Ebooks and Economics in the Op-Ed

In a Friday Op-Ed in the NY Times, Paul Krugman examines technology and the profitability of the ancillary market for publishing in light of the advancing market share of the ebook.

He cites the the predictions of Esther Dyson, who in 1994 predicted that digital content itself would not be the source of profit for emerging companies; instead, services and support surrounding the content would be the actual revenue-generating aspect of business. Comparing technology and software distrubution to the Grateful Dead business model, in which “enough of the people who copy and listen to Grateful Dead tapes end up paying for hats, T-shirts and performance tickets,” Krugman states that there’s a need for publishing to prepare itself for the coming market change, brought about partially by ebooks and their popularity.

Once again the industry of books and music are compared to one another – which is always a rocking good time, because while they have some finer points in common, among them being structurally bugfuck crazy, the two models are very, very different. However, ancillary market profit might be one of the areas that the two medias come to share. The question is, how?

Music sales from “touring, merchandising, and licensing” are becoming mainstays of band profit as “downloads… steadily undermin[e] record sales.”

So, what about books? BEA was all about eBooks, baby, and ebooks are the new market for books. Touting the Kindle-Aid, Krugman draws a parallel between downloaded music and downloaded, aka pirated, books.

How will this affect the publishing business? Right now, publishers make as much from a Kindle download as they do from the sale of a physical book. But the experience of the music industry suggests that this won’t last: once digital downloads of books become standard, it will be hard for publishers to keep charging traditional prices.

I wrote recently about the price tag of ebooks but my problem with the price has nothing to do with the comparative $0.00 sale price of ebooks from pirate sites. For one thing, I like good reading and know that snagging a free book means one less byte of good writing for me in the long run. For another, the formatting is often atrocious, the quality crap, and did I mention the immediate satisfaction vs. future quality reading thing? Yeah. Threaten me with the absence of good books from talented authors, and I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll even clean the sink trap (*ew ew ew ew*).

Krugman points out that newspaper attempts to profit by ancillary subscriptions for content they otherwise give away have backfired – and that free vs. subscription prejudice from consumers works both ways. Count me among those who get very ornery when a magazine I subscribe to prevents me from reading that same content I already paid for on the publication’s web site. (Consumer Reports, are your ears burning? The only reason I pay twice is because you’re a non-profit and your recommendations never fail me).

However, with publishing attempts to market books in innovate ways, the free ebook is making many, many consumers happy, and if it’s working appropriately, then one free download that’s professionally sanctioned (and professionally formatted, please, kthxbye) can make a world of difference in creating new fans and new customers of an author’s backlist of product. 

But here’s the part that really made me stop and ponder:

Indeed, if e-books become the norm, the publishing industry as we know it may wither away. Books may end up serving mainly as promotional material for authors’ other activities, such as live readings with paid admission. Well, if it was good enough for Charles Dickens, I guess it’s good enough for me.

This is the part where I wonder, “Hmm. Do romance readers figure into dire predictions of the death of publishing as we know it?” How many readers here and at other sites swear by paper books, the tactile experience of them, and the pleasure of shopping for them, trading them, borrowing them, and keeping them for rereads?

Books as promotional materials for other activities? I’m confused. I’m still rather startled at the degree to which authors are asked to make themselves in to celebrity representatives for the sales of their own books, and that they allow greater access to themselves for the sake of a voracious readership that wants more, more, more between the issue of each new book.

If you’re a reader like me, you read fast and eagerly, and the finish of one excellent book is a sad event soothed only by the anticipation of the next adventure in a new book, with luck also a good one. Reading is among my very favorite activities (right up there with sleeping, eating pastry, and drinking wine). So whether I’m reading an ebook, or a print book, I’m still after the book, not the promotional reading. I’m a solitary person by nature; I don’t have any desire to sit in a room with other people to listen to my reading. I want to read by myself in the quiet. I’m not after the author and I’m not after the experience of reading-as-interaction. I just want the reading of the book, in any form. And while I do blink at the equal price of ebooks, I still buy the ebook or the paper, because I want to read.

