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.