At a standing room only session at the Frankfurt Book Fair, bestselling Brazilian author Paulo Coelho had a message for publishers: Embrace change. And, lower your e-book prices.
At the packed event, Coelho and fair director Jeurgen Boos talked about the future of the book business, with Coelho telling the audience that change could not be stopped. "It is a lost case," Coelho said. "Paulo, you're saying the war is lost?" Boos asked. "I'm not saying the war is lost," Coelho replied "I'm saying we humans are still here because of our capacity of adapting ourselves. The war is not lost. It is the opposite. The war is won. Culture is now available all over the world. People can read."
Chief among Coelho's advice to the industry: embrace the lower prices digital enables. "The system believes that all pirates are not honest. They are not dishonest. They have a problem of accessing culture. I'm not here to defend piracy. But if you change the system of pricing books, that is one of the solutions." He spoke of his own experience--lowering his e-book prices for a promotion--saying he ended up making the price differential in volume, ultimately netting more profit.
Over the course of the 45-minute talk, Coelho acknowledged the tension points in the book business, including the need to defend and to help independent bookstores adapt, saying he considered bookstores to be "temples." He also acknowledged that the growing number of voices enabled by the Internet can make it harder to discover great works. "From the moment everybody has voice, there is a lot of noise, and from the moment there is a lot of noise, nobody is listening to anybody." But he also expressed a deep belief in the ability of people to express themselves, and talked about his own work never being driven by money, but by the desire to tell a story. "Either you adapt yourself, or you die," he said. "We can't try to stop time."
At the end of his talk, when asked about the future of the book industry, Coelho returned to the issue of price, again suggesting that offering more reasonable prices would entice people to buy books. "There is a golden rule," Coelho said, closing the program. "Don't be greedy."