CNET columnist: ‘Why e-books don’t stand a chance?’—plus E’s possible future effect on writers’ advances

image " their very core, e-book readers are not nearly as useful and worthwhile as some may think for one major reason -- they cost too much money." - CNET columnist Don Reisinger, following a somewhat more upbeat AP story, Kindle helps tiny e-book market.

The TeleRead take: Beyond lower-priced hardware, a little more enthusiasm for E from the book business would help, in terms of, say, boosting the number of titles available. You already know that Publishers Weekly dropped the E-Book Report blog and mysteriously deleted the archives even though the readership numbers were fine. Meanwhile AP writes of Pat Schroeder, head of the Association of American Publishers: "In a recent AP interview, Schroeder spoke favorably of e-books, but said she still had not read one."

Related: Hyperion president goes to HarperCollins and New HarperCollins unit to try to cut writer's advances, in the New York Times, along with a WSJ article mostly behind a paywall. I wouldn't be surprised if E were a factor, since, if you move toward e-books and the Long Tail model for P, you can't pay advances as high as for typical p-books.

The average E title doesn’t sell that well right now. But no advance at all i some cases? See Book publishing 2.0 = Screw authors 1.0 and More about that HarperCollins Plan, from Mike Cane.

The good news is that writers will get a higher percentage of money from actual sales, and maybe publishers will eventually stop overpaying so much for problematic titles. Better to spend the cash on experimentation with E! Let’s just hope that no one plays Hollywood-style games with “profits”—HarperCollins needs to provide writers and agents with more specifics.

(Thanks to Jason Etheridge for the CNET pointer.)

3 Comments on CNET columnist: ‘Why e-books don’t stand a chance?’—plus E’s possible future effect on writers’ advances

  1. This Reisinger fellow has an impressive grasp of the obvious, but he lacks perspicacity.

    In 1984 I purchased an original model IBM-PC (8-bit, 4.7MHz processor, 64K of memory soldered, not socketed, to the motherboard, and a pair of 320K floppy drives) for about $3,500. Had Mr. Reisinger been around then, he might well have written, “At their very core, personal computers are not nearly as useful and worthwhile as some may think for one major reason — they cost too much money.”

    Mr. Reisinger owuld be well advised to bone up on the concepts of emerging markets and technolgies, volume production, and economies of scale.

  2. Agree that a model of ‘profit sharing’ raises some interesting issues. “Profit sharing” is something of a term of art in the subsidy publishing business. No returns, no efforts to sell through bookstores, and sales on the internet might mean overcoming the errors of the past. It might also mean another scam on poor hapless authors who are desperate to have their works published and who believe scam artists’ promises that they can make them a fortune–but first they’ll have to invest $10,000 of their own money.

    I hope this isn’t the case. I do think an approach of paying authors a share of revenue, rather than of profits (i.e., a royalty model) is a superior alternative. What control, after all, do authors have over cost structures? Why should an author be penalized if a publisher decides to offer its CEO Investment-bank-style bonuses.

    Rob Preece

  3. Aaron J. Walker // April 6, 2008 at 11:58 pm //

    I remember seeing his report and have to agree whole heartedly with him – the physical hardware for e-book readers cost too much. They’ll never be in the hands of the average reader if they cost nearly as much as an Eee PC.

    But I don’t necessarily think it is a publisher problem.

    Yes, as an e-reader, I would like to see all titles available in an electronic version but I don’t think publisher tooting the horn for e-book availability will do very much when the e-reader devices themselves are seen as luxury items at best (expensive indulgences at worst) due to their high cost.

    Break the price barrier (sub $200 for a basic model ($199.99 doesn’t count)), put more of the devices in people’s hands and customer demand (hey, I’ve got this cool new gadget, why can’t I find Author X’s book in this format?) will drive the adoption of ebooks, not the other way around.

    That’s the way I see it anyway.

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