Ted Kennedy book not getting simultaneous release

It has just been announced that the highly-anticipated Ted Kennnedy memoir, True Compass, will not be released in a Kindle edition simultaneously with the paper edition on September 14, 2009.

According to an AP article, Twelve, the publishing company, said it was doing this for business reasons, and reported that Jonathan Karp said that the hardback “…deserves to be the first and pre-eminent format for the book.”

This is part of an ongoing and unresolved issue.  E-book readers want the books at the same time as the hardbacks.  Some publishers are showing a reluctance to do that, because of uncertainty about how the e-book sales will affect the paperbook (p-book) sales.

The concern isn’t that they make more money per copy in paperbooks (p-books).  Analysis I’ve seen suggests that the profit per copy is higher on e-books, which makes sense.

My understanding is that the publisher’s concern is that e-books will cannibalize (and discourage) p-book sales. 

The p-book  has a paper list price of $35, and Amazon has it priced at $19.25.  Amazon is likely to be paying the publisher $17.50 per copy.

It is common for the digital list price (set by the publisher) to be the same as the paper list price.  Let’s assume it’s the same in this case.  Amazon would probably pay the publisher $17.50 (the same as for the paper), but sell it for $9.99.

The publisher will probably get the same payment from Amazon in both cases, so you would think they would want to get the e-book sales too, right?

One issue is that the author may have a higher royalty per copy on the e-book.  Of course, balancing that would be the lower production, transportation, and storage costs.

However, let’s say people see that $9.99 price advertized and say, “I’m not paying $19 for a $9 book!”  That could hurt the p-book sales…even with people who don’t buy e-books.  Perception is huge in marketing, and somebody who sees the ad may not notice that it is an e-book.

One could argue that there is a parallel with hardbacks and paperbacks.  Paperbacks are typically not released until some time after the hardback (a year used to be common) to give time for the hardback sales to peak and decline.

It isn’t just this book, or this publisher.  What may be the biggest book of the year is due on September 15.  It was considered a victory for Amazon when it was set for simultaneous release.

What is seen as another major test is Stephen King’s next novel, Under the Dome.  It is due in p-book (as a hardcover) on November 10, 2009, and the publisher (Scribner’s) hasn’t announced an e-book release date yet. 

As e-book sales continue to claim a larger share of the publishing market (and I think they will), I would guess we’ll see fewer staggered releases.  Remember that with p-books, the publishers have  to figure out how many to print, and that’s a big question.  When they have enough of a track record to predict how the e-book sales influence that decision, that will help as well.

So, e-book readers lost on this one, but I think it’s a short-term tactical loss.  We’ll see what happens with Under the Dome…

If you’d like to express your opinion to Twelve, you can do that here:


If you’d like to encourage Scribner’s to do a simultaneous release, their contact is:


This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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