PW reported last week that Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy gave a keynote at BISG’s annual meeting. Reidy is described as first saying that buyers of lit fiction “just as much as readers of commercial fiction”, and then went on to discuss ebook prices:
Despite predictions that e-books might reach 50% of all book sales, Reidy said e-books sales have slowed and are likely to settle at about “25% to 30%” of total book sales. Although initially e-books helped jump backlist sales, Reidy said, “not anymore,” noting that “the novelty has worn off.” She said now “there are fewer readers” entering in the digital category and said the slowing growth in e-book sales have pushed publishers back to “highlighting books as beautiful physical objects.”
Asked if the higher pricing of e-books, in the wake of publishers’ new agency agreements with Amazon, had also figured in the slowdown of e-book sales, Reidy noted that in the wake of publisher settlements over e-book price-fixing charges in the case with Apple, “I’m not supposed talk about pricing, ” but added that “our data says that our pricing is effective.”
No wonder she is not supposed to discuss ebook pricing; the higher ebook prices are the primary reason that ebook adoption has slowed among S&S customers.
Remember, Simon & Schuster is one of the publishers that signed an agency ebook deal over the past year. That deal gave S&S more control over its ebook prices, and they used that control to raise ebook prices.
As Scalzi explained, S&S is using higher ebook prices to prop up print sales. This command economy market practice is driving down demand for ebooks and discouraging readers from adopting ebooks.
Far from being a sign that “the novelty has worn off”, the fact that S&S’s ebook sales have leveled off tells us that the only way that S&S could stem the tide of ebook adoption was to follow a pricing policy that switched sales from one format to another.
That is not a stable situation, and it is not in any way, shape, or form an indicator of what the reading public wants. Instead, this is a precarious state that will only last as long as the major publishers maintain their current pricing policies.
We won’t really know what the market wants until the major publishers release their controls, and anyone who says otherwise is either fooling themselves, or trying to fool you.
image by ActuaLitté