Claire Israel is the Director of Digital Content and Business Development of Simon & Schuster. S&S sells all of its ebooks 40% off the list price. She graciously answered some questions about S&S’s digital publishing business.
What is Simon & Schuster's mission for digital publishing?
Our mission is to turn every suitable book into a digital version at the time of publication.
S&S is doing some great initiatives in the ebook market such as pricing the books at 40% of the list price and providing one book a month as an advanced release. Can you share with us some of the decision making process as it related to these initiatives, particularly the pricing initiative?
We price our books at what the market will bear. Since we have operated an eBook store for years off of Simonsays.com, and have a dedicated customer service representative on staff, we have an unfiltered line of communication with the end consumer. We know what our readers want to pay.
Publishing in advance of publication is a great value add to the consumer. Since many book files are finished before the actual printing and shipping to stores, we can fill a need that rabid fans of certain types of content want. And of course, if we can convert someone to read on screen by releasing their favorite author early, that's a boon.
What other e-intiatives can you share with us? Or what can we look forward to from SS on the “e” frontier?
S&S intends to be wherever eBook readers want us to be, in whatever format they want to read us in.
Who decides and on what basis which books are released in ebook format? As a followup, is there anything a reader can do to get a book released in ebook format?
We publish every book that we have electronic rights for and that is suitable for eBook technically. We do not pick and choose based solely on bestsellers or genre as we did in the past. Depth and breadth of content is the only way this industry will get off of the ground. (In full disclosure, I worked for NuvoMedia's Rocket eBook and then the Gemstar eBook for many years, so I was on the other side of the table clamoring for content in the past. I'm determined for that not to happen again!)
If there is an author who has not agreed to publish in eBook, I think a reader getting in touch with that author and expressing that is the best way to go.
There are so many different formats out there. What formats is SS committed to publishing and is there any movement toward a unified format and a unified DRM?
We publish in Microsoft Reader, Adobe Reader, Mobi, Sony, eReader, and ETI. We are format agnostic, and it will be up to the consumer to decide which format will someday be the clear leader. Not having interoperability between devices and formats is a complete detriment to the reader, and I certainly hope that these proprietary formats become more user friendly.
What is the main driving force behind DRM? Piracy or something else?
Piracy. My first job in publishing was working for a literary agent, and I firmly believe that authors deserve to be compensated for their craft fairly.
What sales trends do you see in ebooks, ie., is one genre selling better than another?
We mirror the print world in some of our bestsellers, but where we shine is in series like Star Trek, romance, erotica and mysteries.
Where do you see ebook sales growth in the future?
I believe it will be the next generation, the kids that have actually learned to read on a screen and do not need a physical object on a shelf to feel ownership.
Is the ebook market significant to you right now, or is SS trying to position itself for future success?
S&S believes in this market, and has since the infancy of eBooks. We are supported from the top down, and the investment we make today we know will pay off in the future.
What impact will multifunction devices such as smartphones have on the ebook market? I had once heard that Mobipocket was attempting to partner with a cellular company to provide the reading device as a bundled software along with a book or two. Do you think SS would be interested in that type of partnership?
We're interested in partnering with anyone who can distribute our content securely to a receptive audience. We do lots of testing and are involved with many different technology partners who we hope to work with on a larger scale in the future.
Thanks so much, Ms. Israel. This is all great information.