Two Major Publishers To Hold Back E-Books
“The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback,” said Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS Corp. “We believe some people will be disappointed. But with new [electronic] readers coming and sales booming, we need to do this now, before the installed base of e-book reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible.“
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
Carolyn Reidy, is it difficult to be this clueless?
Let’s see … not a single Harry Potter book has been released in electronic format.
Yet is every Harry Potter book available in every electronic format?
All you’re doing with this delay is saying: “Hey, kids! Rev up your scanners and bleed our writers to death!”
Do you think what happened with music was a fluke?
Do you think Hulu came about because the megacorporations backing it one day woke up and decided to offer their warehouses of shows for just about free?
Carolyn Reidy, you are incompetent to face this new age and must resign your position. Failing that, you should be summarily fired for jeopardizing shareholder value.
You, Carolyn Reidy — and those with your dinosaur thinking — are the problem, not your customers!
All eBooks — so-called — are right now nothing more than a lightly tarted-up text dump into a specific electronic container. They’re objects with less capability than print (go on, riffle through those pages with eInk’s refresh rate!) and even dumber than print (uh, which page are you actually on?). They are linear, they are stupid. They are the lowest common denominator of what an eBook can be — and even at that they are simply atrocious.
Readers can understand a three-dimensional physical object having X price: they understand that paper costs something, that delivery costs something, that a bookstore has to pay for staff, for rent, for insurance, for electricity, for heating and cooling.
Where are all those expenses in something that amounts to a lightly tarted-up text file?
You cannot get the same price for an eBook as you can for a physical object. You simply cannot. The more you ignore that reality, the more print publishing will be ridiculed in posts such as this across all of the Internet by me and many, many others.
Beyond all that, you are throwing your business off a cliff.
Your sole hope of even maintaining the US$9.99 price point that all of you hold in contempt is to dump eBooks altogether and start producing smart digital books.
Let’s see what’s going to happen to that US$9.99 price point for ePub first (and I’m using ePub as shorthand for Kindle editions too):
Would A US$50 eBook Reader Be A Disaster?
[W]hat [will] happen when someone buys an eBook device for only US$50 or $US99?
Do you think people are going to look at an eBook priced at US$9.99 as being reasonable?
“Wait a minute. If I buy just five (or ten) eBooks, I‘ve paid as much for them as for this hardware. The hell with that!!!111″
The Sony Reader Pocket Edition is US$199.00. It won’t remain at that price forever. It has to drop at some point — or another company will swoop in with similar hardware at a lower price. Maybe that company will be Asus — you know, the one that caused portable computer prices to drop to about one-third of what they had been?
As that price squeeze happens — and it is inevitable — an eInk eBook reader goes from being equivalent to about twenty US$9.99 eBooks to just fifteen or even ten.
Several things will then happen:
1) All of your crappy ePub eBooks will have to drop in price
2) Readers will take a chance on new writers who direct publish at lower prices
3) Piracy will rev up to a point of No Return, destroying the entire book publishing business — making it impossible for even direct published writers to gain readers even at the “price” of free
The good news is that unlike newspapers, book publishing has a real chance to survive and thrive. Newspapers alienated their readership through smugness and political advocacy (and still refuse to acknowledge that or to change).
Books are not encumbered by such suicidal sins.
Books sell dreams.
There will always be a market for dreams.
But does anyone in the current book publishing industry intend to be a part of that eternal market?
eBooks are not an answer for the book publishing industry. No one sees them as having much value.
Smart digital books are the future.
Vook and Enhanced Editions have both been pioneering a crude form of digital books — as have several publishers for children’s books for the iPhone.
All of these efforts have been hobbled:
1) There is no overarching digital book reading application
2) The artform is in its early stages
3) There is no way to provide rich additional material outside of these editions
The first issue will be moot when Apple releases the iTablet with a bundled digital book reading application. The matter will be settled with a standard everyone can create for.
The second issue will begin to recede as digital book creation is opened to everyone via Apple’s Pages application. While this will be a boon overall for book publishing, it will also put it under further threat from those outside of the “system” who will quickly create their own products and master the artform well before the mainstream.
The third one is where the megacorporations of book publishing must step in to save their own lives and to fend off the unprecedented thievery that Google is attempting to accomplish. Book publishing must pioneer the creation of smart digital books.
Book publishing never united to create any electronic standards. For more than a decade it’s been led around by others — Peanut Press, MobiPocket, Adobe, the IDPF, and then Amazon.
Next will come Apple to put a ring through book publishing’s nose.
As much as I admire Apple (and sometimes excoriate them), not even Apple can lead books to a Promised Land.
