Readers Love eBooks. Too Bad Publishers Still Don’t Get It.

sonyIn case you missed it, in February sales of eBooks were up an astonishing 202% from the same month just a year before. To make the news even more impressive, for the first time eBooks exceeded sales of all other formats – specifically hardcovers and, the former staple of romance, mass market paperbacks.

Wow.  Just wow.  This change has happened far faster than I ever would have expected and it reflects a few things that I think are most significant for readers:

  • The enormous ease of eReading.  You want it, you got it without having to worry about whether or not a capricious bookseller will have the book you want in stock.
  • The anonymity of eReading.  While I wish it weren’t the case, women are often embarrassed or uncomfortable reading romance and with eReading, it’s your business and yours alone.

And, even more astoundingly, this growth occurred despite the lame-fisted, ham-handed, stupid, ridiculous, short-sighted, hide-bound, tradition-worshipping New York publishing industry.

You know, what I’m talking about.  The stuff that’s designed to make you feel like you’re doing a bad thing when you buy less than the hallowed dead tree book like:

  • The unabashed debacle that is Agency Pricing. I can somehow hear the Soup Nazi in my head as he repeats over and over again: No discount for you!!!
  • Delayed release dates.  What, I really mean WTF, is up with that?
  • No covers on many books.  So, I’m expected to pay full price for a book and you don’t even give me a cover?  Gee, thanks!
  • Formatting and other errors that publishers really don’t seem to give a damn about.  Think I’m exaggerating?  The eye-opening discussion here proves just how bad it can be.

I’ll be honest: I’m not big on eBook originals by authors unknown to me.  My time is short and there’s a lot of chaff I have to filter before I can comfortably invest my time and my money in the unknown.  I’m sure I’ll miss out on some great stuff, but there it is.  But for authors I do know, hell yeah!  Skip that New York thing and bring your books on home to me in a format I’ve wholeheartedly embraced.

So, let’s have a discussion about eBooks and you.  Here are my questions:

  • Do you use an eReader?
  • Have you ever missed the feel of a book in your hands – something that’s oft sighted by those who haven’t jumped on the eReading bandwagon?
  • If you are one of those who hasn’t jumped, is there anything that could be said to convince you or are you sticking?  Does library eReading now available on other eReaders and coming soon to Kindle make a difference?
  • Are you as disgusted with Agency Pricing and  late releases and…gee, just being treated like second class citizens by New York publishers as I am?
  • If your favorite New York-published authors decided to ePub themselves – as Connie Brockway recently told us she’s doing – will you follow her?
  • Would you like to see more authors go rogue?

- Sandy AAR

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76 Responses to “Readers Love eBooks. Too Bad Publishers Still Don’t Get It.”

  1. DJ says:

    Dawn – - Your books remain your books, you can download them again. But, of course, you would need to drop another large chunk of money on an e-reader. It was indeed the main reason I held off on getting one.

  2. bavarian says:

    Last fall I finally bought two e-readers: a cybook for my many (some hundreds) of Mobipocket books I had stored to read on my net book and a Sony 650 for all the others. Tell me something about eBook formats!
    The main reason for buying an e-reader was that I have sometimes major problems with my eyes. Beeing able to alter the font size now does the trick for me and I am finally again able to read longer than half an hour for pleasure after reading hours at work. And taking my netnook everywhere with me wasn’t an option either (especially in bed reading wasn’t possible!)
    The other reason for buying ebooks was that, with several thousands of books I’ve reached my limit in storage space.

    As I’m reading “real” books in my professional life I don’t miss the feel of a book in my free time.

    What I hate most about ebooks are the geographical restrictions. So par example I can’t buy any book published by St. Martins Press or Forever as an ebook. And so on. Other publishers seem to sell their ebooks only after one ore more years to foreign countries. Par example: I can buy older titles by Jodi Thomas but not the recently released ones.
    Since Wednesday Amazon has opened a Kindle store in Germany (don’t know if in other countries too). The latter problem seems to be solved, but buy a kindle as a third e-reader? I don’t think so.
    So authors going rogue? If they don’t add geograhical restrictions: anytime!

