Globe Pequot and Amazon: Exclusive Is Another Word For Alienating Readers

September 10th, 2008 · 8 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

So I’d like to talk about disenfranchisement of readers. It’s happened twice in this political season, and I think we need to talk openly about it before it becomes a serious trend. You all remember that little issue with Chelsea Green and the decision to bypass traditional bookstores in order to make a POD splash at the Democratic Convention?

These deals seem sexy, with tossing off the words like “exclusive” in the press release.

Now we have Globe Pequot Press offering biographies of the potential First Ladies (in 2008, that’s a slightly annoying term), prior to print release, to Kindle customers only. In the case of the Cindy McCain biography, that one only goes to print if her husband wins the election. You’ll be able to get the Michelle Obama biography win or lose, apparently.

Now, I applaud Globe Pequot’s smart decision to make these books available in electronic editions prior to print release because these election cycles, though they seem endless, move rapidly, and we simply don’t have time to wait for traditional publishing practices. When books are clearly time sensitive, it makes sense to use non-traditional means to get them into the distribution stream rapidly (see article from the Wall Street Journal for more emphasis on this point. Amazon’s statement notes this with a touch of neener-neener-neener:

“We’re pleased to offer Amazon Kindle customers the chance to read Cindy McCain’s and Michelle Obama’s biographies months before the print editions come out later this year,” said Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon Kindle. “Using Kindle’s wireless delivery, customers who purchase these timely books can start reading them in less than 60 seconds.”

Of course, what is not noted is that is exclusive deal leave out readers who, oh, own the Sony eReader, iPhones, Palm devices, laptops, desktops, and other devices suitable for reading electronic books. It should be noted that the non-Kindle ereader population vastly exceeds aggregate Kindle ownership.

Basically, Globe Pequot has decided that it’s so important to get these books out to the reading and voting public in a timely manner that they’ve…cut out the majority of the potential market. Go progress!

Amazon has a vested interest in forging exclusive deals to both solidify its market share and hogtie its customers to a device (as a Kindle owner, I am both happy with the ease of purchase and uncomfortable with what this seamless relationship between Amazon and me means). Globe Pequot has a vested interest in, what? I’d imagine that making its customers happy would be a start.

These deals surely seem very sexy, what with tossing off the words like “exclusive” and satisfaction in “less than 60 seconds”, but, until the Kindle reaches iPhone-like market penetration (and not seeing that happening, for reasons outlined in Kirk’s article), exclusive means disenfranchising readers at a time when fulfilling reader wants — convenience, flexible formats, and good prices — should be wallpapered in every publishing office in the world.

Your customer doesn’t care about corporate bragging rights. Your customer wants the book now or as close to now as is possible. Not only should readers who want ebooks get the format they prefer, but readers of print books shouldn’t have to wait so long for books that might not be relevant weeks from now. Things change too fast to play by the old rules.

File Under: The Business of Publishing

8 responses so far ↓

  • deb smith // Sep 12, 2008 at 9:08 am

    While I can see all sides to this issue, as a small press publisher trying to survive the wasteful and oppressive returns system demanded by booksellers I’m thrilled to see the Kindle taking off. Despite some bumpy diplomacy along the way, ebooks and POD are here to stay. Booksellers need to embrace them instead of kvetching about these exclusive deals.

  • Kat J. Meyer // Sep 12, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Agreed – timely titles like these are what digital does best, but exclusive deals won’t win any fans among the reading public – kindle-owning or not. Does anyone else find it slightly ironic that titles ultimately meant to support the democratic process are not being democratically distributed? Just doesn’t sit too well with me. And in a world where publishers should be doing all they can to create a positive branding experience with readers, Globe-Pequot and Chelsea Green should be thinking about the big customer service picture rather than the short spurt of sales and publicity from this kind of exclusive deal.

  • Laural Bidwell // Sep 12, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Well…I think most of those wasteful and opressive returns issues relate primarily to the chain stores. As a small independent bookstore – most likely to support small publishers…I find it ironic that they are the first to abandon their biggest supporters. I recognize that ebooks are here to stay – and POD delivery systems are likely to be upgraded to the point where I can offer books to my customers the moment they ask for them. It is the exclusively to AMazon (who is not paying sales taxes….to most states…a side issue) that I take issue with.

  • Stephen Briggs // Sep 12, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Since Adobe came up with their PDF format, you’d think manufacturers (especially for e-books) would take advantage of it. I don’t own either a Kindle or a Reader yet but I know the Sony Reader can accept PDF files at least. This is drawing the e-book reading public into a ‘Mac vs PC’ type war. Do we really need that?

  • Don Miles // Sep 12, 2008 at 11:00 am

    The chain bookstores have “had it coming” for a while. Example: iUniverse publishers, partly owned by Barnes & Noble, promises potential authors that their books will be for sale in B&N stores worldwide. Sound too good to be true? It is! What they mean is that if you walk up to store clerks and provide the exact title and author, they’ll order it online for you. Don’t expect to see it stocked on their shelves. You can call that what you want. I call it “lying.”

    Don Miles. Author, Cinco de Mayo: What is Everybody Celebrating?

  • Joe Biden » Blog Archive » The book battles of Obama and McCain // Sep 25, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    [...] the hard copies will be available, and that Amazon has an exclusive for its e-reader. Litblogger Booksquare points out that "the non-Kindle e-reader population vastly exceeds aggregate Kindle ownership." She [...]

  • John McCain » Blog Archive » The book battles of Obama and McCain // Sep 27, 2008 at 6:06 am

    [...] the hard copies will be available, and that Amazon has an exclusive for its e-reader. Litblogger Booksquare points out that "the non-Kindle e-reader population vastly exceeds aggregate Kindle ownership." She [...]

  • Barack Obama » Blog Archive » The book battles of Obama and McCain // Oct 6, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    [...] the hard copies will be available, and that Amazon has an exclusive for its e-reader. Litblogger Booksquare points out that "the non-Kindle e-reader population vastly exceeds aggregate Kindle ownership." She [...]