources such as oil imports--and these parts then need to be shipped to the U.S. using oil which is purchased from Saudi Arabia and other countries, including Venezuela, which do not have our best interests at heart.

Most paper book products, on the other hand, are manufactured here in the US of A, largely from receycled materials and farmed trees.

So remember that when you turn pages on your Kindle, Bin Laden is reading over your shoulder!

Kim said...

I've said it before here, and I'll say it again. I come from a family with three generations of loggers. Paper is made from waste pulp - the by-product of wood. Books, or paper for that matter, have no impact on the environment. It's like blaming Spam for the problems created by the meat packing industry. You scrape what's left on the floor, and package it rather than throw it away.

Books/paper being bad for the environment is a non-issue.

Anonymous said...

That's not entirely true Kim. these days logging companies factor in the expect revenue from the pulp when undertaking new logging operations. yeah, the leftover pulp started out as waste material from logging for lumber, but as soon as people are willing to pay for it, it's no longer waste material.

the same argument applies for the biofuels industry. Cellulosic ethanol--where plant waste such as corn husks and stalks and the like can be burned for energy--originally the ethanol companies figured they would have to pay zero cost to get this feedstock material. Guess what? Wrong! As soon as farmers became aware of a use for corn husks, they put a price on them. A low price, but still. They're not free as was originally supposed. And neither is pulp.

Kim said...

I didn't say anything about paper being a waste product as in, no value. All I'm saying is that the production of paper has no impact on the environment.

Anonymous said...

the production of white paper most certainly does have an impact on the environment. Even supposing for a moment that there is zero impact from the logging, there is still high chemical usage, such as chlorine that goes into bleaching our modern day bright white paper. Whole lotta toxic chemicals, esp. chlorine.

Kim said...

Spam/paper. Both are waste products, both make money, neither is harmful to the environment. That's all I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

As you can see, calculating environmental impacts is no simple business. Which is why people have full-time jobs out of preparing Environmental Impact Reports and assessments.

Kim said...

Right, then. So e-readers, huh?

Anonymous said...

I am a different anon. I'm not sure about the trees, but the production of paper produces a lot of harmful chemical byproducts. I saw How is it Made? or whatever that show is on Discovery. Not recycled paper, but making new fresh white paper uses tons of toxic chemicals which can't be good for the earth.

Anonymous said...

I look at it like this:

Environmentally, eReders are about even with paper books overall.

But geopolitially paper books are better for America.

So it's 1 draw, 1 win for paper, so overall I conclude that paper books have a less negative impact (note that less negative is not the same has having a positive impact) for the United States than do eReaders.

Also note, however, that it would take millions of dollars and at elast a couple of years to scientifically verify this assessment.

Julie H. Ferguson said...

I want the new fiction releases for my e-reader immediately. I never buy fiction in paper but go to my library

Nonfiction releases - I can wait for if I want to own it after checking it out at the library..

Chantel said...

I just got a Kindle for Christmas, and was so psyched to get new books right away. Sigh. There's so much potential with digital books, why derail it? Disappointed by this news.

Anonymous said...

Average author royalty per download for an e-book, 25% of 50% price per unit, $1.25.

Per casecover book, 8% of cover price, $2.00.

Per mass market paperback, 8% of cover price $0.65.

DG said...

I'm late in commenting on today's post, but I read all 92 comments posted before me.

Several thoughts came to mind.

In the old, old days, record companies feared FM, because of the fidelity. They thought it was so good that no one would have a need to buy records. I won't bore you with the rest of the story.

Meanwhile, the pub industry is wincing just like the record companies did when Apple shook them by the throat. The Pub industry sees the same coming to their neighborhood and they don't like it one bit. In less than a year, Apple will do with the pub industry what they did to the music industry.

Ultimately the consumer will determine what a book is worth, whatever the format. Naturally publishers want to make the most for their books. The days of $27 hardcovers are over. eBooks have forever changed publishing. There is no going back.

And as for the argument about which of the two has the largest carbon footprint, lets face it, writers all want a dust jacketed hardcover of their work placed face out on an end cap at B & N.

Anonymous said...

Publishers Weekly, 3/10/2008 7:41:00 AM
"The U.S. publishing industry emits over 12.4 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, or about 8.85 pounds per book, according to the findings in the just-released report, Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry. The study, coordinated by the Book Industry Study Group and the Green Press Initiative, looked to establish industry benchmarks related to publishing’s impact on the environment. The cutting of trees for paper was found to have the most significant impact on the industry’s carbon footprint, although the report says the use of recycled paper and fibers has increased over the last several years."

The average U.S. household produces 7.5 tons of CO2 per year, 30% from energy consumption. 114 million households in U.S. equals 855 million tons CO2. Motor vehicles, 34% of all U.S. carbon emissions.

Rise in atmospheric CO2 since 1780 from 280 ppm to current 387 ppm.

U.S. publishing contributes the equivalent of 1.65 out of 114 million U.S. households' CO2. Seems pretty green to me, comparatively.

Kalika said...

@scott g.f.bailey

Spending a lot of money for books is not the same as spending a lot of money for ONE book. Working minimum wages doesn't buy many hardcovers.

Peter Kilkelly said...

