Part Two: What the NY Publishers Are Doing Wrong with Ebooks
Last week, I had a short list of what publishers were doing right with ebooks. This week, I have a short list of what they are generally doing wrong with short individual complaints. (I am kind of ruining the whole “being thankful” thing, aren’t I?)
- Lack consistency in releasing formats: I.e, Renee Bernard My Lady’s Pleasure is available in only Adobe and eReader formats, not Lit.
- Lack customer support. It takes at least 5-10 days to get response back which is particularly egregious for a digital company, imo. I emailed Simon and Schuster last Monday about the Renee Bernard book and have yet to hear back from them.
- Lack consistency in releasing books: All Night Long by Jayne Ann Krentz was originally available in hardcover in January of 2006. In October, the book was released in ebook format attached to a hardcover price.
- Lack realistic pricing: This is probably my biggest grievance. Oftentimes, the prices of ebooks are above that of the mass market paperback. Sometimes, the ebook is still at the hardcover price when the mass market version has been released.
- Inconsistent DRM: A reader should be able to read any title on any device.
Individually, here are my complaints:
- Mr. Random House:
I really, really hate the idea of the pay for page idea you guys think is so remarkable. First, I am not paying $14 for a mass market book just to read it online. Sorry, I am a fan of the digital format but I am not a stupid fan. It’s enough to make me want to stop buying Bantam books altogether. That and you aren’t offering many authors I find compelling these days.
Mr. Simon and Mr. Schuster:
Your pricing scheme of 40% off is awesome, but your site is sucky. First, the website is often down. Second, when it is operating, you don’t allow immediate download of books. A buyer has to wait for something to happen and then an email is sent with the download link. I would write more about you but because your site was down all night, I couldn’t access it. Not great business practice.
Ms. Friedman of Harper Collins:
First, it’s not very obvious when a reader visits your website that you even have ebooks available (Hint: It’s under the drop down box titled “Categories”.) When I go to the ebook page it’s not well laid out. For every different format, you have a different listing so one book will be listed four times. That makes it more difficult to find the book that you want and it makes it hard to browse for books that may be interesting.
Also, I don’t know what I think of you releasing the individual stories in anthologies. It wouldn’t be so bad if the pricing was right, but it’s not. If This Bed Could Talk (an ebook I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet), is priced at Fictionwise for $9.95. The individual stories are priced at $3.95. If you buy individually, you end up paying $1.90 more per book. I am all for making a buck, but come on HarperCollins. First the $1.99 second epilogue and now the overpriced novellas taken from anthologies. That is stretching your dollar too thin.
Why, oh why, do you sell your ebooks for more than I can find them at Powells or Fictionwise? I would rather buy from you and eliminate the middle man but when I can buy the same books for a $1 or more less somewhere else on the internet, why would I buy from you? It’s not like the buying experience is so much better at your site. I can’t search by date for your ebooks. Or even by title or author. You simply list them alphabetically and expect me to go through the 12 pages of books, one by one. I just want to know what your new releases are. I suggest making a “what’s new” page for ebooks.
- St. Martin’s Press:
Hey, do you know that there are things called ebooks? It’s where you make digital versions of your paper books and because of low overhead (ie no printing costs) and low distribution costs (ie. no warehousing costs), you have a much bigger margin on your product. You may want to check into it. I know you have a rep on the seat of the IDPF but it won’t do much good if you don’t actually release the books in e format. Okay, so you do release a few books in ebook format, but I want romances and I know of other readers that would like your romances released in ebook format. I know I would have loved to bought Hot Toy in e format.
- Warner / Hachette
See above letter to St. Martin’s Press. This applies to you too. Neil de Young stated that the IDPF standard heralds “the beginning of increased title availability and lower costs for publishers entering the eBook and digital reading market . . . Over the coming months we will be working with our vendors and partners to transition our entire eBook publishing program to the OCF standard.” I hope that you will include romances in whatever you have planned.
Oh, we have a love hate relationship. Basically, I love your authors and you hate me. It’s not great relationship. You publish Nora Roberts, JD Robb, Jayne Ann Krentz, Emma Holly, JR Ward, Meljean Brook, Nalini Singh, Erin McCarthy, and the list goes on and on. Your authors are awesome. I probably look forward to Penguin books more than any other publisher. You seem to know what is hot right now. (Ie., everyone else is doing vamps and you are doing shapeshifters, pyschics and demons. Way to be ahead of the curve). But the ebook situation, that has got to change. First, would you mind actually releasing the ebooks consistently. For example, you released the first two books in the Nora Roberts circle trilogy on the day of its release but not the third. You didn’t release Jayne Ann Krentz’s All Night Long for 9 months and then you try to sell it to me at the hardcover price? I think not. BTW – you did that with Angel Falls by Nora Roberts too. Admittedly, it wasn’t a 9 month wait, but it was still an unconscionable lapse of time between the hardcover release and the ebook release.
Let’s talk just briefly about your website. It’s, well, horrible is a good word for it. You don’t keep it up to date. If I click on Romance Angel Falls is the most recently released book (A JULY RELEASE!) which means that someone else must be responsible for the release of Nora Robert’s Circle Trilogy or Born in Death or JAK’s All Night Long and so on. Plus, what books are released in ebook format are not known. It’s like it is some big secret.
Please consider some of the things I’ve had to say. All I am asking is for you to make it easier for me to spend money. Is that really so much to ask?
After Thanksgiving, I hope to have some insight as to where e-publishing is going for New York. Kelley Allen the Director of New Media at Random House has agreed to answer some questions in that regard. If you have a question or concern that I should bring up with Random House, drop a comment.