Why Do Ebooks Cost So Much?

from the greed? dept

Jeff Malfant points us to a nice little rant over at News.com wondering why ebooks are so damned expensive. He points out that many seem to be priced at about the same going price as the physical books, despite no physical product to produce and ship. My guess is that companies and publishers think they can get away with it for now, since people are "used to" paying the price of books, but it won't last. It just becomes an opportunity for smarter folks to start offering cheaper books (or even free ebooks). And, at some point, a lot of people will just stop paying for the higher priced ebooks.


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    hank mitchell, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:02am

    all digital prices will fall to that of a convenience fee, lets say for example, 99¢.

    Won't all digital prices will fall to that of a convenience fee, lets say for example, 99¢. It won't matter what you are selling, whether it's an app that makes your telephone play back fart sounds, or a word processor, or a 3 hour long science fiction movie, Think Redbox. txtat.blogspot.com/2009/08/99-economy.html?redbox

     

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    R. Miles (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:13am

    Not so sure about this one.

    And, at some point, a lot of people will just stop paying for the higher priced ebooks.
    But all it takes is one to buy, and the price remains.

    After all, people pay $1.30 per song.

    In fact, people pay extraordinary prices for quite a bit of digital content.

    It's when everyone stops buying that prices come down.

    And that's never going to happen.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:16am

    Maybe they're lazily simplifying pricing?

    Maybe they just want to have a static cost across books, so they figure in all costs and profit margins across all platforms for the book release (physical, audio, digital, etc.) and then standardize the price?

     

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    Kevin Stapp (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:17am

    Re: all digital prices will fall to that of a convenience fee, lets say for example, 99¢.

    My thoughts exactly. There's a price point that allows anyone to take a taste without feeling they are wasting money. I wonder if anyone has tried the $.99 price point on older publications of popular authors? Speaking for myself, there are lot of older works by Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett I would buy for $1 even though I already read the books.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:24am

    I have bought e-books of Lois Bujolds for about $5 each even though I already own the hardcovers. It's nice being able to bring them with me wherever I may go.

    However I bought them from webscriptions.net and got them as DRM free books. I refuse to pay for e-books that are defective by design.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:24am

    Because we're idiots...

    They charge that much because we are idiotic sheep who accept what we are fed.

    With a book, you actually OWN the book. It's a physical possession. You can read the book. Read the book to your child. Make notes in the book. And if someone comes into your house and tries to take your book, you can have them arrested.

    An eBook on the other hand is nothing. It's a phantom, a ghost... nothing but a LICENSE to use the book with whatever restrictions they decide to give you. In fact, if you buy it on a kindle or on an iPhone, they can walk right in (electronically) and take your book away...

    And you PAY the same price for that "nothing" as you pay for a REAL book...

    Now... go sleep little sheep... go sleep...

     

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    Ben Robinson (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:29am

    Ebook subsciption

    All you can eat ebooks makes even more sense than all you can eat music. There has got to be an upper limit on the amount of books a person can read and therefore buy, most people will read fewer than that. There has got to be a good business model offering unlimited ebooks for a monthly subscription. This whole per unit cost fopr digital media has never made any sense to me, there are no marginal costs so why not work out a subscription price point where you make more money than selling "units" and offer unlimited downloads. Content producers make more money, consumers get unlimited access, everybody wins.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:30am

    Re: Because we're idiots...

    Under Dark Helmet Law number 3 for the punishment of ridiculous and factually incorrect hypterbole, you are hereby sentenced to a mid-torso hangitude adjustment...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:35am

    Re: Not so sure about this one.

    Er, if only a handful of people are buying, that's bad business.

    You don't need a math degree to know that 10x$50 is less than 1000x$5.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:37am

    Re: Ebook subsciption

    I believe all you can eat book 'stores' have been invented a loooong time ago and are traditionally called libraries.

    There are public ones which are usually free because they are funded with taxpayer money and there are private ones which require a monthly/yearly subscription for access to their collection (see the British Council libraries scattered throughout the world for an actual example of how that works).

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: all digital prices will fall to that of a convenience fee, lets say for example, 99�¢.

    Good call! I'd drop the $40 or whatever on the full Discworld series in a heartbeat, since I am constantly lending my physical copies to people and then losing track of them.

     

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    R. Miles (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:43am

    Re: Re: Not so sure about this one.

    You don't need a math degree to know that 10x$50 is less than 1000x$5.
    True, but (prior to the price increase), I can't fathom why songs weren't sold at a mere $0.10. I would think this would provide a better "value for the cost" to most consumers. There would have been many more consumers as well.

    I'd love to see Amazon take the initiative and use this model. I'd venture to say that "illegal" downloading would drop as people would love to buy 10 songs for $1.

    But sadly, those greedy (yes, I know this term isn't right) bastards who don't create the content want their money yesterday all the while saying "Screw the consumer. They'll pay what we tell them to.".

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I must don my eyepatch and hat to prepare my schooner for sailing. Avast ye, matey. Time to plunder.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:43am

    Re: Because we're idiots...

    Um, if you think that the readers/bloggers at TechDirt are unaware of this fact, you must be very new here.

    And I for one would like to see comparisons between people and sheep (to say nothing of the overused 'sheeple') put to bed once and for all.

     

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    Chris Wahl (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:44am

    Or some have decided to never play the game

    I still do not see the major appeal to the e-book market, as is. Costly devices (yay, another thing I have to keep track of and charge), costly e-books (which makes me laugh, seeing anyone pay even NEAR the cost of a physical book for what is basically a glorified text file), and DRM (need I say more?) is a recipe for fail.

    I've never had a need to carry so many books that it becomes cumbersome enough to warranty an electronic device, even though I can chew through books at a reasonable pace. Other than the positive environmental impact (no trees used, etc.) this seems like a solution looking for a problem.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re: Ebook subsciption

    You might have noticed that the libraries you speak of are physical establishments offering printed books, and that's not what B.R. was talking about. I don't know why you're trying to make it sound like he missed the existence of libraries.

     

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    John Payne (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:46am

    e-book prices

    In the role-playing game business, a similar discussion is underway. The issue for them is similar to the pay-what-you-want post from yesterday.

    To supplement says of printed books, some companies are offering PDFs. Determining the price point seems to be difficult. For example, one book, Septimus RPG costs $39.95 for a 364 pg book. (buying the book includes a CD with the PDF on it) It is available as a downloadable PDF for $20.

    There have been some complaints about the price, noting that a PDF costs very little to distribute through drivethrurpg.com. Some commenters have stated that the PDF should be high to help WEG (the publisher) recoup the cost of the book. Others state that the price should be lower to attract more fans.

    The odd thing is that almost everyone seems to think that pricing it for $10 or lower is too low. The perceived value of the content is viwed to be between 1/2 to 2/3 the printed book price. It would seem that the RPG buying public views PDFs at a certain price point as 'low quality', 'poor content', or 'not a serious product'.

    I know that the numbers are arbitrary and have nothing to do with economics, yet the perception of the buying public appears to push the PDF price up, not down.

    Maybe the niche market of RPG publishing is an exception to the rule. What does everyone else think?

     

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    Enrico Suarve, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:46am

    Re: Re: Not so sure about this one.

    No you don't, but if you have a management degree you might not notice.

    Counting to numbers that require borrowing other peoples tootsies is a role that is probably delegated.

     

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    Bubba Gump (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:50am

    Re: Not so sure about this one.

    That is not true and you know it. Supply and demand cause prices to fall and rise all the time. Absolutes like "EVERYONE HAS TO STOP BUYING" are ridiculous.

    If you had a lemonade stand and you sold 100 lemonades at $1, but only 50 and $1.50, what would you do? Raise the price even more? Leave it alone? Raise it to $100 dollars and hope you just sell ONE?

