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The interesting disparity between traditional book and digital book sales has some publishers seeking ways to manipulate consumers towards purchasing paper versions. Last week, I mentioned that Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Target are among those who are offering presales of bestselling authors’ new releases at under $10.

Audiobooks have apparently not yet figured into the big picture.

The most interesting reaction has been that of Scribner, the publisher of Stephen King’s upcoming Under the Dome. The hardcover goes on sale November 10th and can be purchased for around $9 USD. Recent reports say that the eBook version will go on sale six weeks later at the full price of $35. Incidentally, the audiobook unabridged version is priced at between $27-56.

AudiobooksThe apparent reasoning behind the disparity between hardcover and eBook digital delay is that sales of hardcover books will increase and thus offer assistance to independent booksellers. The problem is, of course, the aforementioned price wars. While I am all for supporting smaller retailers, I am more likely to go for the deep discount.

The American Booksellers Association, the representative of independent bookstores, has filed a complaint with the US Department of Justice. They say that the deeply discounted books are “damaging to the book industry and harmful to consumers.” I just don’t know how the smaller venues can possibly compete against the slashed prices and increasing popularity of eBooks.

So where does that leave audiobook readers? No one has addressed audio versions in this mess. My feeling is, with the newer version of Kindle and the Nook supporting mp3 files, audiobook readers are going to find themselves in the digital arena. As more audio readers adopt eBook readers as the primary device (which may or may not happen) audio downloads may become tied to the digital version price.

I happen to be a fan of all three, paper, digital, and audio books. I always have at least one digital and one audio on my iPod and a hardcover by my bedside. I wonder if the strange and manipulative future publishing tactics will change that.

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