I agree with Krugman that the markets that intend to profit from digital media will have to alter themselves mightily to create new functioning models that account for the sizable difference between pages and bytes. But am I alone in thinking that so long as there are books to be read, there will be folks like me paying for them?

Thanks to SonomaLass for the link.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Jane says:

    I actually do not believe that ebooks = no sales.  The idea that we move toward free content is not one that has been seen in other markets and the print publishing market is about 10 years behind the music market.

    To some extent, the comparison between music and books, in the digital sense, is inherently fallacious given the already digital nature of music, meaning that because music is already so portable the use and transfer is much easier.

    Music sales, while they have declined, have not been eliminated and the ipod has been around for 7 years and mobile digital music players for longer than that.  I think what we saw in the music industry was a market correction in terms of pricing.  But even with the onset of drm free music, music sales have not dropped dramatically.

    So taking the one model of music and extrapolating that onto the book industry, it is unlikely that book sales would decline to the point that it is simply free.  Free ebooks make sense while ebooks are in their infancy.  Once ebooks are the norm or equal to print sales, free ebooks may no longer make sense.  But it is possible that as ebooks rise to market ascendancy that there will be a correction in the market which might mean a lowering of prices but a lowering of prices does not equal free either.

  2. 2

    Books may end up serving mainly as promotional material for authors’ other activities, such as live readings with paid admission.

    What is he smoking?

    For an author, time on the road means less time writing, and fewer books produced.

    Most writers are introverts, not rock stars.  The performance element would be very stressful, and more recovery time would be needed, meaning even fewer books.  And with stress, the possibility of writer’s block increases, which means no books at all.

    So forward thinkers who believe that the industry will run off hardware and not content, can enjoy their computer-generated shareware books, read by actors hired to pretend to be authors.

    Most real writers cannot function in this model.  A lot of us would rather be writing quietly on the back of envelopes, and circulating stories amongst each other in the breakrooms of our day jobs than living out of a freakin’ a tour bus, like Jerry Garcia.

  3. 3
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~Books may end up serving mainly as promotional material for authors’ other activities, such as live readings with paid admission. ~

    Oh no, they won’t. For all the reasons Christine stated.

    When I tour or do public appearances, I WILL NOT READ. I’ll do Q&A;, give a talk, but I won’t read. That’s just me. I figure why would these readers want me to read for them? If they want the book, they can buy it.

    I want to stay home and write. When I do a signing or event, I’m delighted to meet the readers who attend. But signings and events could never equal a living, unless it’s what we’d spend most of our time doing (and even then, not going to pay the bills for most). And if we’re spending most of our time on the road doing events, we’re not writing the books the people who might come to those events want to—what is it now—oh yeah. Read.

    Readers want to read, writers want to write. They often enjoy meeting each other at a signing or event. But, speaking for myself, I didn’t get into this business to perform.

    Free content on some scale may very well lend itself to promoting books—esp e-books at this point. But the day all creative content becomes free content, the creators will be lost. And those who enjoy the creative content will be out of luck.

  4. 4
    MoJo says:

    So whether I’m reading an ebook, or a print book, I’m still after the book, not the promotional reading.

    Exactly and for the reasons above. (Had a big spew ready, but Christine and Nora beat me to it.)  Plus, there is a demand problem with personal appearances with authors that rock stars don’t have, which is to say, enough people want to go to concerts and not enough people want to go to book signings.  Econ 101.

    Another point where ebooks/print books and are not analogous to music is that music is a “while” activity.  You mostly listen “while” you are doing something else (i.e., running, driving, mowing the lawn, getting ready for work, trying to get to sleep).  You can’t do any of those things and read at the same time.  Reading is its own activity and you can listen to music “while” you read, you can’t run, drive, or get ready for work while you read.  In that case, the music would be seen as more intellectually disposable than books because you have to devote specific time to books, which then makes one value it more (in theory, anyway).

