The e-book debate continues…

By Midge Raymond,

  Filed under: News, On Publishing, On Reading

The Wall St. Journal reports today that the independent publisher Sourcebooks is delaying an e-book version of one of its popular new releases due to pricing: “‘It doesn’t make sense for a new book to be valued at $9.99,’ said Dominique Raccah, CEO,” who worries that e-book sales will undercut lucrative hardcover sales.

This, of course makes sense for a book that has an initial 75,000-copy print run in hardcover, as this one does. For paperback originals, though, or books with smaller print runs, I think it still makes sense to offer a Kindle version.

Have I mentioned that Forgetting English is now available on the Kindle?

I suppose I might be more into my hardcover sales if a) my book was in hardcover, and b) if I had an initial print run anywhere near 75,000 copies. But for many (if not most) authors, making their books available in this format is simply good marketing. As the WSJ article points out, “Of the top 15 fiction books on the July 19 New York Times best-seller list, only Catherine Coulter’s novel ‘Knockout,’ which ranks No. 4, is unavailable in the Kindle format.” Coulter’s agent says, “It’s no different than releasing a DVD on the same day that a new movie is released in the movie theaters” — which makes sense, but only for longtime bestselling authors like Coulter. The analogy is completely different if applied to lesser-known filmmakers whose films can only be seen at festivals and on DVD … and this is where many writers fit in as well.

Publishers have been trying to keep prices for e-books similar to traditional books, but as Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps tells the WSJ: “Publishers are in denial about the economics of digital content … consumers are not willing to pay as much for content that is separated from its physical medium.”

And with an entire generation growing up digitally, I fear the day may come when few are interested in the “physical medium” at all — i.e., books. When was the last time you heard someone under the age of twenty-five talk about the feel and smell of a new book? Having recently read a storybook to a pair of five-year-olds, I can report that this age group still loves a good story, and even a good printed book. But these little ones enjoyed my iPhone even more, and they can operate a digital camera better than I can. And these are our future readers.

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