Not Ready For E-Time: Meyers Ebook Release Delayed

August 1st, 2008 · 4 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

Last night, I had dinner with the digital team from Harlequin — one of the most, if not the most, forward looking publishers when it comes to migrating to a digital future — and came away feeling positive about the mindset of the industry. Today, I’m feeling like we’ve taken two steps back. The fine folks at Hachette, the parent company of Little, Brown, have decided to delay the ebook release of Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn until 24 hours after the print edition went on sale.

I actually knew about this yesterday and considered it the height of stupidity. Today, however, the “acknowledged” reason, as as reported by Publisher’s Weekly, makes my head hurt:

The reason cited for the change was that LBBYR parent company Hachette Book Group USA was concerned retailers would not be able to stagger the release according to time zones, thus potentially enabling e-book buyers in Western time zones to begin read the book before the print edition goes on sale in the same time zone. A spokesperson for Hachette acknowledged the company changed the release date at the last minute, and said the publisher “will manage this type of situation more efficiently in the future. We apologize for any confusion or frustration this change may have caused.”

First off, are ebook sales sosignificant that military-grade maneuvers are required to manage the ebook release? Is the world really going to come to an end just because a few people in other time zones get a major release first (and maybe, just maybe, this apparent privilege would stimulate some different thinking on ebooks)? Rhetorical, yes. Heaven forbid that people buy and read books before the appointed time.

What year is this? 1956?

This does, of course, make the entire concept of embargoed and time zone dependent releases seem that much sillier. Is it really fair that, when the bookstores all have the product in stock, the East Coast readers get to buy and start reading first? Are they more privileged than West Coast readers? Or maybe it’s assumed they’re slow readers and the Pacific side of the country will catch up, thus avoiding the all-dreaded spoilers.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get that the industry is wanting to turn this release into party central. People can party at time zone appropriate hours. It’s okay to inject a little sense into the process. I’m serious. Why are readers being made to suffer, even if only a small number of readers, at a time when the competition for their attention is so intense. An author of Meyers’ stature might be able to sustain reader interest despite the obvious disrespect, but it’s long past time that the industry look at its practices related to embargoing books.

Yes, of course, this is going to destroy the so-called explosive exclusive information contained in the pages of overpriced, over-advanced books by former government officials — and isn’t it sad that no real information is ever revealed? — but I think we can live with that pain. You have to admit there’s something sad about the fact that the release of just a few tidbits of information from these books can impact the entire sales cycle. Books are being written by people who really don’t have that much to say.

Hatchette’s decision makes them look silly and not ready for prime time. It’s not like they didn’t know the release date of this book. It’s not like they’re not sitting in the same workshops I am, hearing from expert after expert after expert about the importance of meeting today’s readers on their own ground. It’s not like the world will stop spinning if one reader gets a book ahead of another.

Nope. All it’s like is that this company is doing 1950’s era business in a 2008 world.

File Under: The Future of Publishing

4 responses so far ↓

  • Booklorn » Friday Field Trip #1 // Aug 1, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    […] Meyers ebook release delayed for 24 hours because someone might get to read it before the print edition goes on sale in their time zone. Not. Kidding. […]

  • Anonymous // Aug 1, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    As an Australian, I resent this even more – Breaking Dawn is being released on the 4th here. Yet all the stock has been sitting in bookstores and the like for the last two weeks. Now I can’t even get the ebook on the same date as America gets the physical book.

    Way to alienate an entire country of readers.

  • Ami // Aug 4, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I couldn’t agree more about Harlequin–I’ve always been extremely impressed with their ability to take on the digital age.

    Excellent point about the lack of time zone-linked sales being a *selling* point for ebooks. I had never considered that before!

  • Tyline // Sep 19, 2008 at 3:50 am

    Anyone know when the release date for “wild card” by lora leigh on ebook? and who will have it (what ebook site)