Trade warned on deferring e-books

<p>Deferring publication of e-books could play into the hands of &shy;Amazon, senior trade observers have warned. The warning comes as authors and publishers get ready to face off over e-book royalty rates, after the Society of Authors said digital royalty rates should be &quot;much higher&quot; than the current 15%&ndash;25% level, rising to 75% or 85% of receipts in some circumstances.</p><p>Simon &amp; Schuster US, HarperCollins US and Hachette Book Group USA have all announced plans to defer e-book publication until several months after the hardback release in order to protect the format from Amazon&#39;s cheap Kindle editions. However, a UK trade insider warned deferral was dangerous. &quot;It is never a good response to say to a consumer: &lsquo;We know you want this but we are not going to let you have it.&#39; It encourages filesharing and piracy.&quot; The insider added the move encouraged Amazon &quot;to price more aggressively or buy digital rights direct&quot;.</p><p>Charlie Redmayne, global digital publisher at HC, insisted that the deferral step was specific to the US. John Makinson, Penguin Group c.e.o., said it would not try deferred publication systematically but would test various strategies. &quot;I&#39;m not saying we&#39;d never do it but we would work with a retailer to try to understand the substitutional effect,&quot; he said. &quot;Deferral is based on the idea that selling an e-book means not selling a hardback book. That may be true, but it may be that you are selling to a paperback buyer, which would have different implications. We need to try to understand those dynamics better.&quot;</p><p>There are concerns that authors could disenfranchise publishers if they get their digital strategies wrong, with US business author Stephen R Covey this week moving the e-book rights to two of his titles from S&amp;S to Amazon through the digital publisher RosettaBooks. Agent Peter Cox said low e-book prices, &quot;Scrooge-like&quot; e-book royalties, midlist decline and piracy would lead authors to explore other publishing models. &quot;Disintermediation has never been a greater threat to the traditional&shy; publishing model than it is now.&quot;</p><p>Jane Tappuni, business development director at Publishing Technology, said only a few authors could act similarly, but added that it &quot;really does highlight that publishers need to treat their authors carefully, or run the risk of this happening more and more&quot;.</p><p>Meanwhile, the SoA move, outlined in the latest edition of the Author, has been backed by Curtis Brown c.e.o. Jonathan Lloyd, who said: &quot;One should always be very uneasy at agreeing a royalty based on net receipts when publishers are being so opaque about the model.&quot;</p>