Disruption, revolution, better, worse, too expensive, too cheap. A lot of words get thrown around about ebooks, how they are selling, and even whether people who buy them actually read them. In France, the digital reading experience has not yet really caught on. You say ebook and people talk about the feel of paper, or imagine ebooks to be enhanced versions of pdfs with lots of clickable options. Or they basically have no idea or opinion about them at all. I even met with a major French publisher recently who admitted they did not yet have an ebook strategy. Ebook pricing is an issue, there is concern about devaluing the writer’s creative work, and of course omnipresent Amazon scares the pants out of a lot of people, even though the French retailer FNAC has a larger catalogue of French-language ebooks.
I’m pretty sure that soon, ebooks will catch on here, when it is easier to buy them (i.e., to buy a book for the Kobo reader from the FNAC website, you have to buy on that site, then are redirected to Kobo site and you have to sign in again, before you can download your book), just as I am pretty sure all the humming and hawing about them will continue. It’s like McDonalds. The French are very fine eaters, who can debate the merits of one butcher’s beef over another’s and will drive an hour just to get a better steak, or set up informal cooperatives to get a chicken from the farm in their hometown because, really, it is better. At the same time, the French love McDonald’s, France ranks sixth on the list of countries with the most McDonald’s, with 857 restaurants, and a large number of my French friends don’t think twice about going to “McDo” on Saturday for lunch, and then following up with a four-hour family meal on Sunday around home-made foie gras. These two experiences co-exist.
It’s the same for ebooks. As our in-house ebook expert Fabrice Neuman says, ebooks and pbooks are complementary. Different strokes for different folks. We’re doing all this for the readers, whoever they are and whatever they read on.