Dear Publishers, Please don’t Say FU to eBook Readers (Rant Alert!)

This PW Article titled “The Amazon Workaround” sounded interesting. It has this nugget:

Windowing—offering print books for a period of time before e-books go on sale—while enticing is seen as impractical since it is unlikely that publishers will return to a practice they have already given up. Moreover, there is some thinking that publishers could start charging a premium to customers for e-books before the print book is released, something a sizable portion of consumers said they would like.

WTF?

  • Windowing has been abandoned (really?)
  • Charging a premium for eBooks prior to print release.
  • customers said they would like to pay a premium?

Really??

  1. I don’t think windowing has been abandoned.
  2. Charging a premium prior to print release? Isn’t that just a flavor of windowing, only with a fuck you, eBook consumer thrown in for free?
  3. I’m hard pressed to imagine consumers agreeing to pay a premium for something that should be a normal business process. What the heck kind of question did they ask in order to get people to say yes?

Oh, my god, that article is one big fat hot mess. Extend Agency Pricing when publishers are already under international investigation for the practice? Cheaper books are bad if Amazon becomes the only seller of books?

Here’s my take on this observation from Teleread about different reading pools for print vs. Ebook: I think the conclusion is descriptive and completely misses a pretty obvious cause. Sure, eBook bestsellers include DIY published books — because

  1. Those books aren’t available anywhere else and
  2. eBook readers know that the digital price of traditionally published books is a rip-off and they’re voting on that price with their eReaders.

Here’s my suggestion for publishers:

  • Try actual competition instead of protectionism.
  • Go talk to your legal departments about getting out of whatever contracts prevent you from selling books wherever consumers are.
  • Spend more time thinking about how to sell more books regardless of format, because, actually, your product is not the container. Your product is the content.

What do you think? I am wrong about windowing? What else have I missed?

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One Response to “Dear Publishers, Please don’t Say FU to eBook Readers (Rant Alert!)”

  1. Tamara says:

    This has been a problem with serials for a while now. The big indexing services that have monopolized the journals and/or the publishers themselves deliberately withhold new research from electronic publication for six months or more. So institutions (e.g. libraries, universities) that pay tens of thousands of dollars for subscriptions only get the rights to older articles, and have to subscribe to the print version as well to properly serve their users. It makes the users livid, as well, because they all want to access the articles they need from the comfort of their offices, not to schlepp themselves down to the library to photocopy.

    Librarians, of course, are generally a shrinking violet type of people (myself sometimes included), so they just roll over and take it. “We understand where they’re coming from; they have to make money somehow” we say. We don’t have the power to do anything about it, save for a few select brave souls with conscientious administrators who were willing to put their enrollments, national rankings, and citation counts on the line for the principle.