16 April 2010

A new e-book isn’t always new

As a library supplier, we have faced this issue since we started selling ebooks years ago. Libraries wanted to know about all new ebooks. But many publishers are digitising the backlist first then releasing as “new” in e-format. It has tricked many of us particularly when the pub date is a current one but the original book was published in 1989. There are a small percentage of publishers that publish e and p simultaneously. They know their market and the preference for libraries to purchase in the format of their choosing. But when we work off publication dates and publisher metadata, when it comes to e - what exactly is a new title?

It’s something that I’ve discussed professionally (a “new release” in ebook format is separate to new in e) but privately I experienced it for the first time recently. I usually scan ebook sites for “new” titles. On the Sony site I sort by date and then pick something that will suit my ebook reading nature. By that I mean, something I can read, hopefully enjoy, satisfied I will only want a digital file (not a “keeper” or an author that I would like to collect their physical works on our wonderful floor to ceiling book case at home) and something that I’m unlikely to want to share with friends – afterall you can’t lend the ebook to someone!

Separate to the explanations to customers over the years as a consumer I must say I felt absolutely ripped off when the new book I purchased on the Sony ebook portal A Favorite of the Queen: The Story of Lord Robert Dudley and Elizabeth I published on 1st March 2010 was most definitely NOT published this year in it’s physical form. The book was originally published under the title Gay Lord Robert (not surprising they changed that title as the word “gay” took on a different meaning over the years!) and the imprint page on the ebook clearly showed the book was published in 1971. That explains the poor editing and uninspiring writing!

Where did it say in any of the metadata, “originally published in X”, “reissued in ebook format”, “introducing this work to today’s e-reading generation”. Something that gave me an indication the book was old. And not one or two years old, but 40 friggin years. Forgive me for never having read Jean Plaidy before but surely publishers and ebook vendors need to take some responsibility here. Perhaps there should be two dates available to ereaders – originally published in and released in ebook format in …

I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I am. Reissues are not new releases, new in e is not a new title. At least when trade houses release ebooks three months later (for those that believe that is a suitable time frame – I’m most definitely not one of them) the book is still in our minds. It is still the same year. None of this 40 year time span.

Of course my preference would be simultaneous. If I want to collect, share and treasure I will buy the print over e. But for other books I want to read the ebook.

Publishers, ebook vendors, everyone who is interested in the digital world, please note as as a consumer I'M NOT HAPPY – publisher metadata and the blurb itself should have given something away. A trigger point as such. For the record this is what is listed:

Torn between her heart's passion and duty to her kingdom, a young queen makes a dark choice...

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester was the most powerful man in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. Handsome and clever, he drew the interest of many women--but it was Elizabeth herself that loved him best of all. Their relationship could have culminated in marriage but for the existence of Amy Robsart, Robert's tragic young wife, who stood between them and refused to be swept away to satisfy a monarch's desire for a man that was not rightfully her own. But when Amy suddenly dies, under circumstances that many deem to be mysterious at best, the Queen and her lover are placed under a dark cloud of suspicion, and Elizabeth is forced to make a choice that will define her legacy.

The metadata shows:

• Published by: Three Rivers Press
• Publish Date: March 01, 2010
• Print ISBN: 0307346234
• Filesize: 2.60 MB

And the author info (on a separate tab)

JEAN PLAIDY is the pen name of the prolific English author Eleanor Hibbert, also known as Victoria Holt. More than 14 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Visit www.CrownHistorical.com to learn about the other Jean Plaidy titles available from Three Rivers Press.

When it comes to Tudor history I’m loyal to Alison Weir, Alison Plowden, Antonia Fraser, Margaret George, Philippa Gregory and if pressed I might just throw David Starkey into the mix. I shouldn't have tried something new. Sorry old. New only in a format. Anyway, I clicked away because I thought it was new, the publisher got the sale. But live and learn folks, live and learn....

1 comment:

  1. These are good points Rachael. Speaking as a publisher, sometimes we have control over the metadata fields and sometimes we don't. If we don't, and there is only one field for publish date, I will always select the original print publication date. But perhaps we should be including the original year in the description too in case our vendor messes up the publish and release dates. As we try and distribute more ebooks along the supply chain, I can see this problem getting worse, not better, as different vendors provide different release dates depending on when they received the book.