business / digital books / publishing

Are Ebooks the Publishers’ Waterloo?

Publishers should stop worrying about change and embrace it. Authors aren’t fleeing from publishers. By their own account, publishers get far more query letters and unsolicited manuscripts than they can handle. and the blockbuster authors like Dan Brown and John Lescroarte are going to stay with publishers.

What I wonder is why publishers cling to an outdated business model? Years ago when I got my MBA, professors taught me that well-run businesses expand a market, find new niches, reinvent their mature products. Remember the product life cycle? Good managers don’t stick their fingers in the proverbial dam and hope to hold back the flood water of change.

They adapt. In the tradition of American commerce, publishers should adopt e-readers as a new market.

Some will like reading books on a computerized device. Others will still want the cozy, familiar hard covers and paper backs that don’t require batteries, don’t break, can be shared with a friend. When I buy a book, I read it, then my husband reads, then we pass it on to my daughter, who reads it and donates it to her ship’s library. All that enjoyment for $10. I haven’t bought an ereader, but if I did, I’d still buy books.

Let me make a prediction: The day will come when no one reads paper books anymore. Think of StarTrek.  Think of buggy whips. That day is in our future, but it’s not today, or tomorrow, or even next month.

Here’s another reason why that day will inevitably come. From my experience with publishers, I don’t get much for the 80% of my book’s revenue they get. I still do all of the marketing. I find Amazon and by far the easiest to work with. Barnes and Noble is beyond difficult. They’re disorganized, nonresponsive, old time. They should worry less about how Amazon’s Kindle might affect their business and more about their own outdated business practices.

Tension grows as publishers target Amazon Kindle pricing

By David Lieberman, USA TODAY
NEW YORK — E-readers, those thin, portable devices that can hold the texts of hundreds of books and ereadersnewspapers, were supposed to be a feel-good story for consumers this holiday season.

Amazon(AMZN) dropped the price of its Kindle — which dominates the market — by about $40 to $260 as competitors introduced comparably priced alternatives. There also are Barnes & Noble’s Nook, an expanded line of Sony Reader models and others from companies including Irex, Spring Design, Netronix and iRiver.

Sales are expected to soar for the devices, which display text on a screen about the size of a paperback.

So everyone lives happily ever after with a technology that could change how we read, right? Hardly.

The e-reader saga is turning into a business thriller, as publishers and consumer electronics companies try to stop Amazon from amassing more power in this fast-growing field. It broke the digital market wide open in 2007 when it released the Kindle and offered thousands of e-books, including best sellers, priced at $10. (more)

Come back tomorrow when I discuss the Problem with Publishers.


One thought on “Are Ebooks the Publishers’ Waterloo?

  1. Pingback: The Problem with Publishers (and Agents) « Word Dreams…

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