Editoria, New media

31 dicembre 2015 | 16:17

Per superare la crisi gli editori indipendenti vendono ebook a meno di 1 dollaro: ci stiamo tirando la zappa sui piedi, ma per ora funziona

Sempre più editori indipendenti, alle prese con la crisi del settore, provano la via delle promozioni giornaliere per vendere ebook a meno di un dollaro. A raccontarlo è un articolo del Wall Street Journal.

Ogni giorno, spiega il Wsj, Bookbub.com spedisce più di 7 milioni di email promuovendo ebook che costano finanche 99 centesimi l’uno e persino alcuni gratis.

Steven Zacharius, chief executive di Kensingon Publishing Corp.

Sono diversi gli editori, come la newyorkese Kensington Publishing Corp., che puntano a catturare lettori attraverso un’offerta di libri a prezzo stracciato della durata di un solo giorno, nella speranza di poterli attrarre poi a seguire un’intera serie di pubblicazioni, auspicabilmente “full price”.

Secondo Steven Zacharius, chief executive di Kensington, Bookbub sta contribuendo alla crescita delle vendite, anche se, al tempo stesso, si dice preoccupato dall’ipotesi di crescere un pubblico di lettori abituato a dover spendere pochi dollari per un libro.

“So che così facendo potremmo ‘tirarci la zappa sui piedi’”, ha detto Zacharius, “ma non posso resistere a una così stimolante via per accrescere le vendite”. Non una delle promozioni messe in atto da Zacharius su Bookbub è andata male, ha aggiunto.

Niente male, se si considera, come spiega il Wsj, che quest’anno, secondo un sondaggio condotto dall’Association of american publishers, i guadagni degli ebook sono calati complessivamente dell’11%.

Oltre a Bookbub, portali che offrono il medesimo tipo di promozione sono: Bookgorilla.com, Robinreads.com e Thefussylibrarian.com.

La prassi, per tutti questi siti, non è di vendere direttamente il libro, ma di condurre all’acquisto sui portali di ecommerce come Amazon oppure sugli store di Barnes & Noble, Apple e Google in cambio di una percentuale compresa tra il 5 eil 10% del prezzo di vendita.

Una percentuale che si va a sommare a quella richiesta all’editore o all’autore che decide di autopubblicarsi per ottenere visibilità tramite le email.

Importante far notare, precisa il Wsj, che questo tipo di operazioni, per gli editori, sono da catalogarsi tra le attività di marketing, investimenti pubblicitari temporalmente limitati e non tra la regolare attività di vendita duratura nel tempo.

Daily E-Book Deals Are Gaining Traction

Every day, the company BookBub.com sends out more than 7 million emails pointing consumers to e-books that cost as little as 99 cents each and free titles as well.

A host of big and independent publishers list titles there, including New York-based Kensington Publishing Corp. The idea is to entice readers with a bargain, so they get hooked on a new author or series and eventually buy full-priced works.

Kensington’s chief executive, Steven Zacharius, says BookBub is powering sales growth for the company, but he worries about the long-term value of his catalog if he nurtures a generation that won’t pay more than a few dollars for an e-book.

“We know we might be shooting ourselves in the foot,” says Mr. Zacharius. “But I can’t resist because it’s such a good way to stimulate sales.” Every promotion the company has run through BookBub has been profitable, he said, despite the steep discounts.

Several companies have sprouted up offering these sorts of free books or discounts via daily emails, publishers say. In addition to BookBub, which was founded in 2012, other players include BookGorilla.com, RobinReads.com and TheFussyLibrarian.com.

“There are more of these promotion companies, and because their reach has expanded, their effectiveness has increased,” said Liz Perl, chief marketing officer at CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster. Many new e-books from major publishers are priced from $12.99 to $14.99.

For publishers, the promotions are a form of advertising in an industry that traditionally has spent cautiously. There is hope the services could help jump-start stagnant e-book sales. A survey of 1,200-plus publishers by the Association of American Publishers found e-book revenue for consumer titles fell 11% this year through August to $964 million.

The daily deals promoters don’t sell directly. Instead, they link to leading e-retailers such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble Inc., Apple Inc. and Google Inc. in exchange for a referral fee they say ranges from 5% to 10% of the retail price. They also collect a fee from publishers and self-published writers, who pay to have their works included in the daily emails.

The risk for publishers is that consumers could become accustomed to paying lower prices and only purchase titles when they are on sale.

“It’s an industrywide concern,” said Heather Fain, director of marketing strategy at the Hachette Book Group. It’s hard to know, she added, whether readers who are dedicated to reading bargain books will ever spend as enthusiastically to buy full-priced titles.

Pricing digital books has long been a vexing task for publishers. In some contexts, they’ve viewed discounts with intense suspicion. The big publishers fought against Amazon’s discounting, eventually winning more control to set higher prices.

But the dealings with BookBub suggest that publishers are open to steep discounting as a targeted strategy when it furthers their interests in a broader way.

Offering cheap prices via BookBub and its rivals is seen as a way to pull consumers away from Facebook and other digital temptations. On Dec. 17, for example, independent publisher Sourcebooks Inc. used BookBub to promote Scott Wilbanks’ novel “The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster” for 99 cents instead of its regular $14.99 price.

“We want people to discover this book and start talking about it,” said Dominique Raccah, chief executive of Sourcebooks. “When that happens you get a viral marketing effect.”

Brendan Rudnicki, owner of RobinReads.com, which launched about a year ago, says he is often asked if the daily deals his site spotlights will hurt longtime value of those titles. “It’s a trade-off,” he says. “Everybody wants visibility and they are willing to discount to get it.”

Such offers aren’t new. Amazon helped popularize the promotions when it launched its Kindle Daily Deal in August 2011.

BookBub expects to spark the sale of 20 million e-books at its retail partners this year, generating about $30 million in retail sales. Chief Executive Josh Schanker said heavily discounted e-books don’t compromise overall sales for publishers because they target a segment of consumers who otherwise wouldn’t buy those particular discounted books at full price.

“What publishers are saying is that they’d rather you read our book than play Angry Birds,” said Mr. Schanker. “It’s a cluttered landscape with more and more titles. Price promotions give publishers the ability to get a large group of people to sample their books.”

The popularity of the daily deals has inspired three publishers to launch their own email efforts to promote their titles. These include Penguin Random House, Open Road Integrated Media Inc., and HarperCollins Publishers, which, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp.

Peter Hildick-Smith, CEO of industry researcher Codex Group LLC, estimated nearly 5% of digital books purchased in 2015 were discovered through daily deals offerings, adding that the percentage was “much higher” for self-published writers.

“Nobody needs to buy a book,” says Jane Friedman, CEO of Open Road, which promotes its titles via EarlyBirdBooks.com. “You have to make it appealing, and one of the best ways to do that is price.”