Publishers Attempt to Make More Money by Delaying E-Books

Simon & Schuster, concerned that customers are choosing $10 ebooks over more expensive hardcovers, has decided to delay the release of electronic versions by four months after the print release date.

This strikes me as dumb. There’s no certainty that readers, some of whom are eager to try out their new Kindles or Nooks, will simply pay more for a format they find inferior. People will new toys will read what’s available for them. It’s also likely that, by the time they’ve waited four months, they’re no longer interested in purchasing your book; they’ve forgotten about it. I won’t even mention that, of the major media, books are the easiest to copy digitally.

When will publishers learn that trying to force customers to act contrary to their interests in order to benefit publishers is not a smart strategy? Note that “publishers currently receive the same wholesale price for an e-book that they receive for a print book”. They’re not losing any money by being more customer-friendly. They’re just afraid of the future, especially if it includes more format and price flexibility. I find $10 much too much to pay for an electronic copy, anyway, but that’s why I don’t have a dedicated e-reader device. (My cellphone displays epubs just fine, though.)

HarperCollins, meanwhile, has decided that they won’t delay books; they’ll just raise prices. “We are planning to introduce some of these titles, simultaneous with the hardcover, as enhanced e-books to be priced more in line with the hardcover.” At least, they’re also experimenting the other way as well: “we will be testing very low-price and free e-books to gauge consumer appetite for a variety of digital price points and formats.”

6 Responses to “Publishers Attempt to Make More Money by Delaying E-Books”

  1. Alex de Campi Says:

    :: HEADDESK ::

    Do these folks live in some sort of crazy bubble where they make lots of money so never feel the need to torrent films or feel like they have saved up so long for an e-reader they want to use the most out of it?

    Wait, I think I already answered the question.

    There is so much stupid policy around e-books (even by giants like amazon) it’s painful and frustrating to watch. They’re still the future, though, and all this big-company inanity leaves a *great* wide open playing field for small/niche publishers and self-publishers.

  2. Jer Says:

    This doesn’t strike me as much dumber that delaying the publication of the cheaper paperback version of a book in order to sell more hardcovers. It’s something that has always worked in the past so there’s no reason not to think that it might not work here.

    And it probably will – it’s monopolistic pricing after all. The folks who really, really cannot wait to own a particular copy of a book will pony up for the hardcover. Those folks who are used to waiting for the paperback will continue to wait for the paperback. And those of us who don’t buy a book until we’ve gotten it out of the library and read it to make sure that it’s something we might actually want to own and read again/lend out to other people will continue to use the library and not buy 90-some percent of the books that we actually read.

    (I suspect that this is also why the book publishers seem to be somewhat more sanguine about people downloading torrents than folks in other media tend to be – they’ve already built the fact that a large chunk of the people who read their books are not ever going to be buying a copy for themselves into their business model. The percentage of the population who are going to bother to download a torrent of a book is probably much, much smaller than the number who would just get it from the library and read it without the publisher seeing an extra dime from them anyway, so why sweat it?)

  3. Rivkah Says:

    “This doesn’t strike me as much dumber that delaying the publication of the cheaper paperback version of a book in order to sell more hardcovers.”

    Took the words right out of my mouth. Hardcovers have a high margin, so publishers tend to push them first to make the most that they can on initial sales. The cheaper, inferior versions will always come out later.

    However, $10 for a digital book is insane. I’d pay maybe $4.95. Maybe even $6.95. But certainly not $10. There’s no print cost and no returns. So why so much?

  4. Dwight Williams Says:

    Contractual obligations to the authors?

  5. Johanna Says:

    I’m not sure the paperback comparison applies 100% because of the different audiences. The people that have adopted ereaders so far, many of them are the dedicated book lovers that would otherwise buy hardcovers. They aren’t particularly price-aware (or they wouldn’t have spent $250-400 on an ereader), and many of them seem to work in the media. They were previously part of the hardcover, not the paperback, audience, at least as I see it.

    When it comes to pricing, the arguments so far are that even for ecopies, you have to pay for the author’s time and effort writing and the publisher’s editing and marketing and such. By making that argument, publishers show that they really do see electronic books as competing with hardcovers, not alternate editions.

  6. Russ Onguardia Says:

    Well it depends on what the book is about. $10 isn’t so bad if the book is very helpful.

    Now $25 for an ebook is a lot of money to me.




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