Publishers Lashing Out At eBooks

from the welcome-to-the-marketplace dept

You would think that, with the music and movie industries to guide them, book publishers would be smarter than to complain about the rise of digital ebooks. But... apparently not everyone got the memo. Arnaud Nourry, the CEO of publisher Hachette is apparently quite upset about Amazon's pricing of ebooks and is warning that hardcover books may die. But the thing that strikes me? All he does is complain, and nowhere does he suggest what the industry is going to do about it... other than complain. This is the same mistake the music industry and the movie industry have been making. They don't propose any reasonable solutions, they just get angry at what the technology allows. He complains about public domain books, and then he complains about the prices Amazon charges:
"On the one hand, you have millions of books for free where there is no longer an author to pay and, on the other hand, there are very recent books, bestsellers at $9.99, which means that all the rest will have to be sold at between zero and $9.99."
Yes, if that defines the market you're dealing with. But why not adapt? Why not focus on giving people reasons to actually buy books at a profitable rate? And, of course, a bit part of the problem is that these same publishers didn't do anything to lead the way on ebooks. Instead, they sat around doing nothing while Amazon built the Kindle and Google went and scanned a bunch of books. The publishers could have put together a plan, but they ceded the advantage to the tech industry, and now they're complaining about their own lack of foresight? That's not very compelling.


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  1.  
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    hegemon13, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:10am

    Won't affect most hardcovers

    Hardcovers continue to sell, in many cases, even after the paperback is released. How is this any different?

    Plus, the manufacturing and distribution cost for the ebook is nearly zero. Does the manufacturer really have much more than $9.99 in margin in a hardcover, anyway? I don't know, perhaps they do, but it seems like a lot of manufacturing and shipping cost to me. Even if there is some drop in the sale of hardcovers, an ebook is still HIGHLY profitable, and the shift should be nothing to worry about. If the iPod taught us anything, it's that if you give a person a media device with plenty of empty storage, they will want to fill it. Those with Kindles have both the bookstore and the reminder to buy in the palm of their hand. If the publisher can't capitalize on that, they deserve to go under.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:11am

    Correction

    "And, of course, a bit part of the problem is that these same publishers didn't do anything to lead the way on ebooks"

    Bit part should be big part?

    Bit part would mean something entirely different, in fact opposite of what you were saying, I think...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:12am

    And you know what else sucks? Libraries. How dear people lend out books for free! What is this, Russia?

     

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    senshikaze (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:14am

    Poor them

    Sadly, I have no sympathy for the middle man. Do a better job or get out of the way.

    We don't need middlemen.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:15am

    Re: Won't affect most hardcovers

    "If the iPod taught us anything, it's that if you give a person a media device with plenty of empty storage, they will want to fill it."

    Wow, you know what, I actually never considered that, and it's a HUGE point for the literary industry. People BECAME audiophiles in large part because of the iPod revolution, thirsting to have that ginormous music library at their fingertips.

    But what could be more conducive the wish for a massive LIBRARY than BOOKS? More imporatantly (in my opinion, at least), could a successful iPod like device (and the Kindle ain't it) bring a similar level of interest as music back to BOOKS? Reading? Knowledge? Vocabulary? Could this be the intellectual revolution the American public has so desperately needed for the past few years?

    That concept got my nipples hard....

     

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    MC, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:16am

    Amazaon charges???

    I'm still trying to figure out how someone can complain about the price Amazon charges, when Amazon still has to buy the rights from the publisher. If they want Amazon to charge more, shouldn't they raise their price as a rights holder?

     

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    niko, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:26am

    Re: Re: Won't affect most hardcovers

    well...don't let your nipple get hard to fast...the "I-pod revolution" didn't lead people to listen to "good" (i mean non-industrial) music...could perfectly be the same with e-books...in that case you wouldn't get an intellectual revolution but an extension of what you'd find at any shopping mart, that is, same shit as on TV.

    'scuse mi french, i'm french

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Won't affect most hardcovers

    "well...don't let your nipple get hard to fast...the "I-pod revolution" didn't lead people to listen to "good" (i mean non-industrial) music"

    Really? I couldn't disagree more. I think the iPod helped to initiate many independent non-industry musicians to the concept of providing their music via digital means, and since there was little to no cost for that music and no cumbersome CD case to lug around, people were more willing to give it a try.

    Then, when you put the iPod on shuffle, it just comes up and you listen.

    At least, that was my experience. I can imagine something similar to a "random read" generator on an eBook reader.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:44am

    However, like the vinyl albums which are making a comeback, people want to be able to hold, collect, and show off their real books. The biggest problem with the book industry today is the price of a new hardcover.
    I buy lots of books. However, I wait until they are on the closeout shelf, or in the used books stores.

     

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    zaven (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:45am

    Re: Amazaon charges???

    My thought's exactly. If anything, the price of e-books should be lower. I can buy the paperback of some books for cheaper than the kindle edition.

     

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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:49am

    And yet...

    Meanwhile O'Reilly charges almost full price for their epub/mobi pocket files. (Why would I have to pay $30 for a book, for which you haven't had to pay paper, printing, distribution and storage costs, if your dead-tree versions cost $35)

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Won't affect most hardcovers

    "the "I-pod revolution" didn't lead people to listen to "good" (i mean non-industrial) music..."