    Side comment: Proper formatting of ebooks.

    SBSarah, this has driven me nuts from the moment I got my first ebook and then it did it again once I got my eBookWise reader.  What, did someone think that just because it’s bits and bytes that it can’t be formatted as elegantly for that device as possible because nobody will care?

    I care.  I care enough to have figured out what no other formatter has figured out with my eBookWise reader has done:  To fully justify the text.  It can be done; I know how to do it.  /brag

    In any case, I think this may become a more common complaint because I’m seeing a lot of ebooks that are hard to read because of formatting.  If it keeps up and enough people are annoyed, they’ll just stop buying/reading ebooks at all.  If the line breaks are all over the place and your eyes hurt—and that takes you completely out of the story on all pages, why would you bother?

  5. 5

    Doing readings? Tours? This is without a doubt my worst nightmare. I’m sure there are some writers who could thrive in this environment, but most of the ones I know would quickly wither on the vine. IMO that’s one of the reasons so much fucknuttery goes on at conferences. The participants have to get blotto just to endure so much socializing.

  6. 6
    SonomaLass says:

    I thought when I first read this piece that Krugman was way off-base on that one point.  I don’t see authors becoming celebrity readers, or making a living selling hats, totes and t-shirts (although there are some who have such side-lines, I have no idea how much profit they make).  But some of his other points are more valid, and his central idea (that there’s as big a revolution coming in book publishing as we’re seeing in the music industry) fascinates me.

    Obviously there’s a huge difference in that many musicians are performers—writing the music is logically follwed by playing it, and so playing it in public is part of what you do.  Not so with most writers, obviously—writing is the art form, and I don’t think there’s much thrill once you’ve written it in reading it over and over to others.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that e-books could potentially lead to file-sharing, which will change profit margins and all sorts of things.  I think there’s a more of a correlation between books and films, though.  Audiences now have a huge choice when it comes to the movies—you can pay $9 to $15 to see it when it is brand new, on the big screen, or you can wait and rent it for much cheaper when it comes out on DVD.  Some movies don’t have a big enough audience to justify a long run in theatres; some go straight to DVD, because the audience for that upper end tier isn’t there.  Some movies you want to buy and own, to watch more than once, while others you will rent once and that’s it.  Some people are inveterate collectors who buy and keep the ones they like, regardless of whether they will watch them over and over. And some movies get special editions, extra features and so on when released on DVD, because there’s a market for that.

    The parallels are obvious to books—hardback, trade paper, mass-market paper.  Used bookstores and libraries.  Adding in the e-book adds complexity to that picture, certainly.  But with movies, the piracy market has been a lot slower in taking a huge chunk out of revenues than happened in music, and that’s probably because (as someone commented above) there wasn’t a huge price correction that was needed.  I tend to think that there will continue to be readers willing to pay full price for a new book, and that there will be best-selling authors and niche authors who can make quite a good living from that.  What may get corrected by market forces is what “full price” means.

  7. 7

    You notice, no one ever cites the cell phone model.  When the device was free and the minutes were expensive, we all ran out and got phones.

    So come the ebook revolution, Kindles should be free, so that you can read in the tub and not care if you get it wet.  And books should be exactly the price they are now, but with a consistantly higher royalty going to the author. 

    Format of the work does not really matter to me.  An ebook sale is as good as a print sale.  Because they are both sales. A sale is a sale is a sale.  (Which is different than a give-away).

    But until I hear Jeff Bezos giving reader’s away, or at least making them so cheap that I can afford to forget mine on the bus?  This is about selling gadgets and not books.

  8. 8
    Brandi says:

    Given some popular fiction out there, readings could easily be the new stand-up comedy.

    I mean seriously. Just imagine an LKHAnita Blake reading. Or anything by Terry Goodkind.

    [An aside: for any of you who’ve heard of the infamous Touched by Venom—I actually saw a copy at a local library sale. Funny as it sounds, I don’t think it’s two bucks funny…]

  9. 9
    Suze says:

    Performance vs. technology.  The modern music industry was always about selling recordings of a performance, and that forced the purchase of technology compatible with the recordings.

    Books are an older technology, and the interface is the human.  You could sit and watch a play, or listen to the Skald, and the storytelling was partially performance-based.  When books were hand-copied, they were expensive and rare, and only the real book geeks were willing/ able to pay for them.  As the technology improved, and books became easier and cheaper to produce, the price came down so that people had more exposure to the written word and therefore opportunity to become literate.  And once they were literate, there were books available.  A nice positive feedback loop.

    So while live musical performances are still available even though you can get a recording, and live plays are still available even though you can rent the movie version, will paper books still be available even though you can get an e-book?

    It’s not a perfect analogy, because live performances are their own art form, but I think so are paper books.  However, as live performances are more expensive than recordings, I can see paper books being more expensive than e-books, because there’s more human labour involved.

    I have to agree that I’d be happy to pay more for an e-book if the reader was free or priced such that I could afford to go through one every year.  In fact, I can see buying multiple copies of e-books, to replace the ones that I lost when I lost my cheap e-reader.  Just like I went out and bought all my music in CD after my tape deck crapped out.  And I pony up for concert and theatre tickets, even though I can listen to music and watch movies at home.

    But reading.  It’s not quite the same.  It’s a solitary activity.  The author and reader connect through the words, across time.  I love the concept of e-books, and the portability and ease, but if it meant no more paper books, my heart would break.

    And what would it mean for people in developing countries?  Currently it’s fairly easy to send printed material to people who, if they can read the language, can immediately use them.  Sending e-books to people without readers (or, y’know, electricity) would be stupid.  And if paperbooks are more expensive, who’d send them?

    Argh.  My brain, it’s in knots.  Best I take a reading break :)

  10. 10
    Chrissy says:

    I love the cell phone model idea.  The cost thing and compatibility thing have NEVER made sense to me.  Why pay the same amount for something that I can’t loan freely, easily, simply the way I do a paperback?  Why get bullied by amazon with this nonsense of paying the same price for that stupid reader as I pay for a cheapo laptop that does a hell of a lot more?

    And the cell phone model IS a brilliant comparison.  Because from day one I have wanted to support e-publishing, but it has not been a friend to me.  If all ebooks were the same types of files that could migrate across TONS of devices, and if the readers were free?  I COULD loan my personal copy.  I wouldn’t feel bullied or blackmailed.  I’d actually appreciate the opportunity to read something I’d rather not bulk up my shelves with.

  11. 11
    Hortense Powdermaker says:

    I think both Krugman and Dysart are mistaken about what’s going on. People are no longer content to be passive consumers of entertainment. It’s now an interactive process, and they want to add their own content and express themselves – even if it’s just a comment on a blog, or dancing in the grass to Uncle John’s Band. And this predates the Internet (it started with Rocky Horror). 

    What’s driving down the consumption of books and music is the fact that there is so much alternative free entertainment on the Internet that is PARTICIPATORY.  Now if authors could cash in on that – if, say, Nora got a penny every time her name was mentioned – oooh, she’d be richer than God.

  12. 12
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~The participants have to get blotto just to endure so much socializing. ~

    This is so funny! And true.

    I don’t know how it works for song writers, but if we correlate to the music industry we’d be the song writer, NOT the performer. Though I know many, many performers also write their own material.

    However, a song writer doesn’t HAVE to perform—and unless he or she is a rock star, no one really wants to hear the writer perform.

  13. 13
    Suze says:

    Here’s the thing about the music analogy that doesn’t work for me.  Music recordings are a product in themselves, but they’re also advertising for the performance.

    So people downloading all a performer’s music, and burning their own mixes for friends, doesn’t make the performer any money, but the friend digs the mix and then goes out looking for more, and becomes a fan, and then attends the performances (and buys some recordings, because most people will pay to support their artists).

