Are E-Books Actually Destroying Traditional Publishing?

E-books allow publishers more opportunity to experiment with pricing than traditional paper books.
Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images

Conventional wisdom says e-books are destroying the traditional publishing business model. People pay less for e-books and that drives down price.

When you talk to publishers though, you realize the story's not that simple. One advantage of e-books is that they allow publishers to test different prices. With a physical book once you stamp the price on the cover, that's it. Online though, you can easily adjust the price weekly or even daily.

Little, Brown recently tried a 24-hour sale with presidential historian Robert Dallek's book on John F. Kennedy, An Unfinished Life. The result — the book launched up onto the bestseller list.

"That sparks sales, it gets people talking about it," says Terry Adams, a publisher with Little, Brown. "You've just expanded the market."

Once you get your book on that list, you can easily jack up the price again.

To hear more about how publishers are experimenting with e-books, listen to Zoe Chace's story on today's All Things Considered.



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