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eBook Readers Strike Back at Publishers Trying to Maximize Profits



now(1)There’s no question eBook reading is on the rise and as is the case with just about every segment of the media consumption game, those who control the content are getting nervous about their bottom line and profits. Random House and other publishers are trying to hang on to their existing publishing revenue streams (hardcover, followed by paperback) and add eBooks to the tail end of the chain by delaying the release of eBook editions until later. Customers aren’t buying it in this “we want it now” age apparently,  and Amazon is becoming a platform for some protest.

Turns out Kindle owners, angry that they can’t get the new best sellers they want right away are piling on with one star reviews of delayed books, dropping the overall review ratings.

This will be an interesting trend to follow in the future, as publishers and content producers try to maximize their chances of making dough while customers rebel against moves that seem to run counter intuitive to the digital consumption on demand model. Of course the middle men who are changing the games like Amazon, Apple, etc… are probably very happy to see the customers get riled up over this.

Via jkOnTheRun



  1. Dennnisvjames

    01/18/2010 at 11:56 am

    The other thing to do is people need to REFUSE to buy books over $9.99.

    I’ve been seeing manufacturers trying all sorts of pricing on new books. I appreciate their need to support their paper-based infrastructure…but times are changing and the costs for manufacturing and shipping ebooks is significantly less. Last Christmas Amazon sold more ebooks than paper books (if we are to believe damn statistics).

  2. John Allison

    01/18/2010 at 12:52 pm

    I can’t wait until publishing the the final medium that you can’t make any money in because of the so-called digital revolution. Let’s really work to make creative people utterly worthless in the workplace.

    Of course, they’ll be subsidised by advertising right? I know I certainly want to be advertised to more. I find reading actually enhanced by full-motion video ads! It keeps me on my toes!

    Blockbusters, big sellers, especially in publishing, fund more difficult, experimental work. You might well pay $29 for a hardback that cost $3 to print. But those “profits” pay advances to new authors who might just muster up something a little more life-changing than a Dan Brown or James Patterson.

    There’s no moral right or wrong to this, but digital downward pressure on books can surely only lead to the same short-termism being applied to creators as now prevails in selling recorded music. And that’s a depressing prospect.

  3. Paul Harrigan

    01/18/2010 at 1:34 pm

    I totally disagree about the thought that the switch to ebook pricing and distribution will depress real publication.

    $10.00, for a book that has almost no printing costs, is very close to the margins for the hardcover prints, particularly with the reductions in the numbers of middle-men in the distribution chain. This is particularly the case for the experimental books. (For those authors, the publisher’s margins are probably lower in both formats, given the larger royalties paid to the authors.)

    What is different is that the publisher will need to spend less to publish a lower popularity book. There will be no printing expense, no expenditures for endcaps or display space in the front of the store. With lower costs, the publisher can take more chances.

    I have no doubt that there is some additional profit for the publishers in their “tiered release” model — that is why they do it. (I expect that part of this new battle is going to be an even greater increase in the cost of hardcovers.) However, the fact that the publishers make less money is not a bad thing in itself.

    ps: I would also contend that the rise in digital radio has led to a greater expansion in opportunities for non-mainstream bands than the modern pay for play radio systems and narrow format radio stations provided just a few years ago.

  4. Dennnisvjames

    01/18/2010 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks all of you for the feedback. Having different ideas is what the Web is all about.
    Change comes whether you want it or not…

    Now, let’s take the example of buggy whips. People once make great bucks from that until the public changed the way they moved. People moved on trains and then one day people moved on planes. Egghead Software was king with a couple of hundred retail locations then someone with no retail locations (no overhead) figured out how to distribute software over the Web and Egghead was no more (I should know, I worked there).

    New technology, if accepted by businesses and the public, can kill the previous incarnation. Pay phones used to be on almost every corner in a city. No more. Pundits say by 2012 the phone will take over for viewing the Web from computers (or what we know of as computers). I don’t know if that’s true but it seems that everyone from 5 years old up listening to a phone as they walk along.

    Do I think these crude eBook readers are going to pave the way killing paper books? Nah. I think we will be using Star Trek-like panels in a year or two that will be a daily Web browser and eBook reader and will probably NOT run Windows (but I digress).

    But what has happened is that people like me who thought that they’d never let anyone pry a paper-based book out of their hands (I love the smell of ink and the feel of paper) purchased a crude little device that lets them read books…and we liked it. It’s actually VERY good (at least for reading pulps and the like). So Amazon, for the first time, sold more eBooks than paper-based books at Christmas.

    So what will happen in the next couple of years? I think writing will flower because you won’t have to take your tome to some big publisher who will pooh-pooh your work. If nothing else over the last couple of years we’ve figured out that the public and the critics have different tastes. Check out some time.

    People will be reading because it will be easy to read (it will be on your phone). Libraries will flourish again because they were smart enough to set up the lending of eBooks (check it out – they already do this).

    So the publishers with their huge overhead will die or change. The small fast publishers who are operating out of their garages will survive and probably thrive. If you are looking on, you will see hundreds of small publishers who know something about the Web who are pitching their new authors. Think about Apple or Google and what they did to their industries.

    So…if you don’t like paying over $10 for a book…make a stand. Amazon seems to be doing ok and they sell their books for $9.99. If you don’t like DRM, speak with your dollars or figure out a way to deal with it.

    Remember MP3s used to come with DRM, now Amazon and Wal-Mart DON’T sell music with DRM. You can even buy music for your iPod from Apple that’s not locked. Trust me, if they could lock those files they would but then again we wouldn’t put up with it…so they decided to go with the flow.

  5. SAM

    01/18/2010 at 5:17 pm

    These are a couple of disadvantages I see now:

    No Colour Screens!
    There are some type of books that won’t be easily replaced by eBook readers. Large format, colour(photo) books and books with large, complex charts, schematics, and graphs.
    Maybe there will be large format, colour eReaders.

    Bookmarks and quick page flips
    Flipping through the pages, sticking your finger to save your place, while looking for another page and flipping back and forth between non-consecutive pages. I don’t think eBooks do this yet.(?)

    Restrictions and Resale
    Most eBook formats are copy protected and you are the only one allowed to read the book. When you’re done, you can’t easily(legally) sell, give it away, or trade to someone else at present.
    A regular paper book does not have these restrictions, although if the publishers could figure out how, they would LOL

    I’m not at all against eBooks, but I hope regular books don’t go the way of the Dodo though…an eBook reader won’t make a very good door stop or firestarter

  6. Dennnisvjames

    01/18/2010 at 6:27 pm

    Amazon did a test of the Kindle up here in the state of Washington at a university. What they found is that you found…they are good at this time for reading linear ebooks…but fail for open book tests or any kind of reading that requires jumping around – like reference books.

    There were several large screen ereaders at CES – one in particular called the QUE that will be sold at Barnes and Noble – but not color yet. There are about four different kinds of color screens that were unveiled this year so I would expect to see something in the next year or so. For now for the kind of reading I do b&w is just fine.

    I don’t doubt that color ebooks are coming, but let’s face it…there’s nothing like a double-sized full color glossy or matt printed surface of photographs and a variety of other kinds of specialty books. It’s like the difference between analog music and digital CDs. You can accept the CDs but listening to live music is just super.

    I’m not too scared they’ll disappear. We have cameras yet we still love paintings and other kind of art, right?

  7. Dennnisvjames

    01/20/2010 at 3:07 pm

    I know I’m replying to my own text…but Amazon just changed their deal with publishers and authors. Amazon’s New Plan for eBooks: 70% Cut For Publishers, $10 Max Price.

    You can see more here:

    and here:

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