Book Publishers Circulating 'Talking Points' To Counter Arguments That Ebook Prices Need To Go Lower

from the fighting-basic-economics-is-never-a-good-idea dept

For a while now, we've been discussing how the pricing on ebooks doesn't make much sense, and almost certainly needs to fall. Like many industries, the book business could learn a lot from other businesses that have realized that drastically lowering the price on digital goods can massively increase sales, and better maximize profits. But, instead, book publishers seem to be pushing in the opposite direction, and trying to push the price of digital books up. We recently wrote about a NY Times article that suggested consumers might revolt if the publishers keep moving in this direction, which is actually supported by reports of how consumers are reacting to publishers' anti-consumer activities with regards to ebooks.

Given all that, I was amused when a friend "in the business" forwarded me an email message sent to a mailing list of book publishers in response to that NY Times article about consumers' potential revolt, that encourages publishers to get out there and fight back against such perceptions. The email contains a list of "myths and potential talking points." Some of which are amusing. It starts out by saying $9.99 doesn't need to be the price for ebooks, which is true, but they don't even seem to consider the notion that the price could be less (or even free), focusing only on examples of people paying more for ebooks. It then suggests that publishers start blaming the ebook device makers for "the implicit, false promise" that ebooks can be cheap. That's ridiculous. The idea isn't "false," it's just basic economics, and we've already seen it playing out in music. Why wouldn't the same economics play in the ebook space as well?

The talking points also tries to attack the claim that Amazon is losing money on every ebook sold by not actually responding to that (mostly accurate) claim, but instead directing your attention elsewhere, by pointing out that Amazon has a $50 billion market cap and can sell products like ebooks at a loss and still make massive profits. Yes, this is true. And it's true because Amazon seems to understand the basic economics of where the money is made: which is in scarce goods, not in infinite ones.

Among the other talking points is the claim that people who buy ebook readers for hundreds of dollars shouldn't bitch about ebook prices, because they're obviously rich enough to afford whatever publishers think the books should be priced at (again, ignoring basic economics). Also there's a claim that publishers are really lowering the prices on ebooks even as consumers see higher prices. While this is technically true in cases like Macmillan, where the company is lowering its wholesale price in order to get Amazon to raise its retail price, it misses the fact that this doesn't matter to consumers. Consumers don't care about the wholesale price. The talking points also included one about how publishers' deals with Apple might actually price books lower anyways -- and it seems like that particular talking point has been "anonymously" pushed into a NY Times article already.

The list goes on in this nature, but it's worrisome that publishers are thinking this way. Just as we were recently discussing, they're acting like the recording industry ten years ago: hunkering down for a "war" of words, rather than actually focusing on new business models or figuring out what consumers actually want. Instead, they're trying to dictate what consumers want and hoping for some sort of magic bullet in the form of ebook readers. This is a dangerous move by publishers that can only come back to haunt them. Instead of focusing on "countering" what consumers are saying, why not actually listen to them, and look for ways to provide what they want?


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    Ben in TX (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 9:09am

    I'm an avid reader...

    I'm an avid reader. Mostly sci-fi stuff, but I also love historical fiction and frequently read books from the business section related to my field of work (software technical sales). Oh and I just bought a nook from B&N, which I love dearly.

    I haven't purchased a major-label CD or DVD for almost ten years. I got so fed up with the **AA groups and their anti-consumer practices that I decided I wouldn't support their efforts. I have bought a few CDs from indy bands on small labels or who produce their own CDs, but that's it. I am still carrying on with this boycott and will keep it up until the music labels and movie industry come to their senses.

    To date, I've been purchasing my ebooks legally. I think they're too expensive, but the book publishers haven't acted like complete assholes just yet... but I certainly see it coming.

    I will stop purchasing my ebooks legally if the publishers keep this shit up. As a digital-age consumer, I am not stupid and know full-well where I can acquire ebooks for free. I haven't done so yet, but if the publishers choose to pursue a similar anti-consumer path like the music and movie labels/publishers have, then I will have no problem with boycotting them also.

    Book publishers, I hope you're listening. Don't make the same stupid mistakes that the RIAA and MPAA members have done. You'll regret it. I know I'm not alone.

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:51am

      Re: I'm an avid reader...

      "Book publishers, I hope you're listening. Don't make the same stupid mistakes that the RIAA and MPAA members have done. You'll regret it. I know I'm not alone."