    I'm assuming you mean 'industry music' and not 'industrial music' (which is a very non-industry genre. Einsturzende Neubauten and such.)

    Regardless, I submit that it has, in fact, opened up a lot of music that wouldn't have passed the industry's smell-test. Wizard Rock, Nerdcore HipHop, Chiptunes, etc.

     

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    interval, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 8:13am

    I think these guys (and by "these guys" I mean all media publishers) see this internet thing and rather than adapt, which in some cases may mean a reduction in market share and gross profit in the short term, attempt to hold on to all capital and all profits at all times, which in reality means they lose everything in the end. Because this stuff has to get sorted eventually and short of global catastrophe I can't see the world reverting back to a pair of magnets attached to copper for communication simply because that's what works for the media outlets. Surely they see that digital media has, and will, change everything and there is NO turning back.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 8:21am

    These cock-smokers will just never get it. No motherfucking way I'm paying a price almost equal to the dead tree version for something fucking digital. Stupid. Seriously it costs nothing for them to distribute... well okay, maybe a few cents for whoever pays for bandwidth or whatever. But these faggots are making eBooks so damn expensive and inconvenient, and there's no reason why. They could be making a KILLING if they'd chill the fuck out and loosen the reigns.

    Give me a good, inexpensive eBook reader with reasonably priced eBooks (like 25% of the dead tree price), no DRM, and no back doors for them to delete the damn books. I'd buy books left, right, and fucking center. And I'd still buy nice looking hardcovers to put on my shelf and be able to hold, smell, turn pages, etc.

    But they'll just never get it, ever. Assholes.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 8:26am

    Re: Amazaon charges???

    Amazon does not buy any "rights" from publishers. Amazon is a reseller, a distributor. They don't actually "buy" anything from publishers: most all physical books are "sold" to Amazon (and nearly every other wholesaler or retailer) on a fully returnable and refundable basis. That means if Amazon or your corner bookstore does not sell a book, they can return it to the publisher (or in the case of paperback, just the front cover) and get a full refund at any time.

    Even with e-books, Amazon does not buy any rights.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 8:27am

    Re:

    Amen sister.

     

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    interval, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 8:27am

    Re:

    @AC: "Give me a good, inexpensive eBook reader with reasonably priced eBooks (like 25% of the dead tree price), no DRM, and no back doors for them to delete the damn books. I'd buy books left, right, and fucking center."

    I have to be honest, I've pretty much stopped buying books since I found an ebook app for my palm centro. Its too handy to carry around an entire library in my phone and whip it out when I'm in a waiting room, or whatever. I think the publishers need to give me a reason to buy the book.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 8:27am

    Re: Ebooks

    "In the current economic climate, make as much cash as you can!"

    What a stunning position coming from a mortgage person. I would like to introduce you and your colleagues to a concept called "controlled sustainable growth". It is slightly different from the "make as much cash as you can!" concept in that it isn't, you know, retarded.

    That is all....

     

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    sehlat (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 8:30am

    An Author Weighs In

    Author Eric Flint, who knows more than a little about eBooks, weighed in on this over on Baen's Bar (bar.baen.com).


    The most striking thing about the report -- assuming it's true, which you always have to wonder with anything in Drudge -- is that it indicates that the chief executive of one of the world's largest publishing corporations is abysmally ignorant of the most basic facts concerning electronic publishing. You can start with his belief that a $9.99 e-book is going to automatically drive down the price of a hardcover.


    Gah. This is on a par with arguing that the world can't be round, because if it was the people living in China would fall off.

    There is very little relationship between the prices of e-books and hardcovers. This, for several reasons:

    The first and simplest is that for e-books to determine the prices of hardcovers would be a genuinely surreal instance of a tiny little tail wagging an enormous dog. The sales of e-books, whether measured in terms of units or money, is miniscule compared to the sale of hardcovers.

    Secondly, they are two very different products, rather than being -- as he obviously believes -- essentially the same product with a minor packaging difference. What actual experience demonstrates is that the BIG market in e-books is complimentary to paper editions, not in place of them. What most people want is _both_ formats of the same title, because they use them for different purposes.


    Thirdly, we have the experience with e-ARCs, which demonstrates quite clearly that many people are willing to pay a premium price for an early release of a title.

    But... never mind. It's been my experience that people in the upper echelons of corporate publishing have wants amounts to mystical religious fervor on this subject. They know what they know, don't confuse them with the facts.

    Eric

     

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    John Doe, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 8:36am

    I said it first!

    I am going to patent an ebook reader that has a leather cover and smells like a real book. Maybe I will even make it shaped like a real book so you can fill your bookshelves with ebooks that look like the real thing? How sweet would that be?

    Seriously though, I wait for the movie. :)

     

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    johnney (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 8:39am

    I have over 60 gb's of reading material of all types and formats I downloaded for free. My winmo phone will allow me to read most every single title, again for free. With what a hardcover costs, I may never buy one again unless it's at a garage sale. Though there is one book called "In Search of Seatco" that I wish I had the 60+ $ for.
    Ipod revolution? that's a laugh. Digital audio came out well before ipod's were even a wet dream. Digital audio handheld devices such as mp3 players cellphones with audio players etc, all came after for marketing reasons.
    The only real revolution was people waking up to digital media and losing the albums, tapes, & cassettes they were holding on to. Any more even video discs are almost obsolete.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 8:48am

    Re: Poor them

    Well said.
    I couldn't agree more.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:00am

    Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    And, of course, a bit part of the problem is that these same publishers didn't do anything to lead the way on ebooks. Instead, they sat around doing nothing while Amazon built the Kindle and Google went and scanned a bunch of books.

