E-Books and Print Books

Over the past year, I’ve received a number of questions about why more of my books are not available as e-books. I’ve discussed this with my editor and others at Tor, and the answer is fairly simple. Tor doesn’t like losing money. Most e-books don’t cover their costs of production.

At this point, someone always points out that Baen Books makes lots of their books available online and electronically. That’s true, but it’s not primarily because Baen thinks that it will make money on those formats. In fact, the goal of making electronic editions available on-line is to get readers to buy the hardcover and paperback editions of those books, as well as other Baen products, not to make millions, or even thousands, from e-books.

While there are readers who prefer to read in e-book and electronic format, the vast majority of readers still prefers books in some print format and is likely to do so for some considerable time. Now… I’m definitely not against e-books, although I frankly prefer books employing the printed page because most of my reading occurs when and where using electronics would be inconvenient or difficult, if not impossible. And… in time, science may well resolve such issues, but for the moment, as an industry, book publishers are faced with several options, none of them even close to perfect. They can create few or no e-books and alienate that small minority who prefer them. Or they can use e-books as loss-leaders and trust that the readers will eventually buy more of the print kind to cover the costs and losses of e-books. Or they can selectively release as e-books those novels which have a large enough audience that the small percentage of readers who prefer e-books is large enough for the publisher to come close to covering e-book costs.

The last position appears to be the strategy most publishers, including Tor, are following, but that creates particular problems for me, because certain of my books sell far more than others, and that means — as I have been told more than a few times — that more than half my books are not available in any electronic format.

At this point, there’s very little I can do about this situation, but since I haven’t seen much discussion about this point — except surrounding the Baen initiative — I thought it might be useful to discuss the situation.

1 thought on “E-Books and Print Books”

  1. Lindsay says:

    I would also like to get your books in e-format and would be willing to pay to do so. I have virtually everything you have published, mostly in Hardback format, and have read all of them several times. However, when travelling for work it is not easy to take several hardbacks in your luggage and yet you can carry hundreds on an ebook reader.

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