I agree that its short sighted for publishers to delay e-book releases.

For people who want to buy e-books, I don't see enough of them buying the hardcover instead to justify the decision.

Mira said...

Laura, cool. I agree! :)

Terry, thanks. I like that picture too. I'll only have him for a week, but I've named him Toby. He just looks like a Toby.

He's not quite as striking as your picture, though. ;)

You know when I was typing about the pictures, it struck me that technological advances have drastically altered the field of photography, too. Digital cameras, shared pictures, pictures of cute puppies I can download for free...

Alittle off topic, but I really liked your article with the Huffington, Nathan. Very interesting problem.

Uncle Gus said...

It's called The Free Market for a reason (and it ain't because any thing's free).

Seems to me, the smart play would be for publishers to look at maybe developing their own e-readers, or perhaps some type of proprietary format for licensed sale to e-reader makers . More e-readers = more competition. More competition = lower prices for consumers and developers. Lower prices = higher demand.

It ain't rocket-surgery.

DG said...

Mira-

"Striking" is not a bad word for Terry's picture, but for me, I think I like "arresting" more.

Nathan Bransford said...

A couple things about the environmental impacts of print books:

- a lot of the anons in this thread assume that print books are made in the USA. Not so for a lot of publishers - some publishers have their books printed overseas. I've even heard rumors that there are some books that are printed in China because the ink that is used is illegal in the US.
- to the people who say that print books don't consume carbon. Uh... not only are these books often shipped from overseas, they are also shipped from warehouses to bookstores in trucks and then sometimes back again. There's a lot of shipping involved. For every single book.

I don't claim to be an expert on the environmental impacts. But again, every study by actual experts I've seen has shown e-books to be better for the environment. I again say that I'd like to see any study that suggests that print books are actually better for the environment.

Anonymous said...

My issue about the environmental studies I've seen is they tend to overlook the afterlife of e-readers, which are not fully known, toxic compounds, biodegradability, and they don't sequester any carbon. The studies I've seen of books environmental impact include their afterlives and account for all the real world costs because they're known factors from longstanding practices.

From Publisher's Weekly, by Jim Milliot -- 3/10/2008 http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6539660.html

"Publishing's Carbon Footprint By the Numbers
3.086 billion: Number of books sold, 2006
4.15 billion: Number of books produced, 2006
1.6 million metric tons: Amount of paper consumed for books
25%: Average book return rate
5%: Amount of recycled paper in books
8.85 lbs. CO2 equivalent: Carbon footprint per book
12.4 million metric tons: Total carbon footprint of book publishing

Source of Carbon Emissions in the U.S. Book Industry Segments of the Industry Share of Carbon Emissions
Forest and Forest Harvest 62.7%
Paper Production, Printing 26.6%
Landfill Releases (methane) 8.2%
Distribution and Retail 12.7%
Publishers 6.6%
Carbon Storage in Books and Energy Recovery -16.8%
Source: Enviromental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry."

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

"The Cleantech Group forecasts that e-readers purchased from 2009 to 2012 could prevent 5.3 billion kg of carbon dioxide in 2012, or 9.9 billion kg during the four-year time period. "

http://cleantech.com/news/4867/cleantech-group-finds-positive-envi

5.3 BILLON - 9.9 BILLION KG

Anonymous said...

But the Cleantech study disregards paper books being recycled or using farmed trees. They admit that they only considered books made from 100% paper when comparing to the ebooks.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

That opinion is based on speculation by a nonexpert blogger though.

Anonymous said...

Persuasive how they use billions of kilograms to represent carbon numbers. Conversion: one kilogram equals 1/1000th of a metric ton. 5.3 billion Kgs = 5300 metric tons. 9.9 billion Kgs = 990 metric tons. Compared with 12.4 million metric tons. Or compared with the overall U.S. carbon emissions from human activity, 6 billion metric tons.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, make that 9900 metric tons.

Anonymous said...

Yikes, my rusty, late night addled brain let me down. 5.3 million metric tons and 9.9 million metric million tons. Sounds to me like Cleantech is projecting an e-reader market domination by 2012, including textbooks and published books in total.

Thomas Taylor said...

Bring back the Net Book Agreement!

Thomas Taylor said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_Book_Agreement

Cam Snow said...

I'm kind of split on this one... from the publisher's POV, they have to know that as eBooks become more popular that companies like Amazon will NOT be willing to take a loss to sale hardware... no way. Because if they lose a few dollars on each book I read they'll lose money at the point I read 25 books or so (counting hardware costs, overhead, etc). They will eventually push back to the publishers though, and can they say NO to amazon?

However, as a reader, I would like to see the books sooner than later... however, I've never been one to buy hardcovers - I wait for trade paperbacks (since I am cheap).

For authors? I'm torn. Joe Konrath has some great stats on his blog talking about for his "out of print" books, which he re-released as eBooks and has made substantial money on (at a very low pricepoint).

Linguista said...

I don't see a problem with it, because they seem to intend to release it before the paperback anyhow... and before e-readers, most ppl used to wait for the paperback anyhow...

GhostFolk.com said...

Marilyn:

It sounds to me like the big publishing houses are afraid to let go of the idea that paper books are "real" books ...

Publishers are caught in the middle. For the time being. The paper book is still a "real" business and a large one.