  3. KristieJ says:

    I didn’t think I’d ever get on board the ereader band wagon. But a lot of my favourite type books – Westerns, Sci-Fi Romance, Historicals that take place OUTSIDE of England, are scare in the NY print format I decided I’d best finally get on board. And I found it quite surprising really. Well I felt way behind and left out in romance land in getting an ereader, a Kobo in particular, once I did get it, I found I was in the advance guard in my day to day world. Very few people around me even knew what they were – though that is changing daily as more and more coworkers and friends get them.

    I will always still love print books and continue to buy them, but I do love me ereader now for so many reasons. As opposed to some of the claims in this column – and I’m not saying they aren’t true – but I haven’t noticed them, the vast majority of ebooks I’ve been buying are available at the same time – and at much better prices than in print. The most glaring example is the latest In Death book. To buy it in the store here in Canada, because it’s in hardcover, would have cost me $31. Buying it online along with my Avid reader discount would have cut the cost to $19.44. The ebook version was on special for $9.99 and I had a 30% discount. So I ended up saving $23 by not getting it in the B&M store and instead getting it as an ebook.

    I always wait for deals like that though not all so significant. So my ereader is saving me money.

    I just recently purchased an IPad and I’m trying to figure out how to get my ebooks from the Kobo over to the IPad. So in just over a year, I went from saying never to having 2 different ereading devices.

  4. Diana says:

    Yay Kristie! Download the free Kobo app from iTunes and all of your Kobo library will be there.

  5. bungluna says:

    I’m intrigued by e-readers, but will not purchase one as long as I can’t get library books and lending books, such as booksfree.com, on one. I do the bulk of my reading this way. As for my favorites or keepers, I’ll continue buying them in paper. As said above: e-gadgets come and go, but a book is forever. I don’t want to have a snaffu and find out that my entire library has vanished into the ether.

    • willaful says:

      bungluna: I’m intrigued by e-readers, but will not purchase one as long as I can’t get library books and lending books, such as booksfree.com, on one. I do the bulk of my reading this way. As for my favorites or keepers, I’ll continue buying them in paper. As said above: e-gadgets come and go, but a book is forever. I don’t want to have a snaffu and find out that my entire library has vanished into the ether.

      Is there some specific reason you can’t get library ebooks? Many public libraries have them now; I’m quite spoiled for choice with mine. Also, ebooks can be backed up, just like any other computer media.

  6. KristieJ says:

    Diana: Yay Kristie! Download the free Kobo app from iTunes and all of your Kobo library will be there.

    Diana!!! It worked! I have no idea how, I still can’t figure out how radios work but I now have a bunch of my ebooks on the iPad. And I think I like it better than the Kobo. It’s easier to turn the pages and they actually flip. :-)

  7. Michele says:

    Yes, I bought a Kobo in January. I got it because I can’t travel with 8-10 paperbacks anymore, and I also need to limit taking my laptop with me as well (infant twins changes priorities for packing). Before this, I was very occasionally buying ebooks, 95% from Harlequin, because their bundles, novels and novellas are at price points that I’m willing to pay. They also have discounts and sales that make it easier for me to purchase something. Most of what I’ve bought from them in the past are books that are no longer in print. I still prefer paper books to ebooks, mainly because I can still get paper books at a discount/use reward dollars/use coupons to fit into my budget. Since I rarely have that option with an ebook, I don’t invest my dollars into them. I got 100 free books with my ereader (all public domain), and found about 15 more public domain books that I was interested in. Since I got my ereader, I have bought a grand total of 4 ebooks and 10 paper books.

    Agency pricing has irritated me, because it doesn’t allow me the same freedoms I have with paper books to find a price or take advantage of my bookstore memberships. I pay the extra $ for Borders and BN memberships because it allows me to afford hardcovers and paperbacks I want to purchase. I have restricted my purchases for ebooks to Harlequin and small presses (like Wild Rose) because they offer books at prices I’m willing to pay and treat me well for being a customer.

    Are you as disgusted with Agency Pricing and late releases and…gee, just being treated like second class citizens by New York publishers as I am?
    If your favorite New York-published authors decided to ePub themselves – as Connie Brockway recently told us she’s doing – will you follow her?
    Would you like to see more authors go rogue?

  8. Virginia DeMarce says:

    I got a Kindle when it first came out, and am still using said first-generation Kindle which is working just fine. I’ve only had to replace the battery once. I take it everywhere with me; it’s small enough to fit in my purse.