     

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    Susan, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:51am

    Ridiculous pricing

    I was looking at a particular title on Amazon, the ebook was priced at $11 more than the paperback.

    I'll stick to books I can own and don't need a battery to read.

     

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    some old guy, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:51am

    Audio books

    been asking the same question about audio books for a long time now.

    They can give them away for free.. then turn around and charge 50$ for a kids book.. a download..

    wtf is wrong with those people?

    I'm not paying those fucking insane prices. And yes, I will pirate if I feel like it, cause they are not offering the product at sane prices. They are too stupid to take my money, so they don't get it.

     

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    bloome (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:53am

    They do offer bundles for cheaper

    I've only bought one e-book on my Kindle for iPhone and it was actually 2 books in one for $6 (or around that). Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars and Green Mars bundled together.

     

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    Designerfx (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:55am

    no, convenience fees become 0

    This is why stuff becomes free.

     

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    Danny (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:00am

    licensing is my inhibitor

    Given that the ebook is licensed, not sold, it has much less value to me. So that is what keeps me from acquiring them via Amazon. I am fairly technical, but will keep buying hard books for the foreseeable future.

    Newspaper licenses - that might become a different matter for me. But I do get more news than I can possibly consume for free each day - so I am not even certain I'd go for a news license.

     

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    Joe Szilagyi (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:04am

    Time of production for the creators?

    Unlike songs, which is the most common analogy via iTunes, a novel takes significantly longer and more time to write--how many authors can produce more than one quality novel every year to year and a half?

    While it could be the publishers gouging, it could very well be due to that fact. Also, in the traditional marketing and sales of novels, the runs for what is considered "successful" is much smaller in scale than the parallel in the music industry.

    Authors need to get paid, to make a living so that they can write and publish more than one book every 2-5 years by doing it on the side. Few if any writers even make that much money, so I can't begrudge them for now charging what they do for eBooks. If the market and their livelihoods can support lower prices later, great for them, in trade of selling in higher volumes. It'll shake itself out.

     

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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:06am

    Subsidize

    I wouldn't say so much for book sales but in the instance of music sales I am sure the high prices charged for track downloads most likely is subsidizing the staggering losses in the cd sales arena. Of course, any true business person would say, "This part of our business is losing money while this other part is making money. Let's shut down the drain and ramp up the profit center." The only issue is that they make less money the download way since you are only paying for the tracks you want ($3) and not buying an album ($18) with one to three good songs and the rest crap just to get those good songs. Man! It sucks when consumers have a choice to not buy what they don't want!

     

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    TheStupidOne, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:08am

    Re: Maybe they're lazily simplifying pricing?

    Perhaps, but that doesn't make a lot of sense when you think about it. If you can drive all of your customers to using the medium that costs you virtually nothing then all sales are profit (ignoring costs of editing and paying the author and whatnot). The best thing for book sellers to do would be to jack up the price of physical books and reduce the cost of electronic ones. Physical books would become a premium offering with limited production.

    Please note that I would hate it if this happened, but it would make sense for the publishers

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:08am

    Mike, you continue to make the mistake of thinking the physical distribution is expensive - it has it's costs, but it isn't overwhemlingly expensive to get a book to market. The printing is done regionally, the distribution is well set up, etc.

    Digital downloads are not without costs, first in formating the book for download, second in operating the storefront to make the sale, collect the money, account for it, handle chargebacks, credits, and other issues, offer technical support, and then to offer the actual download of the book. Networking, computers, technicians, accountants, designers, etc are all involved in the process of bringing an ebook to market, plus really, the ebook is just part of the process of writing and bringing a book to market, which is shared over all copies of the book,digital and print.

    There is no free lunch.

    As Dark Helmet mentioned, pricing might be done in a similar and consistant manner across all delivery methods. While he spots it as "lazy", in reality it is probably also done to avoid one undercutting the other.

    The real advantage of digital media may be seen near the end of a book's useful life, in it's long tail time. Where it might be too expensive to run another pressing of books to satisfy a small market, digital will allow those books to be sold in very low volumes (quality of 1) without significant inventory issues.

    E-books have yet to have their "i-pod" moment, the Kindle isn't close and nobody else seems to be getting any further ahead. Until that happens, it will be a marginal market without enough customers to support a vibrant market.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:11am

    This reminds me of a about 10-15 years ago when music stores (haha, remember those?) were in the period of transition from cassette tapes to CDs. Cassette prices was 9.99 to 12.99 and and CD prices were 16.99 and up for the exact same album even though a cassette tape has oodles more costs associated with production. They charge what people are willing to pay until something better comes along and they're forced to lower prices.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re: Ebook subsciption

    And what exactly is your point? The poster did not discount anything other than saying there has got to be a better business model. Also, your library example fails. They deal with physical books, very limited. So please think "loooong" and hard before you post.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:15am

    I would never pay for a DRM'ed ebook or a device like the Kindle where they can delete your content at will. I have a 7" Chinese PMP (Chuwi M70+) with a nice ebook application on it. I treat the internet like a library and download whatever book I want to read in text format and read it on my PMP. If I want a physical copy of a book I go to a bookstore and buy it.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:16am

    Re: Time of production for the creators?

    "Unlike songs, which is the most common analogy via iTunes, a novel takes significantly longer and more time to write--how many authors can produce more than one quality novel every year to year and a half?"

    That is absolutely true, but also take into account how much different the workload is as a writer compared to musician. As a writer, I often find myself writing at my desk, in the library, at work during break, in the park, in front of the television, etc. If my book is published, I do a relatively small amount of touring (maybe) for signings, perhaps a speaking engagement here or there, and that's about it. The work is tremendously time-consuming and nuanced, but compared to the musician who is putting in similar amounts of time, but touring and doing appearences far more...I don't know, i think the musician's job is harder.

    "While it could be the publishers gouging,"...It is..." it could very well be due to that fact. Also, in the traditional marketing and sales of novels, the runs for what is considered "successful" is much smaller in scale than the parallel in the music industry.

    That's true, but publishers push FAR less the quantity of novels than labels push music acts. And the number of writes attempting to get published is pretty close to the number of music acts trying to get signed. This is where the writer has it harder; it's far more difficult to break in as a new writer than as a new music act. Which is not to say that both aren't VERY difficult.

    "Authors need to get paid" ...only if they're good, but I'm guessing you meant that..."Few if any writers even make that much money, so I can't begrudge them for now charging what they do for eBooks"

    AUTHORS are not setting eBook prices in any way shape or form. To suggest that is ridiculous. In fact, if you saw a writer's contract coupled with the advance they generally receive, you'd know just how close to record label's greed publishing houses actually are...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:17am

    Re: Audio books

    "They are too stupid to take my money, so they don't get it." - I could not have said it better myself. I guess the same could be said for most, if not all, digital media nowadays.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:21am

    A lot of free books already exist. See

    http://textbookrevolution.org/index.php/Main_Page
    http://www.archive.org/details/texts

    It s amazing what one can discover by simply doing a google search.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:26am

    Re:

    oh and here is another

    http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Books

    and the list goes on if you're smart and elite enough to go through the innovative and brilliant process of googling.

     

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    WisconsinGod, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:27am

    Resale Value

    One reason People will pay full price for a Physical Book is it's resale/distribute/economic value.

    Example: I buy a (hardcover) book at the book store for $19.99. It cost the publisher $5 in materials and $5 in labor/energy to produce. $2 goes to the author, $1.99 goes to the book store, and $6 goes to the publisher's coffers.

    I read it, loan it to my brother, who reads it, and then sell it in a garage sale to Joycefor $10. (it's in tip top condition, and still relatively popular)

    Joyce reads it, and loans the book to both her kids to read. She then take it to a used book store and sells it for $3.

    Jim buys it from the Used book store for $5, reads it, it sits on his book shelf for a while, and he ends up donating it to the local Library.

