Apr 5 2010
Luisa sent me to this article by Rose Fox at Publishers Weekly about the folly of windowing. * Some movies (and some books) are meant for the big screen but many others are not. Uma Thurman’s Motherhood opened in theatre release to dismal numbers but the production company noted that the movie had been made available via DVD, Video on Demand, and pay per view and that DVD sales outstripped theatrical sales.
*windowing is the practice of releasing different formats at different times such as the hardcover first followed by a trade or mass market release.
Speaking of Publishers Weekly, the magazine was sold to George Slowik, a former publisher of PW. The magazine, website and something called “Publishers Weekly Show Daily” are all part of the deal.
And Apple is already censoring content. Right now, it’s just blurbs that are getting bowdlerized. Some sharp eyed iPad owner noticed that “sperm” is too dirty of a word for the iBookstore.
Rich Adin at Teleread suggests that avid readers who prefer digital may not warm to the Agency pricing model and that by doing so, publishers may find themselves in a much weaker bargaining position with Amazon and other retailers should publishers decided to backtrack.
Publishers are largely relying on two things with the Agency model. First, they want to slow down the growth of ebook adoption while at the same time increasing the entry price for books for those entering the ebook market. BISG says the digital market grows by about a third every six months. Publishers see this as an opportunity to create a higher price point on a digital product.
What puzzles me is that publishers are now absorbing the digital book revenue loss under the Agency model rather than the retailer. If the publishers are dependent on the hits to make their books look black rather than red, I don’t really understand the strategy unless they believe that they will be able to drive all the disenchanted ebookers back to paper books.
This article from the Harvard Business School is really good. The reporter did an interview with Peter Olson who used to run Random House and is now a professor at the Harvard Business School.
“Traditional trade book publishers are scared,” says Harvard Business School professor Peter Olson. “The world that they have known, of print books and brick-and-mortar bookstores-’the whole fiscal distribution system-’is on the cusp of changing fundamentally.
Olson notes that no one focuses on the reader! and that a “ disproportionate amount of publishers’ resources are dedicated to the manufacturing and physical distribution of books, when in fact their key function is editorial in nature. In a sense, many book publishers are trying to buy time, to postpone a reckoning with reality.” Olson says that increased prices make sense if the ebook to paper is a one on one trade off. Of course, this presumes that ebook readers will return to print books instead of buying digital.
An article which is bound to make the top of authors’ head blow off is the NYTimes Magazine column by Randy Cohen, the Times’ ethicist. He argues that if you buy the print version of a book, the digital download is ethically appropriate even if legally wrong.
Buying a book or a piece of music should be regarded as a license to enjoy it on any platform. Sadly, the anachronistic conventions of bookselling and copyright law lag the technology. Thus you've violated the publishing company's legal right to control the distribution of its intellectual property, but you've done no harm or so little as to meet my threshold of acceptability.
Apple’s pricing is upon us and for books from Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Harper Collins, this means your digital books in mass market cost the same as the print books. No reason why publishers think that mass market readers, some of the most price sensitive of all the consumers who read books, will go for this. Alas, I restrained myself from buying three books yesterday. I am walking over to the library today to have lunch and pick up the books I reserved online.
Amazon has noted which publishers are setting their own prices: