Over at GalleyCat–eBookNewser’s not-quite-as-digital sibling–Senior Editor (and soon–to-be director of e-marketing strategy at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Ron Hogan weighs in on this week’s news about Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins delaying frontlist eBooks. He starts out with a baseball metaphor (which, admittedly, this blogger does not understand), and then goes on to make some very good non-sports-oriented points about the ways publishers are essentially setting themselves against readers with these delays.
“If you want to create an enduring hardcover-digital-paperback cycle,” says Hogan, “you need to convince readers, especially digital-embracing readers, that this cycle offers them genuine value, and that’s where these decisions seem to have failed most, because Young and Reidy (and HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray) have not made (or, perhaps, have not had the opportunity to make) a fully compelling argument that withholding content from a small but significant class of passionate readers for several months actually benefits those readers. The main argument for establishing a timetable, as Reidy articulated it, is “we need to do this now, before the installed base of e-book reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible.” That’s not about publishers helping readers, it’s about saving themselves, and you see why readers might take umbrage.”
And so what are publishers going to do about this? Do they realize they’re pissing off their end-customers? Hopefully this is one of the problems Hogan plans to address in his new role at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and hopefully he’ll set an example for other publishers. Things are changing pretty fast. Publishers need to start thinking faster. (That’s kind of a sports metaphor, isn’t it?)