Replies and more

I worry about doing a straight ‘reply’ to interesting comments, as the whole discussion might get buried. I like WordPress but the reply/discussion process is slightly awkward.

BOB (yes, he uses all-caps) queried, as he is wont to, the second-class status of e-books. He is a regular on brightweavings, so we’ve had this discussion before. My sense is that there is no likelihood of e-books not becoming more and more significant (though the rate of growth slowed this year in North America it is just taking off in Europe). The dilemma for publishers is trying not to cannibalize their own products. It may be that hardcovers are a doomed species (again, in Europe, they mostly are) but it isn’t automatically ‘stupid’ to try to stave that off.

For a time, the publishing world seems to have flirted with the idea of a delayed e-book release, akin to delayed paperbacks, so the hardcover would have at least some time on stage alone, then the hardback would graciously withdraw and paperbacks and e-books would hold sway. My sense (I may be wrong) is that no one thinks that is a good idea any more, or at least a workable idea. Certainly the delay before trade or mass market paperback is continuing, but the e-books do seem to be arriving with the first hardcovers.

There may remain a pricing policy where the e-books cost a little more when paralleling the hardcover, then come down in price when they are beside a paperback edition. And in the background for everyone is the issue of piracy, of course. In some countries it is annihilating the book trade: I am told by agents in Russia that pirate editions of paper-copy books sell for a fraction of the ‘real’ ones, and then there are the electronic ones for free…

Another comment to the last post was generous but may have missed a part of my point about blogs and early reviews. George, I want to be clear: my own sense is that bloggers reviewing early are not offending the publishers. As I said there is a balancing act at work, though no one quite knows how to do it yet.

If publishers don’t want early blog reviews they have an easy solution: don’t send them out early! My sense (remember I was last dancing with Under Heaven three years ago and things may have changed) is that the industry is perfectly fine with blogs reviewing as soon as they get the ARCs, unless they attach a specific request to wait – and they don’t need to, they can just hold back distribution until they are ready to see assessments online.

The line between a smart, widely read blogger and an ‘online magazine’ is really hard to pin down sometimes, and it may be a waste of time trying. I think the industry does try, and that was my point about their probably hoping that, say, the Los Angeles Review of Books would wait until a book is out, but not being concerned if an individual (or even group) blog reviewed as soon as they got it.

I also know (because I am hearing the discussions) that there are different attitudes among marketing and PR people about this. As I said, people are still figuring it out – and that will mean coming to different answers.

I am amused at myself these days. With the book gone from me, I am waiting for all my publishers and agents to get back in their offices (dammit!) so we can address some things. My dear friend and former agent Linda McKnight used to warn her colleagues about this stage … when I finish a book all the queries and to-dos I have for everyone levitate from the desk and demand to be dealt with. I do try to be cute about it, but a wry remark at the end of a list of six things may not always be enough.


7 thoughts on “Replies and more

  1. I always feel sad when a book I’ve been eagerly waiting for is released in hardcover, and they hold back the release of the ebook. Angry, too. Many books I’ve been eagerly awaiting, my mother shares that eagerness. But she can no longer read on anything other than an ereader, because font and text size are now such an issue, given her continuing and worsening issues with macular degeneration. She was able to read Under Heaven in hardcopy, but that won’t be the case now.

    To me it’s not simply an issue of the publishers trying to avoid cannibalising their own products. A sale of an ebook to someone like my mother doesn’t mean they’ve lost money because that person didn’t buy the hardcover — particularly at the breathtaking prices publishers put ebooks at when they’re released simultaneously with the hardcover. It means someone who wouldn’t be able to read that book can.

    I really hope Mum and me will be able to read your next book at the same time. There’s no sign of a Kindle book up to preorder on the Amazon site, but… fingers crossed.

  2. Has any publishing house considered including the e-book copy (via a code) with the purchase of the hardcover copy? I for one have already ordered the hardcover book as soon as it was available and will purchase the e-book edition. ….and then the audible version as soon as it is available. 🙂 But that’s a whole other conversation.

  3. I agree about the inevitability of e-book’s growing popularity. Overall I think its probably a good thing. If the convenience brings more people to reading, everyone wins. If only more out of print and older titles were available in e-format, I would finally purchase a Kindle. Even so, for myself, I can’t see e-books replacing the old school paper version. Something about holding the book, feeling the weight of it, endows the material with greater effect, maybe even a certain feeling of intimacy with the author and his or her thoughts.

    And if I may poke gentle fun, the topic of completing any work of art brings to mind the old saying, something about how many artists does it take to paint a masterpiece? One to paint it and another to hit him over the head and take it away when its “done”.

  4. Lynn, I think a few houses have looked into the idea of bundling a discounted e-book with the hardback. Not sure how much traction the idea has yet. In other words how much desire there is for a bundled product. I do get the idea that people may be omnivores in their reading, read the same book on many different platforms.

    Nikki, I hear you, too. Of course Penguin or any other house doesn’t ‘lose’ a sale if they make the book available sooner in e-book for your mother. The issue for them was at one time (it is no longer in play) whether they could introduce a model of timing similar to hardcover-to-paperback, with a delay. As best I can see, no house is trying to do that any more. I expect e-books on sale at same time as the hardcovers for River.

  5. And leaving a note to say that the preorder link is live on Amazon now for the April release.

    All set and in the queue now.


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