A common refrain out there among the people who are pro-delaying e-books (last spotted in the Wall Street Journal article about S&S’s and Hachette’s delays) is that it’s kind of like how in movies you have the new release in the theaters, and then a while later you have the DVD release. Ergo ipso facto quod erat demonstrandum (Latin! It’s what’s for dinner)… DVDs are same thing as e-books, right? You have the hardcover release and then the e-book comes out later.
I don’t understand this e-book/DVD comparison at all. I’d even go so far as to say it’s Greek to me.
Let’s take movies.
When a movie comes out, you pay to see it in the theater. Once. You don’t get to take home the reels (and even if you wanted to those things weigh like 75,000 pounds). You’re paying for the experience of sitting in a darkened theater with strangers and watching it on a giant screen. You’re not buying something tangible.
Then, six months or a year later, the DVD comes out. It’s a tangible product. You get to keep it or give it away or loan it to a friend. And, by the way, it’s usually more expensive than a movie ticket (assuming you didn’t spring for the $17.00 popcorn). It’s also most likely to be purchased by someone who saw the movie in the theater and wants to re-watch it whenever they want or add it their collection.
How does this have anything at all to do with hardcovers and e-books? Watching a movie and owning a DVD are wholly different experiences and models. As subets pointed out in the comments section: One is an experience, the other is a product. DVDs are more expensive and tangible and you can watch it whenever you want. Going to the theater is cheaper and less tangible and you have to go at certain times.
If theater = hardcover, why is going theater cheaper whereas the hardcover is more expensive? If DVD = e-book, why don’t people usually buy the e-books for hardcovers they’ve already purchased?
I mean, yes, there are some points of comparison between e-books and DVDs, in that they’re both digital. And e-books (could/should be) loaded up with all kinds of cool bonus features that are afforded by an electronic format.
And some people might say that the reason DVDs are delayed is so people who are interested in the movie will be motivated to go to the theater first rather than renting it when it comes out on DVD. But the movie industry’s ideal is that someone consumes a movie twice – first at the theater, then with the DVD. If publishers are hoping consumers are going to buy e-books after the hardcover they’d better get to work making e-books a whole lot more awesome.
We already have a model for the e-book delay that makes way more sense: paperbacks. We can debate the merits of that comparison until we’re hoarse, but at least it makes sense as a model – the theory being that people who are excited about a title will be steered first toward the most expensive version of the product. Releases start with the highest price version and then move to the cheapest priced version.
What we have here is a failure to communicate.
Also: Rosebud. Just because.