    I then stop at the Library, reminisce about the book, and borrow it to read it again.

    Hardcover Book Cost: $19.99
    Publisher Profit
    Author Royalties:
    Number of lives touched: 7+
    Economic Value: (-$5)+$19.99+$10+$3+$5+Charity = $32+


    EBOOK:
    I buy the same Ebook for my Kindle for $19.99. it costs $0.99 in labor/energy to create and distribute the book. The author still gets $2, the Book Store (amazon) probably gets $5 (plus kindle sales), and the publisher now lines their pocket with $12 for doing little work

    I cannot share it with others (damn DRM)
    I cannot donate it to the library when I'm done
    I won't hand my kindle out to friends to read

    E-Book Cost: $19.99
    Number of lives touched: 1
    Economic Value: $19.99 = $19.99


    I'll take my hardcover, thank you very much.

     

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    A Dan, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:34am

    Re: Audio books

    I know of public libraries in Maine and Rhode Island that offer audiobook and some e-book downloads for a limited period of time (1 to 3 weeks). I know that we here are not fans of DRM, but many of them are DRM-free and rely on the borrower's honesty to delete them when the time is expired. You may want to see if your local library offers this service.

     

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    Michial Thompson, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:35am

    Anyone ever consider

    Has anyone ever considered that the cost of printing a physical book is the smallest cost involved in creating the book to read????

    Probably not because everthing in Mikee's world is free if it's provided in a digital format

     

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    Doug B (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:37am

    Music is no different

    Often, I can buy an entire CD of my favorite artist used (like new) on half.com, ebay, amazon, etc for LESS than it would cost me to download the same album on itunes or whatever. In some cases I've paid $3 with shipping for entire albums. Further, I get the actual CD, liner notes, and DRM free MP3s in whatever quality I want.

    It's all a rip-off and until people simply STOP BUYING IT, we will continue to get soaked.

     

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    RDOwens, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:51am

    Cell Phones

    I have been saying the same thing about cell phones for years, but the price never dropped. Folks gladly spend a C-Note a month on plans. All for what? To walk around with the phone? I don't get it.

    I have downloaded but one audiobook. It was free.

     

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    President Skroob (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: Because we're idiots...

    I'll have to change that law. Since I started partying with Roger Teeter, the Teeter Hang Up machines are far superior than the mid-torso hangitudes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re: Anyone ever consider

    Before the Internet part of the excuse that was probably used is distribution costs and such. Now that that's no longer a problem lets now claim it's something else instead.

     

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    stevestephen (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:04am

    either way

    I just want to make sure the artist/writer makes enough profit to cover the months or years devoted. Buying is my way of encouraging them to write more material I like.

    Do we know that authors make the same amount either way? The publishing industry is just experimenting with the market to see what we will pay and find what model is most profitable.

    Personally, last thing I want to do after 10 on a computer at work is read a digital book.

     

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    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    I really love how you take the Physical portion and say its not that much, but the E-side is Huge in costs... and there you fail. period end of point.
    1) Regional printing... multi locations you have to pay for or lease
    2) presses, electricity and time at these locations plus employees and benefits, hiring firing, managers.
    3) still have to edit the both versions, shared cost
    4) still need the accounts, track the costs and the profit
    5) Distribution still needs trucks, drivers, gas, and boxes
    6) Need an artist to make the cover

    Electronic - Website Design, one-time cost if your smart and a continual cost for webmaster and bandwidth (but only 1 location, or 2 if your really really big or scared)
    still need the accountant... just not as many.
    Maybe 1 network tech
    No Trucks, Paper, no gas, not really multi-locations...
    Oh and i dont have to carry inventory, even at the beginning, or try and figure out how many to print that people will buy and how many will be lost to shrink or defect.

    i have about 6 internet stores up and 15 locations and my internet stores time and time again produce greater profit for less manpower than the physicals...now you will want to say then close down the physicals - I said greater profit, not that the physical loses money.. and when and if they loss profitablity then i will consider it.

    End of lecture,

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Ebook subsciption

    "Also, your library example fails. They deal with physical books, very limited."

    You haven't been following the struggle of libraries dealing with ebooks, have you?

     

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    fogbugzd, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:14am

    For me, the problem isn't the price

    For me, the problem isn't the price. It is being locked int to a reader. Both Sony and Amazon have good readers, but I don't want to get locked into either. I would even buy DRM'd material if it was on an open platform, or if either the Sony or Amazon reader could handle non-proprietary content easily.

    Last year my school was considering switching to Kindles for all textbooks. Administrators liked the idea, but the techies on the committee convinced the administration to stay out of the market for now. Of course, Amazon helped our argument by providing us a steady stream of stories about people being arbitrarily cut off from their Kindle accounts. If we could get an open platform, I think our school would jump on it immediately.

    Right now I am using my Android phone as an ebook reader because it is convenient, even if it is not nearly as good a reader as a Kindle. There is a lot of free content out there, and so far I have kept myself entertained with the classics.

    In an ideal world I could have a Kindle at work, a Sony Reader at home, and my Android in my pocket. In an ideal world I could read the content I purchased on any of them. And if I decided to buy a different brand entirely I could simply move my collection to the new device.

    Unfortunately, none of the major companies are willing to grab opportunity to create an open device, and if they did they would probably be hit from all sides with dubious patent claims.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:17am

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, not to support an anti-TechDirt person, but a few corrections, friend, from someone who's done some studying of the publishing industry and signed a publishing contract (albeit a really, REALLY bad one, hence my move to attempt to go with Baen instead).

    "1) Regional printing... multi locations you have to pay for or lease"

    Actually, many publishing houses outsource this, particularly when they are doing regional printing and/or short runs, since they can do it digital equipmnt instead of sheetfed with binding stations. However, most outsourced printing ISN'T done regionally, it's done overseas.

    "2) presses, electricity and time at these locations plus employees and benefits, hiring firing, managers"

    Again, often times your renting those, not owning them.

    "3) still have to edit the both versions, shared cost"

    Nope, the editing is done on a single file, and believe it or not, normally the file is then simply PDF'd and sent either to the print offce, outsourced print house, or simply digitized in the eBook format of choice.

    "4) still need the accounts, track the costs and the profit"

    Perhaps, but if they're all tracked by ISBN numbers, which is the normal way for publishing houses to do it (hence the reason most self-publishing or vanity publishing houses don't use ISBN numbers), then what extra cost would that add?

    "5) Distribution still needs trucks, drivers, gas, and boxes"

    Kind of, but most of the major publishing houses have distribution contracts so ridiculously innexpensive as to be almost not wort considering.

    "6) Need an artist to make the cover"

    Yeah, but again, often times you're talking about an outsourced graphic artist, which are in great supply at the moment.

    As for the your analysis of the eCommerce sites, absolutely spot on. But I'm not sure if it's because the distribution and production is CHEAPER, or just EASIER.

     

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    R. Miles (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re: Not so sure about this one.

    If you had a lemonade stand and you sold 100 lemonades at $1, but only 50 and $1.50, what would you do? Raise the price even more? Leave it alone? Raise it to $100 dollars and hope you just sell ONE?
    I'll grant you the absolutes, but there's no disputing digital prices are unjustly inflated to retain their real-world product costs.

    In your example, the lemonade is a scarce resource. You only have x number to sell. Now, if you were to sell an infinite supply, do you see justification in selling it at $1? I know your customers won't.

    Otherwise, we wouldn't be reading these issues on Techdirt.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Re: Resale Value

    Well said. I'm a very tech oriented person and will continue to buy real printed books as long as there is paper on which to print them. I don't even read technical papers on a screen, I print them, because I can then take notes and scribbles (much better than PDF markup) and relax my eyes away from the screen while reading it.

