August 15, 2008
The E-Book Curmudgeon
Have I reached curmudgeon status yet? Probably. If not, I still have my eyes on the prize.
All revenues, cost of goods, and expenses of the e-book [should be] held against the appropriate division or profit center and judged according to whether or not they result in profits. Note that we’ve said nothing about hits, eyeballs, or any other measures of website “visibility” here. . . . Just getting hits or eyeballs doesn’t guarantee sales.” (p. 283)
Now there’s a consultant you gotta love. Spare me the hype, the glitz, the shiny new thing. If it loses money, that's a problem. And what is so wrong or out of fashion or dull about making a profit with print? Of course, if you can do it digitally, go for it.
E-books, therefore, should be treated no differently than any other product line, category, or division of the company. Profit is the goal, nothing more or less. If you can’t generate profits, then either rethink the business or get out of the business. (p. 285)
Having been sufficiently curmudgeonly, there are some very attractive possibilities with digital publishing:
* Searchability. Especially with reference or academic books, this is a very attractive feature, even for those who prefer print. So attractive they might buy the book twice—one in print and one in digital.
* Reduced costs. If you can reuse the electronic file of the manuscript several times with minimal conversion costs, you are on your way to cost savings.
* No returns. Especially with e-books sold on a nonreturnable basis, all of the amazing complex problems associated with physical returns are eliminated.
Most publishers will benefit from aiming for the kind of balance Andrew Brenneman suggests when it comes to a digital strategy. Don’t ignore electronic publishing. But don’t be swept up by irrational enthusiasm.