Part Two: What the NY Publishers Are Doing Wrong with Ebooks

Last week, I had a short list of what publishers were doing right with ebooks. This week, I have a short list of what they are generally doing wrong with short individual complaints. (I am kind of ruining the whole “being thankful” thing, aren’t I?)

  • Lack consistency in releasing formats: I.e, Renee Bernard My Lady’s Pleasure is available in only Adobe and eReader formats, not Lit.
  • Lack customer support. It takes at least 5-10 days to get response back which is particularly egregious for a digital company, imo. I emailed Simon and Schuster last Monday about the Renee Bernard book and have yet to hear back from them.
  • Lack consistency in releasing books: All Night Long by Jayne Ann Krentz was originally available in hardcover in January of 2006. In October, the book was released in ebook format attached to a hardcover price.
  • Lack realistic pricing: This is probably my biggest grievance. Oftentimes, the prices of ebooks are above that of the mass market paperback. Sometimes, the ebook is still at the hardcover price when the mass market version has been released.
  • Inconsistent DRM: A reader should be able to read any title on any device.

Individually, here are my complaints:

  • Mr. Random House:

    I really, really hate the idea of the pay for page idea you guys think is so remarkable. First, I am not paying $14 for a mass market book just to read it online. Sorry, I am a fan of the digital format but I am not a stupid fan. It’s enough to make me want to stop buying Bantam books altogether. That and you aren’t offering many authors I find compelling these days.

  • Mr. Simon and Mr. Schuster:

    Your pricing scheme of 40% off is awesome, but your site is sucky. First, the website is often down. Second, when it is operating, you don’t allow immediate download of books. A buyer has to wait for something to happen and then an email is sent with the download link. I would write more about you but because your site was down all night, I couldn’t access it. Not great business practice.

  • Ms. Friedman of Harper Collins:

    First, it’s not very obvious when a reader visits your website that you even have ebooks available (Hint: It’s under the drop down box titled “Categories”.) When I go to the ebook page it’s not well laid out. For every different format, you have a different listing so one book will be listed four times. That makes it more difficult to find the book that you want and it makes it hard to browse for books that may be interesting.

    Also, I don’t know what I think of you releasing the individual stories in anthologies. It wouldn’t be so bad if the pricing was right, but it’s not. If This Bed Could Talk (an ebook I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet), is priced at Fictionwise for $9.95. The individual stories are priced at $3.95. If you buy individually, you end up paying $1.90 more per book. I am all for making a buck, but come on HarperCollins. First the $1.99 second epilogue and now the overpriced novellas taken from anthologies. That is stretching your dollar too thin.

  • Kensington:

    Why, oh why, do you sell your ebooks for more than I can find them at Powells or Fictionwise? I would rather buy from you and eliminate the middle man but when I can buy the same books for a $1 or more less somewhere else on the internet, why would I buy from you? It’s not like the buying experience is so much better at your site. I can’t search by date for your ebooks. Or even by title or author. You simply list them alphabetically and expect me to go through the 12 pages of books, one by one. I just want to know what your new releases are. I suggest making a “what’s new” page for ebooks.

  • St. Martin’s Press:

    Hey, do you know that there are things called ebooks? It’s where you make digital versions of your paper books and because of low overhead (ie no printing costs) and low distribution costs (ie. no warehousing costs), you have a much bigger margin on your product. You may want to check into it. I know you have a rep on the seat of the IDPF but it won’t do much good if you don’t actually release the books in e format. Okay, so you do release a few books in ebook format, but I want romances and I know of other readers that would like your romances released in ebook format. I know I would have loved to bought Hot Toy in e format.

  • Warner / Hachette

    See above letter to St. Martin’s Press. This applies to you too. Neil de Young stated that the IDPF standard heralds “the beginning of increased title availability and lower costs for publishers entering the eBook and digital reading market . . . Over the coming months we will be working with our vendors and partners to transition our entire eBook publishing program to the OCF standard.” I hope that you will include romances in whatever you have planned.

  • Penguin:

    Oh, we have a love hate relationship. Basically, I love your authors and you hate me. It’s not great relationship. You publish Nora Roberts, JD Robb, Jayne Ann Krentz, Emma Holly, JR Ward, Meljean Brook, Nalini Singh, Erin McCarthy, and the list goes on and on. Your authors are awesome. I probably look forward to Penguin books more than any other publisher. You seem to know what is hot right now. (Ie., everyone else is doing vamps and you are doing shapeshifters, pyschics and demons. Way to be ahead of the curve). But the ebook situation, that has got to change. First, would you mind actually releasing the ebooks consistently. For example, you released the first two books in the Nora Roberts circle trilogy on the day of its release but not the third. You didn’t release Jayne Ann Krentz’s All Night Long for 9 months and then you try to sell it to me at the hardcover price? I think not. BTW – you did that with Angel Falls by Nora Roberts too. Admittedly, it wasn’t a 9 month wait, but it was still an unconscionable lapse of time between the hardcover release and the ebook release.

    Let’s talk just briefly about your website. It’s, well, horrible is a good word for it. You don’t keep it up to date. If I click on Romance Angel Falls is the most recently released book (A JULY RELEASE!) which means that someone else must be responsible for the release of Nora Robert’s Circle Trilogy or Born in Death or JAK’s All Night Long and so on. Plus, what books are released in ebook format are not known. It’s like it is some big secret.

