Predicition: cheaper hard back books coming--and soon

Ebook sales are tearing up the publishing world like Ghengis Khan's last leisurely ride through China a few years back.  And interestingly, with each month's posting of total ebook sales, the increase in sales over the previous month's reporting rises almost exponentially (check out below).

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/retailing/artic...

 

So my prediction.  For traditional publishers to stay in business--and if they have any interest whatsoever in remaining in traditional publishing--they have to reduce prices in the cost of a book.  Simply have to in order to attract buyers.  And reduce prices drastically.

 

So what will have to change in order to do that?

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Not sure publishers could lower prices on hardbacks though. Unless they become semi-hardbacks or some such. Or they cut staff to air traffic controller levels.

I remember reading an article not long ago that said the high price of hard covers has nothing to do with materials and everything to do with timing. They are the first to go out, so they carry the highest price.

 

I'll be dipped if I can find the link to it, though. It was posted on C'Space somewhere. I don't know, someone help me out here.

That's the one, you get the Gold Star, Tanis! John's quote is the one I was thinking of:

 

"1: Publishers have always thought that when you buy a hardback, what you're paying more for is the chance to own it on the day of publication."

Actually, I have found no appreciable difference in sales for my trade paperback and my hardback. Tpb at 15.00, but marked down to 11.00 or 12.00, hrdcover at 29.00, marked down to 19.00.

 

Most of my sales come from established fans and libraries.

Why would they go up?  With the added revenue the traditional publishers are starting to rake in with publishing both the traditional format and with ebooks it would make sense to reduce hard back prices to see if they could rebuild territory they lost.
That is if they get e-rights.
Who buys hardcovers? There is no mass market for hardcovers and hasn't been really for a long time. Libraries buy hardcovers because they can loan them out more times than paperbacks, but even libraries are moving to e-books. And collectors, who will likely pay another ten or twenty bucks the few times a year they buy a hardciver. I agree with EvilJ, hardcover prices will likely go up. It's unlikely anyone could go into a meeting and sell the idea that if they were to drop the price (and profit margin) on a new hardcover they *might* sell enough to make the upfront investment of printing and shipping them worthwhile.

One reason publishers were slow to get into e-books was that the sales did take away from existing sales - there's a fancy MBA phrase for this, "cannabilized market share" or something like that, so the VP of hardcovers or paperbacks, or both, would fight the establishment of an e-book division as long as they could because even though in the long run the publisher's sales may increase, in the short term their department's sales would decrease and everybody thinks in the short term and only about their own department.

But that horse is long gone so it doesn't matter that the barn door is flapping open now. Now because of huge sales the VP of e-books carries more weight at the meetings so the other departments have to scramble for their budgets.

"One reason publishers were slow to get into e-books was that the sales did take away from existing sales - there's a fancy MBA phrase for this, "cannabilized market share" or something like that, so the VP of hardcovers or paperbacks, or both, would fight the establishment of an e-book division as long as they could because even though in the long run the publisher's sales may increase, in the short term their department's sales would decrease and everybody thinks in the short term and only about their own department."

 

Many years ago, while serving as a newspaper publisher, I was taken to task - repeatedly - for being very aggressive with our website. I was told I was cannibalizing circulation. This was maybe eight or nine years ago, but I had a hunch that if I didn't capture the local "Internet" market, there'd be no circulation left to cannibalize.

 

For whatever reason, publishing in all its forms - books, newspapers, magazines - have been very slow to adapt to the new and emerging technologies, despite their huge advantages in reach and content. The result is they are now fighting hard for survival.

 

I see a window of opportunity here.  Some new/small/independent publisher comes along and can create a hard back books featuring good writers in the $10/15 range and I think they would be a big, big hit.  More interestingly, I'd bet all of a brand new nickle this independent publisher could find some moderate to well known writers to do books for them.  Offer the writer a small signing package, but a bigger bite in the royalities and ebook rights.

 

I think there are a number of good writers who would jump at this.

BR, I think you're pretty much describing the small presses that exist today. I'm published by a company called ECW Press which is now moving into the US market (previously I sold the US rights to Harcourt and then St. martins and other ECW writers also sold to US publishers). Companies like Tyrus, Poisoned Pen, Bleak House and so on all publish great-looking hardcover editions.

But it really is a small market, a few thousand copies at most. I think you would find it impossible to find investors willing to risk the capital required to print hardcovers in large numbers, especially as they go out to bookstores on consignment and then just get returned and pulped.

It really is like the movie business, sometimes a guy will max out his credit cards and borrow money from friends and family and make "Clerks," but no one can raise the money to compete head-to-head with Hollywood for the multiplex money.

Lately I've been having fun looking at the old pulp covers on "Rex Parker's" blog:

http://salmongutter.blogspot.com/

And it reminds me that there has always been 'another' book industru working alongside the big publishing companies. So now it's self-pubbed e-books instead of pulps.

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