(image courtesy psdgraphics)
Random House was the only major publisher last year to hold out and refuse to work with Apple on an “agency pricing” system. They basically said setting prices was not their job, but that of the retailer, and if Apple wanted to sell books they could set the prices too. Apple refused, and Random House has famously been absent from iBooks.
As it turns out, it doesn’t seem to be hurting Random House much in the ebook department. Markus Dohle, their CEO, recently stated ebooks are currently 8% of their revenue stream, and it looks like it might climb to 10% by next year! Random House is the biggest USA publisher, with many, many major authors like John Grisham and Dan Brown, so that 10% is a significant slice of mainstream fiction.
It’s tough to extrapolate how one publisher’s numbers reflect the entire industry, but I think 8-10% isn’t insane for ebook share overall. While ebooks have famously outstripped hardcovers, there’s a big army of paperbacks that aren’t going down without a fight. On the other hand, with more people buying iPads, Kindles, and nooks every day, especially heading into the holiday season it’s not surprising that we’ll see an uptick in sales. 10% is more than enough to get everyone sweating over the future…
Speaking of the future, Random House still hasn’t made a decision about iBooks. According to a quote in Reuters:
“We’ve got to think very hard about whether we want this drastic change in our business model,” he said. “The question is if publishers know how to find the right retail price… This hasn’t been our job in the past.”
“One hundred days in the iBook store won’t decide about success or failure,” he said. “We think we have to tread carefully to find a business model that is sustainable for the years to come.”
So if you’re rocking an iPad, I strongly suggest you download the Kindle, nook, or Kobo apps (if you haven’t already). Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on Stieg Larsson, Alexander McCall Smith, Bill Bryson, and dozens of other authors who won’t be showing up in iBooks anytime soon.