Journals were among the first to feel the effects of the Internet, but now it’s the books turn. With the Kindle, the Google book settlement, e-books, print-on-demand, and self-publishing ventures, they have their hands full.
With so much going on, it only follows that irrational behavior will crop up now and again.
Take, for instance, the recent stance by two mainstream fiction publishers to delay the release of e-books for months after the release of hardcovers, despite the fact that they earn the same amount in profit for either format.
Instead of focusing on revenues, these publishers (Hatchett and Simon & Schuster) seem concerned about abdicating power to Amazon and readers, and lowering prices throughout the book system overall. And while there’s reason to take measured approaches, alienating customers and pushing books into a more marginal position in a crowded information world both seem destined to fail.
On the rational front, Springer recently announced that it will be supporting its entire list using print-on-demand in a partnership with Amazon’s CreateSpace. As a spokesman put it quite succinctly:
. . . this shift to an inventory-free distribution model using print-on-demand is the next logical step for the future of book publishing. The convenience for our customers and the obvious economic advantages made this an easy decision to make.
In the realm of increasingly social media, a flattened information space, and new publishing approaches, the best way to marginalize traditional books is to delay their release, punish fans with higher prices (despite equivalent margins), and cede territory in the digital information age. Springer’s move makes the most sense — take advantage of the improvements to manufacturing, inventory, distribution, and purchasing systems.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.