“Hi everyone, and thanks for tuning in! Welcome to another episode of Publishing Hypocrisy … the game where we show both faces of the bookselling industry!”
“Our first contestant tonight – is Jane from Melbourne! Hi, Jane.” [Applause]
“Hi, Brad! I’m a bit nervous!”
“Jane! [Pulls her in close] You’ve got nothing to worry about – you know exactly how the game works … You pick a topic and then simply rank three examples of modern publishing and bookselling hypocrisy in order of heinousness – and hilarity.”
“Let’s go to the big board! And you folks at home – don’t forget to play along!”
“Well Brad, I’ve got a Kindle, so I’m gonna choose ‘e-Publishing Fairytales’.”
“Well done, Jane. Here are your three options…
“[Close-up]…Number one: The Hardcover Hornswaggle.
In this tasty piece of reverse logic, The New York Times this week reported that debt-mired US publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish eBook editions for 12 José Saramago’s novels. The novels and an additional novella will be sold in an eBook collection for $US36. The Times quotes Bruce Nichols, the senior vice president and publisher of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, as saying, “In print, it would be unwieldy and expensive, but electronically, it is affordable and convenient.”
“Ah, our audience has longer memories than those at HMH! Yes! The struggling company was among the big US publishers that were quick to jump onboard the agency model bandwagon, a move that forced ebook prices up to and sometimes beyond those of hardbacks!”
[Raucous audience applause]
“And then they tried to justify the high prices, saying ebook production was almost as expensive as that of hardcovers!”
[Shrieks of laughter]
“Oh, Brad – that’s a good one.”
“OK, Jane. Here’s [Close-up] … Number two: The Google Editions U-turn.
In this monumental reversal, a little over a year ago, when the notion of a web-centric Google Editions bookstore was raised, and before that when the Google book scanning furore blew up, publishers around the world were up in arms, citing the death of bookstores and an industry in smoking ruins … babies slaughtered in the streets, cows passing sour milk and birds flying backwards into the sun.”
“Now, 12 months and a 5-10% drop in profits later, world publishing smells a crisis – without Google Editions. So now publishers are happily talking partnership with Google’s Editions store …”
“No, it’s true – it’s happening across Europe right now!
“And now, Jane, [close-up] … for your third example of publishing and bookselling hypocrisy, we go to Australia’s Dymocks Duck-and-Run. You’re really gonna like this one, Jane. After a decade of business stagnation, retail overpricing, and a softly-softly approach to ebooks, Australian bookselling chain Dymocks is considering moving part of its business offshore. ABC news reports that the chain is citing Australia’s 10% sales tax (GST) as the reason it may leave. Back in the day, Dymocks did argue for more competition in the industry, but haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire with their ebook offering. It’s been more than four years in the making, and boasts a couple of hundred thousand titles. There evooks are prices in the $20-35 range, so they’re all about competition! ‘We’re actually having to make a decision on whether or not we move our online business off-shore,’ Dymocks CEO Don Grover said. ‘It would actually make more sense for us to send books from an overseas location back into Australia and avoid the GST.’”
“But Brad! Theycharging something like 50% more than others for books, and now want to move offshore to save 10%. Huh!?”
“Yes Jane! Ain’t it great! That’s why this game is so fun!!!”
[Thunderous applause and the throwing of flowers, underwear…]