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Random House E- Initiatives

RandomHouseAfter emailing Random House about the closing of its ebookstore, I asked Kelley Allen for an interview regarding Random House’s digital publishing mission. She kindly spent some time with me this week discussing digital publishing in general and what to expect from Random House.

What is Random House’s committment to epublishing?

Random House does believe in epublishing. We are currently working on several digital initiatives. We have one of the largest ebook programs in the US. For example, when Sony launched its ebook Connect store in September 2006, about 1/3 of the catalog were Random House books.

Who decides what books are put into ebook format?

We have over 100 imprints at Random House and we work closely with each division to determine which books are most appropriate to include in the eBook program. As the market evolves we are working to increase the percentage of our books that become eBooks, but ultimately, each division makes the final decision on which titles are included.

The many different formats are confusing to readers. What are publishers doing to alleviate that?

While we understand that this is a frustration, publisher hands are tied because we are not the ones manufacturing the devices and software. Right now, we can only wait and see if there will be one dominant platform. Until that time, Random House will provide their ebooks in as many platforms as appropriate. Currently, we provide our books in lit (Microsoft), prc (Mobipocket), pdf (Adobe), pdb Ereader, eti (Ebookwise) and Sony.

What trends do you see in ebooks?

The sales are starting to mimic print sales. It used to be that most of the ebook sales were science fiction and now the ebook bestseller lists correlate with the print bestsellers lists. Business books, suspence, thrillers and romance are selling well.

Where do you see ebook growth in the future?

Portable, multifunction handheld devices including mobile phones and the new Sony Reader are interesting opportunities. Technology is moving quickly and we are tracking the trends with devices and consumer behavior.

What about the library market?

The library market is very important to us as a company and we continue to evaluate the various options currently available.

What is Random House’s plans for ebooks?

We are working hard to build the “Long Tail “of our digital catalog as we explore new technologies, new devices and new business models.

I am afraid that type of program will increase the cost of ebooks.

You should be able to buy your ebook at the same prices in the past.

The pricing for ebooks seems high.

Currently, the ebooks released simultaneously with the hardcover are set at $17.95 which works out to be around a 30% discount, depending on the hardcover price. Trade ebooks are priced at $9.95 and mass markets at $6.99.

Jane’s note: I think every publisher should follow the Simon and Schuster policy and sell their ebooks 40% off the cover price

Anything that you can tell us about the Amazon Kindle?

No.

What about the bookstore closing?

Please note that Random House strongly believes in ePublishing and will continue the eBook program at full speed. All of our titles are available at most eBook retailers including:

  • AcademicMaterials
  • CyberRead
  • Diesel-ebooks
  • eBookimpressions
  • eBookMall
  • eBooks
  • eBookwise
  • eFollet
  • eReader
  • Fictionwise
  • Franklin
  • Mobipocket
  • PaperbackDigital
  • Powells

Thanks so much, Kelley Allen, for answering some questions. Readers, Ms. Allen invited me to check back in with her so if there were other questions you wished answered, please let me know.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

8 Comments

  1. Nonny
    Dec 03, 2006 @ 04:44:01

    “The sales are starting to mimic print sales.”

    Interesting. I wouldn’t have thought that e-book sales were that high. Good to know… and hopefully more publishers will catch on and start offering electronic versions of their print books.

    “Trade ebooks are priced at $9.95 and mass markets at $6.99.”

    You know, I can go to Wally World and have a good chance of finding a recent mass market romance novel for, oh, about the same price. If I’m looking for SFF, I’m mostly screwed, but still. Am I the only person who thinks that $7 for an ebook is a bit on the pricey side?

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  2. Katharina
    Dec 03, 2006 @ 07:53:36

    Nope. 7$ for an ebook is ridiculous. At an ebook price this high I couldn’t be convinced to buy more than the occasional one.

    Jane’s note: I think every publisher should follow the Simon and Schuster policy and sell their ebooks 40% off the cover price

    I totally agree Jane!

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  3. LinM
    Dec 03, 2006 @ 11:04:08

    I prefer to buy books in ebook format but Ms Allen’s responses are depressing.

    Q: Is there anything readers can do to get a book into ebook format?
    A: Contact the author.
    Except that Random House has limited resources for publishing ebooks. Sure, they’d love to see John Grisham suddenly decide that his backlist should be available in digital form but what about mid-list authors.

    Q: Future trends and initiatives.
    A. GraphicNovels/Manga and “Search Inside”
    This is funny. Graphic novels are the only genre that I don’t want in ebook format. Must be because I read on a palm. And the “Search Inside” feature seems like an expensive gimmick. I would hope that some-one wanting to quote from a book has an actual copy of the entire book.

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  4. Charity
    Dec 03, 2006 @ 11:22:22

    Last night, I decided to check out ebooks. I have never bought one, so I had no idea of the cost. I was appalled to see they were charging so much for one of these. Give me a break! If I wanted to spend that much, I would buy a book I could hold in my hands. There is nothing like the smell and feel of a new book. You miss out on that with ebooks.

    I think ebooks should be considerably cheaper than print, for one, they have to cost far less for the publisher to produce. Charging much less for an ebook is only smart. They can reach more readers without ever worrying the books will be sent back from the book sellers. Just makes sense.

    I won’t be buying many ebooks until they wise up and drop the price. Of course, I could very well just be shooting myself in the foot with that statement. Who knows?

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  5. LinM
    Dec 03, 2006 @ 14:02:08

    I agree that ebook pricing is inflated. But I buy print books in Canada where the prices are marked up 40-50% above US prices (the current exchange rate is 14%). So ebooks save me money.

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  6. Keishon
    Dec 03, 2006 @ 20:24:55

    Thanks for the interview. I don’t know what to think of Ms. Allen’s answers.

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  7. raine
    Dec 03, 2006 @ 20:56:10

    Interesting interview, Jane.

    I am also not aware of e-book sales mimicking those of print sales. Perhaps for the mega e-book authors, or those who publish in both venues, but I have my doubts about that statement.

    The search feature sounds like a nice gimmick–but I’d rather that energy be spent on converting more books to e-format and keeping the pricing reasonable.

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  8. Melanie
    Dec 03, 2006 @ 22:18:49

    I don’t know anything about ebook sales and trends, but I took the mimicking comment not to mean that ebook sales equal print sales so much as they are beginning to follow the same patterns of sales – what’s hot in print is now hot in ebooks, too.

    ReplyReply

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