     

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    bigpicture, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:26am

    Pricing Scam

    Pricing is just part of the e-book scam. The other part is that a lot of the time it is not disclosed what you are buying. With a real paper book in the bookstore you can see the number of pages and the type size, 200, 500 pages etc. With the e-book it can be 35 pages of 14 point print and they can charge $15.00.

    This is one of the reasons I don't buy e-books even when it is convenient, because the convenience technology I have already paid for so that value is not provided by the seller. Google is battling this one, (availability of orphaned books) and I hope that they win because in the end it is Google that adds the value. Convenience from reproduction technology the customer has already paid for, which is why they bought it in the first place, so it is only the content that they can access that has any ADDED value. Legalized monopoly must eventually fail because everybody creates, everything is an intellectual creation so why does some kinds get special privileges.

     

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    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Wow a response from Dark... Im moving up in the world :)

    And while I bow to your greater knowledge on the subject, even outsourcing and overseas bear costs, even "inexpensive"
    So i would still say that over-all and even giving the author a greater pay-out per book (which i doubt) I have to believe the cost of 1 e-book vs a physical copy of the same book would be much cheaper and 1 e-book (as we all agree there is no cost in replicating) would be cheaper than 1,000 physical copies of the same...

    I just cant grasp a 19.99 soft cover with the same amount going to the author would cost the same for the same e-book.. and lets be honest once again the Publishers are going from their traditional roll to more of a PR firm just like the labels..

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:31am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Some good points DH, but in regard to 'rent or outsource of production/distribution cost' it is still a cost to the end product whether the publishing house is paying someone else to do it or setting up their own operation (and the cost either way will be nearly equivalent if the publisher is not a very small shop).

    If you break everything down to one-time or ongoing costs, eventually you're looking at physical production and distribution being the difference in both cases (at high volume). A physical book obviously costs more to produce than the PDF (as you said, its probably already done as a process step in creating the physical book!). This could be a small difference, but the 'cost' of production for an ebook is effectively nothing.

    So when you get to distribution you're looking at cost to drive a stack of books to the store, or cost of pushing bits across the internet. Whether or not you have a vast distribution network established and 'very low-cost contract rates' for moving the physical products.... The network traffic is cheaper by several orders of magnitude.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The point of replying there was just to point out that without any doubt (as a website back-end developer) I can tell you that it is not only easier, but most definitely cheaper including all web design and hosting costs... to sell and distribute the PDF no matter what size distribution network exists for the book.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "even outsourcing and overseas bear costs, even "inexpensive""

    Absolutely, but the costs are fractional. I'm certainly not arguing that eBooks aren't less expensive to create, it just isn't with the kind of disparity you made it sound. I was only correcting because "presses, electricity and time at these locations plus employees and benefits, hiring firing, managers" sounds a lot different than "Associate project manager called press house in China and told them to expect the file in a moment".

    "even giving the author a greater pay-out per book (which i doubt)"

    Some do, most don't, and those that do don't by much. It's skewed in the publishing houses favor, which is fucked up because for eBooks the are doing FAR less work and resourcing than with printed books.

    "I just cant grasp a 19.99 soft cover with the same amount going to the author would cost the same for the same e-book.. and lets be honest once again the Publishers are going from their traditional roll to more of a PR firm just like the labels"

    There should be SOME disparity, but if you're judging solely by the costs of production, I don't think that disparity should be as large as you think. Physical production costs, regardless of product, are NEVER the top line items in a publishers expense ticket. It's always Marketing #1, HR #2 (because of the need for a large number of 1st and 2nd level editors), and then MAYBE #3 is physical printing costs.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:42am

    Re: Pricing Scam

    Amen to that 'pro Google' and added value remark. The abandoned works (some people call this orphaned, I prefer what it really is) out there should be available to everyone as a part of the human experience and history.

    If a book is no longer 'of value' to the publisher and author, meaning they are not actually PUBLISHING IT, then the work should become public. This obviously shouldn't be true of any work that has never been published yet, only if it was and is no longer in print WITHOUT plans to reprint it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:44am

    It's been mentioned before, but it's worth bringing up again: the cost of the physical materials (even if you include transportation costs to get books to market) is tiny compared to the publisher's other costs: acquisition, editing, layout, author royalties, marketing, etc.

    Just because you are eliminating dead trees does not mean you can sell a book for $10 and make a profit. For example, a 1000 page trade book may only cost $4-6 to print, depending upon the type of paper, # of colors, etc. But the amount of work to produce that much writing is immense, incorporating multiple people over several months. How many people? A common setup may include an acquisitions editor, development editor, copy editor, project editor, layout tech, proofreader, indexer, and marketing manager. Add technical reviewers for tech or science books.

    If the publisher determines that they can make a profit by selling 8000 copies at $49.99 retail (and remember, the publisher will only get about half of that when it sells stock to bookstores), it probably can't afford to sell an electronic copy for $10 (and again, they'll probably get half of that amount when dealing with retailers).

    I agree that an eBook shouldn't be priced too close to the print book, but the price does need to take real-world factors into account. If consumers' perceptions of the value of eBooks remains low, rather than seeing $10 eBooks we may just not see many eBooks at all.

     

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    Michael Long, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:46am

    Re: Audio books

    I don't know where you're getting your over-the-top example, but I have a yearly Audible subscription where I can get first-edition audiobooks for about $11 a book.

    And I consider $11 for an audiobook that lasts 12-16 hours to be a VERY reasonable price.

    All in all, I find the price-point justification for piracy rather convenient, as there's no single price point that everyone will agree to as being reasonable and "sane."

    That being the case, you can continue to rationalize your theft as "their fault that they're so greedy", and not because you're so greedy that you want everything for free.

     

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    Elie, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:46am

    The cost of ebooks on Kindle

    As a VERY happy Kindle user, I have to agree that the cost of ebooks are a bit pricey. Older books, however, are much more of a value. A $7.99 paperback is $5.00 on Kindle. That's a little better and probably a fair price for everyone to get paid a fair share. I get a lot of older books on Kindle that cost $1 or $2. Yeah, I know alot of them are free on Gutenburg and the like, but I think paying a buck or two is fair for the cost of the Whispersync so I can continue reading on my iPhone if I forget my Kindle that day.

    In all the months I've had mine, I can't bring myself to pay $9.99 and up for a newer book. The benefit just isn't there for me. But some of the older, less expensive literary treasures, yeah; the Kindle books are bargains.

    I don't mind sharing the wealth, as long as I do not believe I'm overcharged. I'm OK with making sure every body gets their cut of the sale.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:57am

    Business thinking nowadays

    Electronic copies = infinite goods
    infinite goods = infinite money
    So logically, going 'electronic' should give you all the money in the world if you can make infinite products.

    Or at least that seems to be the thinking in some cases...

     

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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:58am

    Re: For me, the problem isn't the price

    "Last year my school was considering switching to Kindles for all textbooks. Administrators liked the idea, but the techies on the committee convinced the administration to stay out of the market for now."

    fogbuzd, point your techies at this link:

    http://www.jinke.com.cn/Compagesql/English/embedpro/prodetail.asp?id=42

    I'm pretty sure they'll do a decent quantity discount.

     

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    diabolic (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:59am

    Over-priced ebooks are one thing how about the price of the ebook reader? I can imagine subsidized ebook readers much like cell phones are now. A cheap or free reader seems like a good way to charge more for the books.

     

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    Michael Long, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Time of production for the creators?

    The work environment may be nice, but I assume that during the year it takes to write a book a typical author still needs to pay the rent, buy food and clothes for the family, pay for their own medical insurance, and so on?

    As to the work being tremendously time-consuming, I once read that once you factored in the hours worked vs. the payment received, most authors are working for less than minimum wage.

     

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    SpcmnSpf, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:01am

    Can't piss of retailers yet

    The price is the same because if they piss off the brick & mortar retailers by undercutting them then they will stop carrying the books. The number of people that buy Digital Downloadable goods isn't the majority by far and we still need the physical retail outlet. This is the same for almost all DD goods.

