Let’s try and untangle the congested freeway of e-book news that had led to the enhanced content myth. No matter what business model evolves as the de fact online retail model (wholesale to retail or agency model), publishers are struck, for the most part, with existing market pricing for best-sellers. With $9.99 being the norm, not only from Amazon but from those hoping to compete with the online giant, e-book customers have shown little elasticity in their purchasing habits. A number of e-book retailers say that once pricing surpasses $11 per title, sales hit the wall and drop off significantly.
Out of this consumer intransigence comes the notion of “enhanced books.” Modeled on Apple iTunes’ “Extras” which packages goodies such as liner notes, interviews and even original material, enhanced books combined such value-adds as author interviews and video to jack up the retail price. The excitement over enhanced books grew with the introduction of the iPad in that the device offers more real estate, a glitzy color screen and a platform that could be flexible enough to mash book content with publisher goodies.
Sound like a promising way for publishers to squeeze a few dollars extra out of the book-buying world? Sadly, the notion deflates like a old spare tire when you consider:
- Publishers and developers have no clear idea on what constitutes enhanced content worthy of a few extra consumer shekels.
- Publishers most likely don’t have the rights to the content needed to create these enhanced packages.
- The myriad of platforms (iPhone OS, Android, Html 5, Windows 7) each have their own specifications making uniform enhanced content offerings a developer’s nightmare.
This nets out to a limited supply of enhanced content packages (however that’s defined) for soon-to-be-released devices such as the iPad. Publishers admit the value-added e-book game will require a lot of trial and error before anything reaches the balance of price and consumer interest.
While some argue that it will be easier to build enhanced content for non-fiction titles (travel, cooking, etc.) that combine dynamic info with static e-book content, I disagree. If the resulting mash of recipes and cooking video looks like little more than a decent cooking web site, I think such a content asset is a recipe for disaster. Again, trial and error will be the industry norm for quite a while.