Thursday, October 22, 2009

King's e-book news

The dialogue about what value there is in holding off on offering books electronically until after they are published in hardcover (rather than having a simultaneous publication) continued this morning with a piece in the Wall Street Journal about Stephen King’s publisher keeping the e-book edition of his new novel Under the Dome back until Christmas Eve. Again, the thought here, one supported by the author himself, is that doing this will encourage more people to go into bookstores and buy the hard copy of the book, thus increasing bookstore traffic at a time when book sales are down.

My reaction is twofold: First, I am quite surprised that Mr. King, who has been a huge proponent of publishing books electronically is taking this stand. It seems diametrically opposite to what he has been saying (and doing) for so long.

Second, I still feel that the reader of electronic books is not the same as the reader of hard-copy books but, instead, is an additional reader. Selling the e-book at the same time as the hard copy book increases readers and sales, in my opinion.

I am more then aware that there are many who feel differently. What do you think?

If you can't see behind the WSJ paywall, you can read about the issue, sans King quotes, in this AP article.



  1. It makes no sense to me that King's publisher would be afraid that sales of the electronic version would somehow take away from sales of the hardback. I'd think that yes, indeed, they would be additional sales on top of the hardback ones.

    I know if it were me, given the reported size of the book, I'd be thinking very seriously about an electronic version anyway; I do a lot of my reading on the bus, and carrying a huge hardback around is cumbersome and inconvenient. On the other hand, given that the reported price of the book is also $35, that'd probably put me off either version anyway; that's an awful lot to ask for a book. I'd be way more likely to check it out from the library if I were desperate to read it immediately, and wait until the paperback release for a more affordable version.

  2. I agree completely. Readers of hard-copy and readers of e-books are two different animals. I have become rabidly anti-paper of late, to the point where I have sliced physical books at the spine, scanned them, and converted them to PDFs that I can have on an e-reader. Even networking with other writers, I prefer the digital manuscript where some of the others must have the physical pages.

    There are undoubtedly book consumers who read both formats, although I suspect even these folks have pronounced preferences. More to the point, though, are there people who will buy both? As one data point, since I don't want paper, I'll buy the ebook, and only the ebook. The only time I make an exception is with audiobooks. Sometimes with non-fiction, I'll buy the ebook after I've listened to the audiobook, essentially because I'm studying it.

    I'd like to see publishers release the varying formats simultaneously and, while they're at it, maybe they could land on a standard digital format, reduce the price of e-books, and drop the DRM. I'm not holding my digital breath on any of that.

  3. Agreeing that they're different customers. I don't buy hardcovers no matter what -- except when required in text-book form. I don't have the e-reader yet either, though I find Nook tempting. And I would definitely choose that form over hardcover. So far, I'm a paperback reader and that's the only format I buy. Do I wait the extra time even for my favorite authors?


    Because experience has proven that hardcover will sit on my shelf unread until the paperback comes out -- because I can stuff those into my purse and carry them everywhere. Hardcover just does not fit. (One more month, and I'll be able to read White Witch, Black Curse, by Kim Harrison that's been out a year but finally coming in paperback. I'm so excited.)

  4. Out of paranoia that someday I may lose books in their traditional form because of electronic versions, I think that is okay.

    But better than that, I think that digital copies should be provided already with the purchase of a book in traditional format, then offer a lower price if only the digital format is desired. That lowered price would reflect the lower cost of production.

    I think they'd make a killing to provide digital versions free with purchase, and that just might pull in audiences of both physical copies and digital.

    Just my thoughts on this at the moment.

  5. I'm more interested in the fact that the eBook will go for $35 from Scribner, and you can pick up the hardback from Wal-Mart for $9.

    There's something very wrong with that picture...

  6. It made me wonder if the decision was somehow linked to the Amazon/Walmart $9 pricing of the novel. That they wanted to control some aspect of the market for the book.

  7. I absolutely agree that they are different customers and different pieces of the market. For example, someone who doesn't see the value in the hardcover price might happily buy the ebook for their phone or laptop for $9.99.

    Plus, there are techies and there are people who never want to read anything other than a hardcover. People will always have their preferences, especially on a "non-essential" item like a book.

    (Disclaimer--I think books are essential, but they're not, you know, food.)

  8. The decision is clearly an attempt to control the marketing of the book, and shouldn't surprise anybody; after all, everybody has to get their piece of the pie.

    It also shouldn't surprise anybody that Wal-Mart is undercutting even the publisher... they've been screwing people over for years. Why not screw Scribner and the author as well?

    The e-book shouldn't cost so much, though... the process to create an e-book is far less complicated... so Scribner is just trying to make a buck on what's considered "new" technology.

  9. I have to agree with you that readers of hardcover books and readers of e-books are very different. For myself, unless I'm traveling give me a real physcal book any time. (For travel I love the portability of the Kindle, etc.)

  10. You make a good point Angela. We were just discussing the size of this particular book in our morning meeting -- it certainly would be easier all around to read it electronically.

    Teresa, I totally agree that releasing books simultaneously could really increase sales -- hardcover, audio, electronic. What a great idea.

  11. I would LOVE to be able to buy a print and a digital release of a book at the same time. This would work beautifully with how I foresee myself buying books going forward: print copies for the authors most important to me, but for the vast majority of my reading, it'll be ebooks. A great idea indeed. :)

  12. I do think it's a different audience. I recently heard Lyle Lovett on a radio show on the BBC and thought, "Oh, I wonder if he's touring." I went to his official website and the first page that loads is a link to Amazon where you can download his NEW album for $3.99 for a limited time. I love Lyle, but my husband is a musician and so I have so much live music in my house that I don't buy a lot of CDs and I've never downloaded a tune before. I wouldn't have bothered to go buy his CD, but this seemed like a great opp and I immediately popped over there to buy it. Alas, it was only good for the US and I'm in Canada, but my point is the same. I am not the person who would buy the CD in the store, but given an opportunity like this, I would've bought the download for $4. That's $4 more than they would've gotten if they didn't have this offer set up. Likewise, I am not the person who will buy the e-copy. If I want your book, I'll buy it as a book. You would not lose out on my sale by having e-books go on sale at the same time. Different audience. By the way, I have downloaded Suze Orman's Women and Money (or whatever it's called) when Oprah had it available for free and I've NEVER read it because I don't read e-books! It hurts my head to read on any screen.

  13. What keeps me away from the e-readers is not knowing which ones will be joining Betamax and Hi-Def in the electronic elephant's burial ground of incompatibility.

  14. I agree that the digital copy should be released with the hardcover just like the digital is being released with many blu-rays, in some you also get the dvd and digital.

    Speaking of movies, I think the delay of the e-book is something they picked up from movies. There is a standard, required wait time for movies to go to DVD after they are released in the theaters. But reading a hardcover is not like seeing a movie in the theater, so the wait does not have the same affect. Books are more like music, the album comes out in CD and MP3 format on the same day since the listening experience isn't appreciably different.

  15. I agree with your observation that the e-reader is a different clientele.

    completely agree.

  16. If you buy a hardcover copy, they should throw in a digital copy for free!

    (Hey, lots of DVD releases now come w/ a second, digital copy of the film that you can download to your iPod or other mobile device.)