…except it hasn’t changed at all, has it?
Can it really be a change when everyone is watching for it? Waiting for it? If everyone – and I mean everyone except the absolute Luddites who have their heads buried in the sand – knows it’s coming…can it really be a huge change?
The Associated Press ran this two or three days ago, a story by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg:
Weeks after Amazon.com said that it is now selling more electronic books than hardcovers, a leading book publisher said one of its prominent new titles is generating greater e-book unit sales than hardcover unit sales during its first week on sale.
Laura Lippman’s thriller, “I’d Know You Anywhere,” went on sale Aug. 17, and in its first five days sold 4,739 e-books and 4,000 physical hardcovers, said News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers.
“This is the first book of ours of any consequence that has sold more e-books than hardcovers in the first week,” said Frank Albanese, a senior vice president at HarperCollins. “What we’re seeing now is that if a book gets a good review, it gets a faster lift on the digital side than it does on the physical side because people who have e-readers can buy and read it immediately.”
In recent weeks, a number of leading publishers have indicated that e-books today account for about 8% of total revenue, up from 3% to 5% in the same period a year ago. Some expect that e-books will account for as much as 20-25% by the end of 2012.
Okay, first of all, let’s talk about this dumbass at HarperCollins. Read his quote again. The first book of any consequence. In other words, there were other books they published that sold more ebooks than print books but they didn’t matter…they weren’t of consequence.
What in the hell does that mean? They’ve published books they don’t think were of any consequence? Then why the hell publish them? And what if you’re one of those writers? The Great HarperCollins has published your book and the world is looking peaches and cream and then one of the senior cheeses publicly – extremely publicly – denigrates you to the world.
And I do mean to the world. This story has gotten a ton of coverage in the last few days. See, for those of you who aren’t total book geeks, this battle (much like the internal civil war in the Republican party between the moderates and the whacked out Tea Partiers…who want government to be juuuuusssst small enough to cut their Medicare and Social Security checks) is about the future of publishing.
There are those who believe traditional publishers (big operations that print bound books that then have to be warehoused and sold and that use lots and lots of trees) are going the way of the Edsel. What they think is that the digital book revolution is going to put them out of business. If anyone can create their own digital book (and anyone can, by the way), then why do we need big publishers?
Then there are others who believe traditional publishers have been smart enough in the last few years to see the digital retrenchment coming and have invested wisely and therefore have already put their train wrecks on another set of tracks and it’ll be smooth sailing…to completely mangle metaphors.
I fall squarely…in the middle. First of all, there will always be traditional publishers. The methods they use to print the books will absolutely change, but there will always be people who want to hold a physical paper book. Second of all, none of the big publishers has ever spent a dollar wisely in their miserable corporate lives. They completely missed the ebook revolution and, in fact, are still missing it.
How many of you guys have read an ebook lately? What did you see? You saw pages on a digital screen. You saw exactly the same thing you see in a book.
Exactly the same thing.
It’s digital. It’s connected to the Internet or you wouldn’t be able to buy the books. If it’s connected, use the damned Internet. Give me value-enhanced content. Don’t make the ebook the exact same thing as a paper book. Utilize the new format and give me added value. Use the ability to glean information from all over the Internet and add it to what I’m reading.
But this is not my overall point. My overall point is this: remember where you were when you read that a major, major writer sold more ebooks than regular books because that’s the tipping point.
That’s when regular people – like the fucking AP who’s never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity and jump on the bandwagon months after it left town – realized something new and different was going on.
Eight percent of total revenue this year? They can’t count. When the cookies are all added up at the end of the year, ebook revenue will turn out to be closer to 15 percent and we’ll hit 25 percent of the market by Christmas, 2011. By the next presidential election, we’ll be hitting 35 percent, maybe higher. And that’s without any decent value added content. That’s with just quick and dirty paper to digital conversions.
It’s a brave new world and if publishers do it right, this is gonna be fun!