Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More on digital publishing

It seems that there's more news in the realm of digital publishing every day. Whether it's publishers partnering with Scribd.com or Hachette giving away books for free on their site, things are moving at a rapid pace.

On Monday, WSJ ran an article about Sourcebooks not releasing a big fall title of theirs on ebook simultaneously with the hardcover. Their fear is that they'll lose hardcover sales, and the agent on the book, Richard Curtis (who I might mention is an epublisher, himself), agreed. Robert Gottlieb also chimed in, saying he doesn't allow simultaneously ebook release if at all possible (and with his biggest clients, I'm sure that can be controlled), comparing that to releasing a movie and DVD on the same day. And Random House still hasn't announced it if will release Dan Brown's latest in ebook, and I have a feeling they won't. Unfortunately, I think these guys are missing the point. This isn't the same argument as when to release a paperback. At this point, with ereaders costing what they do, readers who have invested in them are going to buy the ebook or nothing else. I truly believe they're losing sales by not making the book available, and it's a shame. Kassia Krozser has more to say about this on her blog, too.

At the Digitalist, the Pan Macmillan blog, they make an interesting argument for DRM -- or at least a certain kind of DRM. Thoughtful and concise, it's worth a read. As they mention, simplifying DRM is all about making the customer happy.

As always, I love to hear your thoughts!

- Michael

12 comments:

  1. I agree. This isn't like releasing a movie and DVD on the same day, it's like releasing DVD and Blu-Ray on the same day. Maybe one costs more than the other, but people are going to buy the edition that's compatible with their home entertainment choices, or they're not going to buy at all.

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  2. What this publisher fails to take into account is that a person who buys an ebook is not going to buy the hardback anyway. Not one person will say, "Well, I was going to buy the hardback, but since the ebook is out, I'll buy that instead!"

    And really, if they want to quibble about it, they could make the ebook more expensive until the paperback comes out or something. But that would most likely make people throw fits as well.

    Basically, just another misunderstanding of what the digital revolution really means to the publishing industry. I'm pretty confident they'll get it eventually, though.

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  3. One quick addendum -- do make sure to read the comments at Digitalist! All anti-DRM, but from some heavy-hitters.

    - Michael

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  4. I can see both sides--but I balk at spending $26 on an ebook. Of course, I never bought hardcovers before I had an ebook reader anyway. I guess I just need to learn patience.

    I will say that the year wait encourages piracy for some. I know some in NY like to think epirates only pillage ebooks not protected with fancy DRM--but many just scan the paper book and go. Are they going to come up with a DRM ink next?

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  5. I agree! I buy TONS of hardbacks. But I have a Kindle, too, which is great for travel and for reducing the size of my personal book collection--a constant struggle even with regular visits to my public library. Some books, I really only need on the Kindle--books I want to annotate, books I will never get signed, books that aren't particularly beautifully printed (like, say, Arthur A. Levine books).

    It is REALLY frustrating when I can't get it on a Kindle, and one of the things that drives me to my library, instead.

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  6. Gwen - I agree. Most of my author's books that I see pirated are scanned.

    My question is, who wants to spend the time doing that?!

    - M.

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  7. Yes...they spend the time doing it and then give it away. They're really sticking it to the man, I guess. If you think the man is an author who has to work a full time job just like everyone else and then sacrifices all their free time to write books.

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  8. It's crazy how much this is being talked about. Agents all over the blogosphere are jabbering away at it. As small as the market it for ebooks right now, that seems to me to be some kind of indicator. If the people in charge are worried, then somebody is feeling the full moon coming, when the medium transforms into the ebook business.

    It seems counterintuitive, then, that the publishers are trying to "fight off" the ebook. Now seems like a good time to sport it.

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  9. So... a question rather than a comment. Is there any language being used in contracts right now about what happens with e-book rights if your book goes out of print? I was thinking how great it would be if the author got a say in how this would be handled. I could even imagine offering the e-book for free if the physical book is out of print. You wouldn't be making much money on the out of print book anyway and a free e-book might attract the attention of new readers.

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  10. tony etienne19/7/09 12:25 AM

    I will have to chime in and say that I also don't understand why publishers and agents are buying into the 'lost sales' theory of delayed ebook publishing. I think Kassia Krozser has it right in her article that you linked -- for the most part, people who are going to buy the paper version are going to buy the paper version, and people who are going to buy the ebook are going to buy the ebook. Not having the ebook available at the same time is only going to lose sales and customers.

    As for myself, I like having physical books around my house. However, I also have a Kindle which I love dearly, and this time lag between print and digital books makes me wonder: why are publishers making me choose between the digital and physical copies in the first place? If I buy a physical book, I'm missing out on the reason that I bought my Kindle. If I buy the ebook, I'm losing out on having a physical copy that I can put on a shelf with other well-loved tomes, and even lend out to friends. Why can't I pay a little more for a physical book that comes with an ebook version of the same? If a hardback volume is $25 on the day it goes onto store shelves, I would gladly pay $30 or so for a hardback version that comes with an ebook I can put on my Kindle. The publisher can be happy: I've given more money than I would have normally. I'm happy: I am no longer forced to choose my content format.

    Just a thought.

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  11. I like the idea of a hardback/e-book combo! I'm a little surprised publishers haven't thought of it.

    I tend to buy hardbacks only when one of my very favorite authors puts one out, but I don't own an e-reader, so I don't buy e-books at all. At some point, I will probably get an e-reader - they seem very convenient for traveling - and I will want copies of all my favorite books on it, even though I already own the physical versions.

    Just a side note: I think it's funny how people are so sure that my generation - I'm twenty-two - will be all about electronic media. I love paper books. Heck, I like paper magazines a lot more than e-zines. I read a lot on my laptop, but I'm not all that excited about reading on a tiny screen like that of a Kindle. But then, that's part of the reason I never got into texting, and I do seem to be in the minority there for my age group.

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