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Books / Media, Rant, Technology, Thoughts

You Book Publishers Think You Are Sooo Intellectual

In a previous post we brought you up to speed on what passes for strategic thinking in the book publishing world regarding electronic editions. Instead of working with distributors like Amazon (Kindle) to develop new business models, the publishers have been screwing their partners by forcing them to sell e-books at a loss, while they increase their profits.

But it turns out it’s not enough to screw your distributors, now it’s time to take it to their customers.

The publishers have decided a brilliant new strategy, described by the NY Times.

Working A Great Strategic Initiative

Publishers Create A Brilliant New Strategy

Publishers have decided to hold back the distribution of best sellers in electronic form for some period of time in order to protect the market for (higher priced) hardcover editions. After all, this has been their model with paperbacks for the past 50 years, so it obviously fits into the 21st. century.

Oh, and they point out that this is just what movie studios are doing when they postpone DVD releases.

This is similar to the approach taken by Hollywood studios, which allow DVD sales and rentals only after a film has left theaters.

Can they really believe the scenarios are equivalent?

The mind boggles. After all, publishers charge Amazon the same ‘wholesale’ price for the electronic edition as they do for the hardcover version. Because there are virtually no incremental costs for the e-book their profits are vastly greater when they sell a book on the Kindle. What am I missing?

In our last post I pointed out the danger of books being pirated if there is an incentive. It seems like the publishers are doing everything in their power to create (the wrong kind of) incentives.

Don't Just Stand There, You Have Wings, They Are For Flying

Don't Just Stand There, You Have Wings, They Are For Flying

This would be terrible for the industry and especially for the authors. I’m rooting for the publishers to get on with the job of creating a new business model to protect their investments.

After all, in the music industry, artists can still make money from concerts. One new model there is to give away some music and make money on ticket sales.

Unfortunately book authors can’t sing.

On a ligher note, let’s go back to the Movie industry!

One of my all-time favorite films is A Fish Called Wanda. Every time I think about the book publishing executives it reminds me of a choice scene in Fish, featuring a heated conversaton between Wanda and Otto.

If you’ve seen the film I know you will remember the scene and laugh along with me. If you haven’t seen the film, go rent (or even purchase) it!

I picture Wanda as a stand-in for Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Otto as the stand-in for Knoff Doubleday. In case you don’t know, Knopf Doubleday are publishing “The Lost Symbol,” Dan Brown’s follow-up to “The Da Vinci Code,” and will release the hardcover edition in September but have yet to decide when it will release the electronic version, according to the NY TImes.


Jamie Lee Curtis as Wanda, and Kevin Kline as Otto

The following exchange comes after Otto breaks in on Wanda and Archie in Archie’s flat and hangs him out the window. [Click here for a video clip of the scene.]

Wanda: I was dealing with something delicate, Otto. I’m setting up a guy who’s incredibly important to us, who’s going to tell me where the loot is and if they’re going to come and arrest you. And you come loping in like Rambo without a jockstrap and you dangle him out a fifth-floor window. Now, was that smart? Was it shrewd? Was it good tactics? Or was it stupid?

Otto: Don’t call me stupid.

Wanda: Oh, right! To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I’ve known sheep that could outwit you. I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you’re an intellectual, don’t you, ape?

Otto: Apes don’t read philosophy.

Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don’t understand it. Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not “Every man for himself.” And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.

The nice thing about film producers is that they can always make me laugh.

I guess the book publishers are on track to follow them down this road also.

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3 thoughts on “You Book Publishers Think You Are Sooo Intellectual

  1. I’d like to see book subscriptions, like Rhapsody does for music. Pay a monthly fee to read anything you want; when you stop paying, the downloaded materials stop working.

    Posted by Rebecca | August 10, 2009, 5:16 pm
    • Rebecca,

      I agree 100%. But I won’t hold my breath.

      Music subscription services are still struggling. The only ‘subscription’ that seems to work is the mobile phone.

      Then we are back to the publishers and (MIA) copyright holders in the book world.

      I’m thinking the end game will be that authors publish digital works themselves directly thru Amazon and Amazon runs the subscription service. We don’t need your stinking publishers. Disintermediate the publishers altogether!


      Posted by Bob Gelber | August 10, 2009, 5:30 pm


  1. Pingback: Have They Seen The Light? Probably Not Yet. « Not A Mystery - September 5, 2009

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