I'm quite proud to be a bookseller, but I often shake my head at the simplistic nature that some of the top executives in my industry subscribe to.
The recent one that makes me shake my head are the delays that publishers are subscribing to with respect to e-books. (In response to the $9.99 pricing model that seems to be establishing itself, their response is delaying release of the ebook version, typically from 4 weeks to six months after the release of the hardcover).
Yes, in the print world, delaying publication of the trade paperback or mass market book for one year (ensuring your hardcover book went through one Christmas season helping ensure stronger sales), worked.
But I don't think that'll work for digital.
Haven't these really intelligent people learned anything from others' previous attempts to deny reality (like record executives trying to deny the proliferation of digital music, like the motion picture industry trying to deny the existence of the television, like television executives trying to deny the existence of the internet?) None of the burying their heads in the sand approaches nor attempts to fight the new technology really worked, now did they? But look at the industries I just mentioned? Is there still a motion picture industry? YES. Is there still a television industry? YES. Is there still a music industry? YES. Have they all evolved? YES. And some of them survived the evolution a little bit more intact than the others.
As for me, I'm seriously concerned at how some of the mega publishers are going to survive with out-dated approaches. Yes, I love my print books and though I embrace digital books and do buy some of my books in digital versions, I doubt my love of the printed book will ever fade. But I also buy CD's and DVD's too (and still have a small vinyl record collection I'm not getting rid of). I'm that type of person.
So while I honestly believe that print isn't going away, I recognize that neither is digital. And that while the market share for digital is minuscule now, it's growing exponentially and will continue to do so.
But rather than embrace the reality of what is happening and figure out a way to be PART of the game to maintain some sort of decent market share in the movement, publishers are trying to delay it and deny it, believing they'll make more money from a previously existing model.
Don't they realize that they're just making MORE excuses for people to create and distribute pirated content?
iTunes and the 99 cent song downloads proved that, while the margins aren't as high, there IS certainly demand for honest people who want to purchase digital content. Take away people's options and they'll create their own. It's easier and easy for people to do so. So WHY give them another excuse? Why not make it EASY, SIMPLE and AFFORDABLE for them to purchase your digital content?
Isn't a smaller margin better than no margin at all?
And, as much as I love print books, I seriously wonder how many of the major publishing houses who continue to think in terms of 1980 business models will be around in another 3 or 4 years.