Penguin CEO John Makinson wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, comparing the eBook revolution to the paperback revolution.
His essay outlined the birth of the paperback in 1935, as Penguin began selling softcover editions of hardcover books for a “ridiculous price.” Makinson reminded readers that the model has changed, perhaps subtly criticizing the common $9.99 eBook price at Amazon–a price point the CEOs of Hachette Book Group and Macmillan have openly criticized.
Here’s an excerpt: “Penguin’s paperback idea eventually collapsed, though not for many years, because hardback publishers decided to publish the paperbacks themselves rather than to sell the rights. Penguin responded by moving into the hardback market and now all of the world’s major publishers operate on the same integrated basis. The integrated model has become universal because it works.”
The op-ed makes no mention of the fact that the paperback evolved in the middle of the Great Depression. The model “collapsed” after the economic turmoil had passed. The eBook’s rapid growth came during another crippling recession, and $9.99 may reflect an economic reality until our own crisis has passed. This GalleyCat editor has written about the lives of writers during the Great Depression–their stories can provide guidance during this difficult time for publishing.
What do you think?