     

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    Michael Long, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Re: Prices

    "Cassette prices was 9.99 to 12.99 and and CD prices were 16.99 and up for the exact same album even though a cassette tape has oodles more costs associated with production."

    Yeah, all of those new-fangled glass disc mastering machines and CD press equipment had no amortization costs associated with them whatsoever.

    Back when they were introduced I remember reading that RCA spent millions of dollars building a new CD pressing plant near where I lived. How many billions does Intel spend to build a new fab facility for a chip that "costs" $50.

    Per-unit material and processing costs are usually the least of the expenses involved.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Time of production for the creators?

    "The work environment may be nice, but I assume that during the year it takes to write a book a typical author still needs to pay the rent, buy food and clothes for the family, pay for their own medical insurance, and so on?"

    Yes, but you can be a fulltime author (completing quality books in your subjective yearly time frame) while employed fulltime. In all reality, if you're committed to it, you can average somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 or so quality words per day in a week. You don't write everyday, but you'll often find that once you get in a groove in a session, it just flows. Factor in an equal amount of time per word for proper editing and review. So you're at 500 words/day, even when employed fulltime.

    The average length of a novel is 90k words. 90k/500 is 180 days, meaning it should actually take a dedicated writer, even while employed full time, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 months to write and self-edit his book. Add 3 months for conceptualizing and a liberal consideratio for misculaenous time, and you're at 9 months.

    The problem is that THEN you have to wait for the 9-12 months it takes for a publishing house to decide whether to publish your book. Oh, and they will dismiss you submission outright w/o reading it if you submit to another house at the same time (and yes, they all talk to each other).

    The point is that there is more time spent by the author waiting around for the publishing house than spent actually WRITING.

    "As to the work being tremendously time-consuming, I once read that once you factored in the hours worked vs. the payment received, most authors are working for less than minimum wage."

    If that's not true, it's probably close, but I'd be interested to see if they're factoring in self-published authors and those duped by malicious and deceitful organizations like Publish America.

     

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    Glaze, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:13am

    Re: Re: Because we're idiots...

    baaaa!

     

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    Michael Long, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:14am

    Re: Re: Anyone ever consider

    Let's spend $100 million dollars making a movie. Now, let's press a million DVDs at a buck a piece.

    $100,000,000 vs. $1,000,000. 1/100th the actual cost. Hmmm....

     

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    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well Said as always, and i think we most likely agree that the day of the publisher is coming just like the labels unless they realize that thier nitch is changing and change with it, or they will take the route of the Labels and have a RIAA like beast come along and break everyones toys...

    And really in the long and short that was kind of the point that just like musicians a writer can go out with out the publishing house and lower costs, increase their money and make the fans happy.

    Cheers and Greetings

     

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  68.  
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    Glaze, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:17am

    Re: Ridiculous pricing

    unless you read in the dark... in which case you need a flashlight.

     

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    Michael Long, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Time of production for the creators?

    "Yes, but you can be a fulltime author (completing quality books in your subjective yearly time frame) while employed fulltime."

    Yes, but I want my favorite authors WRITING, and not wasting eight hours a day greeting people as they come in the door at Walmart, or asking someone if they'd like fries with that.

    Just like I want my favorite musicians spending most of their time creating music, my favorite actors and directors making movies, and so on.

    Which in turn, means that they need to be able to make a decent wage doing what they and I both love.

     

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  70.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:22am

    Re: Re: Prices

    Yeah, but is Masnick World, only true marginal costs are relevant. Everything else just magically appears for free.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Well Said as always, and i think we most likely agree that the day of the publisher is coming just like the labels unless they realize that thier nitch is changing and change with it, or they will take the route of the Labels and have a RIAA like beast come along and break everyones toys..."

    I'm sorry, but this is an area where I DON'T agree, and not because FREE! wouldn't work in principle but I think that the collusion between publishing and houses and bookstores is unlike ANYTHING in the music industry. As an independent author, I wouldn't be ABLE to sell my books to Barnes and Noble in print form, because they require the right to return unsold books at a refund for their stores (most/all bookstores operate this way). I can distribute them via digital download (and this is something I'm trying to figure out should I get the likely rejection slip from Baen), but the grip for digital books doesn't exist the way it does for music.

    It'd be like if the music labels conracted with EVERY live music venue in the country to ONLY play label affiliate acts. The independents wouldn't have any professional venue in which to play. Today they do. I can go to the Chicago Metro venue and watch unsigned or independent label acts 4-5 days a week. There's no similar option for authors.

    "And really in the long and short that was kind of the point that just like musicians a writer can go out with out the publishing house and lower costs, increase their money and make the fans happy."

    I've been trying to figure that out for awhile and I don't know if that's true. At least, if it is, I haven't figured out how to make it work. Not that I'm going to give up.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:26am

    Re: Re:

    Google provides E-Books. I have the application on my iPod. No, this isn't anything new this is just smarter folks taking the opportunity to start offering cheaper or even free E-Books.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Time of production for the creators?

    "Yes, but I want my favorite authors WRITING, and not wasting eight hours a day greeting people as they come in the door at Walmart, or asking someone if they'd like fries with that."

    Well, your insulting choice of jobs aside (I'm writing almost daily and I work as an IT consultant, which dovetails nicely into what I write), then you need to make an effort to convince people to READ more. Publishing houses produce far less books because far less people read them, and what could be made before with many somewhat successful books can now only be made with a few ridiculously successful books.

    "Which in turn, means that they need to be able to make a decent wage doing what they and I both love."

    Nowhere is this MORE possible than with authors, because the physical product of a book is so far and beyond the physical product of a CD that they're not really in the same category. There is something to HAVING a book. I don't know what that something is, or why it exists, but it's there. To use an extreme example, there's a great deal of difference in having a copy of the King James Bible sitting on your hard drive available for reading and having it sitting on your coffee table.

    I believe the physical product of books will be in far mor and greater demand than physical CDs or even vinyll EVER will be....at least for those of us that are still reading.

     

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    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Actually I never said or implied Free... and while no device is currently on the market as a low cost e-book, it doesnt mean there wont be soon... I know at least 3 companies getting ready to do soft launches on 100 dollar E-book readers that also do internet (i believe DRM Free too)... and in that case the E-market becomes a very vaible option for an unsigned author.

    The Music industry is trying to get to that level when ever possible...

    And i believe the bookstores are starting to see the trend as most of them are carrying more and more non-book items... music, movies, even toys and games...

    It may not happen, or happen to the degree music will, it will happen, where the actual paperbook is a rare item and will be expensive but the writing itself will not, i bet there well even be the freeloaders out there too, but to a lower extent

    GL in your endevours
    CT

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Audio books

    I don't know where you're getting your over-the-top example, but I have a yearly Audible subscription where I can get first-edition audiobooks for about $11 a book.

    Lets see.. every harry potter book? Oh, you meant unpopular stuff? ...right...

    And I consider $11 for an audiobook that lasts 12-16 hours to be a VERY reasonable price.

    Sure, thats a great price for some books.. those same books are 4$ on paperback tho... paperback, meanwhile, has much higher overhead than audiobook downloads. So as long as "you're ok with it" the market will cease to live up to its potential.

    That being the case, you can continue to rationalize your theft as "their fault that they're so greedy", and not because you're so greedy that you want everything for free.

    Oh, yet another person who thinks ignoring the situation will make it go away. Bloody brilliant that logic. Let's see how well that works out. Oh, right. It works wonderfully in a free market.. and fails miserably in any market with artificial limitations (copyright).

    Ya, you keep on thinking the market is better off with 50$ audiobooks that noone buys. I'll just be waiting over here for the market to wake up to consumer demand. Listing to a story I just downloaded.

