Staggered Digital Release Dates Worry Music Industry–Are Books Next?

by Evil Wylie

Lil Wayne has shocked the music industry again, but this time it's not for his love of firearms, drugs, or lollipops. According to Billboard:

The rapper released his new album, "I Am Not a Human Being," initially through digital channels only, with the physical release coming out two weeks later on Oct. 12.... Most brick-and-mortar merchants worry that putting a digital release out early could turn into a trend.

"It's disturbing," says one merchant. "Its definitely putting brick-and-mortar second, and we are going to lose business that we would normally get. How is the consumer going to know that the album will have a second physical release?"

Simon & Schuster and Hachette have toyed around with staggering release dates of ebooks, choosing to release the ebook weeks or even months after the hardcover in a move intended to artificially inflate demand for print books. "The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback," said Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster.

Some publishers are taking the opposite approach. Harlequin's Carina Press is a "digital first" imprint that plans to release its most successful ebooks as print books; Dorchester Publishing recently switched to a "digital first" model due to sluggish mass market sales.

Amazon is even getting in on the "digital first" movement: their AmazonEncore imprint will release J.A. Konrath's new book, Shaken, on Kindle in October--four months before it bows in print next February.

Is there a "right" or "wrong" release window for digital and physical products? Could more publishers follow in Lil Wayne's trailblazing footsteps and introduce ebooks weeks or months before print books?

1 Comment on Staggered Digital Release Dates Worry Music Industry–Are Books Next?

  1. Well, BAEN usually releases their ebook editions a few weeks before the treeware versions and nobody’s made much of a fuss thus far.

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