According to Smart Bitches, Candy Tan and Sarah Wendell, “Harlequin’s decision to release every book as an e-book as well as a paperback was so brilliant we might need to genuflect. Harlequin could have been dismissed as a dying concept in romance publishing, because, really, who subscribes to book clubs like Harlequin anymore, or CD clubs for that matter? The readers who would happily immerse themselves in a selection of books each month that they personally didn’t choose is definitely on the wane, if it hasn’t reached endangered status already. With that pesky Internet came the desire to customize every last purchase to the point where some people take any removal of autonomy as a personal affront. …But the same desire for new entertainment that kept the mail-order-romance business in healthy vigor is now flourishing in a [-p.277] younger audience that haunts the e-book library at Harlequin. Instead of falling into antiquity, Harlequin is reinventing itself with the same product: short, satisfying novels for people who read often but for short amounts of time. The only differences now are age and possession of an e-book reader. The fact that other publishers of romance have begun to offer most if not all of their titles in e-book format underscores the major act of smart forged by Harlequin with their e-library.” (pp.276-277)

“Not every reader will embrace e-books, and we don’t think that paper publishing will die a woodsy death any time in the near future, but …as Jane from Dear Author has said to us on a few occasions, there’s no better readership for e-books than romance readers. We’re gluttonous, and we put our credit cards in the hands of our desire for more reading. Digital consumption and having a [-p280] buffet of books to choose from on one device is as heady for some romance readers as a stack of brand-new uncreased paperbacks is for others.” (pp279-280)

On that note, the Smart Bitches also write: “The Internet is the worst and the best thing that ever happened to publishing. Worst because feedback is instantaneous, and reviews are everywhere. Feelings are hurt, snappy accusations are made, and minor flame wars break out with the least bit of tinder when someone’s tender pride gets a swat on the backside. All that instant feedback can be tough, and we know it.

But the Internet is also among the best things that’s happened to publishing, in our opinion, because the Internet allows readers and writers and publishers to interact in ways they haven’t before, and that interaction lends a clarity to determining what it is that readers want, like, and, most important, will buy.” (p.276)

Ref: Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan (2009) Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels. Fireside: New York


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