S&S, Hachette, HarperCollins Establish New E-book Publishing Schedules

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Three major publishers have taken steps to establish new release schedules for books in digital format. Simon & Schuster announced on Wednesday, December 9, its plan to publish the e-book editions of 35 new releases four months after their hardcover release. Hachette Book Group and HarperCollins have similar plans, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which characterized their actions as "a dramatic stand against the cut-rate $9.99 pricing of e-book bestsellers."

In a statement on e-book sequencing released on Wednesday, S&S listed 35 titles scheduled to be published between January 2010 and April 2010, whose e-book editions will be published four months after their hardcover release date. These titles include House Rules by Jodi Picoult (Atria); You: On A Diet Revised Edition by Michael F. Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. (Free Press); Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith (S&S); and Paula Deen's Savannah Style by Paula Deen (S&S). "We believe this publishing sequence will benefit the performance of all the different formats in which these titles are published," the S&S statement said, "and in the long term will contribute to a healthier retail environment for the greater book buying public."

S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy told the WSJ, "The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback. We believe some people will be disappointed. But with new [electronic] readers coming and sales booming, we need to do this now, before the installed base of e-book reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible."

Hachette plans to publish e-books of a "vast majority" of its titles three to four months following the publication of their hardcover editions. "We're doing this to preserve our industry," David Young, chief executive of the Hachette Book Group, told the WSJ. "I can't sit back and watch years of building authors sold off at bargain-basement prices. It's about the future of the business."

On Thursday, December 10, the WSJ reported that, in an interview, HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray said that the publisher would experiment by delaying e-book publication of five to 10 new hardcover titles a month, starting in January or February.

If e-book formats continue to be sold at $9.99, Murray told the paper, the result will be fewer title choices for customers, because publishers will not be able to take chances on new writers.

John Makinson, CEO of Penguin Group, told WSJ that Penguin does not plan to delay e-book formats on a regular basis, but would consider deferring e-book publication from time to time.

The WSJ said that the companies' decisions to delay the publication of e-books is an indication that book pricing has "become the most significant issue on the publishing landscape." E-book retail sales could reach $201 million in 2010, according to Albert Greco, a professor at the Fordham University Graduate School of Business.