    Hachette doth protest too much. Publishers have been selling e-books for years and have been looking for ways to maximize that market since the very early 90s. Even then, some publishers (and authors) were shouting about how this would be the "death of books." Didn't happen then, and it's unlikely to happen now.

    Publishers haven't been just "sitting around." There's been plenty of experimentation at the margins, but e-book sales have been pretty minor (millions of dollars, but not much increase in sales volume over the last 10 years). The problem has always been coming up with standards for e-book formatting, with PDF the default (and it's a lousy default) as well as a portable device.

    The "e-ink" technology used by Kindle and Sony Reader has been around for almost 10 years and while they both have contributed to a nearly exponential increase in e-book sales volume (and dollars), they still aren't the answer.

    Publishers are well aware that Amazon and Kindle have the potential to lock them into pricing the same way iTunes did for the recording industry. But Kindle and Sony Reader, while an important market, aren't likely to take over the industry the way iTunes has dominated music.

    What publishers should be planning for is the next generation of "e-paper" e-book reading technology: Cholesteric LCD. When this technology gets to the point of being cheaply manufactured, that will be the real revolution in book publishing.

    Not to mention magazine and newspaper publishing; if they think they have it bad now, this technology will, I believe, essentially wipe out paper distribution there. Book lovers will always demand physical, bound books, but periodicals and newspapers will be doomed.

     

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    Oliver Wendell Jones (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:12am

    Us vs. Them

    The way we (the buying public) see it is that since ebooks have no cost to ship, stock, print, etc. then the final price should be significantly less - it should be about however much the publisher nets on the paperback edition + a minor cost to cover production of the original, bandwidth, etc. and how dare they try to jack it up to some outrageous pricing point?

    The way they (the publishers) see it is that the price should be the same as (or close to) a just published hard cover and that the difference between that and the actual cost for the ebook is their huge, huge, huge, glorious profit margin and how dare we try and cheat them out of that?

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:13am

    Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    "Book lovers will always demand physical, bound books, but periodicals and newspapers will be doomed."

    Meh, the markets are already merging. Genre mags are going bimonthly or quarterly, but beefing up their content so that they're essentially anthologies.

    The newspaper thing worries me though, because I have a paper-trained dog.

     

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    Sneeje (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Won't affect most hardcovers

    I agree with you, and to take it further, what about a massive library of books that you could *search*, annotate, and modify. Maybe others are better at remembering, but I can think of many instances where I want to remember where a concept/phrase came from--either which book it was or where in a specific book. I *hate* flipping through pages. Google helps, but sporadically.

     

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    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:26am

    Re: Re: Won't affect most hardcovers

    Hey Dark,

    Didnt we have this conversation like 2 weeks ago?

    Nice to see you coming around slowly to this point of view..

    BTW you get published yet?

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:29am

    Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    I agree that the markets are merging; I think the technology I mentioned will complete the merge, essentially erasing the difference between mags and newspapers.

    And, about the dog, call your local moving company: they should sell blank newsprint paper, which they use as packing materials, pretty cheaply. Stock up now!

     

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    manoj (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:30am

    Hey stop the WHINING people. Yes, there is technology out there just like the "ipod". We here in the states are the ones that don't have it.

    Look at London, England. Plastic Logic

    Security is amazing. It is called Global Garde

    Protects e-books and have the technology to successfully deploy. You just have to get innovative.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Won't affect most hardcovers

    "Hey Dark,

    Didnt we have this conversation like 2 weeks ago?

    Nice to see you coming around slowly to this point of view..."

    Yes we did, and I'm aways reanalyzing my viewpoints when presented with new information. I'm starting to see some possibilities, helped along by examples from TD. I still think it's marketdly different from the music industry, but different doesn't mean unworkable, it just means different.

    "BTW you get published yet?"

    As I continue to tell people, it's out at Baen, and they tell you up front that they require up to a full year to review your work and give you an answer. I submitted in June, so we're 3 months in.

    Trust me, the day I'm either published by Baen or ready to initiate my own experimental attempt at publishing and selling independently, that will be the day that I unmask myself and reveal my unhelmeted visage to the TechDirt world...to sell them high quality signed books at a tasty price! :)

     

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  31.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Won't affect most hardcovers

    "Hey Dark,

    Didnt we have this conversation like 2 weeks ago?

    Nice to see you coming around slowly to this point of view..."

    Yes we did, and I'm aways reanalyzing my viewpoints when presented with new information. I'm starting to see some possibilities, helped along by examples from TD. I still think it's marketdly different from the music industry, but different doesn't mean unworkable, it just means different.

    "BTW you get published yet?"

    As I continue to tell people, it's out at Baen, and they tell you up front that they require up to a full year to review your work and give you an answer. I submitted in June, so we're 3 months in.

    Trust me, the day I'm either published by Baen or ready to initiate my own experimental attempt at publishing and selling independently, that will be the day that I unmask myself and reveal my unhelmeted visage to the TechDirt world...to sell them high quality signed books at a tasty price! :)

     

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  32.  
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    Freedom, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:41am

    Back to basics...

    The job of a publisher is to provide the author access to things that are not easily achieved by a single author - access to printing presses, access to a "closed" distribution network, contacts and ability to setup events (radio shows, book signings, etc.).

    For this, just like the music industry, they take the lion share of the profits and some would say risk.

    With an e-book, I no longer need printing presses or access to a closed distribution network. What I do need is access to is a digital storefront, low-volume on-demand printing presses, and a way to promote my book. The typical publishing house is pretty much useless in this area as they currently run their business.

    If I was king for a day at a publishing house, I'd be working like a mad-man to setup on-demand/low volume printing presses, digital store fronts for both digital downloads and physical associated goods, and a promotional system that would be far better than what any single author could hope to do on their own.

    The real issue is that the core need for what the publisher does is changing. I have a hard time feeling sorry for them as those in IT know very well that your core business and profit centers are practically different every year. We constantly have to find the new trend and come up with ways to profit off of it. How nice it must be to be in the publishing business and pretty much just make money because of a unchanging system where mass/size of the company is probably the most important asset.

    It's time for the RIAA, Publishers and so on to grow up and adapt! You aren't entitled to anything and whining about it and using your shrinking resources to fight it is ultimately futile and short-sighted.

    Freedom

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    "I agree that the markets are merging; I think the technology I mentioned will complete the merge, essentially erasing the difference between mags and newspapers."

    I think that tech will be a small difference, in the long run. Screens (Kindle, iPod, etc.) are already at a quite readable quality. The shift is going to be in presentation. DRM, format, that kind of thing.

    StarshipSofa.com is an interesting example. They're a free (donor supported) version of the classic SciFi genre mag in audio format, published twice a month. (Disclaimer: I've had a couple stories 'published' there.)

    "And, about the dog, call your local moving company: they should sell blank newsprint paper, which they use as packing materials, pretty cheaply. Stock up now!"

    Thanks for the heads-up! For the time being she pees on the WSJ, which amuses me.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    Personally, I'm not a fan of reading for any length of time on an iPod or iPhone: screen's just too small.

    Kindle and Sony Reader are a definite improvement, since they're about the size of a regular book; use ambient light, which replicates the same experience of reading a physical book; can be used in environments that other "screens" can't (such as bright sunlight); and have generally good battery life. But they're still limited.

    What is jazzy about the cholesteric LCD is that it operates similarly to the e-ink technology but is in color and can be manufactured as a thin, light, semi-rigid sheet of plastic of almost any size. Coupled with wireless technology, I very strongly believe it will be a game-changer.

    Oh, and you have a very discerning dog.

     

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    chris (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Won't affect most hardcovers

    in that case you wouldn't get an intellectual revolution but an extension of what you'd find at any shopping mart, that is, same shit as on TV.

    i am not sure what the ipod did for music, but the mp3 damn sure leveled the playing field for non-industry music. perhaps this is my bias as a technology type, but to me the ipod became a necessity because we all had gobs of mp3's and were dying for a great player to put them to use.

    once the market decided it liked mp3s over CDs you had a huge surge of independently made and digitally distributed music.

    ebooks are now where mp3's were 8-10 years ago. if/when they see the boom that mp3's saw i'll bet you will see a similar boom in independant digitally distributed literature.

     

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    BobinBaltimore (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: Ebooks

    Dark Helmet rules.

     

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    BobinBaltimore (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    Disagree...presentation is EVERYTHING from magazine publishers points of view, at least for those who produce anything better than Dirt Bike Monthly. A major hurdle for mags is found in the limitations present in today's devices, lack of color, in particular. Additionally, there is a huge problem with how advertising and circ is tracked for non-print products which needs to be worked out in a serious and consistent way. That text is basically readable does little to address these very real issues.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 9:58am

    Re: Us vs. Them

    Actually, most publishers (though not all) price the ebook version the same as the lowest price available print format, usually the same a the paperback.

    Oh, and the margins in book publishing, except for big bestsellers that are really a small percentage of the number of books published, are pretty modest.

    Contract differ, but if an author is getting 10% royalty on the cover price, that amounts to nearly 20% of the publisher's gross, since the publisher sells books to retailers at discounts of up to 50% of the cover price.

    For the vast majority of books, the average profit margin is between 10% to 15%. Some quite a bit less. The economics of bestsellers are, however, a little different.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:06am

    Re: Back to basics...

    For this, just like the music industry, they take the lion share of the profits and some would say risk.

    As I noted above, profit margins in the book publishing industry are much smaller than in the recording industry.

    If I was king for a day at a publishing house, I'd be working like a mad-man to setup on-demand/low volume printing presses, digital store fronts for both digital downloads and physical associated goods, and a promotional system that would be far better than what any single author could hope to do on their own.

