2.05.2010

Personally, I blame you.

2.05.2010
$9.99 for an e-book is an outrage. A flat out crime. There is a lot of talk in the media of how publishers are pulling away from the internet behemoth (AKA: Amazon) in favor of the sales model Apple is offering. And why wouldn’t they? After all, everyone knows that Apple corp. is the Mecca of user friendly prices and consumer driven affordability. In fact, their new tablet generated more buzz then the tablet Moses introduced. Even though Moses’ tablet was wireless and buttonless, and even came with its own set detailed instructions, it didn’t generate this much noise. Never mind that the instructions were supposed to be handed down from a higher power.
PFFT.
Apple’s [tablet] comes from a way, way higher authority. The Immortal omnipresence of Steve Jobs. Moreover, it has an app store. Take that, burning bushes.

But I digress.

Instead of letting the market dictate the price of an electronic reproduction (which in reality costs close to nothing to digitize) they are pulling away and opting for the pricier sales model? Perfect.

Way to alienate readers. Great work guys.

That has about as much brains behind it as the recording industry and their struggle to keep CD’s alive. Holding on to the old ways is only chasing away the customers who want information now, and accessible. It’s simple. I’d rather sell 30000 copies of something at $6.99 then 8000 at $14.99. A broader audience is reached, which creates talk and talk beckons more sales. I’m not even going to get into the illegal downloading that is heading our way.

I’m not an e-book reader, having a strong preference for the feel and smell of paper when I read, but I do know more and more people are. The price of things should go down (and not up) to keep customers coming back. If my book comes out as an e-book, I’d want it to be a cheap as humanly possible. I’d rather have people clicking and downloading instead of thinking “gosh, I don’t know if I wanna spend $14.99 for a writer I don’t know.” But people will go out, and buy it, and support the few books that already have an audience, while torpedoing the entire next generation of authors and their books.

18 comments:

Travener

If I were a publisher, I'd only start selling e-books six months or so after the hardcover hit the stores -- sort of like the movies do with DVDs. I look on e-books as more of an electronic paperback than anything else. But I am no doubt blinded by my ancient vintage.

Jen

I have mixed feelings for e-books, I have thought about becoming one, and then I shy away and stick with the old fashioned paperback, I love to take time to go to the bookstore, look through the shelves and pick up what I want. I already spend too much time on the internet or the computer for that matter, but to then read on a computer, or a small device, I'm not sure I'm up for it.

Matt

Clever comparisons. I imagine the Israelites weren't too happy with customer service after waiting forty years for their order.

Now, I must ask. Do you really smell the paper when you read? Writers say that all the time, but I confess, I've never done it. I've never seen anyone do it. Am I missing out?

Roni @ FictionGroupie

lol, love your Moses analogy.

I'm a Kindle owner and ebook convert. (Even though I never thought it would work for me.) All these arguments are so confusing. I obviously want authors to get paid well for their work. But I also am not going to spend twenty bucks for an ebook--sorry. I bought the damn device under the impression that ebooks would be cheaper than the paper counterparts.

I think ebooks should cost what the paperback costs. If you want to delay the release of the ebook like they do with paperback, then fine, i can wait. It's not going to make me buy the hardback--I never buy hardbacks unless it's a cookbook or a sequel I just can't be patient for.

And Matt, I'm with you. Everyone mentions the smell of paper in the argument against ebooks. I agree that a library and old books have a scent, but I'm really not sniffing my new books. :) I seriously think I'm going to develop an e-reader that dispenses the smell of musty old book. I'd become a millionaire!

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA

The big publishers are making a huge mistake. Buyers are not dumb. They know that a digital copy of something can be sold indefinately, for next to nothing. All the costs are up-front costs, and author royalties. No packing, no shipping, no postage, no factory employee wages. That's it. We all know that they are pulling our legs.

Okie

The "behind the scenes" reasons that publishers are scared and running to Apple is this...

"So far" they (publishers) are not losing money on eBooks. In fact, publishers are coming off golden on eBook sales because (in most cases) they charge distributors (Amazon, BN, etc) the SAME WHOLESALE PRICE for the eBook as for the hardcover.

So, taking the latest Dan Brown spectacle, The Lost Symbol, as an example....

The publisher sent out physical hard cover copies and ebook license/copies to distributors. In both cases, they got the same price for the book. So Amazon maybe paid $12 for each hardcover copy and $12 for each ebook.

The result? Publishers are making HUGE profits on eBooks...right now.

The risk is this...you notice that Amazon then takes that ebook (that they just paid $12 for) and turns around and sells it for $9.99....at A LOSS. Sure, that's great business up front as it drives the sales of their own reader and ties people to Kindle. There are other ebooks that they certainly get cheaper and will (hopefully) recoup their losses on in the long run.

However, the publishers are frightened that Amazon (and barnes & noble and sony as well) will continue to sell their books at a loss...drive up huge customer demand and expectations (why would a customer want to pay more than $10 for an ebook)...and thus demand publishers to lower the wholesale cost of the ebook so that distributors can make a profit.


Apple is being very strategic in seeing the fears of the publishing industry and playing to those fears. If they can allow publishers to set the price of the ebook, then the publishers come off as the bad guy for higher prices...not Apple (which makes Apple happy). And Apple's bet is that more publishers will do exclusive deals with them (Apple) because they can make the higher margins on sales (assuming the books sells as well). While I'm not a huge fan of Apple condoning the fleecing by the publishers, I can't blame them for a strategic move that could pay off big for them.