The fabled-to-have-disappeared brick and mortar bookstores (and the crazy distribution system that supports it) remain the mainstay of a publisher's laydown for a new book.

Initial sales are everything (just like opening weekend for a big budget movie) for a big-budget book. If publishers simultaneously (don't delay) e-pub with the hardcover laydown, they are killing the bookstore (and their well-oiled laydown machine). Overnight.

I know a lovely bookstore in a lovely town that makes all its money off a few high-demand hardcovers just before Christmas.
Oh, that's every lovely bookstore in every lovely town.

Yes, the business model is changing. But it is a process. I don't think you can fault publishers for trying to survive the transition.

P.S. Anyone who thinks new hardcovers are too expensive can buy a "used book" very cheaply from dozens of reputable dealers who list at amazon.com usually within two days of the book's hardover release. Most popular novels that have been out for a while can be had for two or three cents plus shipping. This is yet one more reason why initial sales of a hardcover are still the bread-and-butter of big-book publishing.

GhostFolk.com said...

Nathan: All that said, authors may well be motivated to delay e-book releases since they may be receiving a better royalty for hardcover sales than they do for e-book sales.

Yes, but MOSTLY in terms of earning back the advance. And what this really means is that publishers should offer much lower advances (50%?) if the royalties on a well-selling title are going to be substantially lower...

Since agents earn a percent of the author's earnigs... were you suggesting that ONLY authors and PUBLISHERS would be motivated to delay eBook releases?

Kelley said...

As an obsessive reader and Kindle owner, it seriously pisses me off. Publishers seem to be completely missing the obvious--I DON'T OWN A KINDLE BECAUSE I WANT TO BUY AND READ HARDCOVERS OR MORE PHYSICAL BOOKS.

Delaying the release is not going to make me go out and buy a physical copy of the book. It's. Just. Not.

So I've gone to the library. I've even boycotted certain books. (I know it ain't gonna kill ya, Stephen King, but you really angered me.) And I'll admit it-do this enough, publishers, and even I, a writer who is morally opposed to it and is ashamed to admit it, would be tempted to go do bad piracy things just to get my fix.

Kelley said...

Anon 3:32 said-"People have always had wait for the paperback after the hardcover (except mass market) so what's the big deal waiting for the e-version? "

Because, again, the assumption here is e-book readers would have bought physical copies. It's apples and oranges.

I am not. And I suspect several other avid e-book readers were not. In the last couple months, there have been several new books I could not order. I've had to wait because publishers are afraid it will hurt their sales if I don't.

They ALREADY lost the physical copy sale, though. I'm not going to buy a physical copy and never was. All they've done is irritate me and anger me, and driven me to go the library (or Heaven forbid, piracy). So now they've lost TWO sales-e-book and physical book.

Do this enough, to enough readers, and yeah-it's a big deal in lost sales, and piracy will take off.

Laura Martone said...

Wow, I go away for a while, and I miss the big environmental discussion. That'll teach me to go to dinner with friends - drink too many beers - and fall asleep earlier than scheduled.

I know, I know, TMI, but we're all friends here, right?

P.S. Thanks, Terry! Glad I'm not the only befuddled one in the group. :-)

Jeff C said...

I totally agree with everything you said, and posted the same thoughts on my blog yesterday. It seems to me that instead of finding REAL ways to innovate with the digital format, publishers are finding ways to make it confusing and difficult to adopt for the average person. I guess there hope is to slow down the ebook adoption until they can figure things out. Wrong move, as folks will just find other ways to read what they want, when they want.

DCS said...

I got the impression from JA Konrath over at his blog http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/
that he makes more on his ebooks (at least the ones where he controls the rights) than he does on his paper books. Probably not true for really big selling authors.

JDuncan said...

My opinion is that it's being done because of public perception. Publishers don't want the public to feel like new releases, those coming out in hardcover, are only worth $10. The ebook market is inching it's way into a noticeable share now. I think I read it's about 5%. It's not at the point where it's having much effect on hardcover sales. The numbers just aren't there, but they will down the road. Five years from now, when sales of ebooks holds a third of all sales, it's not so hard to see that publishers will be losing out.

I can't say I blame them for seperating hardcover and ebooks. I wouldn't want the general reader to start thinking new hc releases are only ten bucks. I honestly don't like the internet's tendency to push the value of content toward zero. While there is something to say for the lower price, higher volume mentality, to me this is more than just finding the optimal price point. Stories shouldn't really be disposable commodities. They have more value than that. Perhaps I am being sentimental here, but I'm not really against what the pubs are doing here. I don't know that it's the best answer, but I don't think they've figured out a better one yet, and they feel the need to put their foot down while they still have any power to do so.

What they need to do? I think they need to do what many have been talking about, which is creating premium digital content. People don't perceive an ebook as being worth the same as a hardcover. So, add some perks to make shelling out 20 bucks worth while. Bundle audio with the digital. Include author interviews, trailers, lost chapters/deleted scenes, etc. The movie industry does a lot with this value added stuff. As the digital market keeps growing, it's going to push in that direction. I'd almost put money on it (if I had any to bet). The hc and digital could be bundled together. Not sure why they aren't doing this now unless there are major logistic problems involved with retailers. Anyway, point is there are solutions to be found, but it will take some time, and while this current solution isn't permanent (and it's only on a few titles, not all), I'm all for protecting the inherent value of the story. It's not just about the packaging.

