In the latest example of a pattern that I suspect is going to become increasingly common in electronic publishing, HarperCollins is not only offering an across-the-board seasonal sale of some of its most popular titles, but also appears to be trying to push this first and foremost through its own site. Under the ringing invitation to “Fill Your E-Reader,” the discount page offers “All books $2.99 and under,” with over 120 titles on sale.

The clickthrough link on the HarperCollins sales page invites you to “purchase this e-book and read on the HC Reader App for iPhone/iPad, Android, or Kindle Fire,” although the sale does apparently extend to Amazon and Kindle, as well as Nook, through price matching offers. There’s no cutoff date given, but with the seasonal tinge, this is most likely a limited-time offer.

All this doesn’t seem to do much to solve the underlying problem that HarperCollins and its peers have been struggling with for a while now: How to keep readers coming back to their sites and work through their own networks, rather than going through Amazon’s ecosystem. Historically, that might have been possible through the kind of brand loyalty that Penguin, for one, used to have – but is now squandering. Niche publishers like Tartarus Press and Tor can do it, but the Big Five do seem to struggle when it comes to this. I mean, if you can get the same book for the same price for your Kindle app, why would you bother installing a separate HC Reader App? DRM-free reader-friendly ebooks, maybe? God forbid …

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Paul St John Mackintosh is a British poet, writer of dark fiction, and media pro with a love of e-reading. His gadgets range from a $50 Kindle Fire to his trusty Vodafone Smart Grand 6. Paul was educated at public school and Trinity College, Cambridge, but modern technology saved him from the Hugh Grant trap. His acclaimed first poetry collection, The Golden Age, was published in 1997, and reissued on Kindle in 2013, and his second poetry collection, The Musical Box of Wonders, was published in 2011.


  1. As far as I can tell, the big publishers have never learned how to deal with individual customers. They were, and maybe still are, really good at dealing with middlemen, such as book stores, wholesalers, etc. When it comes to dealing with individual customers like you and me, they flounder.

    I can and do buy from Amazon for Kindle format books and from vendors such as Google and Kobo for ePUB format books. I see absolutely no need to install a third reading app just so that I can buy directly from one publisher.

    Smaller publishers get this. Baen will sell you a book in any format you can imagine. Harlequin sells their books directly to customers in ePUB format with Adobe DRM.

    HarperCollins seems to want to re-invent the wheel. Unfortunatly for them, “My way or the highway” just doesn’t work at the retail level.

  2. More to the point “purchase this e-book and read on the HC Reader App for iPhone/iPad, Android, or Kindle Fire,”

    doesn’t work for the Kindle Fire because the App is only offered for iApple and the Google store so can’t get it /on/ the Kindle Fire.

    Mike D
    Little Egret in Walton-on-Thames

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