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Can they hold back the tide? Publishers will slow e-book releases

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When is the right time for an e-book? Many readers might answer: as soon as possible. But at least two of the big players in the publishing industry have arrived at a different conclusion. According to one, the right time for an e-book is several months after the hard cover version of a book is published – but sometime before the paperback.

In today's Wall Street Journal, both Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, and Hachette Book Group's CEO, David Young, say that they will delay the e-book versions of certain titles ("key" titles in the case of Simon & Schuster and "the vast majority" in the case of Hachette) for three to four months after the book's publication.

Readers might not like the wait, acknowledges Reidy, but both Reidy and Young stress the need to preserve the publishing business. The fear is that the lower prices on e-books (many bestsellers retail for $9.99 in electronic format) could seriously erode industry profitability.

But will it work? Maybe – for a time and for certain books. Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue," for instance, won't appear in e-book form until after the holiday rush. But that hasn't stopped a million readers (so far) from ponying up for a hardback copy. And Stephen King's decision to delay the e-book version of his new "Under the Dome" did not prevent that book from immediately appearing on bestseller lists. (King said he based his decision on a desire to help struggling bookstore owners.)


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