Publishers have been experimenting with a lot of things in regards to ebooks to find out what works best for them. This has been seen in pricing, free offers, and release dates, among other things. In 2009 a few books had delayed release dates. In 2010 some publishers decided to try a more comprehensive delayed ebook program for certain titles. (Usually titles they expect to be big sellers.)
I’m a huge Kim Harrison fan and her latest book in the Hollows Series, Black Magic Sanction, is my most anticipated book so far for 2010. That title is one that Harper Collins/Eos has decided to delay by about a month and a half.
Kim provided a special page at her blog to allow her readers to make their opinions known that she would then pass on to her editor. Since I already took the time to write up my comments on her page, I figured I might as well also make them available here.
This is what I wrote:
I’ve never been a hardcover reader, I always waited for mass market editions. So in that respect, waiting for a delayed ebook release is just going back to the old way of doing things and while frustrating, is acceptable.
An ebook delay will not get me to buy a hardcover instead, which seems to be one of the purposes of delaying. I simply don’t think they’re comfortable to read, and now that I have a Kindle I don’t enjoy reading paper books of any type anymore. E-readers are just better with the adjustable font, dictionary, auto-bookmarking, and ease of holding. (No more hand and wrist pain trying to keep a stiff-spined paperback open, and no more tilting the book trying to read print that goes into the spine!)
For the larger picture though, while I think I grasp the reasoning behind ebook delays, I think in the end publishers are shooting themselves in the foot and are doing a disservice to their authors. A lot of books are impulse purchases based on the buzz around a new title release. This is especially true for ebooks because purchasing is just a button click away, rather than having to make a special trip to a bookstore. Some ebook readers still buy paper books, especially if they collect editions from a favorite author. But a significant percentage, perhaps even the majority, of ebook converts don’t buy paper books anymore, at least not when there is or will be an ebook edition.
What all this means is that there is a significant opportunity lost when an ebook is delayed. People who are fans of the author will wait and buy. But the impulse buyers, the not-yet confirmed fans, or those going by recommendations from friends lose the moment with a delay. They may put the book on a wishlist to consider later once the ebook is out. But by then they may have lost interest. Or people simply forget by the time the ebook comes out. They’re buying other books by then instead.
There are also a couple other things to consider. One is exemplified by The Lost Symbol. Originally the ebook was going to be delayed. If it had been many sales would have been lost because by the time the delayed date would have come around many people would have decided not to purchase the book based on the negative and lukewarm reviews. A delay allows negative word of mouth to impact sales.
The other is exemplified by Game Change. That’s a hot topic, current events type of book. In the case of that title, the ebook was actually delayed. The problem is, by the time the ebook is released all the juicy stuff has already been blogged about, reviewed, and discussed in TV appearances and on shows. Many, many people who had pre-ordered the ebook canceled those orders before the ebook release date. They felt they either already knew what they wanted to know or had completely lost interest because the book is no longer a hot topic and the buzz is dying down.
Ebook delays also tend to encourage people to borrow books from the library instead of buying. One of the most common reasons people get an e-reader is because they have no more room to store paper books. If they want to read the book before the ebook release date and they don’t want to bring a paper book into the home, the library is their best option.
Delays have the potential to lose many sales. I believe it will be proven that the lost ebook sales are not made up in increased hardcover sales. These lost sales only hurt the authors of the delayed ebooks. While ebook sales are still a barely noticeable percentage of book sales as a whole, that is quickly changing, with ebook sales rising at an unbelievable rate over the last two years. With the publishing industry suffering I think that means that everything possible should be done to use ebooks to their best advantage and get the most from them. It’s good for the publishers, it’s good for the authors, and it’s good for the readers.
If you are a Harrison fan and would like to make your thoughts known, feel free to go to her blog and add your comments as well. In terms of etiquette, please don’t spam her page with rants or comments if you’re not a fan, that would be abusing her kindness. Instead contact publishers directly at their websites. Thank you. Here’s the link: