BEA, eBooks, and the Future of Books

I have to say, I’m kind of a fangirl of Hillel Italie, the AP reporter who covers publishing, books, and all things literary. His article covering the BEA over the weekend gave me a massive pile of things to ponder, from the amount of money in publishing, and how it might be redirected, to the future of local booksellers, and whether the “Literary Liberation” stickers that will be sent to booksellers will be cool.

The CEO of Penguin Group USA, David Shanks, is quoted as saying, “I think when this is over, we’re going to do some soul searching…. There are people in this hall who have spent way more than a million dollars at a time when we all should be pinching pennies.” Citing “harsh numbers” and declining book purchases, the tone of the BEA was rather grim, according to Italie.

The two parts that caught my eye: Jeff Bezos hawking the Kindle, which is to be expected. Folks at his speech were apparently hoping he’d unveil new gadgetry like Jobs at the Apple Unveilings Of Pomp and Circumstance (t-minus 5 days until 7 June, yo!) and Bezos mostly barked the evangelist script of Kindle yay, Kindle revolutionary, drink the Kindle-aid, it’s good for you.

As someone who has had a gulping bucket of the Kindle aid, lemme just say: I’ve noticed a very very odd prejudice on my part when it comes to book prices, and ebook prices. Let me start by saying I am well aware that I am utterly barmy for thinking this way, and yes, I do want authors to get paid and get paid well, but at the same time, I also suspect that I am not the only one who thinks this way, even for the moment before clicking “Buy Now.”

In the realm of books, I think matter matters. Actual three dimensional matter affects people’s perceptions of price and value – it does for me anyway. Say there’s a new book out. The hardback could be $25, or $29. I rarely, for that reason, buy hardbacks. I think of all the other things I could buy with that money and I wait out the paperback or trek down to the library to borrow it. With the added weight of a hardback in my bag, and the fact that I read while commuting, paying more for something that adds to the overall heft of my purse is not, in my mind, value. I harbor a general dislike of hardbacks. Books are all about portability. I definitely hurt the local booksellers who stock mostly hardbacks, because I rarely if ever buy them. I think the last time I bought a hardback, it was a gift, probably for my dad. Unless it weighs eight pounds and comes with a free box of Doan’s Pills, my dad doesn’t consider it a real book.

So it would make sense that I’d be eager for eBooks. They are, of all things, portable. They weigh as much as the device itself: whether the device holds 100 or 2, it’s the same amount of heft.

So why do I dislike ebook buying? Because while I have no problems paying $5-$7 for a paperback book, I find myself affected by matter prejudice, because an ebook is physically nothing. I get a little shiver of “Damn that’s a lot” when I pay $5 for an ebook. I know, I know, I am making no sense. And my little shiver of “damn” is not going to stop me from buying ebooks, so fear not, epublishers. But the fact is, when I browse the Kindle-Aid store, and the newest books and the oldest ebooks, like Kinsale’s Midsummer Moon, are over $7.00 – $7.19 to be specific – I am startled. Now, $7.19 for a paperback of Midsummer Moon? I’m down. $7.19 for the ebook, and I have to overcome an internal sense of, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s so much, it’s hardly a deal at all.’

If I think about it economically, $7.19 doesn’t make a lot of room for the author, the publisher, and the myriad of other people whose incomes are hooked into the publication of a book to get paid and paid fairly, let alone well. So I click and buy and enjoy my book. I do make the purchase. But I blink at the price.

Ray Bradbury is quoted in Italie’s article as saying during a speech last Friday, “There is no future for e-books because they are not books…. E-books smell like burned fuel.” I disagree with him there – I’d rather avoid spending the fuel to go to the bookstore, even the one that’s 3 miles from my house, because holy shit, gas is $3.75 a gallon in NJ, and we won’t even discuss Connecticut (well past $4.20, if you’re interested) or, and say this in a hushed whisper like you’re talking about something truly awful, gas prices in Manhattan. E-books don’t smell like burned fuel to me; they smell like fuel saved, especially since I shop digitally and don’t heft my booty out of my chair.

But I do question the future of ebooks for people like me who have to overcome (I’m working on it, srsly) a sense that similar prices for ebooks vs. paperbacks is unfair, because while $7 for the three-dimensional paper and matter of a paperback is ok in my mind, because of the tangible item I’ve purchased, $7 for the digital words that transmit through the ether and then get deleted from my device (though stored at Kindle-Aid Headquarters) seems too much.

That said, I’m fascinated that at the same convention, there’s Bezos hawking the revolution away from paper, while American Booksellers Association announced the “Literary Liberation” movement that will attempt to “build communities nationwide” by shipping “cards, stickers and other materials” (all made of …wait for it… paper) to independent local booksellers. Cross purposes, perhaps? Is it possible to resurrect the paper bookstore and advance the ebook? I suspect so – though I ponder if more bookstores will have to become community centers – coffee, books, discussions, etc –  in part to accommodate those who look for books and socializing, using the socialization to further additional sales. What do you think?



Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    StephB says:

    I almost never buy e-books, for exactly that reason – if they were cheaper than printed books, I’d see the point of buying them, but to spend just as much money and not have the pleasure and ease of a printed book? It’s just a no-brainer for me.

    (Of course, this is why my husband and I have an end room filled with towering stacks of book and never enough bookcases to hold them…but it’s a price I’m willing to pay!)

  2. 2
    Robinjn says:

    For me, coming from a graphic design background and doing a lot of publication work, I see why paperbacks are the price they are. There are real hard costs with printed books. The paper. The ink. Press time. Binding. Shipping.

    Ebooks have none of those costs associated with them. They are bits and bytes sent over a wireless connection. I agree with you. I’d not want to pay $7.19 for an ebook. $2.19 maybe.

    An ebook uses far fewer tangible resources than a paper book. Less fossil fuel burned, no trees cut down, none of the noxious chemicals produced by paper and ink factories produced. So I’d love to go the ebook route, but I agree with you. I’m not sure I want to pay those prices for something that’s intangible at its heart.

  3. 3
    SB Sarah says:

    An ebook uses far fewer tangible resources than a paper book. Less fossil fuel burned, no trees cut down, none of the noxious chemicals produced by paper and ink factories produced.

    Yup – that’s part of what stops me before I click & buy. Wherefore dost this expensive ebook come?

    But then, I also have to tell myself, “Look, if you want more stories to read in your ebook format, you have to pay so that the writer gets paid.” So blink, click & buy… blink, click & buy.

  4. 4
    Jane O says:

    If you just knocked all those “tangible costs” off the book price, why wouldn’t you still have enough left to pay the author the same amount she would have gotten for a paperback? Is there some law that says royalties have to be figured as a percentage?

  5. 5
    mearias says:

    I don’t mind paying for e-books.  I own a Sony PRS, so I’m paying for convenience and the labor of the writer.  I do wish the books were discounted a bit more, as stated before, we’re not paying for paper, etc. 

    But really, I own the books.  I can view them in mulitple settings (PC, laptop, PDA or reader) and am freeing up some real estate in my apt, which is always a good thing.

  6. 6

    >>we won’t even discuss Connecticut (well past $4.20, if you’re interested) < < 

    And $4.99/gal for diesel.  Aieeeee!  I’m starting to source local restaurants for waste oil, with an eye to getting a converter and going bio-diesel. 

    On the e-books, I keep telling myself it makes sense to buy a Kindle or the like.  If nothing else, it’ll save suitcase space when I travel, and with the airlines charging for a second checked bag, that’s becoming relevant.  And I know it’s better in the green sense.  But I’m still stuck on the smell of paper and the feel of the pages…

  7. 7
    Shancara says:

    My biggest issue with the price of ebooks is that with the current lockdown of DRM… ebooks (without illegally cracking them) are inherently short-term purchases.  For books that require the secure purchases, the DRM is such that you can only purchase the book in one particular format (Kindle’s proprietary format, the Rocket Book proprietary format, Microsoft Reader’s proprietary format, etc).  And if you get a new ebook device that doesn’t read that proprietary format, you have to re-purchase the book in the appropriate format; or, if you have the skill and gumption, illegally crack the DRM and convert the book. 

    I purchase ebooks right now, but not of those books that I’m going to reread over and over again.  Just because I know ebook readers are an evolving technology, I’m going to want to get later versions… and who knows which format that new version is going to take.  And I’d rather not be forced into being a criminal just because a workable solution for Digital Rights management has not yet be produced.

  8. 8
    Ciar Cullen says:

    I really want to know where in NJ gas is $3.75! It’s four dollars where I live.

    No one is mentioning the whole P&E;curve thing. Profits and expenses. To get a return on the time, marketing, advertising, etc. you spend on any book, you need to sell a certain amount. There are costs involved beyond paper, in any book. If you’re only selling 100 copies, you’re not going to cover those costs without offering product at a “higher than the user would like” price. Once those costs are covered, say, at 10,000 copies sold, the price could come down. Now, whether a publishing company would actually bring it down is another matter.

  9. 9
    Nancy Beck says:

    I really want to know where in NJ gas is $3.75! It’s four dollars where I live.

    Well, it’s not quite $3.75, but there are a couple of stations out in northwestern Jersey (where I live) where regular is $3.87.  I doubt you’d want to drive out to where I live, though.  ;-)

    Like SB Sarah, I don’t do hardbacks.  Cost too much and portability is a problem.  (Who wants to lug a hardback around when you can lug around a less dense paperback?)

    That said, I can’t remember the last time I bought an e-book.  Reason?  I stare at a computer screen almost all day long; why the heck would I want to do more of the same when I’m at home or elsewhere away from work?

    Plus I also like the feel of the paper; I’m a touch whore when it comes to reading books! :-)

  10. 10
    Rosemary says:

    For $359 there has to be an extension of savings for me, and when a book is only discounted $1.50, that’s 240 books I would have to purchase to have the cost balance out.  Even then, you have to remove the money I would get from selling them back to Half Price Books so we can increase the number of books I’d have to read by about 30.  So now we’re looking at 270 books to balance out the cost.

    Because of various things, I’m only reading a book a week right now.  In the past when I could blow through 7-10 a week, the Kindle could have paid for itself.  Right now, not just no, but hell no.

    Until it becomes cost effective. the Kindle and it’s bretheren are not on my wish list.

    For that money I’d rather get a Wii with the Wii fit and use the library.

  11. 11
    Ivy says:

    Like Nancy Beck, I spend too much time at a computer and don’t want to stare at another screen for “fun”.

    But this is my biggest beef with ebooks:  I can’t unload them to a UBS.  I’ve bought books that I thought were crap and don’t want to keep.  So if I buy for $8 and sell to a UBS for $2 then my real cost is $6.  Can’t do that with ebooks.  AFAIK I can’t even try to sell them on eBay.

  12. 12
    Becky says:

    I’m still stuck on the price of the readers.  I’d love a Kindle- I very nearly drank the koolaid last week.  But $350 is still just too high- especially when the Kindle Store is a hotline straight into Amazon.  Drop the price and make it up on book sales.

    As far as ebook prices, I agree that they seem high in general.  But if you’re looking at buying hardbacks or trade paperbacks through the Kindle, the prices are quite a bit lower.  $9.99 for a brand new hardback now, or $7.99-8.99 for the paperback a year from now.  I can justify the price for getting my hands on it now.  That $9.99 is less than I would pay for it used, the author still gets their money, and I don’t have to wait a month or two on the waiting list at the library.  I haven’t thoroughly researched the trade paperbacks, but there were a couple DA Bwaha nominees available on Kindle for around $5, when the cover price was around $15.  I’d say that’s a pretty good deal, too.

