E-mmediate Gratification

by Radclyffe

 

I’ve become a firm devotee of e-books and e-book readers, mostly because I like to read in bed or have options while I’m traveling. Holding a print book while laying down, frequently with a portable light source attached to the book, is awkward. Plus, packing several print books in a computer bag or carry-on gets to be unwieldy and I often end up not having the book that I want when I want it. Finally, I love to look at all the covers of the books in my “virtual library” while traveling and picking out an old favorite to read or a new one that I’ve been waiting to savor.

Does that mean I don’t care about print books anymore? No, not at all. I still purchase copies of all the print books I want to keep in my “real” LGBTQ library because I know that someday they won’t be available any more. Just yesterday, I was shelving an old pulp fiction work that a reader sent me (you know who you are and thank you very much :-)). While in the process I pulled out the first edition copy I have of Claire Morgan’s (aka Patricia Highsmith) The Price of Salt, 1952. I hunted this down on the Internet and it’s clear that this copy has never been read. The cover is pristine and the spine has never been creased. I very gingerly opened the cover (the edges are discolored from age and time and having been stored somewhere in the light). I just looked at the title page and then carefully put it back on the shelf along with perhaps five dozen other pulp fiction works from the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s, some of them in very bad shape. Still every single one is precious to me. So, no, I haven’t forsaken reading (or publishing) print books.

But back to e-books. The other big advantage of e-books is immediate gratification. I’ve always been a quick decision maker. I study the pros and cons of a particular purchase (or course of action, like starting a publishing company or opening the belly of a trauma patient), and if I am able to, I act. This is certainly true for my reading habits. If I want to read something, I don’t want wait. In the days before e-books, I have been known to drive around the county from one Borders or Barnes & Noble after another looking for a book that I just must read right now.

E-books not only save me a little bit of money, they save me a lot of time and gas. Occasionally, however, they also create quite a bit of frustration. Case in point.

Just yesterday I had the must exasperating experience. You’re supposed to be able to get an e-book when you want it, right? So, the huge monster retailer in the sky that shall go unnamed sent out an e-mail notice that an e-book of a particular paranormal author I absolutely love was available. The book was Sin Undone by Larissa Ilone (it’s a demon a series with lots of sexy female and male demons, demon hunters, soldiers—some human, some not) and lots of hot sex. So with great excitement I grabbed my iPad to purchase the book and lo and behold discovered that it wasn’t going to be available for a week. I was greatly disappointed, but I get what marketing is all about and that anticipation sometimes creates more sales. However, I discovered upon further investigation that the print book was actually available a week before the e-book. It was out already!

Now I wasn’t excited, I was pissed off. Why was the e-book release being delayed? Granted, some mainstream publishers delay the release of their e-books (called windowing), hoping to up the sales of their print books, but most have gotten away from that. BSB stopped doing that about a year and a half ago (and we didn’t delay the e-book release initially to push print sales, anyhow, but because we didn’t have the support structures in place to release our e-books simultaneously. We have consequently corrected that with a fabulous digital technician who stays on top of all our e-book needs 24 hours a day. And thank you, you know who you are too :-)

So just how important is E-mmediate gratification in terms of buying habits (to say nothing of reader satisfaction)? I recently heard someone say that when she went to buy an e-book, if it wasn’t available she just bought something else and moved on. Is this what we do in the age of E-mmediate gratification? Do we search out a title only to find that it isn’t available and then buy something else in its place, forgetting about the first title, never to return? Or, if it’s not available at the particular online retail store where we go to purchase it, will we seek it out somewhere else?

Should we as publishers be anticipating this kind of “get it now or forget about it” buying pattern? If it’s not there when a reader wants it, they’ll never come back? Do we need to have our books available “everywhere,” as a publisher recently told me at a meeting, or can we count on our readers to search out the titles that they want and buy them where and when they’re available? These are not idle questions for a publisher. As a reader, I will go just about anywhere to get a book I want when I want it. How about the rest of you? What will you do when you want a book and you want it now? An interested publisher would like to know. Thanks! Radclyffe

5 Responses to “E-mmediate Gratification”


  1. 1 Anita Bradshaw September 5, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    I am a die-hard print book addict. I know I am a dying breed, but it is my real preference. I would like to join the e-book craze as I travel a lot for my work, but the upfront investment in the equipment has been more than the budget would bear at the moment. So my concern has been less that an e-book is available when the print book is or not, but with BSB’s policy of delaying sale of print books by a couple of weeks out in bookstores.

    I am fortunate enough to live in Minneapolis where we still have an independent women’s bookstore, True Colors (formerly Amazon). I try to buy my books there to support them, as well as support BSB, its authors and other lesfic publishers and authors. It serves all our purposes to make sure that these independents stay open. True Colors is an important part of the women’s community here. The readings there foster relationships with authors and get people interested in their books, as well as helping to create community.

