We are at a fascinating juncture in the publishing industry. Penguin and Random House are merging, partly to better deal with the disruptive aspects of digital technology. Of course, Penguin publishes ebooks too -- including What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (and the e-version of “regular” books like 168 Hours).
I was thrilled with how quickly and easily WTMSPD Before Breakfast was produced, and how the lower price point and length that are economical in the ebook-only format made my book an impulse buy. Convincing people to buy a $25 product that will take them hours to consume is difficult. Convincing them to spend $3 to buy something they can read (or listen to) on a commute turns out to be much easier.
That said, over the last few months, I’ve been realizing that a need for information is not the only problem books solve. Books are also a physical manifestation of an idea, and can be a souvenir or gift.
I do a lot of speaking these days to different groups. Often, these groups want to buy my books for their members and hand them out at the event. I can sign the book, pose with the book and the reader for pictures, etc. The event organizers and I have been pondering how, or whether, an ebook can serve this role. You can give an ebook as a gift (though it’s a bit less straightforward than simply handing it to the recipient) but it’s kind of like handing out a gift certificate. Nice, but not ideal. And if the organizer has the mindset of giving participants a physical souvenir of an event, then an ebook isn’t going to work at all.
We usually wind up chucking the idea and ordering copies of 168 Hours instead. That’s fine for me, but since WTMSPD Before Breakfast sold more copies than 168 Hours, I wish I had a good way to give event organizers their first choice.
I haven’t really seen other authors discussing this much -- possibly because most books by authors on the speaking circuit are still published, first, in hardback form. WTMSPD Before Breakfast was an experiment for all of us. It will be available as part of a paperback eventually. But I’m curious if people have ideas for how an ebook can serve the non-information-sharing function books sometimes serve.