    But not until the reader price comes down.

  13. 13
    Liz says:

    According to an article in today’s NY Times on BEA and e-books, the publishers are charging Amazon the same thing for e-ditions as for print copies of the books:

    Amazon sells most Kindle books for $9.99 or less. Publishers say that they generally sell electronic books to Amazon for the same price as physical books, or about 45 percent to 50 percent of the cover price. For a hardcover best seller like Scott McClellan’s “What Happened,” the former press secretary’s account of his years in the Bush White House, that would mean that Amazon appears to be selling the selling the book for about 25 percent below its cost.

  14. 14
    Silver James says:

    I’m old. I don’t *get* technology – even that which I have use every day. I do well to keep my computer programs updated. I still have to get the kiddo help me with the updates on the Macbook because it’s so different from the PC. (Love those commericals, btw.) I can’t imagine whipping out some electronic thingy and reading a couple of pages while I’m in line at the grocery store or post office. Granted, I’ve barely glanced at any of the electronic readers so have no clue how they actually work but I know I can pull out a book, go to my bookmark and know exactly where I was on the page when I start reading again.

    A book is like a cup of cafe au lait – warm, creamy and comforting as my fingers curl around it and I take a sip of the author’s story.

  15. 15
    Francois says:

    Becky said “if you’re looking at buying hardbacks or trade paperbacks through the Kindle, the prices are quite a bit lower.  $9.99 for a brand new hardback now, or $7.99-8.99 for the paperback a year from now.”

    Heh heh. That just exposes the nonsense of the hardback market for me – what you’re really paying for is getting the book earlier than the paperback, not the actual format. I never buy hardback. Haven’t got the space, money or inclination.

    I think paperback books have a good Green angle because I only buy what I’ll re-read. People using electronic devices tend to underestimate how much power they take to build and use. Each re-reading of a book uses more power. A paperback can be re-used almost indefinitely at no extra cost to you or the environment. And thats before you get onto passing it to your friends…

  16. 16
    Robinjn says:

    I think paperback books have a good Green angle because I only buy what I’ll re-read. People using electronic devices tend to underestimate how much power they take to build and use. Each re-reading of a book uses more power. A paperback can be re-used almost indefinitely at no extra cost to you or the environment.

    Hmmmm. I think if you look at it, you’ll see that books use far more resources than an electronic device, in terms of the size of the printing press, the number of hands that must touch it, the acreage of trees destroyed, and the large volume of very toxic chemicals produced as a side effect of papermaking. I’m willing to bet very few books use soy inks either, and regular inks also are extremely toxic.

    If everyone bought a single electronic device then read books on it, it would save tremendous resources that are continually expended in more print runs, etc.

    I can’t afford a Kindle and I agree the Kindle e-book prices are too high. I will occasionally buy a hardback though, IF it’s 30% off and I have an extra 15% coupon. But I also realize that books do have a huge negative environmental impact.

  17. 17
    fiveandfour says:

    [Apologies up front for a long comment…I tried to be more succinct, but I gues my feelings when it comes to books are too complex: I couldn’t find any thoughts to cut.]

    Perhaps it’s time I adjust my thinking, but I still cling to a personal tiered system when buying books.  There are certain books I find it essential to have in hardback format (my personal “classics”) because I believe hardbacks age better and stand up to wear/repeated readings better than paperbacks.  (Or in some cases, I’ll find the hardback version is actually the more convenient format for reading.  e.g. have you tried reading The Guns of August in paperback?  It ain’t easy.)

    Then there’s the larger paperback format (don’t know if it has a name, but I’m referring to the format which “chick lit” books debut in).  I rarely buy these books new, either, but there are a few authors for which I find I can pony up the ~$15 cost.

