LJNDawson.com, Consulting to the Book Publishing Industry
Book Publishing Industry Consultant

Print vs audio books

So I downloaded Stephen Colbert's book - I haven't started listening to it yet. But I saw the review in the Times and was glad I'd chosen to listen rather than read.

Meanwhile, over at the Huffington Post, Michael Giltz uses the Colbert/Audible thing as a jumping-off point to talk about One More Thing That's Wrong With Publishing:

One of the suits says the audio book is so creative and different that, "I would think that you would buy the book and the audio because they are really different." In other words, he expects fans of Colbert to buy the hardcover book for $27, then buy the audio book for about $16 and while you're at it, when a downloadable version becomes available for your Sony Reader or computer or Blackberry, maybe you'd be willing to pay another $25 or so for that version. He's not alone. Even when the audio book isn't somewhat different from the hardcover, they expect fans of a book to buy it twice.

Imagine if the music industry demanded you buy one copy of your album for playing on your home stereo, another for your car, another for your iPod and so on. You wouldn't do it, would you? But the book industry - which publishes more than 100,000 titles a year - thinks it's perfectly reasonable to expect you to do it for books. 

I don't think anyone expects that readers are generally going to pursue both the audio and the print book, AND the ebook - people consume their media in different ways. But later Giltz goes on to talk about bundling products - buy the hardcover and get the audio or the ebook for free - which makes eminent sense. Seth Godin was talking about that at last year's Google Unbound conference. I think that's only a matter of time. Publishers are very leery about cannibalizing book sales via other media. But they are coming around, gradually.

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