      Even if publishers aren't listening, I can promise you that authors certainly are. It's not uniform, but in talking to other authors, we're a group considerably more enlightened than music artists were ten years ago.

      I've put a Google Docs link of my entire recent work in PDF format on my blogger page, just on the off chance that some folks will like it enough to put it up on the filesharing sites and build some reputation for a sequel (which would be where I'd be looking to make money in more creative ways). I only recently discovered Google Docs and how I can put that link on my page, but I'll of course keep TD informed if it works out well in any way....

       

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        The Mighty Buzzard, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 3:03pm

        Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

        Why not put it up on a filesharing site or two yourself? They're generally easier sites to use than anything google puts out (search exluded).

         

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          Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 4:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

          "Why not put it up on a filesharing site or two yourself? They're generally easier sites to use than anything google puts out (search exluded)."

          You're right, I need to put in some time to learn it and do it. But Google Docs is REALLY easy, so I accomplished it in 5 minutes this afternoon.

          Now go DL it and READ!!! ;)

           

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            Burgos, Feb 21st, 2010 @ 7:20am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

            Hit the link from your Blogspot.

            Google said: Sorry, the page (or document) you have requested is not available.

             

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 11:31am

      Re: I'm an avid reader...

      I also have a nook, and I also love it. I have a few dozen books on there that individually are larger and heavier than the nook. And yes I have physical copies of those books too so I actually compared the weight out of curiosity one day. That said I havne't yet bought any ebooks from BN. I've downloaded free ebooks from feedbooks, google books, and less legal sources. I've found used paperbacks for $.50 that the ebook costs $5. I'll buy the paperback and download the ebook for free somewhere.

      A digital copy is much more convenient than paper, but is inherently less valuable to me because I can't sell or give it away, if i can loan it is is just for a short time, and i can't burn it for warmth during the apocalypse.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 11:43am

      Re: I'm an avid reader...

      I haven't purchased a major-label CD or DVD for almost ten years. I got so fed up with the **AA groups and their anti-consumer practices that I decided I wouldn't support their efforts. I have bought a few CDs from indy bands on small labels or who produce their own CDs, but that's it. I am still carrying on with this boycott and will keep it up until the music labels and movie industry come to their senses.


      Are you actually participating in a real boycott or are you just pirating all the shit you used to buy?

       

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        btr1701 (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 1:13pm

        Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

        > Are you actually participating in a real boycott
        > or are you just pirating all the shit you used
        > to buy?

        I'm not sure you understand the definition of the word "boycott". It means to refuse to patronize a company or industry. It doesn't mean to refrain from using any of their products.

        By refusing to do business with them, he's boycotting them. It matters not if he's getting the music from other sources.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 2:26pm

          Re: Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

          I'm not sure you understand the definition of the word "boycott". It means to refuse to patronize a company or industry. It doesn't mean to refrain from using any of their products.


          Heh.

          –verb (used with object)
          1.
          to combine in ABSTAINING from, or preventing dealings with, as a means of intimidation or coercion: to boycott a store.
          2.
          to ABSTAIN from buying or USING: to boycott foreign products.

          http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/boycott?jss=0

          boy·cott (boikt)
          tr.v. boy·cott·ed, boy·cott·ing, boy·cotts
          To ABSTAIN from or act together in ABSTAINING from USING, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion.

          http://www.thefreedictionary.com/boycott

          boy·cott (bo̵i′kät′)
          1. to join together in refusing to deal with, so as to punish, coerce, etc.
          2. to refuse to buy, sell, OR USE

          http://www.yourdictionary.com/boycott

          A boycott is a form of consumer activism involving the act of voluntarily ABSTAINING from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for political reasons.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boycott

          verb
          1. To ABSTAIN, either as an individual or group, from USING, buying, or dealing with someone or some organization as an expression of protest.

          http://www.allwords.com/word-boycott.html


          Since so many pirates seem so keen to compare themselves to civil rights activists of the 1940s, let me ask you how effective you think the Montgomery bus boycott would have been had Rosa Parks's followers just decided to "freeride" (in its original meaning) on the back bumpers of the buses rather than refuse to use them completely?

          Obviously, what it would have done is considerably diminish their message.

          Don't act like you're "boycotting" the various industries when you're really just pirating their products and BENEFITING from not having to pay. With a real boycott the benefit comes after the boycott ends, not during.

          Do you have ANY examples of a successful boycott where the participants still illicitly used the very same thing they were supposedly boycotting? Do you have ANY examples of a boycott where the act of abstaining from the thing in question didn't play a key part?

