This week, two of the biggest publishing houses made announcements that indicate they're paying attention to changing reader tastes.
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) pointed out that "retailers and publishers are looking for clues into how readers want to access digital content." In an experiment, Random House has decided to sell individual chapters of the popular Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. The publishing house seeks to "gauge reader demand for bite-size portions of digital texts" by selling the chapters for $2.99 each.
Readers looking to buy the chapters should go here. After purchase, they'll receive an email, which will give them the link to download the chapter to their computers. Eventually, RH says readers will be able to download the chapters to devices like BlackBerries.
While this type of download will be attractive to students or people wanting to download a specific chapter from a non-fiction book pertinent to their need, it remains to be seen whether Western readers will be interested in purchasing small chunks of fiction works.
Also on Monday, The New York Times reported HarperCollins has uploaded entire books by popular writers, permitting readers to browse the contents in the same way customers would examine the books in a bookstore. The publishing house is trying to determine whether this will increase hardcover sales of the books.
The books can be found here on the HarperCollins' website.
Right now the available books include The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho; Mission: Cook! My Life, My Recipes and Making the Impossible Easy, a cookbook by Food Network's Robert Irvine; I Dream in Blue: Life, Death and the New York Giants by Roger Director; The Undecided Voter’s Guide to the Next President: Who the Candidates Are, Where They Come from and How You Can Choose by Mark Halperin; and Warriors: Into the Wild, a children's book by Erin Hunter.
The free electronic versions will only be available for a month, and users will not be able to download them. HarperCollins plans to continue to upload copies of Mr. Coelho's other books--one each month throughout 2008.
The Times said:
Reached by telephone in Paris, Mr. Coelho said: “I believe that generosity pays off.” On his own blog, he gives readers links to pirated editions uploaded by readers in numerous languages. “I believe that they are not going to go beyond 20 or 30 pages” when reading on the Internet, he said.
HarperCollins also intends to begin offering 20% of selected books on their site two weeks before the hardcover goes on sale.