    The largest portion of books I buy come in the paperback size.  This not only has to do with the fact that these are obviously the easiest to pop into a purse and take anywhere (which makes standing in line far easier to take), but also the fact that their price fits into my internal scale of what seems a fair cost for the story.  No question, I’d buy something like The Shadow and the Star in hardback if I could because I consider it one of my essentials, but let’s face it: on a percentage-of-the-genre basis, there aren’t many romances that are “essentials”. 

    Many romances are the entertainment version of fast food and I’m not willing to pay gourmet food prices for a fast food product.  I obviously like the entertainment version of fast food or I wouldn’t be reading them, but if I had to pay much more for this entertainment I’d be looking for other things to read.  On my internal scale of value-for-cost, paperbacks are priced just about right for the value I put on the story they contain.

    On the bottom rung of the tier for me is the e-format of a book.  This is in part due to the fact that my introduction to e-books wasn’t with reading the classics, but stories for which I considered the value to be below that of a paperback and therefore I considered it fair that the cost was below a paperback.  (I’ll say I read books by authors in need of development and leave it at that.)  The other element has to do with the tangible aspect of reading.  A good part of the pleasure that I get out of a book has to do with my physical interaction with it.  Perhaps had I grown up reading stories in an electronic format I would feel differently, but the fact is I grew up with all those physical things one can associate with a book: the aspects of smelling them when all together in a library, of touching them while walking past, of taking them off the shelf for a sample read to see if it was what I was in the mood for, of holding them while reading, of making the commitment to find some way to carry them around.  And I’m not certain if this is true or just my imagination, but I swear sometimes my actual understanding of what’s being said is greater when I read it in a physical format.  While I understand that the story of Pride and Prejudice is the same whether I read it in a hardback, paperback or e-book format, I also know that my pleasure is undeniably greatest when reading it in the hardback format.

    For these reasons, in addition to the arguments related to the fact that the production cost of an e-book is lower than that of a tangible book and I can’t find it fair to pay the same price for an e-book as for a paperback, I just won’t pay the same price for an e-book that I would pay for a paperback.  I don’t perceive the value of holding a paperback in my hand and reading it as the same as reading it in an electronic format.  The story may be the same either way, but my enjoyment and my perception of value aren’t the same.

    At odds with all these thoughts and feelings is the fact that there are always more books to read, but I don’t have unlimited space for storing them.  I need to put more consideration into the notion of going the e-book route for the stories I think are the least nutritous of the fast food lot, but I’ll only do so if the cost per story is less than what I’d pay for a physical book.  After all, a paperback I consider disposable does have some after-market value: I can trade it or sell it or donate it (or throw it against the wall if it pisses me off) and get *something* back if I don’t think it’s a keeper.  As far as I know, there’s no such option for an e-book:  once the price is paid, there’s no net underneath to break my fall if I’m disappointed.

  18. 18
    Cyranetta says:

    Is there some law that says royalties have to be figured as a percentage?

    Not a law, but I’m sure there are contracts, and the contracts probably can be specific enough to have different rates for different formats. I have no actual knowledge, but a strong suspicion that the author royalty system will be something of an ocean liner—it’s possible to turn it in a new direction, but you can’t do it speedly. There’s such an inertia of That’s The Way Things Are Done dragging on it.

    I have yet to get into the ebook habit, because, like several have already mentioned, the process of reading from a screen is somewhat uncomfortable. And there’s another compelling reason for me to stick with the comfort of the tried-and-true physical copy—the headache of keeping up with evolving formats. Having just tried to figure out how to convert all my LPs and cassettes to MP3 format so they can be more easily stored (and converted to something else when required) and contemplating the whole analog-to-digital (let alone hi-def) in the TV world, books seem remarkably stable and efficient.

    Are ebook readers of whatever stripe designed so that one can “curl up with a good ebook”?

