Dear Publishing Industry…

A Book Apart
CC Photo Credit: Jeffrey Zeldman

You’re losing revenue.

I can understand the reluctance of adopting new behaviors, as someone quite schooled in the science of change, there is always fear associated with moving away from the status quo.

I know many people (myself sometimes included) that love the feel of a physical book, the smell of the freshly pressed pages, often brings back fond memories for many.

I urge you to get over your fears of change.

Let me explain…

As Seth Godin continually points out through his blog, through Project Domino (you should be worried about Amazon, because they get it…) and through his many free publications like ‘Stop Stealing Dreams,’ and ‘What Matters Now,’ traditional publishing, like the traditional music industry, is dead.

What Digital Does:

  1. I have purchased 50-100 digital books in the last year alone. Another 30 or so audiobooks, and a few physical books as well. But have read only about half of them. Most people will only read 100 books in their lifetime!
  2. The cost of digital permits me to buy considerably more volume of good books. Even if I can’t or won’t manage to read them in the immediate future. I am purchasing the intent to read, something I would never do with physical books because they occupy too much space on my shelves.
  3. Lowers the cost of production considerably. If I had to guesstimate, I would say that it costs roughly a few extra dollars to print a physical book depending on the size, type and thickness. A savings that at least in part should be passed on to the consumer, especially if volume increases.

The purpose of writing this post is this. When I go to purchase a book from Amazon, I am more than likely to purchase the kindle version. When I see that the cost is higher than that of the hardcover or paperback I am more inclined to:

  1. Not buy the book out of principle. i.e. Wait…
  2. Buy the cheaper paperback, or even hardcover, which I know has less margin for you (if I buy the book at all…)

Now you may be trying to prevent the flux of digital reading that is going to happen in the next 5 to 10 years, but aren’t you really just shooting yourself in the foot?

If a mere 10,000 people, do what I’m doing, you’re losing out on, in some cases, 30k in extra revenue or more on each book?

Multiply that by 10 books you recently published and you’re dropping 300k! Not including the savings you incur through digital distribution. If it’s a couple of bucks to produce a physical copy of a book, you’re dropping closer to 500-600k in revenue?

Sure these are off the cuff math principles, but you clearly choose to ignore consumer buying behaviors, and hurt your business in the process.

Furthermore, if I buy the book on kindle and it’s so good that I want to put it on display in my home (a modest 650 square foot apartment in a downtown core). I am willing to pay a premium for a nice collectors edition or hard-cover copy that I can share with friends or colleagues and reference easily in my work.

Good books make me double dip.

Something I did most recently with all of Jim Collin’s books. All of which are so good in my opinion, it was a no brainer to buy the $35 hardcovers for reference material.

Instead of finding ways to discourage people from reading, you should be focusing on promoting reading. Capitalize on the books that turn out to be ‘that good.' The same way that the music industry has learned to capitalize on live shows, special editions and merchandise.

Or you can leave it to Amazon to disrupt the industry and make a few billion…

Darren Beattie

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