K.L. Brady said...

I think the decision is VERY misguided and based on the (false) assumption that e-book owners and paperback/hardcover readers are still lumped in the same market.

And really they're not.

People who own e-books are not necessarily in the market for physical books anymore. If I shelled out $250 on an e-reader, I'm just going to wait for the e-book version...and I'm going to be pretty ticked about it. But I'm not going out to spend $25 on a hardcover anymore. No way.

On the other hand, people who don't e-book readers would have no use for e-books. I think very few would read it on the computer. Most will still buy hardcover and paperback versions as they always have.

The publishing industry needs accept and embrace E-book owners have shifted into a new niche market and have a demand for a "new" product. Unfortunately, publishers don't get it.

They are taking a major risk in alienating e-book owners. Have you noticed how loud the Kindle uproars have been over Amazon's missteps? I can only imagine the deafening sound against publishers. Moreover, if all publishers aren't on board with this program, they can just read e-books by authors at other publishing houses. Ultimately, it'll hurt the authors. I believe, before long, they will see the err of their ways and release them as they should.

Anonymous said...

http://www.idpf.org/doc_library/industrystats.htm

$110 million e-book wholesale sales through 3rd quarter 2009.
$53.5 million w/sales 2008.
$31.6 million w/sales 2007.

http://www.publishers.org/main/IndustryStats/indStats_02.htm

$24.3 billion book sales 2008
$25 billion 2007

Book Industry Trends reports 2008 revenues: $40.3 billion book sales, e-book sales $113 million 2008, $105 million 2007.

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics"
Benjamin Disraeli, British Statesman

Nine out of ten books comprise 90% of all books.

Karla said...

I won't buy hardcover books, heck I won't even borrow them from friends - they're just too darn big and bulky. Holding back the digital release of a book won't force me to buy a hardcover, I'll wait it out or choose another title.
As to pricing for e-books, I think they should be slightly less expensive than the paper format currently available, but I don't expect a brand new release to be bargain priced.

I bought my e-reader for the CONVENIENCE of e-books, not just to get cheap books.

Diana said...

Misguided. As an author for a small print press that releases books in ebook formats FIRST and THEN in print form, my perspective is slightl different than many. I can tell you I sell far more ebooks than print; I can tell you some readers buy both formats (wish I knew how many, but I suspect it's nominal). I can also tell you my royalty is far greater for the ebook than print since the cost to produce it isn't as high.

The "Big Boy" publishers aren't getting it. Readers aren't going to stand still while they try to impose an outdated business model on consumers. Nor are authors going to be happy at the loss of royalties because of the sales they didn't get when the publisher decided to stick to that outmoded business model. They'll take their books elsewhere to publish and the Big Boys will lose again.

Mira said...

Jim,

You raise some interesting points about the value inherent in the story vs. quantity.

Really, how can you set the value on a story? It's completely unique, and, in many ways, priceless. But there is a question not only of what the story is worth, but what someone will pay for it.

For example, I believe a book is worth about 6.99. That's what I pay for a paperback. The publishers have not fooled me. I don't believe that a book is worth $25, simply because that's what they charge in hardcover. I pay 7 bucks, and that's about how much I'm willing to pay, although I'll go as high as 14 for one of the bigger paperbacks if I really like the author.

But, the point is, I buy lots of books.

Part of the issue is that entertainment is a luxury item, and there is huge competition for consumer luxury dollars. So, pricing it too high will mean that you reach less consumers. Pricing it lower makes it more affordable, and consumers will buy it.

So, it's not always a choice between getting consumers to value a book and pay more for it. Often, it's the choice of they will buy it or they won't.

The value of a story, I believe, is reflected in the market by how many people want to read it.

Quantity.

DG - I'll take your word for it. :)

Anonymous said...

As a restaurateur, I'd rather sell one $35 prime rib dinner than seven $5 hamburgers. Less labor, more profit. And the prime rib sells because it's not something fast food restaurants offer or home cooks typically prepare. Well-prepared, prime rib is a gustatory delight. There are vegetarian selections available, but profit margin on carbs and flora isn't high, labor costs are, though. They come for the prime rib.

Mira said...

Well, I'm not sure the examples are exactly equivalent, because you're implying that hardcovers are more valuable than paperbacks. I disagree. I don't like paperbacks. But I'll go with it.

First of all, you pay alot more for the one chef who can prepare delicious prime rib, so labor savings may not be that much.

Also, it's a recession, so people simply can't afford prime rib anymore, so they go somewhere else, and you've lost their business. A profit margin may be smaller, but it's still profit. You just lost that.

And then you have to deal with the competitor down the street, who is selling prime rib for $25 bucks.

Then, you've got to deal with me. I'm standing outside your restuarant, saying "What? $35 bucks for a prime rib dinner? Are you kidding me?? Who wants prime rib anyway? I prefer a hamburger, why don't you sell hamburgers? I'm telling all my friends not to come here, what a rip off. You don't even sell hamburgers. I'm going to McDonalds. I can get a hamburger there PLUS a happy meal with a toy for 4 bucks, top."