     

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    some old guy, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:47am

    Re: Anyone ever consider

    Has anyone ever considered that the cost of printing a physical book is the smallest cost involved in creating the book to read????

    Probably not because everthing in Mikee's world is free if it's provided in a digital format


    You'd have to be pretty fucking stupid to have missed all the times this has been covered extensively on this blog.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 11:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "and in that case the E-market becomes a very vaible option for an unsigned author."

    That'd make it better, but I'm not sure about very viable. Again, the principles work in genral, but with music you hear the free download and are hooked. Is that the same with reading? I'm not sure it is.

     

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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    You have no idea!

    I went back to college to get some new skills and I am a online student. Well they are MAKING us buy only eBooks, no physical book with out being charged extra (the cost of the books is built in to the course cost). I have complained and complained to the point that they have switched three times to different vendors for the eBooks but still I have to pay extra to actually get the physical book.

    It pisses me off so much because first you have nothing to sell after the course if you don't want to keep it, second who wants to read a 1027 page text book on a computer screen. I don't and I have been using computer for over 20 years so I am no Luddite. I just find it easier to read and use (yes use) a physical book for studying.

    Oh, one last point the eBooks cost that same as the physical text book.

    The issue has me so mad that I will probably switch schools after the semester.

     

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  79.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Maybe they're lazily simplifying pricing?

    No offense Darth Helmet but that is the laziest rationale for high prices I've ever heard. If you have ever been to a book store then you would realize that different editions of books usually don't all cost the same. Hardcover, paperback, books on CD and digital editions are almost NEVER priced the same. Try to think a little before you knee jerk to the easiest explanation.

     

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    Zos, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Baen's free library

    I'd just like to point out a publisher who's taken exactly the right stance toward ebooks. Baen has been hosting the free ebook library for years now, they also do some very reasonably priced monthly membershp fees that allow fans to get new books before they're actually released in print form. http://www.baen.com/ obviously the ones in the free library arent always the newest from each author, but they are some of the most popular, and they tend to add to it on a regular basis. Plus in a lot of new hardbacks they include a cd with a copy of the library, all of it.

     

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  81.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Baen's free library

    "I'd just like to point out a publisher who's taken exactly the right stance toward ebooks."

    Couldn't agree more, that's why they're the only one's I've sent and will be sending my submission to this go around before trying my own experiments.

     

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  82.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 12:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ebook subsciption

    The library I offered as an example had an extensive collection of DVDs and music CDs as well as physical books over 7 years ago. And way back then they were already offering electronic versions of their catalog and a limited number of books in .pdf format. I seriously doubt that they do not offer at least a part of their catalog in some electronic format or other.

    They also organize a lot of cultural events and from what I can tell they are not struggling to make a living anywhere in Europe. In fact they are a very popular destination for teenagers and adults alike.

     

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  83.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Author, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 12:59pm

    In other countries...

    I still own that REB1100 (look it up) that I read ebooks on for the last 8 years or so. It works. It costs $90 (but you have to kill to find it nowadays). It has backlight (unlike ALL modern readers... hate it), which allows you to read in the dark. Battery lasts forever. You can load any text file into it. And all the books are free (if you ... mmmm.... Google a bit)

    eBboks are awesome! $14/book prices are so not.

     

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  84.  
    identicon
    Michael Long, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Audio books

    And the Coward runs back to his artificial $50 price point again. And no, I don't mean just the "unpopular" stuff. Every book in the current top 10 list on Amazon is available on Audible. Or is Amazon not popular either?

    "... those same books are 4$ on paperback..."

    Most paperbacks are at least $6.95 these days. And $20-$50 as audio CDs. But hey, if you're making up a $50 number to prove a point, you might as well make up a $4 lowball number to go along with it.

    "... you keep on thinking the market is better off with 50$ audiobooks that noone buys."

    That's NO ONE, Coward. That no one buys. NOONE is not a word.

    Sigh. But I guess your illiteracy explains why you're listening to audiobooks... and probably in your parent's basement at that.

     

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  85.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Anyone ever consider

    Now, which $100 million dollar movie was this direct-to-video smash hit? Oh, you mean you're making stuff up?

     

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  86.  
    identicon
    Stephen, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 1:35pm

    As someone who is actually in publishing

    I work for one of the largest publishers in the world, covering academic, technical and trade titles, and one committed to ebook publishing.

    The unit cost of a hardcover book is around $2, a little less if it's short and the jacket doesn't have any special effects like matte and gloss printing, a little more if the book is longer, has glossy inserts, and is on a better grade of paper; the print run also plays into this. But $2 is a good round number to work with. That's the supposed savings of an ebook. But ebooks also require additional production work on top of what's already been done for the book in general (editing, copyediting, page design and layout, cover design, etc.). They have to be formatted for a variety of programs, such as Mobi, a not inconsiderable cost the publisher eats; then they have to be checked to see if the pages flow correctly and if the art, if any looks good, so it's back to production for another step there. There are also storage fees and distribution fees because just like a treeware copy of a book the digital edition has to reside somewhere and a mechanism has to be maintained to distribute it. And all this eats up that $2.

    Those consumers who think that an ebook should be dramatically reduced in price actually want the treeware version to bear the brunt of all the fixed costs.

    By the way, don't get too used to that $9.99 Amazon price. They are getting killed on the sale of each ebook because they still have to pay the publisher the regular discounted price for the book (around 50% for most publishers). So a $25 book costs them $12.50, for a net loss of $2.50. That price will be going up.

     

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  87.  
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    ranon, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    Not while amazon is the dominant reader

    The price will fall to about the cost of a music song. But not as long as the Kindle is the dominant reader on the market.

    Currently, on the Kindle, there is a DRM and there is no free source of e-books available.

    Once, somebody else (Sony?) comes up with a non DRM reader that is easy to use, that's when the prices will start dropping.

     

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  88.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 1:46pm

    Re: As someone who is actually in publishing

    " a little more if the book is longer, has glossy inserts, and is on a better grade of paper"

    With regards to the cover, I would think that effects such as embossing would be more expensive than anything else, having spent about a minute in the printing industry. But are those prices you mentioned going to hold true in short runs? Academic/Trade publishers almost exclusively publish in large runs, if memory serves. So wouldn't that be a major effect on fiction, which I believe is the primary market for eBooks?

    "They have to be formatted for a variety of programs, such as Mobi, a not inconsiderable cost the publisher eats"

    What costs, specifically, and why aren't they inconsiderable? The software cost isn't large, and most publishers aren't paying in the upper tier for editing/layout staff, from what I understand (though, being in the industry, you'll know better than I). So where are these costs? Formatting is neither difficult nor time-consuming, so that doesn't fly for me, neither is checking to make sure layout and flow line up correctly in digital format.

    "There are also storage fees and distribution fees because just like a treeware copy of a book the digital edition has to reside somewhere"

    No way. That's a once every 5 years expense (like a large NAS for massive storage, which would probably oversized if from a pro company like Lefthand Networks, etc.). The cost to store bytes is insignificant.

    "So a $25 book costs them $12.50, for a net loss of $2.50"

    Okay, again, you're in the industry, but SHOW me a contract that says that. There has to be one available in the public record. You're telling me that Amazon is taking a LOSS on every paperback sold? How could that possibly make sense?

     

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  89.  
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    Stephen, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 1:47pm

    Re: As someone who is actually in publishing

    I should add that I'm talking about trade books, those you see people reading on the subway, not text books.

     

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  90.  
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    some old guy, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Audio books

    And the Coward runs back to his artificial $50 price point again. And no, I don't mean just the "unpopular" stuff. Every book in the current top 10 list on Amazon is available on Audible. Or is Amazon not popular either?

    artificial? I'm talking about harry potter STILL, whats the matter can;t keep up?

