The news that publishers are considering to hold back eBook editions of books sounds like a bad development for readers but poses a risk for the publishers themselves.
A cynic would be forgiven for suspecting some in the publishing world are hoping book lovers will get bored of waiting for the eBook edition and buy the hardback edition on release before paying again for the eBook edition.
I know several people who do this already with paperback editions, passing on their larger hardbacks for the lighter, space-saving paperbacks to re-read an already enjoyed book on the move. However paperback books are always cheaper than their hardback siblings and even these lower prices are quickly discounted.
As we’ve already reported, eBook titles are often significantly more expensive than paper editions. It’s hard to see how publishers can expect to keep charging for eBooks at a premium while delaying their publication. Customers will expect eBooks which are released months after their paper versions to be heavily discounted.
It’s clear that many publishers are trying to retain control over eBooks in a way they’ve not been able to with paper books. The inability of the music, TV and film industries to control how, when and at what price consumers accessed their output suggests publishers will ultimately be unsuccessful.
At best they’ll succeed in slowing down the take-up of eBooks as a format but they risk creating a new wave of copyright infringements.
It’s not entirely unheard of for paper books to find their way online illegally and with eBook readers supporting image and PDF formats – both standard output files for desktop scanners – most homes have the technology to scan a book and put it on their eBook reader.
Sure, that’s pretty time consuming but making people wait for an eBook edition of the latest ‘must have’ book will create the motivation to put the work in, perhaps initially scanning in a chapter or two so they can continue reading their book on the bus.
It’s not too large a leap to imagine people being willing to share their scanned books with others, initially members of their family, friends and work colleagues, but eventually the torrent sites will be awash with bootleg copies of the latest blockbusters.
The inability of sectors of the entertainment world to learn from the mistakes their colleagues have made in the digital world is breathtaking.