From Hardback To Paperback In 6 Months?
Despite its idiosyncrasies (shorter battery than promised, occasional blackouts for no reason, no wi-fi) I still love my Sony eReader. But last weekend I bought half a dozen books, some of which were secondhand, some new. There were a couple of hardbacks I wanted – available on Kindle but not ePub – so what do I do? I’ll wait for the paperback.
Publishing is not a very green industry. As a reviewer, I often get sent an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of a book first, then the hardback, and then the trade paperback. Two of these go to waste. But now, because of eReading, it appears that the window between hardbacks and paperbacks may finally be closing.
Hardbacks are traditionally sent to reviewers, for no good reason I can think of. They’re great for collectors, but who else? Trade paperbacks are even worse, and I’ll go out of my way not to buy one – they’re huge and ugly.
Now the New York Times reports: ‘Publishers say they have a new sense of urgency with the paperback, since the big, simultaneous release of hardcover and electronic editions now garners a book the bulk of the attention it is likely to receive, leaving the paperback relatively far behind. They may also be taking their cues from Hollywood, where movie studios have trimmed marketing costs by steadily closing the gap between the theatrical release of films and their arrival on DVD.’
True, and Hollywood could reduce its piracy problems by releasing all formats simultaneously. It’s not something film distributors want to do because they lose a ‘First Reduction’ window – they often sell most DVDs the first time prices are reduced. The film and DVD have been around long enough to register in consumers’ minds, and the price becomes appealing.
How about books, though? Recent fiction and non-fiction titles in the US have benefitted from 5-7 month paperback windows. But why not go lower still? Paperback buyers and hardback buyers come from different market sectors. There are certain books I will always buy in hardback, but I won’t be tempted to buy the paperback as well.
This is a good move for all concerned. But in the UK, digital rights remain a mess. A search this week for 20 of my favourite authors yielded just 3 available in ePub format.