It could change — and probably will when the first flurry is over — but, as I type, the Kindle edition of Dan Brown’s latest thriller The Lost Symbol is outselling the hardback on Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN). Meanwhile, Ted Kennedy’s True Compass, the other hot book release this week, can’t be bought via Kindle or Sony (NYSE: SNE) or as an e-book at all.
The rationale behind keeping the late senator’s memoirs off e-readers indefinitely? Jonathan Karp, the head of publisher Twelve (an imprint in the Hachette Book Group), told the AP delaying the e-release was a “business decision” and decried the inability to duplicate the pictures and illustrations in e-book form: “It does not reflect any larger corporate policy. … We publish each book individually and we felt that this particular hardcover edition of `True Compass’ deserves to be the first and pre-eminent format for the book.” Poppycock.
That same reasoning didn’t keep Twelve from releasing the non-visual unabridged audio book, list price $49.98, Amazon $29.23. It does, however, mean if you want True Compass you have to buy either the hardback, list price $35, easily available at discounts from 25-40 percent, or that audio version. I pre-ordered the hardback, second-day delivery from Amazon $18.90. It arrived late Wednesday afternoon and, as I suspected, the pictures are nice but it’s the words that matter. They would be no less powerful or meaningful on a Kindle or other device (although I have no desire to read a 500-page book on the Kindle for iPhone). The usual price for Kindle editions is $9.99, with Amazon making up the difference to publishers when it’s below wholesale. Some Kindle books sell for more.
Twelve may gain some hardback sales through this tactic; I suspect, though, that it’s leaving more sales on the table. Kindles cater especially to people who buy on impulse because of its wireless delivery. Read about a book you want before takeoff? Click and you have it. Run out of books late at night? Click. While publicity for Sen. Kennedy’s book is at its highest, e-book readers will be an untapped audience. Meanwhile,
I didn’t buy True Compass in hardback because Kindle was unavailable — I wanted it that way — but I have skipped other books because they aren’t or picked them at the library when I don’t feel the urge to own a copy and will continue to do so.