Monday, August 31, 2009

Closing the books

The business of selling music has gone through revolutionary changes over the last few years. In the past the money was in albums and CDs. Touring supplemented income from music sales. Now bands sell one or two good songs and those songs open the door for ticket sales from touring.

It appears books are going down the same road. The book tour will become a leading method for writers to earn a buck or two. Instead of selling books on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble, authors will drive sales of e-books by giving readings.

E-books could spell the end for hardbacks, warns Hachette chief

Hardback books could be killed off if Amazon’s e-books and Google’s digital library force publishers to slash prices, Arnaud Nourry, chief executive of French publishing group Hachette, has warned.

Mr Nourry said unilateral pricing by Google, Amazon and other e-book retailers such as Barnes & Noble could destroy publishers’ profits.

He said publishers were “very hostile” to Amazon’s pricing strategy – over which the online retailer failed to consult publishers – to charge $9.99 for all its e-books in the US. He also pointed to plans by Google to put millions of out-of-copyright books online for public use.

“On the one hand, you have millions of books for free where there is no longer an author to pay and, on the other hand, there are very recent books, bestsellers at $9.99, which means that all the rest will have to be sold at between zero and $9.99,” Mr Nourry said.

There was a real and “muscular” debate in the industry in the US, he added. Retailers were paying publishers more than $9.99 for each e-book, so were selling them at a loss: “That cannot last . . . Amazon is not in the business of losing money. So, one day, they are going to come to the publishers and say: by the way, we are cutting the price we pay. If that happens, after paying the authors, there will be nothing left for the publishers.”

Some rival publishers have expressed concern in private at Amazon’s fixed $9.99 per title pricing on its Kindle electronic reader. Others note the minimal costs of distributing books electronically mean they can make higher profit margins even with lower prices than in print.

Mr Nourry’s comments come as analysts predict a growth spurt for the still-niche electronic reader market, with wireless devices from Sony, Plastic Logic and others due to compete with the Kindle.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

At last, a good post, albeit cut and paste!

1:09 PM  

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