  19. 19
    Nadia says:

    A book is like a cup of cafe au lait – warm, creamy and comforting as my fingers curl around it and I take a sip of the author’s story.

    Agreed.  The physical pleasure of holding the book and turning the pages is part of the experience of relaxing with a good story for me.  Paperback or hardback makes no difference when I’m lounging on the couch, but money-wise, only a few authors rate a hardback purchase.  With a reading appetite like mine, one does sadly have to be practical in terms of cost and space.

    I’m no technophobe, but I’m not a gadget girl, either.  Yeah, the price of the reader is high, but what keeps me from ebooks and readers is my lifestyle more than economics.  I’ve downloaded a few books, and while it is certainly simple and provides instant gratification, sitting at the computer desk snuggled up with the Mac leaves something to be desired.  With a paperback, I can flip back and forth in the story with ease, I can read in the bath or at the pool, and I can fling a particularly craptacular one against the wall.  I don’t worry about losing a paperback or having it stolen because I’m only out about $7.  I don’t worry about leaving one in my car in the Texas nuclear summer or dropping my tote bag, because a paperback won’t melt or break.

    Now, in my previous life before kids, I had a job that required a great deal of travel.  Back then, I would have been all over books that I could download to a laptop or a reader because of the multi-book storage for those endless plane trips and hours spent in hotels in Nowhere USA.

    spamword:  nearly39.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  20. 20
    Shancara says:

    Are ebook readers of whatever stripe designed so that one can “curl up with a good ebook”?

    Actually, I have a Fictionwise bookreader as well as my pocket PC cellphone with Mobipocket on it.  I find the Fictionwise bookreader a very compatible analog to the ‘curling up with a book’ feeling.  The cellphone/PDA screen is still a bit small such that with as fast as I read, I feel like I’m nearly constantly pushing the forward button.  But there is one GREAT thing about the book ebooks that I LOVE them for… backlighting!  I don’t need much backlight, so that safe power-usage… but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE reading in bed without the lights on which means my significant other isn’t bothered… and I don’t have to reach over to turn out a sidetable light when I finally am too sleepy to keep my eyes open.

  21. 21
    Emmy says:

    Paying $7.00-$10.00 for a pile of pixels is just ridiculous. Particularly when you can get the print thing for about the same price, and especially when you have to pay upwards of $400 for a device to be able to even read said expensive ebooks in the first place.

    Like others, I don’t understand why ebooks cost as much as their paper counterparts, when there are no printing, shipping, warehousing, etc costs associated with an electronic file.

    All this perplexing pricing is doing is creating an ever growing market for pirated books. I’ve noticed that some of the sites I download music from are also now offering downloads of books. Many of the books I saw weren’t even offered in ebook format, so some very enterprising person scanned the books, put them in multiple formats, and uploaded them for the edification of the rest of us. It’s not older books, either. These are new releases I’m talking about.

    Sooo…faced with $4.21 gas and $10 ebooks, or an unlimited supply of free ebooks from my fave authors and still paying for gas…heck of a dilemma. At this point, I buy my books because I like my authors and know how bad it sucks not to be able to pay bills.

    My empathy is not infinite.

  22. 22
    Alyssa says:

    I travel a lot.  Back and forth from Japan to the US on a regular basis.  Plus I haven’t lived in the same place for more than two years since I graduated from highschool (which was quite a while ago).  I love ebooks with a passion!  They are the only thing that keep my addiction fed.  It would be completely impossible for me to bring my books along with me but ebooks allow me to cart literally thousands of books back and forth across the pacific. 

    However I agree with the argument against DRM.  I refuse to rebuy my extensive collection everytime there is a new ebook fad.  I read all my ebooks on my PPC.  The screen is a bit smaller than a typical ebook reader but it still works great.  The HUGE plus is that I can read all the formats of ebooks that I currently own (Microsoft Reader/Adobe/HTML/Mobipocket/eReader/etc) on one device.  I refuse to by an “ebook reader” until they stop insisting on locking the consumer into their exclusive format in order to squeeze out money.