    Most publishers are already doing this. And they still provide value in terms of interior and cover design, publicity, marketing, and promotion. Of course, not every author gets the same level of these services, but they all get the value of distribution systems to major wholesaler and retailers, whether print or electronic. As for just electronic, if you move beyond PDF, publisher also handle conversion to the various e-publishing standards used by different electronic vendors. The also generally pay the author up-front, a non-refundable advance against royalties. Most authors never actually earn-out that advance in accrued royalties.

    On-demand and/or short-run printing is relatively expensive, moreso on a per-unit basis than larger print runs. The trade off is you don't have warehouse stock. But those costs are necessarily passed along to the end-user.

    Of course, you could still do all that yourself.

     

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  40.  
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    Matt, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:07am

    Re: Amazaon charges???

    I'm not disagreeing with you, but market realities are such that if they did disagree with the pricing, they have no kleverage to change pricing. So their option is either take what Amazon is willing to pay or take their ball and go home.....Hey, isn't that how the free market is supposed to work?

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re: Us vs. Them

    FYI, for those of you discussing standard hardcover/eBook royalties and contracts for authors, SFWA has some decent sample contracts, non-PDF:

    http://www.sfwa.org/category/sample-contracts/

     

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  42.  
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    nullbull (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:19am

    So what?

    Publishers are scared of online distribution for the same reason record labels are scared of it. Because when you pull more and more of the roadblocks between content CREATORS and contents CONSUMERS out of the way, they become obsolete. Indeed, they should adapt or prepare for the end. Should ebooks cost less? Absolutely. An optimized business model that delivers content online is vastly more efficient than an optimized business model that is binding paper books and shipping them around the country so consumers can get in their cars and drive to a book store, browse through stacks and buy what they want... if it's in stock.

    Obviously, they have to get pricing right. But consumers are aware enough of the pricing signals they are getting to know when they're getting gouged. And the economic incentive for online book sellers is to drive volume through lower prices for ebooks. That's going to be a hard incentive for publishers to thwart.

     

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  43.  
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    Matt, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:24am

    Re:

    Mobi Pocket for Palm is free
    Baen Books has Hundres of free books (Primarily SCi-Fi/Fantasy)
    There are other low cost publishers out there-but you gotta look hard
    There's always P2P....Shhhh don't tell any one or the Publishing police will come get me

    Seriously I run MobiPocket on my Palm pilot Tungsten (I know old tech but a hell of a lot cheaper than a Kindle, and it fits in my pocket) and after almost a year am still working my way through a bunch of books that came on a free CD I got with a book I bought from Baen. Lots of good books from authors I never heard of, and since they were free I tried new stuff at no risk and got a couple of new favorite Authors. Also, Baen eBooks are dirt cheap, like $3.00 last time I checked, that's half the cost of a new Paperback.
    And to wrap up this long rambling post, read the eszsay by Eric Flint on the Baen website where he talks about why they giove away free eBooks and some other cool stuff....it's like they actually understand economics and fans and markets and stuff!
    RIP Jim, and hey Dark Helmet, any chance of getting a preview manuscript?

     

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  44.  
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    Chasm, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:24am

    Re: An Author Weighs In

    Hi,

    Eric Flint has written a whole truckload of essays on the state of (electronic) publishing and DRM.
    They are aviable for free on http://baens-universe.com/

    Older essays, the "Prime Palaver by Eric Flint" are are aviable on Baen's Free Libary http://www.baen.com/library/ wich also contains some 115+ full eBooks in diverse formats - hence the name free libary. ;)

    Not enough free stuff?
    Baen Books has given the permission to distribute for free as in free beer (and not to sell, all rights stay reseved) the bound in and promotional CD's containing practically the collected works of the author who wrote the book / who was to be promoted. More on that on: http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/

    If those iirc almost 300 free books are still not enough I'm afraid you'll have to buy some more.
    In order to NOT buy a electronic pig in a poke Bean publishes the first ~25% of each book for free. Their rationale for this seem to be that if a book can't hook you in the first quater, you wouldn't read it even if the rest was also free.
    All books are DRM free, aviable in all popular formats (with additional formats added as they become relevant). You can download your books as often as you like, in whatever or all formates you like as long as the service exists.

    Pricing? 4-6 US $ each on http://www.webscription.net/
    Too pricy? Try the monthly bundles of 5-8 Books for 15 US $ - with 10 years of bundles to choose frome some should fit your preferences.

    Still to pricy because you are disabled and don't have the money?
    Get em all for free! More on that on: http://www.readassist.org/


    = Chasm

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:34am

    Re: Re:

    "hey Dark Helmet, any chance of getting a preview manuscript?"

    You know what? Absolutely. If Mike can work out a way for me to pass along to anyone that would like to see the first 2 chapters in EXTREMLY simple PDF format without my having to give away personal information like name/address/email address, all of which I can remove from the PDF, then why the hell not?

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hell, just send it to me [at gmail.com] if you get my drift.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re: Amazaon charges???

    This is essentially correct: you want to sell ebooks for the kindle, you pretty much dance to Amazon's tune. From what I understand, there is some room to negotiate (since Amazon needs content to sell in order to sell Kindles), but not much.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    "presentation is EVERYTHING from magazine publishers points of view, at least for those who produce anything better than Dirt Bike Monthly."

    Actually, it's largely the other way 'round. C.f. Foreign Affairs.

    And, yes, adaptability is a specific design skill, but one that is oddly lacking in most 'designers.'

