Publishers have struggled mightily with where ebooks fall in their lineups. There’s no clear progression like hardcover to paperback to the mass market. eBooks sort of sneak in and gum up the works, causing some publishers to think the answer is to hold back on ebook releases to give the hardcover a chance to thrive. The result has been nasty letters from customers, one-star reviews on Amazon for books that aren’t in eBook form on release day, and general bitterness from consumers. Not the environment to foster bestsellers.
Of course, more publishers should be looking to emulate Random House. They’ve opted to do a same-day ebook and hardcover release on John Grisham’s newest book, “The Confession”, and the experiment has paid off handsomely. According to the Wall Street Journal:
“The Confession” is the first of Mr. Grisham’s adult hardcover novels to also be available simultaneously as an e-book. Doubleday, an imprint of Bertelsmann AG’s Random House, says e-book sales were about one-third of week-one hardcover sales, or around 70,000.
The novel, about a guilty man who allows an innocent man to go to jail in his place, also sold 160,000 hardcovers through Oct. 31, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks approximately 75% of general retail book sales in the U.S. By comparison, his last legal thriller, “The Associate,” published in January 2009, sold 223,000 hardcover copies in its first week, according to BookScan.
This is HUGE news for ebooks! Publishers have been toeing a party line that ebooks hurt bestseller sales, that hardcover sales are more important, etc. But the proof is in the numbers, and it certainly seems like John Grisham and his fans are both going to be happy with them!
More importantly, this is the strongest proof yet that ebooks don’t fit in the traditional paper book continuum. eBook buyers aren’t going to snap up the hardcover because the ebook was delayed by two months. They’re going to look at their Kindle/NOOK/iPad, and they’re going to shrug and read something else until the book comes out. Once consumers have committed to an ebook reader, shockingly they’d like to use it to READ EBOOKS. And now the numbers are starting to prove it!