    You can’t do that with books.  I mean, we do in the way that we share books and introduce friends to new authors, but with e-books, we can’t download and remix and burn copies for friends.  “Hey, pal, I mixed you an anthology of my favourite scenes!  Rock on!”

  14. 14
    Brandi says:

    [Interactivity] predates the Internet (it started with Rocky Horror).

    I’m betting any Brits here who’ve been to a panto or two will gently correct you on this. :D

  15. 15
    amy lane says:

    I think as long as there are keeper shelves, there will be print books, and as long as there are people who know how to read, there will be a market for fiction.  (Of course, given what I’ve seen in public education for the last fifteen years, that’s a big ol’ fat assed ‘IF’, but that’s a whole other rant.) 

    As a self-published author, my books are HORRIFICALLY high priced—and, yes, they are available on free download sites around the net.  But the people who love to read—the solitary people who inhale words like air, and who need them just as much—these are the people who read the book for cheap on their computer and then spend $25 tracking down that puppy in print because they love it and it’s just not real unless they can touch it.  There have always been ‘throwaway’ paperbacks, and there have always been ‘keeper shelves’ for the books that make the cut and don’t get donated to libraries or church yard sales, etc.  As long as there are keeper shelves, there’s going to be someone willing to pay crap-all for the overpriced work of heart, because, like you all said, it’s NOT music.  You DON’T dance to it in public because it’s only physical interaction is the visceral contact with the page.  And the only way to learn all the words is to read it a thousand times, mark the pages, underline the favorite passages, and touch the pages again and again. 

    I don’t know—as much as I whine about my students (and, uhm, it would help if they didn’t steal my cash, my dvds, my books, and my self-respect) the fact is, that if my kids actually gave enough of a tinker’s shit to STEAL a book on the download, I would have a lot more hope for the future.  The kid who cares enough to steal a book is the kid who is eventually going to respect the written word enough to buy a book in print.

  16. 16
    Rosa says:

    Suze, your thing about mix tapes – my mom’s book club used to have a “read sex scenes out loud” evening once a year. It was like a romance mix tape jam!

    But, seriously, sending a friend a box of old paperbacks is just like sending them a mix tape, if they are a reader – and it’s equally likely to lead to them going out and buying other works of some of those authors.

    That’s why I don’t buy the paranoia about piracy cutting into sales. People don’t mind paying when are pretty sure they’ll like what they’re getting. It’s taking the chance on something new that requires an incentive (like a lower price.)

    p.s. one of my coworkers is 22 and he saw me reserving library books online and asked me “how much does a library membership cost?”

  17. 17
    Treva Harte says:

    You forgot to mention that many authors are simply just not as attractive as movie stars.  I’m not sure I’m ready for the complete redo that would be necessary before they sell me to whoever will buy a ticket.

    I do buy the idea that if people let go of the print model when they look at ebook publishing they may get somewhere.

  18. 18
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~That’s why I don’t buy the paranoia about piracy cutting into sales~

    It’s not paranoia if it’s real.

    Many authors have come on-line in these discussions to illustrate exactly how piracy hurts our bottom line. There’s really no point in doing so again.

    If you don’t buy it, you don’t buy it. And nothing’s going to change that.

  19. 19

    That’s why I don’t buy the paranoia about piracy cutting into sales.

    I know it’s cutting into many print author’s sales. I know this because I know human nature, and I know there are people who are happy to steal as long as the thing they steal isn’t physically tangible. And there are people out there who are happy to read badly formatted books on their desktops because the thrill of getting that product for free makes up for any potential eye strain. To try to measure the loss to the author and publisher is the hard part.

    But if your book IS an ebook (as opposed to a print book also released in eformat, or a print book that’s been scanned and uploaded), it could cut sales to virtually nothing. Because if the EXACT SAME PRODUCT as the one you’re trying to sell is available for no cost, and the only thing stopping someone from stealing it is their conscience and as Sarah called it, “the immediate satisfaction vs. future quality reading thing”, I can’t imagine that wouldn’t put a sizable dent in sales.

