Book Publishing Thinks It’s A Darwin Exception!

HarperCollins Joins Ranks Of Those Delaying E-Books

The third major publishing house in two days has decided to delay the electronic-book publication of some titles next year, as the debate over the timing and pricing of e-books heats up.

In an interview, Brian Murray, chief executive of News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers, said that beginning in January or February, HarperCollins will delay the e-book publication of five to 10 new hardcover titles each month. The delays are expected to range from four weeks to six months, depending on the book.

Never in the history of book publishing has reality avoidance been this high.

This is the kind of thinking that defeated the British at Gallipoli.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s article, Cocksure, we see what’s happening in book publishing today:

Cohen and Gooch ascribe the disaster at Gallipoli to a failure to adapt—a failure to take into account how reality did not conform to their expectations. And behind that failure to adapt was a deeply psychological problem: the British simply couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that they might have to adapt.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

And:

[O]ne of the things that happen to us when we become overconfident is that we start to blur the line between the kinds of things that we can control and the kinds of things that we can’t.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

And the root of it all:

The psychologist Ellen Langer once had subjects engage in a betting game against either a self-assured, well-dressed opponent or a shy and badly dressed opponent (in Langer’s delightful phrasing, the “dapper” or the “schnook” condition), and she found that her subjects bet far more aggressively when they played against the schnook. They looked at their awkward opponent and thought, I’m better than he is. Yet the game was pure chance: all the players did was draw cards at random from a deck, and see who had the high hand. This is called the “illusion of control”: confidence spills over from areas where it may be warranted (“I’m savvier than that schnook”) to areas where it isn’t warranted at all (“and that means I’m going to draw higher cards”).

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

They think we’re all schnooks!

Goliath thought David was a schnook too:

That went well for Goliath, didn’t it?

Previously here:

How Book Publishing Will Lose: eBooks Vs. Smart Digital Books

5 Responses to Book Publishing Thinks It’s A Darwin Exception!

  1. Bradley Robb says:

    I think this is going to play out in a very interesting fashion. The internet hasn’t ever been kind to artifice, and I can’t think of a better example of that.

    What’s interesting to note is that publishers are denying eBook editions of the books most likely to be pirated, which leaves eBook readers with no other option but to engage in purchasing a higher-priced physical book in a less desired format, or to illegally acquire the same same book in the format they already wish.

    It seems counterproductive to me. But, I’ll talk more on that tomorrow.

  2. Moriah Jovan says:

    which leaves eBook readers with no other option but to engage in purchasing a higher-priced physical book in a less desired format, or to illegally acquire the same same book in the format they already wish.

    Or not get it at all.

    I’ll forget about that book I want with delayed release if I can’t pick it up in the equivalent of the line at the grocery store. I see the book, I go to any number of e-distributors, it’s not there, oh well my bad luck. Onto the next interesting title that IS there.

    If I’m in a mood to spend money IMPULSIVELY and you’re not there with the goods? It won’t get spent on you, and you’re not important enough for me to remember six months from now.

    Boo fucking hoo.

  3. clive says:

    This seems to me to be a reasonable approach for publishers. First sell the hardcover version. Second sell the ebook version at the same time as the paperback version. This has been their approach in the past when it was just print versions. Why should they approach the market any differently?

    • mikecane says:

      Those pre-Internet days are over. Books can be ripped and put on the Net within 24 hours of release. There is a dedicated network of people with scanners and volunteer proofreading labor out there.

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