Mira said...

Whoops. I meant, I only like paperbacks. Important distinction.

I just noticed - I'm hungry. Sort of feel like prime rib, actually. :)

Kate Sheeran said...

I agree with Karla. If I am anxiously awaiting an author's new release, I'd rather pay a little more to have it on my Kindle sooner. But I will wait to have it on the Kindle - especially if it's big and bulky. That's the whole point!

The longer I wait, though, the less I'll want to pay. When it's six months after the release, I will no longer be willing to shell out $15-30. The only reason I wanted pay that in the first place was to read the book soon, not for the pretty hardcover. If I have to wait, I expect to pay something closer to the price of a paperback.

wonderer said...

I don't have an e-reader yet, but if and when I buy one, one of the big draws for me will be the ability to buy books that aren't out in paperback (or not yet). This is mostly because of the weight/space (I do a lot of my reading on the subway, so I avoid buying hardbacks). But if, say, I have to wait six months for the e-book vs. a year for the paperback, I'd be quite happy to buy the e-book.

Having said that, I can see why early adopters would be ticked off.

Anonymous said...

The mystery of prime rib preparation revealed. Let the meat speak for itself.

Simple spices, salt and paper, fresh garlic and mustard powder crusting the fat cap on top about a quarter inch thick. Slap it in the oven on a bed of aromatic carrots, onions, and celery at high heat for twenty minutes, reduce heat to 250 degrees and let slow roast about 2 hours or until internal temperature reaches rare done, about 115 degrees. Serve with au jus and fresh horseradish. Gravy and ketchup available.

Hamburgers are on the menu, so is steaks, chicken and seafood and pork, veal and lamb. Takeout too. They come for the prime rib.

Labor's not that big a deal for prime rib. I'm in the building most of the day anyway. I do the gourmet preparations. The cooks are talented short order cooks now that I've trained them, but they're just cut and paste and burn jockeys. And the tips from prime rib diners are better, and of course, prime rib diners want a robust red wine accompanying. Sirah, Bordeaux, or Burgundy. Build that check total!

Hah! Word verification: grilist

Angie said...

"Laura K. Curtis said...

Horrible mistake. I don't think they understand either genre fiction readers *or* financial concerns at all. Right now, they're making a LOT more money off me than before I bought my Kindle, and one big reason is that I am willing to pay $9.99 not to wait for paperback. "

QFT. Right now I'm spending money on ebooks that I used to spend at the local used bookstore (which means that both publishers and authors are doing much better out of the deal). Increasingly, though, if it's not available in ebook I just don't buy it. There are a million books out there, I'll read something I can read in comfort.

I also think that a lot of these "I don't want paper books to go away" folks are overestimating the threat posed by ebooks. I read almost exclusively electronically now, but I still shelled out the cash for the gold-trimmed leatherbound edition of Lord of the Rings. Both can coexist quite comfortably in my humble opinion, without making ebook readers into second-class (and irate) customers.

Jill James said...

I think the publishers are being short-sighted. The person who buys a hardcover book and the one reading it on an ereader are two different readers. Have the format available for ALL your different types of readers at the same time. Put the book out there when the value exists: when I've heard about your book and want it.

K.L. Brady said...

I think Kate may have a better answer...which is to charge a small premium to get the e-book when it is first released. Then drop the price at the time that the e-book would have been released if they'd held it back.

Perhaps with a slight price increase at the initial release, they will end up the making the same amount as they would selling a hardcover.

That's a reasonable solution...so of course they won't adopt it.

Mira said...

Anon 10:05

Uncle.

You win. How can I argue with such a ruthless opponent?

"Simple spices, salt and paper, fresh garlic and mustard powder..."

Yum.

Who wants to argue anymore? I'm hungry.

Anonymous said...

Mira @ 11:16;

I'm sorry for coming off as aurgumentative. I was just making a clever darling comparison between one business model strategy and another. The prime rib model is taught in restaurant business courses.

I'm no longer working as a restaurateur, though. Life brings unexpected changes. I wish I could afford a prime rib dinner.
Writing that reply made my mouth water, like the stacks of books waiting for me to read after I get the day's editing workload out of the way.

MTMcGuire said...

The publishers sound scared to me and the word 'Canute', springs to mind. I could imagine e-books doing to publishing what downloads have done for music. Even so, I still have many friends who download an album, only to buy a CD later, if they really like it... something about having art work you can touch and hold.

Interestingly, I read recently about some chap who gave away his book free as a download. 7 years and 50,000 downloads later he was picked up by Orion. When the book was published in paper form, over 60% of the people who'd downloaded his book bought the hardback.

Still, try telling publishers that hey?

Cheers

MTM

Erin Edwards said...

Delaying the e-book release makes sense if you look at it as adding another tier to the hardback/paperback release series.

That said, many e-book readers seem to be avid book fans.

What about something like: you can purchase the e-book with the hardback for a small amount more, say $2, and if you want the e-book only, you wait for the e-book solo release.

Mira said...

Anon 11:25,

You weren't coming off as argumentive, we were debating!

Well, maybe we should pool our income. Together we might be able to afford that prime rib. If you're as hungry now as I am, it's only justice. :)

Anonymous said...