    Oh, look, its not on audible... right.. audible has popular books.. sure.

    How much is potter to dl? oh, look, 50$ each on itunes.

    imagine that.

    Most paperbacks are at least $6.95 these days. And $20-$50 as audio CDs. But hey, if you're making up a $50 number to prove a point, you might as well make up a $4 lowball number to go along with it.

    POTTER!

    That's NO ONE, Coward. That no one buys. NOONE is not a word.

    No, if I fucking say its "noone", then its "noone". Do you have any idea what language is for? Its for communicating. Did you understand what I was trying to communicate? Yes? Flawlessly? Then guess what? MASTERY OF LANGUAGE HAS BEEN ACHIEVED.

    Your pathetic attempt at enlightening people has failed due to your lack of anything enlightening to say.

    Face it, you have no capacity for original thought. You are completely irrelevant in a changing landscape. You know nothing but what you were directly told. You are incapable of even grasping the current economic situation.

    What a failure.

     

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  91.  
    identicon
    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    This has been one of the better discussions on Techdirt lately (without the normal asshattery) and i did learn a few things I did not know before.

    But reading you last comment I did have a minor thought, what if you posted one chapter free, that would work good with the hooked side of things, and i do believe as soon as an e-book hits with something like the IPOD craze (much harder but do-able, hell i have people working on a prototype too just to try and hit the magic home run, or just get a taste of the bubble)

    I think the I-Pod/MP3 Player boom is what took the music industry to the ledge they walk today.. The same can be said of an E-book reader, maybe not as big, but I personally believe the same push and results, which i think will help the writers, as i believe that writers are in a better position to touch base with their fans and have better things to offer to buy (a special Hardcover, signed and numbered, i know i would love one from Williamson or Ringo, even Weber).

    Till then i wish you luck on Baen (i read there stuff to)

     

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  92.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 2:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "what if you posted one chapter free, that would work good with the hooked side of things, and i do believe as soon as an e-book hits with something like the IPOD craze (much harder but do-able, hell i have people working on a prototype too just to try and hit the magic home run, or just get a taste of the bubble)"

    Well, Mr. awesome development and eCommerce genius, consider me your first exclusive (if you like the book of course) and let's make that happen. I'm about 3-4 months before Baen's requested time line for resubmission runs out, so consider this book available as an exclusive for your eReader (if only I was Steven King) :)

    In all seriousness, that was one of the ideas I had as well: release one chapter for free, promote, and release 2nd chapter once income goal is met.

     

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  93.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Author, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Re: As someone who is actually in publishing

    This paper references that Amazon takes a loss on ebooks

    http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/137/the-evolution-of-amazon.html

     

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  94.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 3:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: As someone who is actually in publishing

    From that paper:

    "Amazon actually loses money on many titles, with publishers earning between $12 and $13 per e-book"

    My, what wholely unsubsantiated and undefined statistics you have, Grandma....

     

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  95.  
    identicon
    stephen, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Re: As someone who is actually in publishing

    "With regards to the cover, I would think that effects such as embossing would be more expensive than anything else, having spent about a minute in the printing industry. But are those prices you mentioned going to hold true in short runs? Academic/Trade publishers almost exclusively publish in large runs, if memory serves. So wouldn't that be a major effect on fiction, which I believe is the primary market for eBooks?"

    The most expensive effect is actually a pasted on hologram, although my production manager just laughed when I asked how much a video would cost, so I imagine that would be scads more. My books, which are nonfiction, have usually have an 8000 copy first print at a minimum. Fiction can go lower, maybe 4000-5000 at a minimum in hardcover. If your expectations are much lower, your margins probably aren't going to covered, so there's no point in doing the book. Speaking of trade books, of course, not, say, academic monographs, which have 250-500 copy print runs. But that's a totally different business model.

    "What [formatting] costs, specifically, and why aren't they inconsiderable? The software cost isn't large, and most publishers aren't paying in the upper tier for editing/layout staff, from what I understand (though, being in the industry, you'll know better than I). So where are these costs? Formatting is neither difficult nor time-consuming, so that doesn't fly for me, neither is checking to make sure layout and flow line up correctly in digital format.

    Conversion can cost a couple thousand dollars per program, I think, and that's for a vanilla book with just text and maybe a few pictures, not a massive textbook with sidebars, quizzes, galleries, etc. I'm not sure what we pay our freelancer copyeditors, but I know a friend was making $25 an hour 10 years ago; I imagine the rates have gone up. And this might be factored into the conversion costs as a whole. What is difficult and time consuming is going through the whole book again to make sure it will look as good on the screen as it does on the page. That's vital. The reading experience should be the same. I love Project Gutenberg, but I don't want to read Dante in 10pt Courier; I want to read it in something fancier with drop caps and footnotes and all (obsessive note: I paste PGut titles into Word and redesign the text for reading on my Palm). I imagine this production stage is s comparable to going through the second pass pages or blues.

    "No way. [Storage and distribution fees are] a once every 5 years expense (like a large NAS for massive storage, which would probably oversized if from a pro company like Lefthand Networks, etc.). The cost to store bytes is insignificant."

    And those costs, which are continuing like any warehouse, get amortized across every title as a certain percentage of income taken in. Just like my salary. And the lights.

    "Okay, again, you're in the industry, but SHOW me a contract that says [a $25 book costs them $12.50, for a net loss of $2.50]. There has to be one available in the public record. You're telling me that Amazon is taking a LOSS on every paperback sold? How could that possibly make sense?

    Contracts between publishers and accounts are secret, but this loss is pretty common knowledge because the math is so obvious. The biggest accounts, based on the size of their orders, command around a 50% discount; that's the business. Amazon is obviously charging less. As to why: I would speculate it's because they want people to buy the Kindle. Once they have an installed user base devoted to the Kindle--and once Sony's reader has gone the way of its Betamax--they'll be able to charge whatever they want, just like iTunes did. Just like Gillette gave away their razors to sell the blades. Just like tobacco companies snag you with a free cigarette first.

    One final note: the number of ebooks sold for 99.9% of trade titles is miniscule compared to their treeware editions; textbooks are a totally different story, but I don't know much about that side of things. Most trade books will probably never make up the cost of converting them to ebooks. But this market will grow, so we have to jump into it with both feet now.

     

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  96.  
    identicon
    stephen, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 3:59pm

    posting chapters for free

    You can usually read a free chapter on Amazon, but I don't think you can download it. I'm a big fan of what some publishers are doing now: giving away an author's earlier book that isn't really selling much any more in order to stimulate interest in buying his current book. That's a nice twist on old school publishing: instead of new titles driving backlist sales, it's using backlist to drive frontlist sales.

    I agree that the right player needs to come along to make the format boom. Me, I don't think it's the Kindle or the Sony Reader, which are just netbooks that can only do one thing, plus I just don't understand why someone would buy a device that lets them shop in only one place. I think the future is a program for iPhone and/or Pre, something people already own and feel comfortable with.

     

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  97.  
    identicon
    Michael Long, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Amazon let's you download the first chapter or so as a sample to the Kindle and to the Kindle app on the iPhone/Touch. Then buy if you like.

    I have dozens of Kindle books, hundreds of Audible audiobooks, and practically everything in the Baen free library (most of which came from buying a book with a CD).

    Portable library with me at all times.

     

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  98.  
    identicon
    Michael Long, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Audio books

    Harry Potter, Harry Potter, Harry Potter. What are you, twelve?

    Considering that the CD's MSRP rings in at $75 for the unabridged version, I don't think the iTunes price is that out of line. But the publisher sets the price and authorizes distribution, so yell at them, not me.

    Read something other than children's books and you'll find, as I said, that Audible carries nearly all of the popular first-edition "hardbacks" as audiobooks. And even the majority of the most popular trade paperbacks. And 99% of them at the one-credit/$11 price-point.

