They Just Won’t Learn
Today’s topic is brought to you by the continuing idiocy of some traditional publishers.
Seriously, I couldn’t figure out what to write about this morning. Stuck, I decided to check The Passive Voice to see if anything inspired me. I should have started there instead of trying to wrack my coffee-deprived brain. There, on the homepage, a story jumped out at me and reminded me of a conversation I had with my son this past weekend.
And it drove home the false logic so many publishers operate under, one that simply drives readers away from them in ever-increasing numbers.
In this case, PG linked to a story out of Canada about how it may become more difficult for library patrons to “snag” e-books and audiobooks. Reading the story, I was reminded of how publishers have put in play policies that help throttle library access to books here in the US. Between high costs of “leasing” physical books to limiting the number of times an e-book can be checked out before a new–and very expensive–license has to be purchased, publishers have been slitting not only the throats of libraries but of themselves as well. These publishers forget a number of people still use libraries and will recommend books they read. They forget libraries host book clubs, clubs that won’t feature books unless the library has access to them.
But Amazon is the problem, not idiotic internal policies. At least that’s the line of BS publishers tell us, the reading public, and tell their shareholders.
If a business is struggling, if it sees its customer base shrinking, what should it do? Should it do everything it can to expand the base or should it throttle down on the base even more?
If you look at it from traditional publishing’s point of view, you throttle down on your numbers. Why else do you decide to release your books only to a segment of your customer base?
You can’t stand there in your ivory towers and lecture your customers on how they should be supporting the less fortunate, should be more aware of their plight and, at the same time, do all you can to keep your wares out of the hands of the less fortunate. That is exactly what this move to limit when and what titles libraries have access to does.
But putting aside the societal aspect of the issue, it is just plain dumb. It is shooting yourself in the foot, pretty much like we’re seeing in the gaming industry right now.
One of the most hotly anticipated new games coming out this year is Borderlands 3. There have been rumors about the game for years but it is only in the last few months that gamers have gotten real guarantees that not only is the game in development but that it will be released this Fall. When that news broke, the gaming world cheered. But those cheers quickly silenced when it was announced that the new game would not be released through Steam (for PC users), the platform where the other games in the series were released.
Instead, for the first six months or so, the game would be an exclusive release through Epic, a new platform, one that has yet to prove itself. Gamers are still excited about BL3 but many of them are not going to be Day One adopters. They are going to wait until it is out on Steam. Why? Because they don’t trust Epic. The platform has issues that worry them.
What does this do to the BL publisher? It will cut into its profits and for the game developers, it could be a serious hit to their bottom line. Games, like books, are judged on how well they sell in pre-orders and that first week or two after release. If enough gamers stay away from BL3 because of the exclusive release on Epic, it will be judged a failure.
And why? Because the publisher decided to turn its back on the trusted “distributor” and go with the new kid on the block, one their customers had yet to adopt.
This is where the conversation with my son comes in.
My son, bless him, is a wonderful young man who–despite one teacher doing her best to ruin his love for reading–reads almost as much as I do. In the car, instead of listening to music, he listens to audiobooks. He reads e-books and print. When traveling, if he isn’t going to be around long enough for Amazon to deliver a print book to him, he will find the nearest bookstore. Preferably a locally owned store. (This is especially true if he isn’t traveling with his iPad or e-reader.)
He has also learned one of the benefits of indie publishing–being able to get your books out on a quicker schedule than you could if you went with a traditional publisher. He likes being able to read new books in a series more often than once every year or more. His only regret is that too many of us don’t have audiobooks of our titles out there.
He, and those like him, are the audience traditional publishers should going after. Sure, those publishers can’t release an unlimited number of print titles each month, but there is no reason to artificially limit the number of new titles released in digital format. Except traditional publishers have yet to adopt a new mindset, one that lets them see the wider potential audience.
Instead, they focus on ways to limit their audience–see how I turned it back to the original topic?. They want to limit where books are released. They want to price e-books in such a way it will “encourage” customers to buy print books instead. Let’s be honest, all too many in traditional publishing would love it if they could turn the clock back at least 50 years. They want to be the only game in town, able to run it any way they want.
But those days are gone. Libraries, and similar institutions, will suffer until they learn there are other sources for books out there besides the traditional publishers. But it is those publishers who are cutting their own throats. Unless and until they decide to change their ways, they will continue to lose parts of the market and we, as Indies, if we’re smart will claim those lost readers.
So now I’m going to be smart and listen to the auditions for my audiobook and then get back tow writing. Until later!