    I basically now buy all my recreational reading in e-format. I still buy professional reading — things that I may need to cite in a footnote — in paper format, because the “location” feature on the Kindle makes it impossible to determine what page I’m on and create a footnote.

    Some of the e-books do have serious formatting errors. It’s not a simple matter to take a manuscript created for paper publication and clean it for e-publication. For example, because of the variable font size feature on e-readers, hard hyphens at the end of lines of print get carried over into the middle of sentences in e-format if they haven’t been carefully stripped out.

    For those of us who are running out of storage space, the e-reader is a real blessing.

  9. Mark says:

    I’ve only been closely involved with the typesetting of books a couple times (almost 30 years ago & over 15 years ago), so I’ve sure the technology has changed.
    Modern word-processing software makes it very easy to keep a whole novel in a single file, and it would be easy to add a hyphen-check to existing spelling and grammar checks (if such a function isn’t already present). Do a search for any instance of a hyphen followed by a return (line break / new line / paragraph mark). Look at the text before the hyphen and after the line break. If the merged pieces are in the dictionary and either separate piece isn’t, replace the hyphenated pieces with the merged result. This could be set up for either automatic replacement or replacement only with user approval. If both pieces are in the dictionary but the merged result isn’t, leave the hyphen. If both pieces and the merged result are in the dictionary, ask the user. A hyphen-check feature would be a minor addition to any word processing program that already includes a spell-check.
    If a user of Word wanted to do it manually, a simple search for -^p (hyphen paragraph mark) would find each potential problem to check.
    Because some users habitually type a space at the end of a line, checking for hyphen space line break would be an easy addition.

  10. Judy York says:

    This is my opinion only, but twice now, I’ve went to my local
    bookstore, and the books, I wanted, they didn’t have, they could order
    and it takes around a week. So what to do? Look on the Web, Ebook.
    It’s quicker, pay, download, and reading within five minutes. I think
    that’s whats happening. Why drive to a brick building and not get
    what you want. Ebook’s are more convenient. I don’t have a e-reader
    as of yet, I have a app for the pc. I say lets go e-reader all the way

  11. Detra says:

    I have owned a Kindle for about a year and a half now and I love, love, love it! As soon as I got it, I went through my spreadsheet of TBR books and added the Amazon prices to the list. I was totally outraged, when a couple of months later the publishers started their little price war and most of the books went up in price. I upgraded my Borders membership to get free shipping and discounted coupons every week. So I still purchase an equal number of regular books and e-books, depending on the price. I love the convenience of the Kindle. I purchased an advanced copy of the final book in the Karen Marie Moning series and then forgot the release date. It was so exciting to see it just appear as I was reading another book on my Kindle. Awesome!
    Most of the formatting issues I have experienced have been extra spaces between words or sentences. It is slightly annoying, but not a deal breaker for me. So far, I have not experienced any delayed release dates.
    I thought I would miss the feel of a “real” book, but I don’t. My two complaints were 1) not being able to get library books – which will be fixed later this year…yea! 2)the pricing issue – hopefully the publishers will get a clue soon.

  12. Diane says:

    I use an e-reader I love my e-reader and I don’t mind if authors go for it too!

  13. Kathleen says:

    I have a Sony PRS-650 and I love it. What I do not love is paying the same price for an ebook as I do for a hardcover book. The most recent Nora Roberts book. Chasing Fire had a difference of 10 cents between the two formats.

    An ebook does not require shipping, printing, warehousing etc. and I refuse to pay that price, even for the convenience.

    I bought the hardcover and borrowed the e-book from a friend (which is technically illegal according to all the fine print).

    The publishing industry seems to have learned nothing from the music industry with their DRM and restrictive policies and stupid pricing. The music industry has gone downhill fast and I expect the publishing industry to do the same. Maybe the fact that there are fewer readers than music listeners will work in their favor – but right now it certainly isn’t working in my favor :(

  14. Helene says:

    I got a Kobo for Christmas. It was the best gift ever!!! I love it. I don`t have to go to the bookstore for a new book. I love that a lot of hardcovers are at a normal price. I only buy ebook now.

