Fighting Back

Publishers Delay E-Books

In response to ever-decreasing book sales and shakeups in the world of digital publishing, two major houses are holding back on the release of e-books, an attempt to encourage customers to buy the higher-priced physical books instead of instantly purchasing the digital versions. “The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback,” said the CEO of Simon & Schuster, which is waiting four months to release digital versions of its biggest 35 titles this year, including Karl Rove’s memoir and Don DeLillo’s latest novel. “We believe some people will be disappointed. But with new [electronic] readers coming and sales booming, we need to do this now, before the installed base of e-book reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible." Hachette Book Group has adopted a similar plan, and Chief Executive David Young said, “We’re doing this to preserve our industry. I can’t sit back and watch years of building authors sold off at bargain-basement prices.” The move is similar to the practice of delaying the release of paperback editions until after the hardcover release, but represents a larger tension in the realm of pricing—a typical hardcover release costs around $27, while e-book editions cost around $9.99—and experts speculate that book prices may see a permanent drop similar to what has happened with digital music.