By this point we’re all used to watching some big media companies not understand the market for digital content or digital sales, and it comes as no surprise when one offers products no one wants, cripples products with DRM, or generally makes it hard to legally consume content (note: I’m not just talking ebooks here). But every so often I am forced to relearn the fact that such short-sightedness isn’t the exclusive purview of large companies.
Zola Books has announced today that they’re opening a new ebookstore next month. As part of their strategy to draw in customers they plan to offer exclusive ebook titles, including some which have not be available before. The first exclusive title will be Audrey Niffenegger’s novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife.
I’ve mentioned this book once before, when I used it to explain why people commit piracy. This book was published 9 years ago, and back in 2009 it was made into a movie. That was when I first heard of it, and I was one of many readers who were frustrated by Niffenegger refusal to release the book in digital form. My point at the time was that many pirates were frustrated would be customers who were denied the opportunity to pay for the content they wanted to buy. And today we have another example of how pirates are frustrated would be customers.
This story, which I have loved to reread over the years and currently own in paper and video, is soon going to be available as an ebook. It will only be available from a single ebookstore, Zola Books, a startup which thinks it can be Pottermore and offer exclusive titles that readers will have to go to the site to buy. That’s nit going to work, and it’s likely going to result in a lot of frustrated would be customers. As I’ve said in the past, there is only one Pottermore and it cannot be copied.
I won’t be buying this ebook. I have accounts at countless ebookstores, and my rule for setting up a new account at a new ebookstore is my level of desperation for the titles it offers. In the case of Zola Books, the answer is not too damn high. They’re not selling Harry Potter ebooks nor any other high value exclusive title, so setting up an account is not worth my time.
Once again Niffenegger is choosing to forgo sales for the sake of some principle. That’s her choice, but it once again will frustrate potential customers. I’m sure that I’m not along in wanting to buy ebooks from my preferred ebookstore, not be forced to use a new one. Even leaving aside the issue of preference, I know of several Kindle owners who would only want to buy the ebook from Amazon, for the sake of convenience if nothing else.