    And if ebooks are “the future” as some would like to think (myself included), books sold primarily as bytes rather than pages ought to be afforded a bit more respect than they seem to get.

    And I’d just like to add my voice to the choir of WTFs in regard to the ancillary sales argument. I’m not Gerry Garcia—much as I might physically resemble him before my morning coffee. No one is going to pay to watch a woman with saggy tits and 8 linear miles of baby-induced stretchmarks read sex scenes at the local bookstore. Christ, it would prolly put people off boinking for months.

  20. 20

    I think the cellphone comparison is apt, but there’s also the iTunes model. As I understand it, Apple makes no money at all on iTunes. It’s strictly a vehicle through which to sell iPods. Presumably iPods are horrifically overpriced to compensate for what they lose on iTunes.

    I could actually see such a model working in publishing, whereas there would be a horrifically expensive e-reader, but the books themselves would be very low-priced.

    My first e-book comes out in a few months (Yay me!), and I’m deeply concerned about pirating. Recently on an author’s loop someone posted a link to someone who had to have had THOUSANDS of print and e-books for sale on her website. We reported her and she took the site down, but you just know she’s simply packed up shop and moved elsewhere.

    Given the narrow profit margin in publishing, it wouldn’t take many of those to impact sales drastically. I have no idea what the solution is, but I don’t think we have the option of making our money off performances.

    8 linear miles of baby-induced stretchmarks

    Only eight miles? I frequently joke that my torso resembles the Roadmap to Peace, as my stretchmarks have stretchmarks and I have enough backfat to keep Emeril Lagasse cooking for decades.

  21. 21

    I have enough backfat to keep Emeril Lagasse cooking for decades.

    I like to think of myself in terms of a good NY strip steak—well-marbled with a generous fat-cap, lol!

  22. 22
    dlh27 says:

    If you live in Australia, and the price of a paperback is $19.95 upwards for a new release, then downloading ebooks at us dollar prices is enough to convert me. I read on my laptop, the only reader available for sale in Aus, that I have been able to find, is about $900. I read a lot, not as much as I used to but at 3 or 4 books a week, that gets expensive. I want to save money, so ebooks are great, but I feel they are overpriced. DRM drives me crazy. I have lost a fortune in books, because they are locked. Now I buy it once, and then I download it elsewhere if for some reason I can’t remember how to unlock it, very likely with my memory.  If ebooks can be related to the music industry, then itunes will be our friend. I can almost guarantee that every track available for down load with itunes is available on pirate sites, but sales for itunes continue to grow. It sure isn’t because people have become honest since itunes became available. Its because Steve Jobs is a visionary, something publishing needs. People buy off itunes because its easy (single format, one click purchase), its reasonably priced, and just about every one has a digital music player. Apple didn’t give away the ipod to get people to buy their music from itunes. What they did, was make the whole thing integrated and easy to use, plus give us ipods for all price ranges.  Make ebooks DRM free,  decide on a single user friendly format, and make the price reflective of their cost. Consumers are not stupid, they know it cost less to produce electronically than paper version. I am insulted when I am expected to pay the same for a ebook as a paper book. As an author look for the positive, your books will be available a lot longer on ebook shelves than in book stores,  and your just as accessible as any other author, and your available world wide instantly. If your a new author, I will take a chance on purchasing your book if its a reasonable price maybe around $5.00 give of take, but if its $10.00 or $12.00, not going to happen, sorry not for an ebook. I can’t even resell it, if I don’t like it. Just the reality of it all.

  23. 23

    If your a new author, I will take a chance on purchasing your book if its a reasonable price maybe around $5.00 give of take, but if its $10.00 or $12.00, not going to happen, sorry not for an ebook. I can’t even resell it, if I don’t like it. Just the reality of it all.