Please consider some of the things I’ve had to say. All I am asking is for you to make it easier for me to spend money. Is that really so much to ask?

After Thanksgiving, I hope to have some insight as to where e-publishing is going for New York. Kelley Allen the Director of New Media at Random House has agreed to answer some questions in that regard. If you have a question or concern that I should bring up with Random House, drop a comment.


0 comments on “Part Two: What the NY Publishers Are Doing Wrong with Ebooks

  1. Right on, right on, right on. I hate Kensington website. I give up. I refuse to wad through pages upon pages of books just to find new releases. It’s ridiculous. Maybe this ebook format stuff would go well if vendors, publishers would make them consistent and accessbile. It’s like they purposely throw obstacles in the way and for what? I am fustrated with them all right now.

    My big, burning question is: what is the holdback in releasing mm paperbacks into a digital format? What is the problem? You would think that publishers would jump at the opportunity but they are not.

  2. Great list. I particularly like the breakdown by publisher.

    I hate the lack of ebook visibility. When publishers announce future titles, I want to know whether or not there will be an ebook release AND what the release date is for the ebook. I have had the most luck finding this information at Simon & Schuster but they seem to pre-announce that many titles will be available in ebook format and then back away.

    But as well as publishers, I am also frustrated with authors. I guess that you need to have the success of Michael Connelly before you can announce on your web site that your titles are available in print, audible and ebook releases. Everyone else must think that the digital release is a shameful secret.

  3. re. Kensington: I had a very good experience contacting them directly. Since they are just in the beginning process of digitizing their books, I would suggest contacting them with requests for more competitive pricing and easier sorting. RIght now all their books are advertised at 30% off, too, and they are looking for readers to submit reviews to the site. Although I totally agree that the site is terrible to try to navigate, I think they really do want to make it reader-friendly. I couldn’t even find any contact information the last time I was on Penguin’s site. And now that I know they have Signet, I’m feeling even less friendly toward them.

  4. You didn’t mention eHarlequin’s foray into eBook publishing. I only went there once, so I can’t say whether the policies are still the same but:

    *eBooks, while discounted, cost more than the same print books offered on the site

    *like Kennsington, the eBooks pricing is slightly higher than that offered at third-party sites (like Fictionwise)

    *the eBooks are offered in two formats only on the eHarlequin website, even though they’re offered in more formats at Fictionwise (specifically, I’m thinking of the eReader format)

  5. As a small press author I have mixed feedlings about all this e-format fumling. Why are small publishers like Ellora’s Cave and Samhain breaking through? because they are exploiting the ebook niche the big presses are consistently mishandling 😉

  6. Ah, Miki S- you are so right. I totally phased on Harlequin. Thanks for bringing up those points. And yes, I feel like e-readers are dirty little secrets. We are the red headed step children. 🙂

  7. My biggest quibble with ebook publishers? Why are some books in a series available as ebooks while others are not? For example: Eloisa James’s Essex sisters series. The first two are available as ebooks, but the third is not. I went to the HarperCollins website today to find out when the fourth one would be released–and wouldn’t you know, it will be available as an ebook! But still not the third. Go figure.

  8. I’m very new to the ebook experience, so new in fact, maybe I shouldn’t even comment but I will anyway. The two big issues here are, IMO, are the release date and the price.

    I cannot conceive of a reason why, other than greed, the pubs would sell an ebook the price of a HC or a PB!!!!! There’s no paper, no ink, on stocking, no shipping. It’s just a click or two and tada! so such a price is unjustified.

    As for the release date, if the book is coming out in HC, then maybe they should have it in ebook afterwards, in case that influences sales or something. Maybe the ebook could come out the same day as the PB? If the book is out in PB first, then why not have the ebook released the same day…at a LOWER price???

    On the other hand, if what Azure says happened with EJ’s Essex books, I am NOT happy. You end up having to buy a paperback and 3 ebooks, that doesn’t make since.

    Furthermore, why don’t the publishers put out the author backlists that they own the rights to in ebook format? If you’re relatively new to Romance, you keep reading about these Keepers and other famous/infamous books and some aren’t just OOP, they’re MIA!!! And I’m certainly not going to pay $80 for a 15 yr-old paperback, hell no!

    There is a third issue, the format thing, but as dumb as it sounds to me, I have a feeling the NY people aren’t going to address that until e-buys are a significant part of their sales.

  9. ok, that was “…a paperback and 3 ebooks, that doesn’t make sense” and not since. Actually that whole paragraph is a little crazy but I think you get the point anyway…I hope.

  10. Great list! Out of all of them, I think this one bothers me the most.

    “Lack realistic pricing”

    That goes for the smaller ebook publishers, too.

  11. Okay, I’m going to stick my nose in here … again. To see how it should be done right check out Baen Publishing’s Webscription at

    They bring out the e-book at the same time as the HC but at a PB price, then once the PB is released the e-book price is reduced.

    And they will let you download it immediatly in any of about six different formats,

    Perhaps if enough customers ask why their sites aren’t as user friendly as Baen’s is they’ll get the message.

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