E-book windowing is a way to prevent e-books from cannibalizing print book sales. Just release your new titles first in print format only.
The result? Frustrated consumers. If you’re an e-book reader, nothing is worse than realizing a digital edition doesn’t exist for that new book you recently discovered and wanted to buy.
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I think it’s time to reconsider the windowing model, but with a twist.
Rather than offering print without digital initially, why not offer that e-book exclusively on the publisher’s website? For the first 30 days, for example, the e-book is only available as a direct-to-consumer option from the publisher.
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Two of the big challenges with this approach are:
- Making sure consumers are aware of the initial exclusively direct availability
- Getting consumers to change their buying behavior
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The awareness obstacle starts with creation and careful management of a customer list. E-mail newsletters are critical and they must contain valuable information and insights, not just one promotional message after another. This isn’t just about e-mails and list management though. A publisher needs to be committed to building community with their audience, giving people reasons to come to its site on a regular basis, etc. Many publishers are allergic to this approach; these publishers will never create a successful direct channel.
Raising and maintaining consumer awareness is hard enough, but changing consumer buying behavior has a much higher degree of difficulty. If you’re a Kindle reader and you’ve built a large e-library with Amazon, you need a compelling reason to buy your next e-book from somewhere else.
The direct sales model eliminates the retailer and enables the publisher to keep a larger chunk of the revenue. In many cases this means the publisher nets 100 percent of the selling price vs. only about 50 percent when the e-book is sold through a retailer. So why not pass a portion of that difference along to consumers? A 40 percent-off deal during that initial direct-only stage might entice some of those Kindle loyalists to consider buying direct instead, especially if the Kindle price ends up being close to list.
Link to the rest at TeleRead
PG says that if publishers had any technical chops and management smarts, the direct sales model would have been their first ebook publishing strategy. Such a strategy would have been a valuable weapon in their fight with Amazon. To the best of PG’s knowledge, Baen is the only publisher of significant size that sells direct and it built its online sales system with far fewer financial resources than Big Publishing has.
The other element in publishers’ calculations would be one that companies operating in industries being disrupted regularly worry about: channel conflict.
Publishers have spent a great deal of time and money building up sales channels with traditional bookstores and rightly worry about what might happen to their printed books if Barnes & Noble becomes upset with a publisher’s behavior. BN knows that ebooks and ebook prices are a deadly threat to its survival, particularly now that Nook is being shoved overboard. BN looks to publishers as important allies in the battle against ebooks.
If publishers sell ebooks direct to consumers at low prices, BN and other bookstore will almost certainly retaliate by refusing to sell a publisher’s books or shelving them in the back of the store next to the local history titles.
Very few companies, including some with innovative management, have been able to solve the channel conflict problem when disruptive technology arrives. Almost invariably, they cling to their established sales channels until the company and the channel partners go down together.