This week, the Guardian ran a quote from Arnaud Nourry, chief executive of Hachette Livre, saying that ebooks are “a stupid product” which have “no creativity” and have so far only had “one or two successes among a hundred failures.”
If you haven’t heard of them, Hachette is currently the world’s third largest trade publisher so we can assume that if any company can try and make eBooks into a successful business, it’s them.
This isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s been following the ebook, print battle. Last year, in the UK the sales of print books increased by 4% while ebook sales diminished by the same amount.
An interesting point Nourry makes is the economics behind ebooks.
If you let the price of ebooks go down to say $2 or $3 in western markets, you are going to kill all infrastructure, you’re going to kill booksellers, you’re going to kill supermarkets, and you are going to kill the author’s revenues.
However, and this is a big, however, as an aspiring author who plans to self-publish, ebooks most certainly have their place. There are thousands of authors independently selling their work in an electronic format because trying to fund a print run is massively out of reach for most. A free ebook is also an amazing way to introduce people to your work. Odds are a lot won’t take advantage of the offer, but anyone who does, you have a good chance of hooking them.
As the Guardian always does, the day after the ebooks are stupid article, they published an opinion article which takes the opposite stance. One of the many reasons I love the Guardian. This was by Erin Kelly, the author of He Said/She Said, who says that ebooks are in fact a revolution.
…effortless chain-reading is something hard to replicate with the physical book – very few authors can be confident of walking into any bookshop or supermarket to find their entire canon for sale. The ebook of He Said/She Said has reignited interest in my other books, and brought new readers to the novels that, in genteel publishing speak, “underperformed” at the time. I’m as grateful for that as anything.
The fact is, I find reading my books on a screen a struggle. My eyes skip and I don’t feel as engaged with the material as I do on the page. After all, I spend my entire day looking at a screen at work. If I read a book on my Kindle I love, I will immediately buy it again in print. There’s nothing wrong with an electronic version, but a Kindle for me is just a device, like a computer or my phone. But a book I can hug.