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    These are all problems that the new LCD technology is meant to address (among other things). Tracking circulation is probably going to have to be based on downloads, which will affect ad rates. A lot depends on how interactive the technology is.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'll have to do it when I get home where I can create a dummy email account for this. No unmasing Dark Helmet until the time is right; my power comes from my secrecy...

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    "Actually, it's largely the other way 'round. C.f. Foreign Affairs."

    You just HAD to bait me by bringing up Foreign Affairs Magazine, otherwise known as the official propoganda rag of the Council on Foreign Relations.

    Well you know what? I'm not playing.

    :)

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Won't affect most hardcovers

    Hey Dark, didn't we have the conversation like one minute ago?

    :P

     

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  53.  
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    interval, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 11:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Forget it. We already know your true identity, DICK CHENEY.

     

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  54.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 11:14am

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

    "Forget it. We already know your true identity, DICK CHENEY."

    I can only assume you're joking. Calling me a conservative/Republican is kind of like a KKK member a civil rights advocate.

     

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    BobinBaltimore (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 11:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    Um, actually, no, it isn't the other way around. The vast majority of consumer periodicals in the US market have substantial graphical content, and substantial advertising content. First hand, I assure you that the presentational aspects are a huge challenge, especially as it relates to presenting material so that ads and edit are proximate in materially the same was as the print product, which is basically a requirement for ABC compliance. Having it "look nice" is only part of the issue, and a vast over-simplification. But in order to be of value to the publisher form an advertising perspective, there are a number of requirements which must be met. This is the challenge.

    And Foreign Affairs? I remember subscribing to that in high school so that I could leave the thick, wordy copies laying around and feel informed. Not sure what relevance that has to the world of consumer magazines. It really ain't one.

     

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    BobinBaltimore (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    Tracking circulation is a lot more than just counting downloads. That's precisely the problem. What suffices for tracking in the anemic world on online advertising does not fly (generally speaking) in the print world. An electronically distributed version of a print product basically needs to meet the print guidelines. Now if the electronic product is a totally new and independent work, that's another matter entirely, but it also brings with it licensing and royalty additions, as well as the potential to provide no incremental circ benefit to the print product from a print advertising perspective.

     

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    Matt (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 11:32am

    Re: Amazaon charges???

    I don't know how Amazon does it. A lot of distribution channels actually just pay royalties. They negotiate a rate at which they will try to sell the book, but if that doesn't work they'll charge what they want.

    In any event, Amazon is like Walmart: it has so much power in the marketplace that it can dictate pricing, particularly to small publishers.

    But the real point here is that Amazon is the publisher of eBooks. Like senshikaze said, the publisher is just a middleman here. In a better world, Amazon would pay the author and the publisher (who contributes nothing,) would get out of the way. And if that means that publishers go out of business and have to find more productive careers, my heart will not break.

    Henry Ford displaced an entire generation of carriage makers. As sad as it is that that industry died out, the economy was not worse off because it did.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: Amazaon charges???

    "and the publisher (who contributes nothing,) would get out of the way"

    Well....not exactly. They certainly contribute LESS in the eBook format, and lord knows I'm not a defender of most publishers out there, but they are certainly still contributing.

    Everything from editing to formating, font choices, art illustrations, etc. is all done and/or coordinated by the publisher. Now, some of that can be done by the author to a certan degree, but just as there is room for record labels because there are certain things they are VERY good at, the same is true for publishers.

    You don't want to rely on authors self-editing, for reasons obvious to anyone who has tried to self-edit: it almost can't be done. You don't catch the mistakes a professional 3rd party does because you fill in the blanks in your mind because you know what you MEANT to say/punctuate/write etc.

     

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    Matt (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re: Amazaon charges???

    Wish I could delete this one. As I think about it, it is wrong wrong wrong.

    Publishers *do* provide something of value, their editorial services. Not just individual edits on individual books, either: part of the value of a good imprint is that it assures the buying public that the quality of the work is similar to other authors in that publisher's stable. In other words, being picked up by a publisher let's an author borrow a valuable trademark.

    _That_ is worth having in the marketplace.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Re: Amazaon charges???

    Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't know of any distributors, wholesalers or retailers in print book publishing that pay royalties on sales, unless they're self-publishing sites.

    Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, airport newsstands, etc. all generally buy books either directly from publishers or wholesalers (who buy from publishers) and pay a discounted price from the cover price to the publisher, who in turn pays a royalty to the author. Those distributors and retailers also generally buy the books on a fully returnable basis, meaning they can return them for full credit at any time.

    Technically, any of those outlets, including Amazon can sell a book (or ebook) at any price they choose, but the publisher generally sets the price for books. With e-books for Kindle, Amazon is more restrictive.

    Amazon really isn't the publisher of ebooks, either, even if an author directly uploads his or her ebook for sale on Amazon. Amazon acquires no rights and, more important, none of the legal risks that a publisher does.

    The publisher actually contributes a great deal. It's not that an author can't or couldn't do the same (some do), but a publisher provides expertise in editing, copyediting, design (internal and cover), marketing, promotion, publicity, and sometimes licensing of subsidiary rights (book club, translations, foreign editions, etc.). Again, it's not that the author couldn't do these things, or hire contractors to do these things, but a publisher has experience and existing relationships that provide for more efficiency.