The real problem in the model is the same problem that we've dealt with since ebooks came around....the wholesale pricing model. Publishers weren't sure how to handle ebooks. They wanted to release them the same time as the hardbacks, especially since hardback sales were down and e-readers were getting better. At the same time, they need that huge influx of revenue with the launch of a book.

So, they stayed greedy. Even though the cost of goods is relatively small on an e-book (once the hard book is created, it's a smaller step to jump to digital...granted, there is some investment in tech development and making sure it works right and is laid out right...but once that's done, there's no overhead to send out copies). So the real argument is how publishers can honestly justify charging distributors the same price for their ebooks?

I haven't gotten into any big discussions with authors on this topic, but from what I've seen, this doesn't (yet) affect authors much...though I'm sure if publishers have to charge less for ebooks that they'll gladly pass that revenue drop right over to the authors.

For now, the authors' big concerns about e-books has to do with the piracy issue, which is a valid concern. The ebook piracy thing especially bothers me since there is already a FREE venue to get almost any book you want...the LIBRARY! True, some communities have poorly stocked libraries, and checking a book out from a library doesn't give you the digital format...and you don't get to keep it forever. But COME ON....do you really need to steal a book you can check out for free from the library? If you really want to read it without paying, hit the library...if you want to keep it forever, buy it. Honestly, if there's a book I love and want to keep forever, I'd much rather have the hardcover version than the e-book.


****

Wow, what a rambling post. Sorry. :)

L. Diane Wolfe

I prefer physical books as well - probably always will, although I have purchased a few eBooks.

I like the above idea of delaying the eBook until the paperback comes out (or delaying it 6-12 months if it first comes out in trade) and charging a paperback price of $8.99. That makes sense.

I'm curious what Apple will do with the eBook store. We download from iTunes all the time and love it. We own an iTouch, so next year when version 2 of the iPad comes out (with Flash and all the bugs fixed) we'll probably get one. Which means we'll probably get a few books from the iBook store.

Lindsey Himmler

I don't know why people think that e-books costs less for a publisher. This is what's dangerous to the industry as a whole. Think about itunes. You're no longer buying CDs, so it should be way less to get the music, right? But that's not what's happened. Let me show you.

Here's Taylor Swift's physical album, Fearless at Amazon: $15.99
Here's Taylor Swift's digital album, Fearless at itunes: $16.99

Books aren't going to be any different, and nor should they. The value of books should be based on content, not format.

Roni @ FictionGroupie

Jm, your comments are so interesting to follow today.

Lindsey, I hear your point. But it's not exactly the same IMO. With music now, it is cheaper because you can go and just buy the songs you want and like best. I haven't bought a whole album of anyone's songs since I switched to digital. So it is actually cheaper for me than CDs used to be.

And if we were only paying for content with books, then why are paperbacks cheaper? There is a difference (value wise) in my mind between a physical book that can sit on my shelf forever and be lent out, etc. and a digital file that is saved on a device that will eventually die. I'm definitely not one of those people who thinks ebooks should be outrageously cheap, but I think there should be some discount from what the hardback costs.

Kristi Faith

Uhm, Okay, I don't sniff the pages..but seriously, you don't smell that heady scent of paper and ink when you open a brand new book? It doesn't just naturally waft to your nose? Maybe I'm weird. :0) I love a new book smell. The old book smell is dull and sometimes smells of things in its environment. :0)

Amber Tidd Murphy

The reason I decided not to get a kindle was because I typically don't pay $9.99 for each book I buy.

I am a bargain book shopper.

Though I want authors to get paid, I can't afford to read 100 books this year if I am going to pay retail for each copy.

I agree that e-books should be cheaper, and love the debate sparked by your post today!

Southpaw

Unfortunately, I do smell the pages of print books. Then I sneeze, get a headache and my eyes get puffy. Some books are printed on horrible paper. E-books are great. I can read them anywhere. They are also the future. When we go on vacation, we can take eight books or more books in one device and save that extra luggage space for souvenirs.

Fourteen dollars for a hardback is too much for me. I simply can’t afford it. My eyes bugged out when I saw one for $25. I want for paper or e-book.

Tracy

Amen and amen. I definitely think e-books should be super cheap. But then, I've got a tight budget and I only buy books in the bargain bin, so I don't know if I'm the best judge of how things ought to be. :)

Jm Diaz

Thank you all for the awesome comments.

Yes, I do smell the paper.. an I love it. Not as much as the smell of the butter and garlic, but the paper is a close second. I sniff and read.. especially since I try to get books in hardcover.

Okie... wow. Great response! Thanks...

Every response was good and valid. I know that ebooks are the future.. I just that as a capitalist society, we should let the consumers to dictate the price.

Corra McFeydon

You make some great points on this. I've read so many different views on the Amazon topic, and for me, a big factor is not underselling. I'm all about making sure readers don't think my work overpriced, but tossing them a book for $6.99 when I could have made $9.99 doesn't work for me.

I think $14.99 might be a bit steep!! At first I thought, 'If consumers wuld pay $19.99 for a CD, why not a book?' But music isn't prose and the two oughtn't be compared. Plus, as you point out, CDs are dying away.

Great post.

Corra

from the desk of a writer

Kathy

I like to smell books, too.

Jon Paul

JM--I hit you up with an award, if you want it. :D Stop by my place for the details.

Sierra Godfrey

Great post andcomments. I smell the paper and did so with a paperback on Friday night.

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