Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Covey Sells e-Book Rights Separately

Yesterday I responded to a comment of Colleen's:
. . . the world is changing . . . I'm beginning to think the Big Six will go the way of the dinosaur . . . meaning they will die off and be replaced by smaller, faster and smarter creatures.
Brenna Lyons pointed me toward a New York Times article from Monday that reported:
Stephen R. Covey, one of the most successful business authors of the last two decades, has moved e-book rights for two of his best-selling books from his print publisher, Simon & Schuster, a division of the CBS Corporation, to a digital publisher that will sell the e-books to for one year.
Amazon will have exclusive rights to sell e-books produced by RosettaBooks of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Principle-Centered Leadership.

The Big Six publishing houses are operating under a delusion. They have had all the power for so long, they cannot envision a world in which they don't continue to hold the power.

The New York houses are so determined to keep things the way they are that they've foolishly forgotten they no longer own the sole means to publishing.

It's not just readers who have greater choice today; it's also authors. And authors understand that readers sustain a writer's career.

When publishing houses became subsidiaries of mega-conglomerates, books became a product . . . like lawn mowers or widgets. The product is fungible: meaning the nature of the item doesn't matter; one product is interchangeable with another. The most important thing is the corporation's bottom line. Stockholders want higher dividends and rising stock prices.

With that mindset, protecting the hardcover edition makes sense. Why release a $9.99 cheap e-book version that will compete with the $27 hardcover version?

Kassia Krozser already said it: "There seems to be an assumption that the ebook customer will shift formats when their preferred format isn’t available. I suppose some will, but most will simply skip the purchase . . ."

I've spent some time over the last year or so analyzing my book purchases, and I believe Kassia is right.

Buying books is a huge part of my budget. I usually buy one hardcover fiction and one hardcover non-fiction a month. I buy hardcover books mostly to support my favorite authors.

I used to buy at least one trade paper or mass market paperback every week. That dynamic has now shifted to include the purchase of e-books. I find I'm more likely to buy a couple of e-books a week rather than to purchase a single trade paper. So the number of units I buy per week has actually increased.

I generally buy used books when I'm wanting to sample a new author. That's how I discovered Simon R. Green's Nightside series. I also buy used books when I'm growing tired of an author or when the quality of the books begins to slip. Put Laurell K. Hamilton in that category. I still buy her Meredith Gentry books new, but have relegated the Anita Blake books (with that tiresome ardeur) to used status.

Living outside Dallas, I have easy access to four Half-Price bookstores as well as a bookstore called Paperbacks Plus (where I maintain a $1,000 credit). When I can't find the used book I want at one of these, I buy online from Abe Books. I refuse to support because of their failure to act as a good neighbor to small publishers.

Bottom line: I'm now buying more books than ever (although it takes longer to get around to reading them). When faced with a hardcover book that I'd like to read but which is not written by a favorite author, I simply don't buy it. I may find it used down the road, but the publishers' royalty is lost forever because used books pay NO royalty.

Wake up New York. You're shooting yourself in the foot.

You can read the New York Times article here.


Laura Vivanco said...

"When I can't find the used book I want at one of these, I buy online from Abe Books. I refuse to support because of their failure to act as a good neighbor to small publishers."


"AbeBooks Inc. is a subsidiary of, Inc. AbeBooks, an online bookselling pioneer, was acquired in December 2008 and remains a stand-alone operation with headquarters in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and a European office in Dusseldorf, Germany." (from the Abebooks website)

Maya Reynolds said...

I knew that at one time, Laura, and forgot it. Thanks for the reminder.