    As for price.  I agree with Sarah, I wince a bit when I see ebook prices the same as paperback prices.  The cheapest option I have found is Fictionwise and their Buywise club.  Yes it’s 30$ per year but since I buy so many ebooks I make that price up very quickly and in the end it has saved me lots of money.

  23. 23
    Chicklet says:

    Because of my years spent reading fanfiction on the computer (and now my phone, too), I’m used to reading fiction in electronic format. But I haven’t converted to ebooks mostly because the industry lacks a single Format To Rule Them All. I sure as hell am not going to invest money in a reader and a bunch of books, then have to replace them because the reader becomes obsolete and/or the company stops supporting the format. Also, I lack the l33t hacker skillz that would enable me to break DRM to back up copies of books I do buy, so I’m SOL on that score.

    As for the pricing, I’m in the camp that believes ebook versions should be cheaper than print versions, since the publisher doesn’t have to pay printing costs. I understand that it costs money to format the text electronically, but surely it costs less than paper/layout/binding/printing?

  24. 24
    MS Jones says:

    How amazing that the author of Fahrenheit 451 can’t imagine a future where paper books are collectible artifacts.

    Generation Y gets nearly all its information from a device with a screen. Nearly half of them read blogs, 76% use IM, and 97% own a computer. Websites are the primary source of news for a third of them, and the other two-thirds? They’re getting it from The Daily Show, because nothing summarizes the American political scene better than Clusterf@#k to the White House, Mess-O-Potamia, and Indecision 2008.

    When the rest of us are in our graves, these people will not be buying paper books.

    The paradigm of huge author advances, elephantine gestation periods before a book appears in print (during which time the market has become oversaturated with virgins and vampires), and remaindering 30-40% of a run, isn’t worth a pair of dimes. It’s costly to publishers and horrible for the environment.

    I agree that the tangibility of a paperback is seductive, as is the ability to get some money back by selling to a UBS. But I think eventually competition will drive the price of ebooks down, as more and more publishers get on the pixilated train and as e-reader technology improves. 

    I haven’t yet drunk the e-kool-aid, but I know that resistance is futile.

  25. 25
    MoJo says:

    Upfront disclaimer and coming out of the closet:  I’m self-publishing.  Like, really, self-publishing and I’m here to tell you:  There’s a helluva lot of work that goes into formatting a manuscript into digital formats, especially if you want to do several (like, in my case, 8) different formats to reach as many people as possible.

    Ohtehnoes! Teh hourz! Teh learning kurvs!

    I don’t like the DRM thing any more than anybody else and I’ve cracked my share of DRMs.  I will NOT slap DRM on my books.  I also understand the transient nature of the various formats (VHS v beta) and I as a consumer want to know I can have those books always as long as I have some device that can read the information.

    I’ve thought long and hard about what to do as a compromise and this is what I’ve come up with:

    Choice of

    1. Trade Paperback, X price based on industry discounting of 55% (which SUCKS because if I were willing to sell solely from my own site and not also through Amazon’s Advantage program, it’d be a LOT cheaper).

    2. A zip file with all 8 formats I offer for $20 cheaper.

    3. Individual formats for nearly half of the zip file price.

    What I would like to get an opinion on is if the length of the book makes a difference.  For instance, Samhain prices based on number of words, which is, IMO, very smart, fair, equitable, and transparent blah blah blah.  /fangrrl squee

    So if you, Ms. Book Buyer, see a price tag of one e-file format for $7.99, does it make a difference to you that it’s 300,000 words (the equivalent of 700+ pages of a trade paperback) or would you notice?

    If you, Ms. Book Buyer, see a price tag of 8 e-file formats for $14.99, would that flexibility make a difference to you?