          But who am I to judge? If you want to believe that the best way to perform a hunger strike is to enter a hot dog eating contest, go right ahead, just try not to be surprised when people don't take your intentions seriously.

           

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            btr1701 (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 3:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

            Notice the word "or" (as opposed to "and") in all of those definitions you quoted.

            Think about it real hard.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 7:31pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

              So no real world examples then?

              Did you think about it "real hard"?

              haha

               

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                btr1701 (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 8:51pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

                > > Notice the word "or" (as opposed to "and") in all of those
                > > definitions you quoted.

                > So no real world examples then?

                LOL! Apparently you did think about it real hard, realized that you were boxed into a logical corner, and decided to change the subject to distract from that fact.

                Not clever enough by half.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:41pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

                  Apparently you did think about it real hard, realized that you were boxed into a logical corner, and decided to change the subject to distract from that fact.


                  I didn't box myself in at all. You are the one who said a boycott "doesn't mean to refrain from using any of their products" which is false and you were corrected. It can and does mean that as evidenced by multiple definitions from multiple sources.

                  You then assert that a boycott can also mean a simple denial of payment even for services already rendered or otherwise (illicitly) procured and I would simply like to know if you have any evidence of this actually occurring?

                  Despite the various definitions use of "or" instead of "and", refraining/abstaining from the product or service in question seems to play an integral role in boycotts historically AND linguistically. Realizing that you have no real world evidence to back up your claim to the contrary, you decided to ignore the majority of my post to distract from that fact.

                  I'm willing to admit I'm wrong should you have any evidence to back yourself up, so I reiterate, do you have ANY examples of a successful boycott where the participants still illicitly used the very same thing they were supposedly boycotting? Do you have ANY examples of a boycott where the act of abstaining from the thing in question didn't play a key part?

                  Until such a time as you do, I'm afraid you are completely unqualified to try and judge the cleverness of anyone.

                   

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                    ferridder (profile), Feb 20th, 2010 @ 1:35am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

                    You actually make a good point, but not the one you think that you're making.

                    When you boycott a manufacturer of a scarce good, you should not keep buying the same good (or a close substitute), since that would sustain the demand for that good and thus the manufacturer in question (unless the boycott is sufficiently widespread).

                    However, if you instead violate copyright or patent rights, the (direct) effect on the boycotted party is a loss.

                    An example is the boycott of western pharmaceutical patent licensors by e.g. India; it led to further price reductions and special considerations for emergency manufacturing.

                     

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                    btr1701 (profile), Feb 21st, 2010 @ 8:55am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

                    > You are the one who said a boycott "doesn't mean to refrain
                    > from using any of their products"

                    I assumed you realized we were talking about the context of this particular case. I realize now I gave you too much credit. That's my mistake and I apologize. I'll try and be more pedantic for you in the future.

                     

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            Burgos, Feb 21st, 2010 @ 7:43am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm an avid reader...

            From the very definitions that you quoted:

            to refuse to buy, sell, or use

            [t]o abstain, either as an individual or group, from using, buying, or dealing with someone or some organization as an expression of protest

            You're not the only one who can change the emphases when quoting from sources. But here's the real world example that you're asking for.

            Pirates boycott the music industry by not buying their products (see bold text in definitions); the effect, quoted from RIAA.com:

            Q: How much money does the recording industry lose from piracy?

            There are two categories to consider here: losses from street piracy – the manufacture and sale of counterfeit CDs – and losses from online piracy.

            One credible analysis by the Institute for Policy Innovation concludes that global music piracy causes $12.5 billion of economic losses every year, 71,060 U.S. jobs lost, a loss of $2.7 billion in workers' earnings, and a loss of $422 million in tax revenues, $291 million in personal income tax and $131 million in lost corporate income and production taxes.

            So if your understanding of boycott is when people do actions that fit the definitions above and target of the actions cause grief on the target businesses or industries, it follows that the actions of pirates amount to a successful boycott of the recording industry.

            That is, if you believe the figures quoted from RIAA's FAQ.

             

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    AdamR (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 9:38am

    My exact thoughts on the subject as wrtitten by someone else. Heres the Links:http://consumerist.com/2010/02/publisher-if-you-can-afford-an-ebook-device-you-can-pay-more-fo r-ebooks.html

    "Maybe a customer can pay more for a digital book, but why should he? Currently, nearly all the value of the ebook format comes from the device, not the publisher. Portability, frictionless purchasing experience, syncing across multiple registered devices--all of that is provided by the device and the retailer's back-end.

