I’ve been thinking a lot about books and how they are being published. Probably very much like a lot of you are too.
The publishing industry is undergoing some extremely big changes from the way authors are signed to books published and finally distributed and sold. It seems to me that there is a parallel to the huge format change (albeit a small one) that has me thinking in a certain direction. The parallel I’m thinking of is that of DVD to Blu-Ray.
You may argue that the change in format was a minor thing. The DVD’s published under the old standard continue to hit the shelves and the Blu-Ray are starting to fill the niche. Sounds a little like paper-bound books and eBooks, doesn’t it. Paper-bound books continue to be published and sold and eBooks are gaining ground by the day. Not a perfect comparison but still valid, I think.
The movie companies quickly noted that with the expense of new Blu-ray DVD players, people weren’t flocking to the new format. Especially after many made the investment into the competing (and ultimately failed) standard of HD-DVD. To combat that and encourage the movement to Blu-ray, many forward thinking companies started to sell Blu-ray discs with a DVD version and, in many cases, a digital version for a few dollars more.
This is what I consider to be the brilliant part of the equation. Blu-Ray players are backward compatible to old DVD’s. That means, when someone finally buys the newer technology, they will still be able to play their libraries plus their new stuff. I believe many people will get to a critical mass of Blu-ray discs where they decide it only makes sense to upgrade. The added benefit of cheap HD Televisions is only the icing on the cake.
So where am I going with this?
The way I see it, there are three kinds of readers. The ones who buy books to read and collect, the ones who buy books to read and discard and the kind who do a bit of both. The first group will always buy books. They may wish for the convenience of eBooks, but ultimately they will always buy paper. The second group will embrace eBooks because they are cheaper and easy to get. Third group will want a combination of paper books and eBooks.
You might not be able to tell but my fevered brain is starting to tick along quite nicely by this time.
I am one of those people who falls into both the first and third groups. I largely buy books to read and collect but my space is rapidly diminishing. That means I’ve had to be more selective about what I buy/read. If I could get eBooks instead I wouldn’t have as much space problems plus I’d have instant access to my library wherever I happen to be. Since I reread many of my books over and over, that is a very good thing.
I actually got myself an e-reader to help combat the problem. There were three books I wanted to read badly so I went shopping online to see how much they were in e-format. I was shocked to see that all three books averaged over $17 per eBook.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not paying that for an eBook.
I thought about why that was and I came to the conclusion that the publishers in question were trying to protect their hardcover sales. What they actually did was convince me to wait for the paperback versions to come out. Maybe then the eBook will come down in price. So they have lost both the expensive eBook and hardcover sales from me.
I don’t want that to happen to me.
What the publishers should have done, and I’m sure this idea isn’t unique, is to bundle both the hardcover with the eBook. Charge a couple bucks more to get both. Don’t make the eBook available until the book is in paperback if you are so worried. The people who read paperbacks are used to waiting anyhow and people like me will actually buy the hardback for the collect-ability and get the eBook for the portability. They get an extra quick eBook sale and don’t drive me off in frustration at stupid prices. They could even offer the eBook at the inflated price as a stand-alone. That might drive people to buy the bundle for the great savings.
One group that seem to have figured this out is Flying Island Press. They are purely digital in that they only offer their magazine in e-formats and audio. The beauty is, you can get the magazine in one or the other or both. If you chose both, it is at a discount.
That is what I would like to do (keep in mind, this is totally off the cuff and my publisher may tell me to forget it). Offer my audience my books as paper, e-format or both. If you were to chose both, you get the eBook at a reduced price. It really makes sense to me because it addresses the needs of all three of the above groups. It might even boost my bundled sales. I know, if I were offered that possibility, I would jump at it.
I know what you’re thinking: it wouldn’t save my space problem. You are right about that, but I could put the (collected) books directly into books for storage where they will be out of the way and safe. The eBooks would be for reading wherever I am.
What do you think? Is my idea crazy? I think it would work both because it offers options and good value. It would give readers that forward progression path for when/if they get an eReader (and since you can get free ones for your computer pretty much anywhere, who wouldn’t use it?) too. I see it as a Win/Win situation as long as you don’t overprice it. $17 for an eBook is an insult when I can buy the Hardback for $25. $27 or $30 for both is something I would consider.
I hope publishers will do the same.