August 31st, 2009

gold shells

Stalking the elusive ebook buyer

Arnaud Nourry, chief executive Hachette Livre,, a really big publisher, has told the Financial Times that he thinks ebooks could kill off hardbacks. [Note: Teleread has a summary if you're not registered with FT] What's got Nourry worried isn't a fondness for big, clunky books that take lots of room on the shelf, it's the $9.99 ebook price ceiling. The FT article reports it as "Amazon’s pricing strategy – over which the online retailer failed to consult publishers — to charge $9.99 (€7) for all its e-books in the US." But that's not really accurate, as there are plenty of Kindle books that cost less than $9.99 and, occasionally, ones that cost more.

Interestingly, a similar post in FT quotes Noury as saying that eReaders are suitable only “for the upper class, people over 45, big readers, big travellers, early adopters.” First, aren't these people his primary customers? Second, if that's his attitude, no wonder he's worried. The man is in denial.

Let's look at another post on Teleread. A Sony owner who goes by the moniker Ficbot posted a piece about his/her ebook buying habits. Ficbot likes Ficitonwise (I do, too. It's very Kindle-friendly), Baen Books, and Smashwords, and is exploring What's clear is that Ficbot is shopping by looking where ebooks are available, not by looking at bookstores or even book review sites. That's because Ficbot wants ebooks!

And a main rule of retail selling is, you have to give people what they want, because if you don't someone else will.

Addendum: case in point— Apple just confirmed an iPod event for September 9. Everyone is guessing they will announce an "iPad" (large screen iTouch) that will, among other things function as an eReader. It will almost certainly be snapped up by the upper class, traveling, reading population over 45.

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