karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

The future is in our hands

. . . especially if those hands happen to be holding an eReader. All aspects of publishing are changing so fast it's hard to keep up. Information publishers have already had to face the digital music, and in the case of newspapers, they're really hoping it won't be a dirge. Newspapers are scrambling to find new ways to present information and still bring in revenue, in the face of consumer insistence that online information be available for free. Large screen eReaders like the QUE and the anticipated (but never confirmed by Apple) "iPad" tablet may offer some hope that people will buy digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines.

Book publishers can hear the orchestra tuning up, and for the most part, they're not happy with what they hear. That's partly because they haven't yet let go of their old business models in which most of their profit came from hardcover sales, with the hardcover priced at $25 to $35. Personally, I consider hardcovers the bracheosaurus of publishing. They are physically large enough to take a lot more space than either mass market or trade paperbacks, and authors expect a larger advance for a book published in hardcover. But what is the real advantage to the reader? I suppose it's sturdier but how often do you really need a book to be indestructible? Libraries certainly want hardcovers, but I actually stopped buying them some time ago. And while hardcovers may be the norm in mainstream, in genre plenty of well known authors still haven't published in hardcover.

Some publishers' solution to the emergence of ebooks as a viable market is to delay releasing the ebook version for a good while after the first hardcover release. The danger in this is that ebook buyers may well forget about the book by then, and not buy it at all. That's because if you've made the jump to an eReader, you're unlikely to buy the hardback. Stephen King's newest book Under the Dome took an interesting approach. The hardcover came out November 9, and it was first priced at $35 for both the hardcover and the ebook. They have since come to their senses; right now the kindle version is $7.99, but it's on pre-order status; you can click the button now but it won't be sent to your Kindle until December 24. At least they're using technology in their favor.

One reason publishers have tunnel vision about ebooks sales and pricing is that Amazon has not only taken the lead with Kindle sales, they've taken an aggressive approach to ebook pricing (that's a nice way to say they're keeping the price low but hogging the revenue). As more competition from Apple and other vendors becomes more of a factor, it might be that publishers can see some light at the end of the tunnel and their vision will broaden.

In the meantime, we should all keep reading! It's what we buy— not only the content but the price and the format— that determines the future of publishing. What are you reading these days? I just started Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger (Kindle version!), and I can't decide yet if it's going to be spec fic or not. [Note: It is spec fic! Just got there.]

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Tags: e-books, ebooks, ereaders, publishing

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