    So, again, your $50 audiobook example would seem to be the exception, not the rule, as Audible already practices "sane" pricing.

    And yes, language is for communicating, but it's hard to communicate your point effectively when the reader is laughing his ass off at someone's inability to correctly master simple two and four-letter words.

    But it doesn't matter. You've rationalized your piracy of other people's work to your own satisfaction, so go ahead and crawl back down into your parent's basement. There you can revert to being the parasite on society we both know you are.

     

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  99.  
    identicon
    Michael Long, Aug 21st, 2009 @ 10:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Time of production for the creators?

    "There is something to HAVING a book."

    For now. But the Kindle and the iPhone aren't going away. And the iPad and other devices are definitely coming down the pike.

    As I said in another post, I have hundreds of ebooks and audiobooks on my iPhone, and to me what matters in the story, the words that make new worlds come alive. And in most cases I could care less if those words exist as ink on paper or electrons frozen into flash ram.

    Actually, come to think of it, I do care, as a single hard drive is a lot easier to pack and move than a ton (literally) of hardbacks and paperbacks.

     

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  100.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Aug 22nd, 2009 @ 8:29am

    Re: e-book prices

    Got all of the D&D 3.5 books (even the controversial Book of Erotic Fantasy, hey, it was free) in .pdf format from a friend. Got the basic book from Waldens but didn't feel like paying a ton for the additional books that I was rarely going to use. I wouldn't have paid more than ten dollars for the bunch of them altogether in .pdf format. Would pay ten or fifteen bucks a pop for softcover guides, tho.

     

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  101.  
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    DJ Master Daniel (profile), Aug 22nd, 2009 @ 8:30am

    I've dreamed of ebooks since ST:TNG datapads graced my TV. The thought of crossing a campus with nothing more than a sachel instead of a heavy bookbag got my imagination going. Anyway, when the Kindle came out, I knew it was a dead market from the start due to the lack of control the consumer has on the end product (buying the book gets you a digital copy and a 'license' to read it). You pay a full price regardless on the title. There is no 'used market' for the titles (the owner selling their copy to someone else on the open market). Sony seems to be competing for their marketshare by buddying up with Google and offering free ebooks of older titles. I dare amazon to go that far, but they never will. Now Amazon is selling a large kindle for textbooks just so they can take the torch on screwing the students. After all, why not screw them monetarily for overpriced books for a lesser cost than the actual textbook right? So yeah, people like me will continue going to the local used bookstore and return home with a box filled with used books at a fraction of the new price. Why? Because I will take advantage of a bargain when I see it. Kindle a bargain? NO. Until it all changes, I'll keep the old tech.

     

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  102.  
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    DJ Master Daniel (profile), Aug 22nd, 2009 @ 8:31am

    Re: Because we're idiots...

    Totally agreed.

     

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  103.  
    identicon
    Scott Brooks - How to Write Ebooks, Aug 22nd, 2009 @ 8:50am

    I think ebook are often priced high for two reasons - convenience and the benefit value of the content.

     

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  104.  
    identicon
    Mari, Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 11:05pm

    Overpricing

    I have an issue that publishers like Macmillan are asking ebook readers to pay $14.99 retail for an ebook that costs $7.99 in paperback. It's appalling. Are we consumers really buying these ebooks at almost double? I hope not. We should be boycotting and send mass emails to publishers like Macmillan...and I'm spreading the word. I got my reader because I read a lot and it’s incredibly convenient for me. Now, I’m being punished for not killing trees and wanting to carry 20 books around with me wherever I go. Since I’ve purchased my reader (2 years ago) I actually buy more books and the thanks I get…the insult that they expect me to pay almost double.

     

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  105.  
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    Galghaidhil (profile), Oct 6th, 2009 @ 6:47am

    Cost to Produce eBooks

    The actual cost to convert a .pdf book file into a tagged XML ePub (or equivalent) file is around $.10 - $.15/page (it's a variable cost due to how complex a page layout might be and how much quality assurance must be performed to ensure that everything's "right" after file conversion has been completed).

    For a typical 300-page trade book, that's a cost (to the publisher) of around $30 - $45 per book.

    So you might ask, then why can't eBooks be sold through retail sites for next to nothing, if the cost to convert from .pdf to ePub (or whatever) is so little?

    The fact is that whether a book is published in print or electronically, the cost to write, edit, compose, and so forth - plus the publisher's profit - remains essentially the same. The variable cost is in how the title is distributed - physically or electronically. And, also, whether a publisher sells the book directly to consumers or if it has to move through a retail channel (like Amazon or B&N whether it's a print or electronic edition).

    Even an electronic edition has to be given server space to display content when someone's browsing and, perhaps, a preview of the Table of Contents, some chapters, and so on. Someone needs to do all the input and prep work to make it available on a retail site (plus all the back-end transaction-related things if someone decides to buy a copy).

    Even if it's not on a retail site, but rather an eBook portal (which is a retail-like vehicle for publisher or author direct-to-consumer eBook distribution), those things need to be done - and the portal needs to make a profit as well.

    So while the cost to convert a .pdf file to an ePub (or equivalent) book is very small, there are many other upstream (creative and editing) and downstream (distribution and website) costs - and profits - that need to be covered.

    Regardless, selling eBooks at prices at or near print book prices is goofy; it's like banks charging high ATM fees to dispense money when actual costs are lower to do that than having a teller handle the transaction.

    But, apparently the publishers / retailers are establishing prices that they think the market will bear (which is why the Kindle format books, which is a proprietary eBook format that can only be read on the Amazon reader, are a joke to buy). Only time will tell if that's a successful strategy or not - I think prices will fall over time as the market for eBooks matures and more and more authors and independent publishers are able to offer eBooks direct to consumers. Sorry for the LONG post.

     

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  106.  
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    Rob, Mar 23rd, 2010 @ 6:33pm

    Library..

    I don't understand. I'd like to read a book on my iPod touch or soon to be iPad but when I can get the freakin' book at the Library for free, I don't see the point.

     

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  107.  
    identicon
    alexisfaith, May 4th, 2010 @ 12:25am

    I say, create your own ebook already

    There are millions of ebooks being bought and sold on the internet, and I believe there’s a really lucrative business for ebooks. But for individuals like us, we don’t have our own publishers or even a good platform that allows us to create our own interactive ebooks. A family friend recommended a cool ebook software to me recently and we haven’t been able to resist a day without creating ebooks with this software called Koobits. This Koobits software is easy to use and has a well-defined user interface. I have created ebooks, digital brochure, photomontages, digital scrapbooks with this cool software. You guys can try it out at www.koobits.com

     

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  108.  
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    Kyote (profile), Sep 28th, 2012 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I know this is an old topic, but thought I'd add my 2 cents. Why only give the first chapter for free? If the book is good give the first half of the ebook for free.

    I stumbled upon the author Jim Butcher and his Dresden Files series. Each book is fantastic and I hate when I get to the end.

    I found this article as a result of me getting pissed that all of his ebooks I can find are $9.99 or more. As much as I love his work, I wont pay that kind of price. I'll be visiting either a public library or a used book store today or tomorrow.

    @Dark Helmet, if your writing is in the fantasy/scifi genre and your also in IT and add that into the stories, I'd likely love to read your work. Hell, from what I've read author's get diddly for each book sold. So if you made a simple, static website, that you only updated with new books you've written, linked to a paypal account, you could easily sell your books. Maybe not a lot, at first. But if your a good author that'll change as you gain fans. Hell you could likely get a fan to make you the web page.

    Put that web page up and sell for $1-2 each and you'd likely have my money. That is if you did as I said above, 'fantasy/scifi' and tech are my passions. plus offering half for free. It gives a reader a chance to fall in love with the characters and overall story.

    Sorry, I know this is out of date but it was inline with my mood. Gotta run to the library now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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