How Publishers are Killing Off their eBooks

overdrive-nookMagazine publishers underwhelmed us with digital versions of their titles; now book publishers are doing the same with e-books.

It’s an old story…the digital magazine revolution that never happened as digital magazines publishers completely underwhelmed market expectations with their offerings and their business model.

“It was not only the choice of platform that hurt efforts to sell digital editions, some major publishers produced good interactive editions, but priced them too high. Others forced print readers to choose between print and digital – and since circulation managers routinely discount print subscriptions, the choice to stay with print made sense for the reader (while the publisher was stuck with the higher print and distribution costs),” notes  D. B Hebbard in Talking New Media.

Now, Hebbard notes, publishers seem determined to kill off e-books in a similar fashion.

“This will be harder to accomplish because while the big name publishers control an impressive share of the print book market, their hold on the digital book market is less firm thanks to Amazon and self-publishing,” he explains, continuing, “eBook sales, the AAP reported, fell 18 percent for member publishers in the last report, and no one is confused as to the reason. Pricing.”

“The big publishers, the ones that worked for a brief time with Apple, have wanted to raise the price of e-books all along,” Hebbard continues. “Amazon is now letting them do that, not out of a sense of justice, but in order to let the publishers inflict self-damage – at least as far as digital is concerned.”

That damage comes in the form of competition from Amazon’s ridiculously low-priced e-books being put out by indie publishers and authors. Cheap wins in the digital world.

“Of the top ten bestsellers, seven are sold by Amazon, three by a major publisher,” Hebbard notes.

It comes down to what consumers will pay for, as one commenter on Hebbard’s article noted. And clearly, readers simply don’t see as much value in a digital book as in a print one. Until the major publishers find a way around this, either by making the digital edition somehow more robust (it didn’t happen with magazines…can they do it with e-books?), or by pricing it according to digital standards, Amazon will continue to win this one.