Yet Another Bad Publishing Idea

When HarperCollins announced their latest innovation—“video books”—earlier this week, thousands of people around the country came up with the same joke: “yeah, video books . . . they’re called movies.”

But honestly, that’s just the tip of the stupidity iceberg. First off, here’s the idea in full from the article in the Washington Post, which is shockingly unironic (I think—the final sentence is really confusing):

For those who don’t have the time to listen to an audiobook, let alone read a hardback or e-Book, HarperCollins brings you: the video book. Perhaps fittingly, the first author to get the video treatment is BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis, whose book, What Would Google Do?, will be available in all the other formats as well, WSJ notes. News Corp.‘s HarperCollins has been noted for its digital experiments the past few years, but it’s still being cautious about the prospects for video books. It expects to produce about six titles for video in house, which will be available for download on iPods and iPhones. [. . .]

Jarvis’ video book goes on sale Tuesday and retails for $9.99. The 23-minute video has Jarvis speaking into a single camera with a white background. Instead of reading directly from the book, which was published last month by the company’s Collins Business imprint, Jarvis runs through the basic concepts in the book, such as how Google has been able to compete so successfully on the web and what can be learned from its practices. If HarperCollins can make a go of v-books, perhaps Google will be the one to pick up a few tips for generating revenue from YouTube.

Yeah, really. HarperCollins wants you to pay $10 to watch a v-book that’s not actually a book but a video about a book shot with a single camera in a white room.

On second thought, maybe this is some mad genius idea of theirs . . . I mean think about it, people like TV right? I mean, they’re not too keen on reading, or attending readings, or watching Book TV, or whatever other book related activity one might think of, but hey they like TV, no? So why not just put the books on TV! I mean, don’t act them out or any of that period shit, don’t even let the author read the book, just put him in front of a camera to talk about the book. He won’t read from the book or anything mind-numbingly boring like that, just talk about the big concepts. The things you need to know for cocktail parties. Kind of like video CliffsNotes. You know, it’ll be like an infomercial. But one that people will pay for . . .

I can only imagine how many hundreds of thousands of dollars were pissed away on this, and how many meetings took place without anyone pointing out just what a bad idea this is. Did they run this by a single reader?

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