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Friday, December 18, 2009

Trade publishers delay release of e-books

Last week, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette Book Group all announced that they will delay the e-book versions of some of their best selling titles due to the concern that e-books sales are cannibalizing hardcover sales. Simon & Schuster and Hachette Book Group plan to delay the books three to four months while HarperCollins will delay the books four to six weeks. In an article from the Wall Street Journal, Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster commented, “The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback. We believe some people will be disappointed. But with new [electronic] readers coming and sales booming, we need to do this now, before the installed base of e-book reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible." David Young, chief executive of Hachette Book Group, added, “We're doing this to preserve our industry. I can't sit back and watch years of building authors sold off at bargain-basement prices. It's about the future of the business." If other publishers follow their lead, e-books could be placed in the publishing cycle after the release of the hardcover but before the release of the paperback. However, analysts warn that this model may only work for the short term and withholding e-books may upset buyers.

In a second article from Wall Street Journal, James McQuivey, principal analyst for Consumer Media Technology at Forrester Research Inc., commented, “Every once in a while, a media business that appears to understand the digital reality quickly reverts under pressure and starts acting like a last-century business. If you give people digital content, they'll actually consume more of it. But if you withhold it from them, you are motivating them to buy somebody else's book, or to consider piracy, something which hasn't yet hit the book industry but probably will next year."

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