Big Idea: These Books Are Made for Reading (Not Just Selling)
Book Business asked industry thought leaders to discuss the big ideas that are changing the book industry. We are excited about the future of publishing, and we hope these essays invigorate you with new and illuminating perspectives on that future. View the complete essay collection here.
You may have noticed that in recent discussions about ebooks, the word "reading" has somehow gone missing. The talk is all about selling, pricing, royalties, etc.-as if these books are made merely for selling. But they aren't. They are made for reading. If we create smart, beautiful, entertaining books that are not read, we have created nothing.
The bookselling mindset is essential with print books. They have to be sold to cover production and distribution costs. In the ebook space, however, this mindset doesn't make sense. And it's harmful to all.
The main advantage of anything digital is instant availability. The cost of making a copy of an ebook and sending it around the world is negligible. Anyone, anywhere, anytime can have access to all the ebooks out there, no expense involved. But the industry is still stuck on selling books, and refuses to let people read before they complete the purchase (I disregard the preview option as its just a teaser, a prelude to the sale).
I'd like to suggest a bold step. Let people read whatever, wherever, whenever. Let them download to their tablets and phones as many ebooks as they like and keep them there indefinitely. Yes, create infinite immediate availability. And then concentrate on the real thing: reading. Charge the readers for what they actually read, for the value they get, and not for the license to try out something they know little about. Sound revolutionary? Maybe. But all stand to gain.
Related story: Big Idea: How Books Can Move Beyond the "Tradigital"