You're on, Mira. Say after the 2010 Nobel awards reception?

ciara said...

well it's all been said i guess but i might as well chip in. there are definitely certain things i would buy in hard cover (the re-release of Ariel for example)because i think they're pretty, but they are few and far between. i'm kind of coming round to the idea of e-readers and if i bought one it would be because i want to save money on books, with the amount i buy an e-reader would pay for itself fairly quickly. i think the publishers are seriously misguided about their readers if they think that people will be so desperate to buy books they won't wait a few months to get it cheaper.

Ciara said...

however if i were ever to publish a book you can be damn sure that i want to see it on a shelf in waterstones with nice hardcover.

DLKeur said...

I think that delaying the e-book release a couple of weeks might make sense, but certainly no longer. I think that a publisher must price the e-book so that it generates the same financial rewards as the hard-cover. I also think it ludicrous to try to "control" Amazon. If "they" (big publishing) want to "control" Amazon, they would have to "buy" Amazon. If the big publishers who hold the top-rated authors don't like Amazon's discounts, then simply don't offer the book for Amazon to sell. That's my take on it, anyway.

Ebooks are here, and they are here to stay, and trying to lock down products to a proprietary format or device is not going to work, as the music industry AND Sony Reader have discovered.

Anonymous said...

Guys, you're all beating a dead horse.

The ebook subscription model is coming and coming fast and hard.

Starting next year eReaders won't be sold, they'll be given away free WITH THE PURCHASE of a 12-book-per-year SUBSCRIPTION to B&N, AMZN, and maybe even the major publishers (if they're smart).

After all, it's book people want to buy, not single-purpose bulked up gadgets.

Anonymous said...

The things that publishers don't get is that people like me who have made the transistion from paper to eBook are not going back.

I used to buy about 75 books a year in hardback and trade paper. In the last year I have bought over a 100 books -- not one of them is paper.

Why the publisher would risk alienating people like me when they are just barely hanging on is a mystery to me.

Very short sighted and ultimately stupid

Anonymous said...

eReade devices are just too simplistic to make them worth carrying around. Netbooks, tablets--that's the way to go, because they can let you read ebooks AND do all the normal computing things, too, AND play vids and mp3s.

No way would I lug around some big gadget in the year 2010 that just displays books. How dumb!

MAYBE, as the above anon mentions, if I were getting the reader free with a subscription book service--that might change the game for some people, maybe even me--but the way it is now where you have to buy the thing for hundreds of $ AND then buy the ebooks too! You're sh**n me, right?

That is pure stupidity.

Robert Michael said...

This topic is not as one-dimensional as many may think. Personally, I fall in the simultaneous/slight delay category. The reasons would be greed and the desperate clinging to old business models (I also still use vending machines and buy in bulk).

But, where I may sit on the fence about whether to delay or release e-books simultaneously, I can see the benefits of e-books. Authors will have fewer diminishing sales, for one. By this, I mean library/borrow from a friend/buy at a used book store.

Potential readers will be more compelled to buy books at the e-book price point. What needs to happen if the old business model crumbles (B & M businesses like B&N and Borders go tets up) is that publishers and authors/agents need to revamp the commission structure. The costs of doing business--manufacturing, delivery, marketing, admistration--will obviously be lower and therefore the author's cut should be expanded.

Besides, in the new model, the intellectual property and the electrons are all you are buying. No more paper (unless you print it yourself, Lord forbid). No more ink. No more binding. No more shelving, packing, storing, returns, and more. What the reader downloads is mostly owned by the author. The publisher just provides the venue and the marketing.

In fact, publishers would become almost obsolete. Scary. What a topsy-turvy world. Maybe this is what the publishing giants fear most and why they are clinging to ye olde press. And, personally, I don't blame them.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the above sentiment that ON THE SURFACE the current pricing model and narrowness of function for eReaders seems to be a showstopper.

But let's actually break down some numbers:

Take an average reader who is willing to buy 12 new paper books a year: 12 new harbacks at $25 ea = $300. $300 per year on books. And presumably they either give them away after done reading or store them on a bookshelf if they have room.


Going the e-route: $250 for the eReader + 12 x $10 for the ebooks = $370 to go ebook. That's only $70 more, and that's only for the first year. In subsequent years, they'd only be spending 12 x $10 = $120 per year, while the paper book habit stays at $300.

So I do see a point to going electronic.

JDuncan said...

There's an excellent post by Shatzkin about this, and I wish I had the link to it, but I think it's spot on. This issue isn't really about economics at all. Publishers aren't stupid. They understand what they're doing. They know this isn't a great short term solution. This is about Amazon. They want to nip Amazon in the bud before ebook market share gets strong enough for them to dictate pricing. They don't want 10 dollar new releases to become the norm, and this is where the future is heading. Public perception is a powerful force, and they're battling Amazon over this. Honestly, I don't think they're wrong.

Nathan Bransford said...

JDuncan-

I actually added the link to the article yesterday afternoon. It's a good one!

Mira said...

Anon 12:42.

Okay. Although, personally, I'm not expecting to win the Nobel until 2011. But I'll go to celebrate your win! :)

Anonymous said...

