Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Macmillan eBook Policy Mixes Enhanced Editions and Frontlist Delays
Report from Publishers Lunch

Macmillan ceo John Sargent reported a new ebook policy for the house yesterday, blending enhanced, premium price e-versions with a delay of "several months" on other titles: "Our goal is to give the consumer what they want, when they want it, at a fair price. In 2010 we will publish our bestsellers in several ways. Some bestsellers will be enhanced with additional content and priced to reflect their increased value to the consumer. These will be published at the same time as the hardcover and will be available for three months as special editions. We will publish other bestsellers, without enhancements, several months after the hardcover release. We will adjust the number of special edition bestsellers we publish based on the market response. Working with our authors, we will continue to experiment with new models going forward."

Sargent declined to indicate planned title counts--either for the enhanced ebooks, or the delayed titles. Most of the additional content will be text-driven--such as author interviews and readers' guides--so the bulk of the enhanced titles will be published for standard ebook platforms. The WSJ says those versions will have "a list price slightly higher than the hardcover edition."

On the issue of establishing a different release window for some ebooks, Simon & Schuster spokesman Adam Rothberg reiterates that release "sequencing has been a common practice in other media for quite some time," just as publishing has long offered "different formats that have traditionally been released at different points in time." The house's new policy reflects the "simple decision that the right sequence of publishing the ebook is the time-frame between the hardcover and the paperback." He notes "we understand that there is an urge with digital media to have it more, faster, now. We're trying to hit upon a happy medium."

He underscores that "contrary what people are thinking, we do value the patronage of our ebook reading customers. Everybody needs to understand that what we're talking about is finding a way to work with our authors, our retailers, and our technology partners to simultaneously grow the ebook business but sustain the long-term health of all the parties in our industry.... We're trying to take the long view." Rothberg says their new ebook release window should provide an additional marketing opportunity as well.

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