    You can do these things, but it's going to be more difficult to get your book in Barnes and Noble or Borders, reviewed in the New York Times, or booked on a tour of bookstores.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    Tracking circulation of electronic products in the same way as print products is going to be very problematic. And unless the tracking mechanism is hugely intrusive, which is not likely to find consumer acceptance, then the metric will have to change.

    My point about the next generation "e-paper" technology is that it is likely to largely wipe out the "paper-paper" editions.

    This is essentially what happened to publishers of scholarly journals 10 years ago. When the demand for electronic editions emerged, STM journal publishers complained about having to produce them; after 5 years or so, they complained about having to continue the print editions.

    Now, the business are different in that most journals are advertising-supported by subscription-supported, so the metric of success are different. But looking at what journals went through--and what they are currently going through--should be instructive to the consumer magazine market.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Us vs. Them

    DH:

    Those are pretty old; from 1989. I'm a little surprised that SFWA hasn't updated them.

    The Author's Guild has better. As for ebook royalties, I think most publishers have this as a subsidiary right and split revenue from ebook sales 50/50 with the author.

     

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    BobinBaltimore (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    Good points. My overarching point is that mag publishers are not afraid of the questions or ignoring them, but are actively trying to figure out how to do this without blowing up their still profitable print editions. I agree that standards will likely have to change. Fact is they haven't and aren't going to quickly, so that is a real problem for the print mag industry.

    I also agree that thin formats and such will eventually change the landscape and challenge the need for print at all for many pubs. But that isn't practical yet, and likely won't be for some time. 10 year horizon for the masses, I'd estimate. Remember, consumer mags have aggregate circulation in the hundreds of millions. It is NOT enough to have a cool device that 1 million early adopters have. To really re-make the industry, the technology and devices MUST be essentially ubiquitous.

    The present alternative is to hook up with one or more device vendors and do all sorts of things to port your product to their format, only to then NOT be able to monetize it from an advertising perspective. Or, you can work on your own device like Hearst is doing, which, I think, is ill-advised. Industry standards would be nice, but will take time.

    Journals are a good partial model, but the type of reader engagement is entirely different than with a consumer magazine. But surely there are lessons to be learned all around.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Us vs. Them

    "The Author's Guild has better. As for ebook royalties, I think most publishers have this as a subsidiary right and split revenue from ebook sales 50/50 with the author."

    Most do, but that is based on what was previously a small market. There has been a great deal of talk going around that those rates are going to change drastically in favor of the publisher as the market share of eBooks over printed media evens out.

     

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    MikeP (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    baen

    i've mentioned this before, check out baen publishings stance on ebooks, and freebooks.

     

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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:52pm

    ebooks do not replace hard cover books. This is not opinion, it's a fact. Very few people are willing to give up buying real books which they can touch. If anything, think of presents... Who the hell wants a stream of ones and zeros on the Internet for their birthday?
    Also, the quote about having bestsellers that sell for $10 and freebooks meaning that all books have to be sold between $0 and $10 just shows this man does not understand his industry. You can sell a hardcover for multiples of the price of a soft cover. You can sell non-bestsellers for 20, 30, 50 and people will still buy. His statement is factually wrong.

    And you don't have to track circulation for ad payments... You can just do flat rates for ads in specific books.

     

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    Jim D (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:53pm

    Simple Solution

    This is no different than if people stopped buying Hard Cover books in favor of mass-market copies. If people only want mass-market copies and the prices there aren't high enough to cover costs & make a profit, then you either:

    A. Sell more copies by producing a higher quality work
    B. Sell less copies by make more money by pricing it higher, but not so much higher you lose more sales than the higher price makes up for
    C. Price it lower to sell more copies but not so low you make less money

    Generally I'd recommend a combination of A & C. The same holds for eBook copies.

     

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    Jim D (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:57pm

    Re: And yet...

    Given it's O'Reilly, a company with fairly high quality content, I take it to mean that they're putting the primary value (and cost of production) into the content rather the delivery platform, and only charging the marginal cost for the delivery platform. In this case, it's $5 for a printed version, $0 for the eBook version.

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Publishers Have Been Selling E-books for Years

    Don't find anything to disagree with: your points are spot-on.

    I particularly agree with the 10-year horizon (or beyond) for new "e-paper" technology to hit critical mass. This was always the problem for ebooks: publishers wanted to sell them, but demand was low because of the lack of the right hardware upon which to read them. That demand is spiking, but I don't think that even with that spike, sales will amount to more than 10% of overall revenue (or units).

    Standards are the key as well. Book publishing is slowly starting to really adopt the ".epub" format (formerly the OEBPS), which should make ebooks operable on multiple platforms and allow for consistent presentation across those platforms.

    Creating your own devise only locks you into one primary sales channel (not that Hearst couldn't sell through others, but then, why create the device). A better approach is to work with the hardware folk to produce ereaders that meet the needs of consumers and publishers.

    Cheers.

     

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  70.  
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    Bold Coward, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 1:16pm

    I recently paid 75. (US) for 2 hardcover books I could have easily gotten as an e-book for a fraction of the price.

    Why did I buy?

