Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

The War of The Book Worlds ~ E-books & Common Sense


What happens when an online retailer (like Amazon) slashes the price of an e-book from another publisher?

* Legacy publishers act like they’re at war even though the retailer still pays them full price.

* The readers get a break.

* The authors get their full royalty.

Yet, the screaming and threats and lies in the media make it seem like something bad is happening

Suw Charman-Anderson, former Executive Director of the Open Rights Group and one of the UK’s best known bloggers, in her Forbes article, Ebook Price War Obscures Larger Problem, says:

“Price wars aren’t new to publishing, yet, predictably, various people are up in arms about what’s really just a publicity stunt.”

The war-mongers try to say that this price slashing will make readers expect the new low cost to become the norm and it might even hurt the independent bookstores.

Charman-Anderson says:

“Bookstores of all stripes do promotions and giveaways all the time, and frequently publishers are fighting to be a part of those promotions. And whilst tight-fisted readers can already find more books than they can read in their entire lifetime, your average reader recognises a deal when they see one, knows that deals don’t last, and knows that once the deal is over that prices are going to go back up. This is not a new concept… The idea that this is going to result in the death of the indie bookshop seems like a nice slippery slope fallacy which reads well but makes no real sense.”

She goes on to detail other false perspectives in this war that should be seen as quite normal marketing activity yet is being stoked into a chimerical fire

She continues her argument by bringing up an issue that self-publishers are quite clearly aware of—the Reader is a critical actor in this Drama and must be dealt with on their own terms—treated like the important people they are.

Certainly, the Author is the central character in this drama—can’t have a book world with out them.

I would say the Reader is the co-protagonist—forget their needs and the book world begins to wobble.

The Publisher?

Unless the publisher is the author (who will decisively keep the reader in mind) they’re one of those characters writers know well—changing their nature as the story progresses—morphing to support the protagonists or being thrown completely out of the story

Charman-Anderson argues that one thing the publishers need to do is create their own retail divisions:

“The main argument against publishers expanding into retail, over and above set-up costs, is that people now expect to be able to get everything in one spot.”

She goes on to detail a few of those expectations and deals the reader wants then closes with:

“But these are all deals that publishers can’t offer, because they don’t own the point of sale. And there’s only one answer to that.”

I recommend you go read the full article—this lady knows her stuff.
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