    By contrast, here's what the publisher currently provides in an ebook edition: typos, no additional content over the print version, no cover art, perhaps no photographs or illustrations, and no custom formatting. Saddle that with DRM that deliberately interferes with the consumer's ability to preserve or make full use of his library, and you've got one pretty low-value digital offering from a publisher
    "

     

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    Michael Ward (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 9:43am

    e-book prices

    There are plenty of other publishers who will provide books to the customers when the Big Six go out of business. That's the way our market works.

     

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    Flaky, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 9:44am

    From another avid reader

    I too, am a scifi reader. I used to purchase books regularly. Now, not so much anymore and when I do, I buy them used. Among other reasons, I feel the prices are too high for new books.

    Poster #1 isn't the only one that is fed up with music and refuses to buy now from the major labels. When sue'em all started, I stopped buying. From that day on, I became a boycotter and will not buy again until the music industry comes to it's senses.

    Just like when the music industry did start to get into digital with iTunes and the like, so too is this article reflecting the same mentality. The music industry no longer had to pay for jewel cases, for pressing of cds, for the moving of physical products by shipment, nor did brick and mortar stores any longer figure into the total cost of the product. The music industry did not pass that savings on to the customer, rather they pocketed it as profit and went looking for more ways to raise the price and drop the quality.

    So no, poster #1 is not alone; not by a long shot.

    During these times of bad economic troubles, Walmart has been doing fairly well by having a lower price than their competitors. If publishers can not see this, so be it.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 11:49am

      Re: From another avid reader

      Poster #1 isn't the only one that is fed up with music and refuses to buy now from the major labels. When sue'em all started, I stopped buying. From that day on, I became a boycotter and will not buy again until the music industry comes to it's senses.


      Are you actually participating in a real boycott or are you just pirating all the shit you used to buy?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 9:53am

    Don't dictate price, dictate marketplace features!

    It would be better if book publishers didn't circulate talking points about how they price their product.

    Instead, the publishers should find a way to incorporate features such as physical book sales into the various book marketplaces. i.e. If you like the iPad version, and like it, can I purchase the print version at a 20% discount? Can a user buy it on the device within 2 clicks and have it charged to an iTunes account, which already has my address, and billing information?

    A user already has a readable, eBook version so it probably doesn't have to be fulfilled in the traditional one week sense. Can a user get an additional discount if it's fulfilled in, say a 17 days window?

    This way, you can still sell traditional paperbacks while you steam ahead into the 21st century. Market collusion doesn't get us anywhere.

     

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    tore (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 9:55am

    Hmmm

    I love my ebook reader (a Sony PRS 505). In fact. ever since I finally managed to get my hands on one, which took 2 years because they aren't sold in Denmark, I've read exactly 3 books on paper. Mind you, I read a LOT. Usually 3-4 books a week, so the portability is a real asset.
    What irks me is that not only will certain online stores not sell me books due to geographic location, they also often don't have the formats I need. Even worse, some stores have differing prices on the books depending on the format, because the CONSUMER gets to pay for the DRM.

    Why? Why all the hassle? It's not that I don't have the tools or knowledge to remove the DRM nand convert the files to a usable format, which, in case you're wondering, is quite legal where I am. I just wonder what the point is? It seems to me like most publishers want to see eBooks as a concept die. But why? How often have you tried to get a book only to find it's out of print? I have several in my collection that were so popular that they couldn't be found second-hand, yet I had to wait for upwards of ten years for them to see print. In college, we had one subject where the main book for the subject was out of print. We had to borrow the profs copy and copy the whole thing.
    This could be avoided by ebooks. They don't need to go out of print, ever.

    In my opinion, the only publisher who ever got it right was Baen. The eBooks are cheap compared to other stores, you can always download them again in any format you need... Heck, even before eBook readers came on the market, if you bought a hardback you were likely to get a CD with your purchase containing each and every book the author had ever written, some special art, even music related to the book. This is added value to the hardcopy, and I can see why it might be tough to add extra value to the eBook, but hey, they aren't afraid to try new stuff. They even give full books away on their website.

    I really wish more companies would have the guts to follow their example.

     

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    open2discussion (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:06am

    What is the point of a war?

    I find it hilarious that book makers and publishers think that they need to stand up and fight their customers... like people who purchase their products want the prices so low that they can't possibly stay in business if they *gasp* cater to the needs of their customers.