    Jim Butcher is re-releasing The Dresden Files series in conjunction with a small publisher as signed, illustrated and lettered or numbered volumes. 26 with embossed leather covers for a super premium price, and the numbered for a lesser price with standard cardboard covers. All are beautifully illustrated, new typeface and with thick, archival quality paper. They're shipped in sealed bags, protected with bubble wrap in a padded, waterproof envelope. So, so worth it.

    But the publisher is making a huge effort to make sure if you purchased book one and were number #, your second book will have the same #, and on and on through the series.

    That is something wonderful, lovely and worth the cost.

    Added value goes a long way towards parting me from my hard earned money.

    In some cases, I will now have 3 copies of each book.. the original softcover I read and loan out to hook friends, the mass market hardback I keep in case the softcover is lost, and now the collector's edition.

     

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    Freedom, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re: Back to basics...

    I had totally forgot about cleaning up the work from the author - that is a huge service. Having seen some of the work that gets turned in, it is amazing to me how much editing and clean up just on the core work that has to be done. Add on top of this taking the core book/work and coming up with a good cover or graphics for marketing potential as well and you definitely have some value-add services going on.

    In the end, there is just going to be consolidation of the printing presses though and those businesses associated with it.

    No market change is easy especially for those that are part of the old, but ultimately they need to realize this is an opportunity and nothing lasts forever - except for maybe taxes!

    Freedom

     

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    Jason (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Poor them

    We also don't need me-too-men. :)

     

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    Chargone (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 1:50pm

    let it be known that i Already do not buy hard covers.
    on the flip side, i don't buy ebooks either.

    paper backs are nice :)

    the problem is, hardcovers are freaking Expensive. we're talking 40-60 $NZ a go. or basically my entire month's discretionary cash for three or four of them. they then proceed to take up significantly more space on my shelf. i honestly can't afford to do this given the number of books [and other stuff] i buy.

    so, paperbacks. which can cost anything from ~15[rare.] to 30 [also rare. i Think it usually means there was no hard cover edition]. though 19-26 seems to be the common range.

    (rough conversion rate: NZ$3 will get you US$2)

    giving me more reason to buy won't make me pay more for a hard cover at this point. my budget's tapped out. i already have enough reason to buy the books just for the Stories that it's overcome my financial ability to Buy the hardcovers :) thus, paperbacks. the down side is then having to wait a year or more for them to come out, of course.

    in the mean time i borrow the hard covers from the library.
    which [how surprising!] doesn't stop me buying the ones i was going to buy when they come out in paperback Anyway.
    [actually, when it comes to novels, I'd never have Heard of most of the things i buy if it weren't for the library, and with manga the same is true of the library And scanlations.]

     

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    LostSailor (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Back to basics...

    Actually, publishers don't print books. That work is contracted out. There will, I think, be a contraction in the book publishing business, but book publishers have the edge that they generally add more value in services, and generally treat authors better than, say, the recording industry treats musicians. However the big printers may have to look elsewhere to replace lost business if ebooks ever seriously erode the market for printed books.

     

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    Eldakka (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 11:44pm

    Re:

    What publisher? where can I get these? ;)

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 5:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Dummy Gmail account is set up. I'm not going to continue to use TechDirt to advertise beyond this thread, but anyone that wants the first couple chapters free can email me at freechaps@gmail.com (i can't believe that wasn't taken!)

     

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  77.  
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    Jim G., Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Re: And yet...

    O'Reilly has different distribution models at different costs. I work at Safari Books Online, were you can read the online version for a small fraction of the cost. Pay $42.99 a month and you can read all 7000+ books.

     

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  78.  
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    Stephen, Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 10:21am

    Re: So what?

    Alright, I can read no more without responding. As a book editor, let me clear up a few misconceptions about the industry:

    1. "When you pull more and more of the roadblocks between content CREATORS and contents CONSUMERS out of the way, they become obsolete." Are you kidding me? We do everything we can to create connections between creators and consumers online, such as through Twitter and Facebook. We want to make fans, then satisfy them.

    2. "The publishing industry" does not have just one business model. For instance, we make gobs of money publishing books by authors who sell them as part of their own business practices, such as back of the room at a speech or course. We extend their brand. It's not all about bookstores. Could these people create their own books? Absolutely. But then they would have to create their own books, which is a lot more work than just writing one, plus having our brand on it gives it an objective seal of approval that says someone else believes in what they're pitching.

    3. To condense what I wrote two weeks ago re pricing: ebooks cost as much as treeware editions because they they are also responsible from an accounting point of view for all the editing, copyediting and production work that goes into the project as a whole, plus they require additional production work (conversion to Mobi/pdf/whatever and quality control) as well as storage and distribution fees, all of which offsets the cost of not having to pay for jackets, paper, binding and printing. Amazon can charge less because they are taking a hit on every ebook they sell; this price will surely go up.

    4. As to the head of Hachette's anger at ebooks, look at things from his point of view: Lagardere, Hachette's parent company, paid $537.5 million in 2006 for Time Warner books, after TW and Hachette made about that much in revenue the year before. I guarantee you they didn't make that much last year, won't this year, and probably won't next year. He's looking at an ugly balance sheet and a pile of debt. Of course he doesn't like those low ebook prices. Each one must look like another gravedigger.

     

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


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