  15. Brenda says:

    I use an iPad as an ereader, generally using the Kindle app. The iBook app and bookstore aren’t as good. I was surprised how much I like reading the ebook format compared to a regular book, and I was hoping to be able to buy many ebooks for a reasonable price. There are authors who I have been buying and reading for years, many of whom write series, and I want to continue to buy their books in paper format I’ve been collecting. However, I want to switch to ebooks for just about everything else. But the Agency pricing is awful! Books that have been out long enough that the hardcover is available at a remaindered price and the trade paper (or mass market) is available at a discount (2 for the price of 3, etc.) are available as ebooks for $11.99-14.99. So, I either don’t buy the book at all, or if I really, really want to read it, I buy it used. I’m not going to let that money go to a publishing house. I realize that stiffs the author also, but I think authors need to demand more reasonable pricing on their books, most especially their backlist titles.

  16. lucy says:

    I love my kindle so much that I can’t imagine going back to print. In fact, I’ve actually stared buying more books since I don’t have to worry about space, and leaving books behind when I move. The only books that I buy in print are school books, since ereaders are not ideal for textbooks.

    I think ebooks should be cheaper so price sometimes ticks me off, but If I really want a book I’ll buy it anyways. I’m from Canada, where books are more expensive than in the USA, therefore most ebooks that I buy are actually cheaper than buying paperbacks. Geo restrictions actually bother me more than price.

    I’ve come across some spelling and formating errors in ebooks, but not enough to impede my enjoyment. As for releases, I haven’t come across delayed releases, except for that time where I saw that an ebook was coming out more than a year after its paperback release.

  17. sylvia benson says:

    I’ve had an ebook reader (Cybook) for nearly two and a half years and love it. Like most avid readers I’ve gathered rather a lot of paperbacks and was rapidly running out of space, ebooks solved that problem.

    I too, don’t understand the ‘geographical restrictions’ they have for some books, especially when I can go in the bookshop, or go on Amazon and buy the paperback! I’m still buying the book, so does it matter what format it’s in?

    I think the formatting problems may occur when changing font sizes, different readers having different parameters? Most times I can read past that, errors such as missing commas, added full stops and incorrect spelling are harder to ignore and are surely down to lazy editing/proof reading.

    As for authors going rogue? I say go for it. I am on Connie Brockway’s mailing list and was happy to hear that she will get the chance to share her books with the ebook community after her publishers said no. Being a huge fan of books like All Through the Night, it’s great to hear she is doing a sequel – self published. I also am a huge fan of My Dearest Enemy, so I did send her an email of support and suggested she wrote that book of Lily and Avery’s correspondence. What you got to read in the book was fascinating and witty and surely deserves a small tome of it’s own.

  18. Annette says:

    I am late to the party about e-readers but want to state that I am a zealot on the subject. I love my Kindle, even though my first one crashed within a few weeks. Amazon replaced it for free as it was under warranty (I purchased a 2 year warranty which won’t expire until November 2012 for less than $60.00). I am 66 years old and have been an avid reader since the of 5. No, I do not miss the feel of a book in my hands, which rather surprised me. The only other person I know of my age group who has an e-reader is my cousin, who apparently doesn’t share my fanatical devotion to the Kindle. He reads very slowly and doesn’t order a new book until he has finished with the current one, which IMO rather defeats the purpose of an e-reader, which is to build a portable library, not just add three or four books a year as though it were a conventional lending library.

    I am bothered by formatting errors as well, but many/most books do not contain any more errors than a print book. However, I did once decide not to purchase a book (a Star Trek spinoff) because it had formatting errors in every paragraph, and generally more than one in a sentence. I had ordered a free sample of the book from amazon, which was charging full price for the e-book, and based upon the sample passed on that book. The pricing is an issue for me, as I feel that many publishers are jacking up their prices as e-books become more popular — generally prices go down (witness Kindle e-readers for $114 at Target), so this may eventually happen to e-books as well. I recently paid $14.99 for an e-book I really wanted, which is the highest price I have paid. On amazon I am always looking for free or low cost books: I downloaded “Outlander” for free a few weeks ago, as well as CiJI Ware’s “Cottage by the Sea.” Both are now back up to full e-book price. I have a good library of free classics and have been able to downsize my print library, to the benefit of my local library system.

    e-Magazine subscriptions need to be expanded. There are currently not many offered by amazon. Yes, technical difficulties do happen, but I have had good experiences with amazon customer service, both in e-mail and in live conversations. Over-all, I am a happy customer.

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