    (Naturally, that’s assuming anybody would buy a book that big, even if it is 3 romances in one.  ;)  /poke at self)


    doing89?  No.  69?  Definitely.

  26. 26
    Chicklet says:

    The paradigm of huge author advances, elephantine gestation periods before a book appears in print (during which time the market has become oversaturated with virgins and vampires), and remaindering 30-40% of a run, isn’t worth a pair of dimes. It’s costly to publishers and horrible for the environment.

    And yet, print publishers appear reluctant to give ebook readers a break by pricing the Kindle versions cheaper than the print versions, as the article Liz linked to says. Why not reward the early adopters, gain their loyalty, and also take the opportunity to slowly feel out how the advent of ebooks is going to change their business model?

  27. 27
    Joy says:

    Hey folks we just handed the ebook publisher tens of thousands of dollars of market advice.  We LOVE books and read a lot of them.  Come on, previous posters, count up how many books you’ve bought in the last year.  We are obviously a key part of their target market.  How many of us can pass a bookstore without at least pausing to glance at the books on display in the front? (Hey, at least my obsessive purchases don’t cost $400 a pair like Carrie’s shoes!)

    I think we could get around the initial purchase costs of a good ebook reader (we can argue if Kindle is that) though I suspect the breaking point of when we’ll flock to buy is closer to $250 than $399 or $349 that a Kindle costs.  BUT we also collect if we can.  We have our “keepers”, we go back and re-read old friends, we search out out-of-print copies in used bookstores.  The idea that something could wipe out our entire collection of “keepers”, those loved and cherished books we’ve kept for year, is horrifying.  Hey, I just re-read a paperback published in 1965! Still a keeper.  It was yellowed, a little brittle but still there!  Still readable.  Will a keeper on my ebook reader last 43 years?  Can my children go through my “virtual” shelves and discover something about what I read and enjoyed and feel a little closer to me for having a few of my virtual books on my shelves like I have a few of my beloved mother-in-law’s books.  Until they can replicate that experience…ebooks won’t replace paper.

  28. 28
    KJ says:

    I don’t see what the problem is with paying the same price for printed or ebook. To me, it’s not the paper that is valuable or the cover art…it’s the story inside. I think this really comes down to who truly, honestly LIKES the idea of ebooks. Versus those who have an e-reader, but still like the physical sensation of a paperback or hardback book.

    I’m one of the weirdos who has NO problem with ebooks or ebook readers. Love the whole idea of it. Would pay the same for an ebook as a ‘regular’ book and not really care.

    Personally, I think authors should get paid a HIGHER percentage for ebook sales. That is the part I don’t understand. From what I gather, their percentage is the same.

  29. 29
    Chris S. says:

    It’s not just the ‘What am I paying for, exactly?’ notion, nor even the annoyance of reading on screen.  But if presented with an ebook reader, I’m pretty sure I would drop it in the tub, or leave it on the subway, or, y’know, let it fall from a height.  Yeesh.  Small objects that go in my hands are not my friends:  I’ve gone through about a dozen umbrellas this year, and it’s just June.

    Makes the loss of a paperback (or even a hardcover) seem negligible.

  30. 30

    Well, my novella TABOO is only $3.50, but you can get it for $2.80 to download on Kindle.  ;-)  That said, Amazon takes a huge cut of the price for themselves, leaving the author with very little royalty.  Although it may “look good” to have high numbers at Amazon, I can get a higher pay-out from other venues.

    But, as a reader, I do see your point.  Cost should be about what it takes to produce a book.  And an ebook’s costs would involve the editor’s pay, artist’s pay and the publisher layout costs and overhead (plus more I don’t know about). Whereas a paper book involves the printer, ink, and paper in addition to the rest.

    Then again, when you download, you avoid the costs of either (1) gas to drive to the store or (2) shipping costs to you.  So you’re may be paying more money for the sheer convenience.

    The only hard back I ever buy are books I know I’ll keep – such as the HP series!

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