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Why Digitization Is Vital for Fiction Publishers to Stay Relevant in...

On Thursday night, around 9:30 pm, I finished Annie Solomon’s, Dead Shot, a March 1, 2007, release. I closed the last page and ran to my computer to download every Annie Solomon book that was available in ebook format. My quest to satiate my desire for Solomon romantic suspense books was put to an immediate halt when my search at several ebook websites came up with no results. Not one Solomon title is in ebook format.

I had a yen to read more Solomon but Warner’s inability to provide a digitized backlist deterred my would be impulse purchase. Impulse buying has long been a hallmark of retail sales. 26% of holiday shopping is impulse purchases. 60-70% of supermarket purchases are impluse buys. A research company, UIE, found that nearly 40% of online purchases are impulse driven.

This generation is more into instant gratification than any other, partly because we can get it now. Hear the song, Sleep Won’t Weep by Damien Rice on last Thursdays’ Grey Anatomy? Download it when the show is over and relive the emotional experience of Miss Grey’s death experience. Missed the show? Watch it for free online the next day. Want to catch up on the back episodes? They are at ITunes for immediate purchase.

Don’t want to drive to the store to watch that favorite movie? There is pay per view, Vongo, and soon, there will be hundreds of movies from the Amazon+TIVO partnership that will put that pre Superbowl Plasma purchase to good use. These immediate services cater to the open wallet when people are in the mood to buy. Jennifer Crusie blogged last week

I watched the first episode on NBC.com, but they didn't have any more so I went to iTunes and downloaded the entire fifteen-episode season so far.

I didn’t have the option, as Ms. Crusie did, to purchase the entire backlist of Annie Solomon. When I did go to the bookstore, only one of Solomon’s books was there. Instead of a sale of 6 books, Warner and Solomon got a 1 book sale.

Random House’s UK CEO, Gail Rebuck, addressed 40 literary agents on Friday about the increasing difficulty to make a profit in today’s marketplace and in the future. Rebuck spoke positively, however, about the investment by Random House into digital access to its books. The margins for ebooks are higher with fewer distribution costs (Random House was owed $43.3 million by the bankrupt AMS), shipping, and printing costs.

It only makes sense that all books in print (and those out of print) are made available in eform. Every other multi media source is. Why not books? Book sales are declining as books are competing with tv, movies, gaming, and the internet. On Friday night, a night I could have spent reading one of those Solomon books, I watched TV shows online instead of reading.

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

12 Comments

  1. Sarah McCarty
    Feb 25, 2007 @ 04:58:00

    Absolutely. Amen! And I couldn’t agree more. I do exactly what you do more times than I can count. I’m one of those people with a zero TBR pile. I read fast and often and in multiple genres. I’m always looking for an author’s backlist. Nothing frustrates me more than not being able to find an author’s website to find the backlist, but second to that is not being able to get the backlist!

    When it comes to books, I want to glom at my convenience. An inconvenience to publishers in some ways as making me wait too long means they’re relying on my multi-tasked-to-the-max memory to make the sale down the road, (NOT a good plan) However, as much as relying on my memory is a bad sales tactic, I do have an exploitable tendency. When it comes to books, I tend to glom big, buying whatever I want whenever it takes my fancy. And I’m not alone. I would think publishers would be in a hurry to take advantage of that weakness. IOW, make the books available for immediate purchase as enabled by the current technology of the day.

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  2. Angelle
    Feb 25, 2007 @ 06:14:31

    I think that this may have something to do with whether or not the pub houses have the e-rights or not. And how much tech investment they can afford.

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  3. LinM
    Feb 25, 2007 @ 15:42:33

    Add me to your parade. I like instant gratification but my primary reason for preferring ebooks is a lack of physical space. And this year, I am choosing not to buy print books – so I’m saving money but I’d rather be buying ebooks.

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  4. Jenny
    Feb 25, 2007 @ 19:51:44

    I agree. The first I do if I’ve decided to buy a book or need a book quick is to search Fictionwise for an ebook edition.

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  5. Jenny
    Feb 25, 2007 @ 19:57:13

    LinM, I hear you on the physical space constraints. Ebooks allow me to buy as many books as I want without compromising on my living space.

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  6. Robin
    Feb 25, 2007 @ 19:58:43

    As a die-hard print book reader, now that I’ve figured out how to dowload and read ebooks on my smartphone, I am ADDICTED, and regularly browse Fictionwise to see what more bargains I can get (those micropay rebates are also a huge incentive, let me tell you). I love that I can read my ebooks on my laptop, my desktop, or my smartphone, and since I plan my next phone to be an iPhone, I’m looking forward to having a handheld device where I can download ebooks and audiobooks. And it’s a whole lot easier to take risks on ebooks when I know I don’t have to make more room on my completely overburdened shelves like I do for the stacks and stacks of paperbacks I have, many of which I haven’t even read yet.

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  7. Jenny
    Feb 25, 2007 @ 20:02:30

    Speaking of iTunes, they better open a store here real quick. I was all set to buy the Nora Lifetime movie package (installed i-Tunes for the first time so I can browse the store) and then found out they won’t even allow me to set up an account. Jeez, why are they selling iPod here then?

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  8. Roslyn
    Feb 26, 2007 @ 09:48:32

    At some point I will jump on the e-book bandwagon. I will be buying an IPhone at some point, so its great to know I can use it as a reader. At present though, most of the books I come across in that format simply haven’t been appealing. I like traditional romances and a lot of character development. Most of the e-books I’ve found so far are more like novellas. I like long, detailed stories, a minimum of 90K words. I do like the idea of digitizing normal-sized paperbacks. I don’t have many ‘keepers’ because paperbacks look lousy on bookshelves, and I don’t like a lot of clutter. With digital files on a cd somewhere I could have hundreds of books in very little space.

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  9. Dear Author.Com | Dead Shot by Annie Solomon
    Mar 02, 2007 @ 09:01:50

    [...] yen to go to the bookstore and find more on the author’s work. Which is what happened to me and I blogged about that on Sunday. In fact, while I am generally opposed to epilogues, I thought this one could have [...]

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    Mar 07, 2007 @ 07:51:20

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  11. Robert Mitchell
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 04:10:53

    Being new to Romance e-books I have to wonder if it’s the same thing we find in the SF/F field. To many of the publishers don’t understand the computor and how the internet affets their sales. Baen publishing is the only one I’ve found to-date that does a good job with e-publishing and makes a profit at it. Not that there may not be others, just that *I* haven’t found any others.

    Jim Baen set up a free library, sample chapters of current releases, and set prices that were lower than paperback. All of which goes against what was convential wisdom of the time. Thing is it worked. Go to the free library and find an author you may never have read before but have heard of, download a book [usually the first of a series] free of charge and free of DRM. They will give it to you in any one of 5 or 6 formats and you can decide for yourself if this is the kind of book you like.

    Or look at their current List, each one will have sample chapters that you can read at your leisure. Then look at the prices, very competitive, the only thing I recall seeing over $6 is bundles and E-ARC’s.

    Sooner or later the market will include e-books of all kinds, my question is what’s taking so long? There’s a good example of how to do it available, that’s been doing successfully for years, and none of the other publishers are taking notice. From what I see they seem to be totally enamoured of the idea of DRM and that kills their sales.

    Just My Opinion

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  12. Dear Author.Com | Warner Books Answers the E Publishing Question
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 12:00:43

    [...] I moaned and wailed about not finding Annie Solomon’s books in e-format, I contacted the publisher as to what [...]

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