Nov 24 2008 12:33pm

Random House Expands its eBook Offerings

In my inbox this morning:

(New York, November 24, 2008)—Random House, Inc., the U.S. division of Random House, today announced its intention to make an additional 6,000-plus of its backlist titles available as e-books in the coming months, enhancing its status as the largest e-books trade publisher. Random House already has more than 8,200 newly published and backlist volumes that are currently downloadable as e-books. When this initiative is completed, almost 15,000 Random House, Inc. books will be published in electronic format.

The newly chosen fiction and nonfiction titles have been selected from the company’s children’s and all its adult divisions. Among the works being published this and next month in an electronic format for the first time are fiction by Terry Brooks, Italo Calvino, Harlan Coben, Philip K. Dick, Louis L’Amour, Philip Pullman, Ruth Rendell, and John Updike; HEALTHY AGING by Andrew Weil, and several classic MAGIC TREE HOUSE and JUNIE B. JONES children’s books by Mary Pope Osborne and Barbara Park respectively.

Random House will make each of its new e-titles available simultaneously to all our digital retailers and distributors in the months ahead. They will be downloadable to all reading devices and platforms that feature digital book content supported by our current and future accounts. For the first time, the company will be offering its entire current electronic catalogue, as well as future titles, in the e-Pub format, the emerging industry standard for e-books, thereby making the content more easily accessible for consumers from a larger number of potential partners.

This is great news. As more publishers embrace electronic books, and particularly open formats like ePub, the big winner is the reader. (Attentive readers will note we’ve started offering ePub ourselves with our short story downloads, and there is more to come). There doesn’t seem to be any explicit mention of this expansion on Random House’s website, nor do they seem to list ePub in their FAQ, but this is probably a temporary disconnect between a new program and the info on their existing website. The only other thing that doesn’t seem clear is just how much DRM they’re infecting their files with, if any—they do make mention of the fact that they’ve recently started selling non-DRMed audio books, but that’s about it. I guess I’ll be buying some books from the Random House site to find out.

Edward Bear
1. sehlat
One other question: Will they continue their insane attempts to sell eBooks at hardcover prices?

All they do by that is to cut out people like me, who DO buy eBooks and DO NOT buy paper books, without impacting the sales of hardcovers in any way. I personally consider paperback prices ($5-$7) reasonable, since authors, editors and proofreaders should be able to eat hot food and sleep indoors.

But, as noted above, charging hardcover prices for electronic text, which has effectively ZERO printing, storage, and distribution costs, is insane.
Pablo Defendini
2. pablodefendini
Until recently, I held the same opinion as you, and I still think that eBooks shouldn't cost as much as pBooks. But as I've become more and more involved in sussing out eBook strategies for in particular and Macmillan in general, I've come to realize that setting prices for eBooks is slightly more complicated than just subtracting printing and shipping costs (storage and distribution costs still exist, mind you, just not in the same way). I can't go into details right now, but we'll be posting more info on this soon, as it's a fascinating subject (at least to me) and there's certainly interest within the community.
3. Artanian
I'd say that there are two competing strategies for ebook sales. The first strategy is to actually try and sell ebooks, and build the ebook audience. This is the model that Baen uses.

Look at their webscriptions. Typically the same month (or usually just slightly before) the hardback ships, books will show up in a monthly webscription. You can get the individual books for $6, or 6 books for $15. Normally there are 2ish new books in there and 4ish back catalog books. My rule of thumb is that if I actively want 2 of the 6 books I'll buy the month, and the other 4 books will go into the pile to be read, or not, at some point. What normally happens is eventually something will catch my eye, say a newer book by an author comes out that looks interesting, and I go back and read the older books by the same author, some of which are sitting in the pile, some of which I'll go buy as singles, or possibly even entire months that I'd skipped before. So the back catalog works act as a multiplier getting me to buy other stuff. Baen doesn't infect anything with DRM, and has portable formats along with proprietary ones, so I have no fear I'm going to lose that content.

Amazon is using a modified apple-style version of this strategy, except that they want to tie you to amazon in perpetuity, a la itunes and apple.

Then, on the other hand, there's the strategy employed by basically everyone else. They know that there is a small percentage of potential sales that won't buy a book unless it's an e-edition, but that isn't price sensitive. They provide the books for this segment, but don't actually care if the segment grows. In fact, they'd probably prefer that it didn't, because then they'd have to compete in it.

Now, getting on to fantasy land, what I really want is a subscription service. Give me something like the kindle, let me pay a monthly fee, and give me access to the back catalog, stuff that's, say, more than 2 years old, and not likely to be found on the shelves of a bookstore. DRM this stuff, I don't care, because I'm not buying it, just renting. Let me pay a small fee to access stuff ahead of the back catalog cutoff if I want to read new works. This would be similar to how a number of music services currently work on the internet. I'd buy a device and subscribe basically instantly if it ever came to pass.
Jon Severinsson
4. jonno
I must say I agree fully with Artanian, except for that last paragraph. The problem being that I'd like to actually be able to READ the books I buy, and I'm doing it on a Linux powered netbook (works great as an ebook reader, actually much better than some cheaper dedicated ebook readers I've tried), so all kinds of DRM, for any purpose, stops me from reading the books.

Loves the free PDFs from though, waiting eagerly to be able to purchase the next book in quite a few of the series actually...
Chris Meadows
6. Robotech_Master
See also my thread from four months ago which I have since resurrected.

When Tor abortively made books by Stross & Vinge available through Baen last time, they were at price levels somewhere between Baen's and hardcover. I seem to recall they were about twice to three times what Baen charged on a per-book basis (though I can't prove this since I can't find archived pages from that time).

Tor still sets hard-cover level prices on its books at Fictionwise.

This doesn't give me much hope that Tor's books, whenever they finally do come to Baen, will be priced at a range that will make them attractive to me to buy.
Blue Tyson
7. BlueTyson
PD, that's 'book publisher' definition of soon then, unless I missed something you wrote?

8. linda frey
My grandson is in the 2nd grade and he loves Mary Pope Osborne books, The magic tree house.

I would like to get him started on a subscription to this series. Is this possible.

I have looked on the internet and have had no luck.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thank you

Linda Frey
9. koham
What's the point of having open formats like epub if each store sticks their own version of DRM on it? If I buy the epub book from the Sony Reader Store, I can't read it on an iPad because it has DRM on it. I can't buy a book from the Kindle Store and read it on an iPad again because I can't convert it to epub with Amazon's DRM on it. DRM makes a mockery of open formats !!!

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