Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Holy eBook Editions!

I recently received a royalty statement for one of my client's titles from HarperCollins. It's seven pages long! This seemed a bit extreme to me, until I realized that pages 3-7 were all detail for eBook editions:
  • 9 copies of the Adobe E-Book
  • 8 copies of the Mobipocket edition
  • 2 copies of the Microsoft Reader edition
  • 6 copies of the Palm Reader edition
  • 10 copies of the Sony Reader edition
Now, this tells me a couple of things:

1. Don't hold your breath waiting for the eBook revolution. Thousands of hardcovers were sold and only a handful of eBook copies.
2. Sony may have something going for it. Of course, Kindle, the Amazon reader may kick its butt next period, just on the basis that it's prominently featured on the Amazon home page and essentially has a captive audience, as doesn't everyone buy books from Amazon?

It somewhat amazes me, though, that a huge company like HarperCollins is creating all of these eBook editions and dealing with accounting for them. Think of the millions of dollars in extra paper and mailing costs for the royalty statements alone!

Honestly, after all of the hullabaloo, agita, mishigas, and general bloodshed over the royalties for eBooks, when I look at these statements, I have to shake my head in wonder. Was it really worth it? Did publishers really need to piss off authors and agents and maybe even lose deals over eBook royalties? Consider that most of the books published this year will be out of print before eBook readers are commonplace (are you dropping $300-$400 for one anytime soon?). So unless you happen upon the next Catcher in the Rye that will stay in print for decades and decades, was there really a risk in not getting eBook rights? I think not.

Then again, I'm not an MBA sitting high in an office building in New York. Perhaps some combination of the smog and the altitude lets them divine the future of eBooks more clearly. But until eBook readers come down to less than $100, it all seems a bit pie in the sky to me.



Chiron O'Keefe said...

Another great post--informative and to the point.

Could books actually be replaced? Hard to believe. iPods are practical because you can listen to dozens of songs on a plane trip. But who needs more than one book? *shakes head*

Feels a little like New Coke to me...

--Chiron O'Keefe
Ashland, OR

JR Tomlin said...

Oh, the technology won't go away and eventually it will be commonplace, although I don't think it will replace print in our lifetime.

What struck me about Mr. Zack's comments was whether it was really worth HC pissing everyone off the way they did. I think the obvious answer is no.

While I would sell to HC inspite of their rights grab, they'd be at the bottom of my list if I were an established author. I mean what author wants to assume their novel ISN'T the next Catcher in the Rye?

J. R. Tomlin
Portland, OR

Aaron Walker said...

I don't think ebooks will ever replace print books, at least not for a generation or two.

But, ebooks will continue to grow in popularity and someone, at some point, will break that high premium cost early adopters are paying for the priviledge of reading electronically.

As more publishers start to let people know there are alternatives to print, more people will become aware of them and start to look into ebooks.

The more people start talking about them is when some entrepreneur(s) will see money to be made and offer a lower cost alternative.

Aaron J. Walker
Victorville, CA

Ed Stackler said...

Right now, e-books are almost like P.R. -- a way of getting the word out about an author via a cheaper edition of their book (which in turn should cost the publisher or author little to produce and distribute).

To devoted e-book-reader users, like me, it's a vital form of publication.

To e-book makers, it's important to get as many books and authors published the relevant format as possible. I think this also applies to publishing companies that seek to be seriously "in the game."

Did anyone see the recent news about various publishers buying Sony readers to distribute mss. to sales and other staff cheaply and quickly. Very interesting. As a Sony Reader user, I can vouch for its ease of converting Word files.

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