"They want to nip Amazon in the bud before ebook market share gets strong enough for them to dictate pricing. They don't want 10 dollar new releases to become the norm, and this is where the future is heading." JDuncan

Saw it earlier, glad you shared it. It was a great article and important point-that this is about wrestling control from Amazon.

The problem? They're ticking off readers like me in the meantime. And as a reader, I'm already upset about paying $9.99 for an e-book. (Not paying more. Not now, not ever. Sorry.) Now they want to make me wait and make me feel like I'm not as worthy as hardcover customers? I hope they're not suprised if that leaves me, and others like me, thinking, "I hate the idea of piracy but can really understand it...hmmm..."

Anonymous said...

A lot of books are given as gifts. Hardcovers are good for that. You can't wrap an ebook and put it under the tree (unless you're getting the eReader to go with it).

Anonymous said...

Why isn't anyone mentioning the other HUGE problem with e-books?

They are showing up for "resale" on eBay and pirate sites. The very youth market you are promoting for these books is the market that grew up pirating music.

What makes you think they will PAY for a book when they can download it for free?

Musicians can still profit when they become "huge" via their free music files passing from listener to listener because they can tour and play live.

Writers whose books are circulating via file download have no such money-making option.

karen wester newton said...

I don't agree that this hardbacks and ebooks are comparable to movies and DVDs. A book is a book. For one thing, DVDs usually have something extra that's not on the theater screen. For another, lots of people buy a DVD after seeing a movie in the theater.

If publishers want to play hardball with Amazon (I agree with Shatzkin that's probably a prime motivator), they need to be sure they don't hit themselves on the rebound. If nothing else, they should consider providing a means to pre-order the ebook. Otherwise, readers will forget about it by the time the thing is released.

Claude Forthomme said...

I guess mine is going to be the 157th comment! That's an advantage because I can say that I (more or less) agree with what everybody else has said so far - essentially that publishers are making a mistake regarding e-books, and a costly mistake too in the long run...
Just one point that comes out implicitly but is not EXPLICITLY spelled out and perhaps it might help the publishing industry to think this problem through.

What if the reading public weren't one but SEVERAL publics? The guy who regularly buys a hardcover edition just isn't the SAME as the one who waits for a paperback edition. AND certainly not the same as the e-book reader.

I believe we are really dealing here with 3 markets - with some overlap, sure - but still THREE SEPARATE MARKETS. So releasing e-books on the same date as regular paper books won't make much difference - on the contrary: it is likely that MORE people WILL END UP reading the book... With word of mouth thus activated (and, as someone commented, saving on the costs of an additional marketing campaign), it could HELP hardcover sales too - a sort of back loop effect - enticing those who think of books as darling objects to adorn their houses to actually go out to the corner bookstore and get a glossy copy to lug back home...

Ishta Mercurio said...

Speaking as one of the dwindling few whose print books will have to be torn from my cold dead hands, a lot of these comments depress me.

However, as a consumer of books, I have always been bewildered by the staged-release of hardcover, then paperback a year or so later. If I want a special book in hardcover - maybe because I anticipate reading it over and over, as is the case with my sons' picture books; maybe I know the author and plan to have it signed; maybe the hardcover price has been massively discounted; maybe it's just a really special book - I'll get it in hardcover. Otherwise, I'll get it from the library or a friend and then buy the paperback if after reading it I just have to own it.

People who aren't interested in paying hardcover prices for books aren't going to do it just because the version they want (be it paperback or ebook) isn't available yet.

As an author, I was dismayed to read that authors will make smaller royalties from ebooks. The processes and expenses of printing and distributing books are borne by the publisher, and the publisher's share of the market price of a book is supposed to cover those expenses. If it is less work for them to create an ebook, then they are the ones who should take a smaller cut from the lower price of the ebook. An author puts in the same amount of time, blood, sweat and tears whether the book comes out in eformat or in print, so an author should get the same amount per book for an ecopy as for a print copy.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Another thought I have on this, regarding piracy, is that surely the mere existence of ebooks opens the door to book piracy. An electronic file is much, much, much cheaper and easier to copy and distribute than an actual book. I might borrow a book from a friend to read, but there's no way I'm going to fork out to actually phococopy the whole thing so I can own it. (Not that I would do that anyway, because it is illegal and immoral, but you can see my point.) But a file can be copied with a couple clicks of the mouse. And if people with ereaders are waiting for months to get the delayed release of an ebook, I imagine that they would rather pay nothing for a pirated copy than pay the full price for the ebook.

No... I know I'm fighting against the tide, but I don't like ebooks.

Sascha said...

It's very, very misguided. If you're going to ignore the rules of the market, the market will crush you and teach you it doesn't want to be contolled and that it actually can't be controlled. The music industried learned it the hard way when it offered digital music downloads only with DRM, which customers don't like. So they downloaded it from the net for free. Until the music industry learned their lesson and offered music downloads without DRM handcuffs. The movie industry had to learn it the hard way, when they wanted to release movies at different times in different regions (usually starting with US). But people wanted to see the movie earlier, so the downloaded the movie from a US source for free, depriving the right holders of the other regions from their income.
The publishing industry seems to have to learn this lesson the hard way, too. If they think they can delay e-book releases, people will scan a hardcover book and download it for free from the net instead of buying a legal copy. It's like with that (sorry to say) idiot who purchased the rights to publish Stig Larsson's third novel in the US but wants to publish it only in May. People want to read it now, so they get it from UK (either as an import or, you guessed it, for free from the net). It's not that they can't read it in British English...

