Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sony introduces potential Kindle killer

Jason Starr joins us today, filling in for Michelle Gagnon. Jason's latest thriller, PANIC ATTACK, is on-sale now from St. Martin's Press. Michael Connelly calls PANIC ATTACK "the ultimate page-turner" and Jerry Stahl says PANIC ATTACK is "the perfect thriller." It's a terrific beach read, so be sure to pick up a copy today.

Für Berlin live / Jason Starr/ Foto: Promo Hey, great to be back here, and thanks to Michelle for letting me fill in and blog for her while she is, no doubt, lounging on some exotic beach somewhere, sipping drinks that have little umbrellas in them. Ah, the life of an international best-selling thriller author... Meanwhile, I'm here in dank, sweltering Manhattan, pounding away on my keyboard, like a bad parody of Mickey Spillane. But who said life is fair?

panic-attackWith a new book, PANIC ATTACK, out I've had marketing on my mind lately, and I think this week may turn out to be a key moment in book publishing history. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating...a lot...but I think the announcement of Sony's new Daily Edition reader is really going to shake up the electronic publishing landscape, and maybe the entire publishing landscape.

The Daily Edition is a far cry from Sony's old reader, which wasn't as sleek at the Kindle and couldn't download content wirelessly. Early reviews say the Daily Edition is a potential Kindle killer as it does one big thing the Kindle can't (and won't) do--it lets readers download books for free. That's right, via their local libraries, customers will be able to take e-books out on loan for two or three weeks for no charge.

With so much free content available, how will publishers and Amazon be able to charge full price for books? For example, if Michelle, on her exotic beach vacation, wants to read a copy of James Patterson's latest, where is her incentive to buy the e-edition of the book when she can download it (and as many other books as she wants) for free? Will publishers have to change the way they sell books to libraries, and alter the prices of their e-books? It's hard to imagine that if readers have a free option for e-books that they will continue to shell out the 10 dollars or more that Amazon is currently charging for new hardcover titles.

image Daily Edition also allows for other booksellers to distribute their content onto the device. This could be a great chance for Indy booksellers to get into the e-books game, but it could also create even more price competition.

But the main question about e-readers remains--are these devices here to stay and are books as we know them on life support? A little disclosure here. Late last year, I received a Kindle 2 as a gift. When I'm traveling and commuting it's amazing. The ability to send Word files to my Kindle is a God's send for reading manuscripts on the go. Lately, though, I find when I'm home and want something to read I go for an old fashioned book. I guess I feel like I look at a computer screen all day long, and when I want to relax I don't want to hold a gadget, no matter how easy the screen is on the eyes. So, while a few months ago, I was telling people e-books are the wave of the future, I'm not so sure anymore. I see e-books becoming mainly for travel and commuting, and the regular book sticking around for every other use.

As an author, though, I'm excited about the potential proliferation of e-readers because they create the possibility of infinite book sales and could potentially make "book distribution" obsolete. For example, if The Today Show calls tomorrow and wants me on to discuss PANIC ATTACK, my publisher would have to reprint to satisfy the sudden demand. By the time the books arrived in stores, the demand would no longer exist. But in a world where everyone on the planet has an e-reader, a big national media appearance could generate tens of thousands of sales instantly.

So what do y'all think about all this? How are publishers going to price their books in a landscape where Sony is going to effectively start giving away many titles for free? Are you authors out there embracing e-books or would you rather they disappeared?

Tonight, August 27, at 9pm Eastern Time you can "see" me--well my well-endowed Avatar anyway--on the Second Life Talk Show "Virtually Speaking" I'll discuss PANIC ATTACK and lots of other stuff. You also can listen to the broadcast live at 9 pm Eastern Time on Blog Talk Radio.

Find out more about Jason Starr and PANIC ATTACK at www.jasonstarr.com

9 comments:

  1. I would love to jump into ebooks--but the price has been a big limitation:

    * The readers are still pretty expensive, though Sony is making inroads into that. I'm very reluctant to spend $200-$400 when I know that eventually the price will go under $100.

    * Price of books. I hate to say it, but if an ebook costs more than a paperback, it's a problem because it doesn't have any paper or ink. I'd buy a whole lot more books if the price was under $5 and would be more willing to take a chance on some books. It's awfully hard to buy a $27 hardback that looks good but turns into a miss.

    As a writer, I think it presents another way for people to buy the book and might surprise the publishers with good sales if the price dropped. Is it better to have poor sales at a high price or fantastic sales at a lower price?

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  2. Library downloads are limited, just as real books are. So if the library in question has five e-books available, and all five of them are on loan, the library patron must wait until one is returned to download it, just as with physical books. It's a weird system, in my opinion, but that's how they're managing the downloads at this time.