Here is how Electronic Arts — which is also entering digital books — is dealing with the inevitability of buyer leakage (aka piracy):
Riccitiello spoke energetically about the popularity of the company’s downloadable content add-ons. Some of EA’s DLC has been free, such as the launch-day offerings of a new town in The Sims 3 or a nudity option in The Saboteur. Others, such as the paid DLC for November’s Dragon Age Origins, generated a million downloads in its first week, according to an EA spokesperson.
“The consumer seems to really like this idea that there is extra stuff,” Riccitiello said, while expressing surprise that some of this DLC is downloaded so soon after people start playing the games. “The consumer wants more, and when you give them more or sell them more it seems to be extremely well received.”
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
Attention Carolyn Reidy and your short-sighted ilk:
He said the music industry erred in “demonizing” its consumers rather than reacting to them. He believes that EA has an obligation to make it enticing for people to play games legitimately.
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
What Electronic Arts has done is to recognize that digital theft is impossible to stop. They’ve also recognized that if you can’t get people to pay immediately, perhaps you can get them to pay something eventually.
They do this by providing material extraneous to the product itself.
Such extraneous material for books is metadata.
It transforms a book — even an all-singing all-dancing digital book that seems to be a thing in itself– into something greater than itself.
It pushes digital books forward into becoming smart digital books.
It re-establishes in people’s minds that there are expenses involved in creating a digital book — perhaps moreso than that of a paper book.
And it also creates value for book publishers that cannot be taken away.
It is this value that Google is attempting to create for itself, cutting out all current book publishers from their birthright future and further concentrating the world’s information into the hands of one company.
The odds are good that Apple has not considered metadata yet. They have been too busy with building a digital book reading application and upgrading Pages for digital book creation. Apple’s will be a 1.0 product, just as the original iPhone was.
This gives all of book publishing an opening to unite to create a metadata standard that can be incorporated into 1.0+ versions of Apple’s reader program and the Pages creation tool. Book publishing can push for the creation of smart digital books.
Apple would be open to such an overture. It would give Apple a competitive advantage that no one else could match. And it appeals to several of Apple’s 7 Principles.
It’s imperative that even a rudimentary standard be formed — as long as it’s good enough and open enough to accommodate the future, it stands a chance of saving book publishing from going over the cliff it’s currently speeding towards.
Metadata must at the very least:
1) Link books to other books
2) Permit the notification of out-of-book updating
3) Permit access to links from the outside
4) Be spacious enough to plug in the future
Let me make it clear: the how of all this doesn’t matter — I’m not here to spin a standard out of the top of my head. There are many, many specialists to do that. The result has to be something that’s lightweight, that’s easy for everyone to create for (even for direct-published writers), open to all, and that can adapt to unforeseen ways of doing things.
Metadata is the creation of publishers. It’s the value they create outside of the book manuscript being put into shape for sale. I’m not going to argue the IP issues of this other than to state that, in terms of contractual rights, those who do the creating also have the ownership. Metadata is a creation of publishers, not an adaptation of material they publish. However, it is the digital book itself — the creation of a writer — that is the key to unlocking that.
Such outside-of-the-digital-book metadata is akin to what EA is doing with its outside-of-the-game material. The digital book can still be pirated — but without all the metadata that makes it greater than itself, there is still the opportunity for publishers to get people to pay something later for access to it.
What’s more, as the volume of metadata increases, and links between books increase, and everything accrues to metadata to heighten its value, a process of education will take place where people will understand that the digital book itself is just a fraction of what they get with a pirated copy. It’s not a smart digital book — it’s a pale imitation, just as ePub is a pale imitation of a printed book.
It’s not Digital Rights Management that will matter in the future. It’s Metadata Access Management.
Only a legally-purchased copy will unlock the door to the larger world a smart digital book inhabits.
All of the bizarre schemes of book publishing — like Carolyn Reidy’s utterly psychotic fantasy at the opening of this post — are going to fail. Dream all you want of a future of delayed-release rainbows and ePub unicorns enforced by a thuggish CopyNazism that alienates your customers — such dreaming is your undoing.
The world will continue to ignore you into irrelevance and bankruptcy.
Offer people more and they will pay more.
ePub is not enough, period.
Now wake up and get to work.
And if you’re ready to be serious, read every damned post below. Because this is my final post on this subject.
Jump off the cliff if you want.
The rest of us will flourish without you.
Oh Give It Up. Steve Jobs Wins.
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I’m sorry, I realize you are done with this topic, but DAH-YUM! this article was a master-stroke. Absolutely brilliant. For the traditional publishing house to survive, there needs to be a proper separation of concerns between writer and publisher. For published writers and self-published writers to come to the same table adn talk, for published writers to leave their stable and realize the benefits of self-publishing… there must be a proper separation of concerns between writer and publisher. Thank you so much for writing this.
What a nice piece! Publishers seem can’t go beyond their existing thinking model or paradigm. They don’t want to understand that a new publishing model is essential for them to survive. How poor they are!
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