Friday, July 17, 2009

Delaying eBook Releases

The debate on ebooks continues.

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal had an article about Sourcebooks, an independent publisher, which has made the decision to delay the ebook publication of an anticipated best-seller.

Sourcebooks will be issuing 75,000 copies of Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, a debut young reader's novel by Kaleb Nation, due to be released on September 9th. That's a significant print run for a debut novel. However, the larger news is that Sourcebooks has decided to delay the ebook release for "at least a half year."

The Journal quoted Dominique Raccah, the CEO of Sourcebooks:
"It doesn't make sense for a new book to be valued at $9.99 . . . The argument is that the cheaper the book is, the more people will buy it. But hardcover books have an audience, and we shouldn't cannibalize it."
On Tuesday, Kassia Krozser had this to say on her Booksquare blog:
They’re worried that ebook sales will negatively impact the potential for this title to hit a bestseller list . . . Apparently, ’tis better to have no sale at all . . .
Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research agrees with Krozser. Epps is also quoted in the WSJ article:
"Publishers are in denial about the economics of digital content . . . What we've seen in other industries and in the evolution of digital content is that consumers are not willing to pay as much for content that is separated from its physical medium."
On Wednesday, the CEO of Sourcebooks visited Krozser's blog to respond directly. Dominique Raccah said:
To me, the decision is analogous to a new release in movie theatres; we don’t expect that movie to be immediately available on DVD . . . isn’t this the same as people (myself included) who say I’ll wait until it comes out in paperback or I’ll wait to see the DVD? And don’t those people sometimes forget and not buy or rent? So yes, there’s a risk that sales will be missed, but isn’t that a risk that has always existed in format choices?
I think Kassia was exactly right when she said that it's dangerous for publishers to expect readers to simply accept the publishers' business model.

I was reminded of this argument when I dropped by my local B&N last night.

There are only two times (amounting to about 25% of my book-buying dollars) when I purchase a book in hardcover: (1) When it is a non-fiction subject in which I have a special interest, or (2) When it is a favorite novelist of mine whom I want to support. The other 75% of the time, I purchase ebooks or paperback books.

Since I've been published, I'm very aware of the economic realities facing writers. Buying a hardcover of a beloved author is a way I get to read something I'll enjoy and, at the same time, provide support to the author.

I don't take chances on debut authors in hardcover . . . ever. Why should I? I don't feel any loyalty to these authors who have yet to prove themselves to me. And Dominique Raccah is short-sighted if she thinks I'll have to wait around six months for that paperback or ebook. If I'm motivated, with the availability of the Internet, it's easy to find a used copy of the hardbook within a week or two. A used book purchase means no royalties at all to the publisher or author.

Last night, I bypassed two new debut hardcover novels to purchase Greg Iles' The Devil's Punchbowl in hardcover. Iles has earned my loyalty. I first read his Mortal Fear in 1997.

Kassia is exactly right. If publishers don't catch me fast, they run the risk of losing the sale altogether.

The Internet and digitization have opened possibilities for readers. It also changed the power dynamics between publisher and reader. Publishers need to adapt, not take a dog in the manger approach. There are too many books being published each day for any one publisher to hold much sway in the market.

Go here to read the Wall Street Journal article.

Go here to read the first Booksquare post this week on the subject.

Go here to read the Booksquare response by Raccah.

1 comment:

Glynis said...

That is very interesting, I am writing my first novel.I have never visualised it in any other form than a nice thick paperback. I have never considered it a hardback nor an eBook.
Well if it is taken up by a publisher, I will have to hope it sells well. Then maybe you would consider my second LOL.

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