e-books

John Gapper

The US publishing business is in turmoil, driven by the rise of e-books and the decline of print. It has now reached a turning point with e-book revenues overtaking those of adult hardbacks.

The hardback is under severe pressure globally – UK publishers  increasingly publish “trade paperbacks” initially rather than hardbacks. The hardback survives in the US but its future as a mass product looks dim.

In some ways, that is a shame. I am reading The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan in the US hardback, which is an object of beauty. The Knopf hardcover is finely bound, has an embossed cover of golden suns and moons, and is edged in blood-red.

That said, the hardback list price is $25.95, compared with $12.99 for the more prosaic black and white Kindle version. The margins for Knopf’s parent Random House* on the Kindle edition are higher, while the reader pays half-price. 

John Gapper

There is something strange about the idea of publishers’ attempts to resist the e-book price-setting power of Amazon being investigated by the Connecticut attorney-general.

Given Amazon’s dominance of e-books through its Kindle device and software (it claimed this week to have 80 per cent of the market), it seems like the obvious target for anti-trust concern rather than the weak and divided publishing industry.

On the face of it, the initiative by Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney-general, is aimed at Amazon and Apple, which is publishing e-books for the iPad and iPod through its iBook service. In practice, however, Amazon would be pleased if he broke the “agency” pricing model.