    I couldn’t agree more (and I know, I’ve said this—repeatedly—elsewhere). Yes there are costs inolved, whether you’re publishing in print or electronically, but there’s no way I’ll buy the argument I’ve seen put forth that print-paper-binding, warehousing, shipping, remaindering, and returns don’t all present a substantial cost. I read a few sample profit/loss work-ups at Anna Genoese’s blog a year or two ago, and the figures in those particular columns did not remotely approach zero. So, yeah, between the lower production and distribution costs, and the fact that the consumer is expected to give up some rights associated with print books, ebooks ought to cost less than their print counterparts.

    And FWIW, the one ebook I have available at the moment is priced at $4.50. Very reasonable, as far as I’m concerned, and I make a decent buck off of it, too.

  24. 24
    Tae says:

    One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, does events where people pay for tickets to attend his readings.  Most of the time, he does this to raise money for the CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund).  I will gladly pay money every single time to listen to Neil Gaiman read his books, short stories, or the phone book.  He is that good.

    Not all authors are good at reading their own material out loud to an audience however.  In addition, I really can’t think of many authors that I would pay to see.

  25. 25
    Treva Harte says:

    I couldn’t agree more (and I know, I’ve said this—repeatedly—elsewhere). Yes there are costs inolved, whether you’re publishing in print or electronically, but there’s no way I’ll buy the argument I’ve seen put forth that print-paper-binding, warehousing, shipping, remaindering, and returns don’t all present a substantial cost. I read a few sample profit/loss work-ups at Anna

    And that’s great.  But remember that authors with ebook publishers can make an average of 30-40 percent off an ebook.  The percentage in ebook royalties vs. the larger distribution in print roughly evens out for their returns. Everything comes at a cost. I don’t know as most authors would give up royalties unless they were sure a cheaper ebook would guarantee enough sales to make that money back for them.  So far in my experience, it doesn’t.  Of course things do change in epublishing land.

  26. 26
    Treva Harte says:

    Darn it.  The top paragraph of my previous post was a quote from kirsten.  I was responding to it in the second paragraph.  Darn quote thingie.

  27. 27

    Most writers are introverts, not rock stars.  The performance element would be very stressful, and more recovery time would be needed, meaning even fewer books.  And with stress, the possibility of writer’s block increases, which means no books at all.

    I so agree with this. Just traveling affects me whether it’s to a conference or whater. I don’t travel well as in the jetlag part and I want to sleep for 3 days. It’s very demanding going to a conference and I feel like I lose 2 weeks of productive time. I like booksignings, but it’s exhausting to go on tours and it’s such a loss of writing time for authors like me who don’t travel well.

    I haven’t studied my print contracts, but they’ve got to be making out “like bandits” with the e-versions because from what I understand, we’re not making much more than on the print versions. If any more. Can’t remember what my editor said (too busy trying to meet a deadline.)

    When I wrote for an e-pub, I made a fabulous income at 37.5%. It ain’t that way in the print world on e-books and hell they don’t have any overhead. Come on! But you do reach a much broader audience and overall print can be much better. But I have to say I liked my big checks. Tax time’s no fun…but that’s either way. :o)

    But here’s what I have always thought: I use Star Trek as my model. Everything is electronic. They don’t walk around with physical manuals on how-to. Books they read (except Picard!) are electronic. Someday that will be the norm. Those e-book readers can hold a tremendous amount of books which lowers the TBR pile.

    I still like the tactile sensation of holding a book in my hands and I’m not seeing a Kindle in my near future.

    Another thing though, and this would be *brilliant* would be to have all students’ books on a device like the Kindle. Go to the bookstore and download. Just think how much lighter their book load would be and their books hopefully less expensive because it’s freaking a lot to buy a text book for $150. But most of all the idea that their backpacks would be so much lighter, and if they could take notes on the same device and download them into a computer for their papers, or even the professor has a device that takes homework, that would be amazing. Professors even take docs via e-mail, mostly in online classes.

