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It's all a matter of timing

Right now ebooks are still so new, in terms of being a significant market, that no one quite knows how to react to them. A while ago, I blogged about how Arnaud Nourry, chief executive of Hachette Livre, the French branch of the Hachette publishing houses, was worried that ebooks could kill hardbacks. Now comes word that the US branch is holding back the ebook version of the Ted Kennedy memoirs True Compass that's coming out in (naturally) hardback. Hachette US publisher Jonathan Karp has been quoted as saying, "You don't expect a first-run movie to be available on cable the first weekend."

Apples and oranges again! The percentage of American TV owners with cable or its equivalent is huge. The eReader market, by comparison, is still very small. Also, the experience of seeing movies at a movie theater and on a TV are utterly different, while that of of reading an ebook and reading a print book are really very similar. But even more importantly, the money to be made from a movie going onto cable is not that uniquely linked to who watches it on cable. If a publisher holds back the ebook version for a significant length of time, he runs the risk of eReader owners simply forgetting about the book. If it's no longer being reviewer or talked about, what will prompt the eReader owner to buy that book?

Obviously, the publisher is hoping the eReader owner will buy the hardback. A good percentage of the time, that's simply not going to happen. Having an eReader is a little like having an ice maker. Once you own a fridge with an ice maker, going back to one with just ice trays is a royal pain. For me, hardback books are ice trays.

Add in the fact that the people most eager to buy ebooks are voracious readers and you have a recipe for publishing disaster.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 13th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
Well, of course, everyone is different. I have not bought a print book since I got my first Kindle, but I had pretty much stopped buying hardbacks before that. Publishers right now are caught between a rock and a hard place. What they need to figure out is, what's the optimum timing? If they release the ebook six weeks later, is that going to still get the "have to have it ASAP" folks without losing the "ebook only" folks? A really good thing would be to have a "pre-order the ebook" button so those folks who want ebooks but are willing to wait could buy it when they see the review.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 13th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
It might not be. It might be six months. But they need to come up with a plan.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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