Overreacting Against eBooks

Navigating in New Media is much like flying an airplane. Unless you’re experienced with these media’s vagarities and business cycles, you tend to overreact and make problems worse. Porpoising is what pilots call those overreactions, which aim too high or too low, rather than a steady course. When the Internet Bubble burst, too many fickle executives of media corporates overreacted by either cutting their New Media operations too much or cutting their own overreaching expectations too little.

Barnes&Noble.com was one of the latter. Last week, we mentioned that B&N.com had hyperbolic eBook sales expectations during the Internet Bubble and hadn’t adjusted its expectations in light of post-Bubble realities. The result was B&N.com’s eBook sales never reached its own hyperbolic expectations, so B&N last week further overreacted by quitting the eBook business.

Too bad for B&N.com. Publishers Weekly reports that eBook sales from other vendors are up 30 percent this year. The Open eBook Forum (OeBF) — a trade group that includes Houghton Mifflin, John Wiley & Sons, AOL TimeWarner Books, McGraw-Hill, Random House, Simon & Shuster, and B&N.com itself — reports a 40 percentincrease. The OeBF reports that 660,991 e-books were sold in the first half of 2003 and that revenues during that time were $5 million. The OeBF predicts sales of more than $10 million for the full year 2003.

An industry that’s growing at 30 to 40 percent annually, particularly during a severe recession, is a healthy business. Too bad that B&N.com had set expectations far more extreme, then overreacted. Many pundits who’ve never examined the actual sales figures think that B&N.com no longer selling eBook is a sign that the eBook market has failed. Don’t place them at the controls of your New Media business plan.

One thought on “Overreacting Against eBooks

  1. Ebook counterpoint

    Whilst looking at the Crosbie’s main blog, I saw this article about Barnes and Noble leaving the ebook business. Unlike every other thing I’ve seen on this subject he points out that the “failure of their ebook business” was actually a function of thei…

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