    Maybe some colleges or universities already do this, but I think it would be such a brilliant idea to do that for text books. Maybe the Kindle already can. Dunno. I haven’t looked at it at all because right now I’m not interested. But college students, especially as a mom of college students, I think that would rock.

    My word is moment94. Yes, I’m having a moment!

  28. 28
    ev says:

    Unlike music, when you buy a book, you buy the whole thing. Much of what I have seen in the digital music explosion is that you no longer are forced to buy an entire album that has one or two decent songs on it. I like that I can do that. Thank god for itunes.

    I go to concerts alot- almost as much as I read. But to find an author I like, I have to travel long distances. For some reason the capitol of NY just doesn’t get them. Go figure. Guess publisher’s think only in NYC they read??  I would love to meet the ones who actually write what I enjoy. The only author’s we get at the Border’s where I work are local- and that does nothing for me.

    And not all authors translate well into the public setting. Which is cool. This fall, Anne McCaffrey will be here for Albicon. I will be there. I don’t care if it the weekend of my anniversary. Hubby can take me out to dinner some other time. At least I won’t have to pay for a hotel room.

    I enjoy getting my newsletter from James Patterson- when he has a new book, he always leads up to it with the first few chapters. I know I will read it anyway, but I love to have that little tease.

    My daughter goes to school online- Univ of Phoenix- all of her books are ebooks. She can print what she needs. they are, though, almost as expensive as the books themselves. But that may be because the demand isn’t as high yet, which may reduce the prices.

    She does dl music from pirate sites- then when she finds something she likes, she goes and buys the cd, dls it to her ipod and deletes the pirate stuff. A little unethical perhaps but she has also found music that she may have never heard of before. I think that is what many of her generation do- I know her friends do it too. I know she does it for movies too. Then hightails it to the theater. I mean, really, how many times can one person sit thru Sweeney Todd or Ironman?

    Nothing will ever take the place, for me, of a book in hand though. What I do hate to see is all the pb’s that go in the garbage. That kills me. So is it better to print books and have the ones not sold, stripped and dumped or not kill the trees to begin with and do an ebook??

  29. 29
    MoJo says:

    Cheyenne said: 

    But here’s what I have always thought: I use Star Trek as my model. Everything is electronic. They don’t walk around with physical manuals on how-to. Books they read (except Picard!) are electronic. Someday that will be the norm. Those e-book readers can hold a tremendous amount of books which lowers the TBR pile.

    That’s so funny you say that.  I think about that every day, especially that scene with Picard in his cabin reading Holmes from a book, quietly and without fanfare.

    Perhaps reading print books will be the luxury of the future.  You know, like getting a full-body massage.

  30. 30
    Ruth says:

    Krugman is partially right about the value of e-books as promotional material. If you look at sci-fi/fantasy authors, readers, and even publishers (who tend to be early-adopters)  you can see a growing trend toward using e-content to promote paper books.

    I’m thinking of Neil Gaiman (his blog, short stories, audio, etc), Elizabeth Bear (her blog, Shadow Unit), Cory Doctorow (all his novels), John Scalzi (again with the blog, a novel, miscellania), Subterranean Press, Tor, and Baen (and probably scads more).

    Doctorow actually has been successful at managing to sell books by giving them away for free. Now, he’s really an extreme case, an outlier, but I think his example speak to the essential fallacy present in every one of the million newspaper stories about how the e-book is going to kill the paper book: they aren’t the same thing at all. That is, an e-book isn’t actually a book, in the same way that an audiobook isn’t really a book.  Obviously the content is the same, regardless of how it’s presented, but when you get right down to it a book is writing printed on dead trees, bound between covers.

    The book does such a great job of presenting content that it has not only beat out all its competitors, but has become shorthand for the content itself. This is where Krugman’s theories and music analogies break down: the book isn’t just a recording, it’s also the concert. Each book is a live appearance.  I seriously doubt that e-books will be able to compete with that anytime soon.

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