Either embrace the market or perish. If the market demands e-books, the choice you have is satisfying this demand or going out of business. That's really it.

JoeGKushner said...

In terms of authors and their e-books, they may need to do more than they have traditionally. For example, musicians have to do tours, music videos, re-releases, anniversary releases, etc... Authors may need to develope their own 'cult of personality' as opposed to the fire and forget methodology. Even Stephen King, whose hardcovers average $35 bones each has rereleased his paperbacks for $4.99 to reflect the economic realities going on now. Authors may have to become part salesmen and part showmen in the future.

The real utility of e-books though should to to completely eliminate the stupidity of college pricing on school books. It should also be something useful in all other forms of education as materials can be updated quickly and without reprinting, merely redownloading.

lystrawrote said...

I think this is a great example of hysterical panic from an industry that has gone from having total control of their product to having little or no control. The sad thing is if they delay E-books they will not get the desired results. They will not regain control like they want. They will only encourage and enable pirates and private individuals to sell or share copies before the E-book is released. They need to look at how well the music industry fared by restricting electronic music. Without the music industry’s resistance there would have been no Napster. Amazon isn't the enemy, just like iTunes wasn’t the enemy. When a "Bookster" site comes up because they restricted availability of E-books and people with Kindles can't get their favorite authors right away, publishers are going to be in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm atypical here, but my personal reading model is:
LIBRARY (hardcover vs. paperback, I could not care less)
I buy rarely because there are only a handful of books I like well enough to re-read.
What happens when (as someone said), ebooks become the book universe? How can libraries work with e-readers and ebooks?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Libraries and e-books already are compatible.

See this post: Top 10 E-book Myths.

Lloyd said...

This is like music downloading. Apple doesn't make any money with itunes, they make money selling ipods, and the music is a loss leader. So they want to get the content for next to nothing and are fighting with the music industry over it. Now Amazon wants to follow the same model with the Kindle. One difference is that Amazon does make money now selling books. So the lines aren't drawn as clearly.

James Ison said...

It's an awful idea. It will either make me wait which will irritate me and I may not buy the book when it does come out in digital format or I will say forget it and move on. I WILL NOT BUY ANOTHER PHYSICAL BOOK. They take up space in my house. I am an avid reader I read 2 or 3 books a week most of the time and it's all too much to have that many books around.

Give it to me digital or I will find another author simple as that...

Publishing is making the EXACT SAME mistakes that the music industry did. Delaying books will increase piracy. You know how most books get pirated? not from cracked versions of DRM'd books as they would have you believe. But people take a copy of the hardback or paperback and run it through an auto feeding scanner with OCR. I won't personally pirate a book because I am just like that but it is happening due to a LACK of digital editions not becasue of them.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big book buyer, and I buy almost nothing is paper any more (in any format), because there's no more room in my house. It's been said a lot already, but I'll repeat it - if it's a choice between hardcover and nothing, then I will choose nothing. Piss me enough, and I'll boycott your titles altogether (and yes, I alreadu have publishers on my "no-buy" list).

For the authors among you, no, you're not competing with yourself; you're delaying (and potentially losing) a sale.

noumena12 said...

Here is the letter that I'm sending to publishers.

I was appalled to learn that Simon & Schuster plans to delay the release of ebooks. The concept is ridicules. Why would a company want to delay revenue? Do you think that those of us who only read ebooks will rush out to purchase a paper copy of your books? I can GUARANTEE you that we will NOT. We are more likely not to read your books at all.

In 2009, I read over 300 ebooks. That means that I PURCHASED over 300 books spending almost $2000. My primary ebook reader is a Kindle but I supplement it with my iPod Touch or Blackberry storm when a book is not available in Kindle format.

My book wishlist consists primarily of not yet released books. If ebook releases are delayed, I can guarantee that I will move on to other publishers who are NOT delaying the release of their ebooks...and I won't look back. You don't want me annoyed waiting for the release of books in the format that I want to read them in.

Claude Forthomme said...

I completely agree with Noumena, T.Anne and many others who don't want to wait to read their e-books. And it does show I'm correct in perceiving that the e-book market is quite SEPARATE from the p-book market.
WHEN will publishers understand that? There's actually a LOT of money to be made from the e-book market...
And why not conceive of giving readers of e-books a rebate on a hard paper copy of the book in case they like it so much after they've read it that they want to have it as a decorative object in their home?

Anonymous said...

I agree with most everyone here. I have always purchased a large number of books (both hardcover and paperback), but decided to get a Sony reader so I wouldn't have to carry so many books when traveling. I also like the convenience of being able to download a book immediately without needing to go to the store. I have no problem with paying a higher premium for a new release ebook, but I find these publishers' decisions to delay the release of ebook high-handed, greedy, and short-sighted. I like to read books when they new and relevant...not 4 months later so this really bothers me. Therefore,I will NOT be purchasing books OF ANY FORMAT from publishers who have decided to implement this strategy.

Related Posts with Thumbnails