    By refusing to allow stores like True Colors to sell BSB new releases until the middle of the month of publication, you frustrate (or more accurately piss off) those of us who are loyal readers. I get so tired of hearing others “talk” in various chat rooms and online groups about a book I am waiting and waiting for. Currently that is J.M. Redmann’s “Water Mark.” Last month it was Ali Vali’s “The Devil Be Damned.” Next month it will be Nell Stark and Trinity Tam’s latest.

    I will continue to wait to buy at True Colors and I will continue to be pissed off every month at BSB. In a tight economy and in a small lesfic publishing world, you are lucky I like your authors and their books. Others may not be so forgiving. Do you really want to piss your readers off? You do get that if it weren’t for us readers, you wouldn’t have any business?

    I realize BSB makes more money if I order the book directly from you. But, is the little bit extra you make really worth undercutting those communities and readers that are lucky enough to have a women’s bookstore? What would be so awful about electing to allow those few independent lgbt bookstores left to sell your books on the day of publication like you sell from your website? You can still delay to mainstream big box bookstores, but why not favor our community? Just a thought. . .

    Like

  2. 2 bookgeek September 5, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    Hi Rad,
    I used to go a long way to get a (print) book (and was quite good at it – not driving, no use here in Europe, but e-hunting via the internet) and I thought that I would never leave the I-need-a-printed-book-tribe. I am now 18 month into ebooks and I am thorougly converted to the where-the-heck-did-they-hide-the-ebook-tribe. Esp. living overseas it is not only about instant gratification but about availibility at all and the ability to buy directly from the publishers. And don’t even mention travelling or reading “bulky books” or – as happened to me recently – reading while you are handicapped. My favourite books will be bought as print books as well.

    And yes I get thoroughly upset if – as some IMHO totally unprofessional publishers do – a book is first published in print and the ebook is published months (I kid you not!) later, not because of marketing prowess but apparently for lack of resources or rather lack of proper marketing. Some publishers are not longer on my list since I have given up on ebooks from their side. Don’t get me started.

    Another important thing for me as a reader is that if the book belongs to a series and I like one ebook I would wish to buy all of them – alas, in many cases you get one but not the rest of them. Clever move that BSB always offers all books and has bundles too.

    And BSB has to be commended for how easy the buying & downloading process works (only http://www.l-book.com is on a par with BSB) and for the courteous handling of any complaints (not all companies deem it necessary to utter a simple sorry after you had to mail with them umpteenths times because there was something wrong with their ebook) and it is great that you offer all formats when downloading from BSB.

    Last: One of the greatest thing is that some companies have started to re-issue our heritage as ebooks! This is simply wonderful!

    So keep moving and shaking the lesfic-world as you have done the past years. BSB is really doing a great job for readers and esp. e-readers.

    Like

  3. 3 Mary September 5, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    I buy almost exclusively ebooks now. I still buy the papercopy of books in a series to keep it complete, but I generally buy the ebook also. As far as books I want that are not available in ebook format. Generally I do not buy them. I will bug the publisher about if they are going to be available as ebooks & if the publisher says they are working on it I will wait (sometimes not very patiently) for the ebook to come out. Fortunately most of the publishers of the authors I like the most already have robust ebook libraries. Also some if not most of the books I am waiting on to be published in ebook format have been fan fiction at one time or another & I have the FF version already.

    Like

  4. 4 bookgeek September 5, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    I totally get what Anita is saying since this was the situation of every oversea reader in the past: everyone was ecstatic and the big container with THE BOOK was still crossing the pond. Very frustrating.
    Her idea of supporting the GLBT-bookstores by “early” releases (i.e. having the books midmonth) sounds good and practical.

    Like

  5. 5 Anita Bradshaw September 5, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    Thanks, bookgeek. I think you are on VLR? Glad you think it a good idea.

    And Rad, I should have also said that besides being frustrated with the late release, I am grateful for what you have done in publishing and writing lesfic. I have a ton of titles from you and BSB on my shelves.

    And I might add that if Ruta had not bought the bookstore and started stocking them, I might not have known of the great books you are getting out there. The previous owner had not cared for lesfic, evidently, and so the only stuff I had from you, Rad, was old stuff from before BSB. When Ruta took over Amazon, I was in shock the first time I walked in and found all the “new” stuff on the shelves. I have regularly spent a tidy sum every few weeks for a couple of years now and have been in heaven with my reading.

    So, please keep up the great work in writing and publishing. Just get them to all of us out here supporting women’s bookstores earlier, please!

    Like


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