    I would prefer to have more available; I mean, they're virtual, anyway. When we have a book club pick that is fairly recent it's always difficult to find one to read without purchasing one, since everyone is reading the same book, and we all live in the same town. Many of our book club picks are not to my taste, and are not books I particularly want to add to my already ridiculously huge library, so a download would work well for me.

    All that said, I agree with garridon on the costs. The "readers" God gave me were free.

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  3. I love ebooks and see them as part of publishing's future.

    One word - backlists.

    Am I going to buy Stephen King's upcoming opus "The Dome" via ebook when I could get the hardback or trade? Probably not. However, if I get a jones for "Carrie," I will either,

    a) check it out from the library,
    b) cruise Amazon for a used copy,
    c) face my book closet for the beat up garage sale copy I probably have buried somewhere,

    When I was young and patient, option (c) might have been my first choice. These days, if I want a backlist title, I am likely to get it from the library or a used bookseller on Amazon for a buck or two before shipping.

    Now, if the publishers would make that same out-of-print book available to me as an ebook for that same couple-a-bucks and I didn't have to pay shipping, guess where I would shop? Also, downloadable ebooks are great for late night and/or bored rainy Sunday impulse purchases.

    Not a huge income stream, but a reliable one. Both the publisher and the author would be a few cents to the good rather than the zero cents they would make from my buying a used book.

    Same with how-to books and manuals. I buy all of my manuals and guides for last year's gadgets and software via used books. An ebook version would be awesome, especially if it contained links to the software company's website and support.

    Catch my drift publishers? Your backlists could be evergreen at very little cost to you. Netflix has made a gajillion bucks marketing the long-tail of movies and old TV shows. Put your backlists and midlists to work for you via ebooks! I'm waiting!

    Terri

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  4. Welcome to TKZ Jason! I agree with other commentators that price has been the big limitation for me - I'm also an old fashioned paper gal but I can get over that real quick if the price and access is right. I love the idea of having my library available digitally for me - easier than trying to dig out the old copy I can't find and I think having backlists available will be a great boon to the industry. So I say bring it on! As an author I have no problem with e-books - just another great medium to get more people reading.

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  5. Hey Jason, welcome to TKZ. The whole e-book industry is moving at light speed. Barnes & Noble bought Fictionwise, a giant e-book website, for almost $16M and also bought the new Plastic Logic e-book reader. Now I hear they’re partnering with iRex to utilize their 3G network e-book reader as well. It’s obvious they’re positioning themselves to fight Amazon. Things are heating up.

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  6. Hey, these are some great comments. I agree, for authors backlists nothing can beat e-books. We used to hear a lot about printing on demand etc, but making a backlist available electronically makes the best sense....Also, I totally agree garridon re price points for electronic books. If there is no ink, no paper, no distribution the prices should theoretically be lower. Right now I think publishers are afraid that if they lower price points too much it will drive sales away from traditional books...As an author, I'm in favor of whatever format sells more books. I think with e-books we potentially have more control over our careers, but I think books as we know them are not going anywhere because, when it comes down it, they're more pleasant to read.
    Jason Starr

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  7. Welcome aboard Jason. I love the idea of e-books, and think that it makes a great tool for authors to get exposed to more readers quickly. I also like the idea of libraries checking out copies of e-books. To answer Karen's concern, from an author's perspective having limited library downloads could be a good thing, especially if it prompts the reader to go to the web and buy the ebook, or even to the store to buy the paper book rather than wait for the library version to be returned.

    Libraries are both a public service and a marketing tool. My local library system has a huge collection of audiobooks and music for checkout via a site called Listenalaska. Quite often though they do not have the full collection of a series, but will have books 1,2 & 5 or something like that. This gets a person hooked but to get the whole series you'll have to pay the author.

    Not a bad gig in my mind. And this Sony reader sounds like something I may go for by the way. Cool Stuff.

    ...ooh...look Mt. McKinley is showing out my office window. Gotta go stare for awhile.

    Great topic Jason.

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  8. It'll be fascinating to see how they deal with the libraries and free borrowing. Certainly I'm more willing to shell out the cost of an ebook when I'm not sure if I'll like it. But if I know I'll like something I'd still rather have real paper and the chance to read it wherever.

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  9. I don't have an e-reader. I've never even held one or even seen one in person. I won't consider one until the prices come well down from where they are.

    That said, for me a big draw back is they are one more thing that needs batteries or an outlet. I keep reading about them going with you to the beach and such, but I can envision just getting to the good part of a book and the batteries dying. That means having to keep stocked up on batteries and having to drag around spare batteries.

    Yuck.

    Bad enough I have to do that for my digital camera.

    If I was traveling or commuting, I would want the paper book. A lot of people will also have the feeling Jason mentions of wanting something different when they spend their whole work day in front of a screen.

    I can't see any advantage to the e-readers or e-books until prices come down on both. The e-library books do sound interesting. I might get one for that.

    Sandra

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