One blogger's take: Why e-books could ruin trade publishing
You might or might not agree, but if you care about books it's well worth taking a look. Blogger Evan Schnittman (blackplasticglasses.com) posted an interesting piece yesterday entitled "Why e-books must fail."
Schnittman runs through a basic explanation of how trade publishing works – and then explains why that model will be destroyed if e-books prevail. It is better to read Schnittman himself and get the details, but the bottom line is that e-books are not priced to allow publishers to spend the way they need to on their front lists (new books – which are often bid on at great expense.)
Also, e-books do not allow publishers to sell large amounts of their products to bookstores and then take returns (which is currently standard practice.) It also happens to be a practice which creates a lot of cash upfront – which e-books would not.
"Ebooks, if successful," Schnittman writes, "will sink the trade publishing industry."
It's a dramatic statement, followed shortly by what is perhaps a more relevant one: "[U]nless a very different model evolves, ebooks can never become the dominant version of content sold by book publishers."
E-books are surging. That much seems clear. Whether or not they will become "dominant" remains to be seen. But one way or the other, it's hard to imagine that that "different model" will not be necessary.