    What if I wanted to buy a $0.99 cheeseburger from McDonald's and they tried to convince me that $0.99 was too little because of the beef ranchers, and dairy farmers? If they tried to convince me that $2.00 is a reasonable price because they think it is, I'd walk out and go buy one at Wendys or Burger King.

    What publishers and music producers, and all those middle men don't realize is that competition will bury them. I would gladly pay a price I think is reasonable... but if I can't find it for a price I am willing to pay, I'll look elsewhere or go without it. If I can get something for free with a coupon or a promotion - even better... but I absolutely refuse to pay the same price for an infinitely available product as its scarcely available counterpart (ebook vs. hardcover).

    Publishers don't realize it - markets set those prices... not the retailers or producers. They want some sort of control, but they can't get it through their heads the basic tenet of sales "the customer is always right".

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 11:59am

      Re: What is the point of a war?

      What if I wanted to buy a $0.99 cheeseburger from McDonald's and they tried to convince me that $0.99 was too little because of the beef ranchers, and dairy farmers?


      That is EXACTLY what would happen if our government stopped curtailing the free market by pumping billions of dollars into subsidizing corn every year.

      99% cheeseburgers are disgusting. And I'm not just talking about taste.

       

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      Nastybutler77 (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 1:34pm

      Re: What is the point of a war?

      "What if I wanted to buy a $0.99 cheeseburger from McDonald's and they tried to convince me that $0.99 was too little because of the beef ranchers, and dairy farmers?"

      I'd gladly pay you $.99 on Tuesday for a cheeseburger today.

       

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    Frugal, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:10am

    An argument to high priced readers

    Among the other talking points is the claim that people who buy ebook readers for hundreds of dollars shouldn't bitch about ebook prices, because they're obviously rich enough to afford whatever publishers think the books should be priced at (again, ignoring basic economics). That bothers me. My list of reasons to buy a nook, a kindle, or some other readers are because I can carry a library with me, I can search through a book, no more having to keep a bookmark, having a backup of a book in case of water damage amongst other reasons. Basically these companies are providing me with a lot of value in their device. But, one of the main reasons to buy an e-reader could be cost. Yes for an up front cost of $200+ I can get an e-reader, but I would figure that without the cost of printing, shipping and many of the other costs associated with a physical product, the product would come down in price. If this were the case, in the long run buying an e-reader would be cheaper for me than buying the books. So if I buy 5 hardcovers a year at $20 and I can get them for $10 as an e-book all I have to do is keep up my buying habits for 4 years with one e-reader and I have broken even. Now you may say that publishers would lose out on this. Well that isn't true. I am a very avid reader. I follow many sci-fi series, I generally buy about 20-30 books a year. Mostly I wait until the paperback comes out. I just can't afford to buy the hardcovers for every single book. Yet I would happily pay $10 for an e-book the day it comes out, rather than having to wait the months for the book to come out in paperback and be $6.99. Overall that is me paying $3 more out of my pocket but I consider that worth it for not having to wait months for the cheaper version to come out. So while it might not be the $20 for the hardcover, I wasn't going to pay that anyways. This is what I consider an ideal transaction. One where all people involved are happier. The publishers/booksellers because they get $3 more from a customer and I am happier because I can buy the book without waiting on a windowed release.

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:13am

    balh balh yack yack

    heres a talking point
    it costs me 2 cents per 700megabytes of data with an unlimited 4 megabit account

    you can get better deal at buying faster line
    i want it at 5 cents a book
    OR I AINT PAYING
    end of story

     

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      McBeese, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 12:59pm

      Re: balh balh yack yack

      Some people understand grammar and know how to read (and punctuate), so there is more value than just a collection of downloaded bits. I understand your perspective though - if you don't read, a book has no value.

       

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    David T, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Missing the point

    I think people are missing the larger trend here. The strength of the publishing houses is the ability to get books on the limited space in physical bookstores. It's one of the few markets where the retail market can send product back to the wholesaler, which is why many books never recoup their advance cost.

    What happens when the bookshelf is digital, with unlimted space. What happens when B&N and Boarders go the way of Tower Record stores? When people stop going to bookstores the publishers lose their major benefit to authors: placement.

    The authors can place themselves.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:17am

    The first reason I bought an electronic book: converting litterature in the public domain into something I could read anywhere. calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/) helped a lot in this. There are such treasures in the litterature of the past.

    By extension, I use it for any freely and legally accessible content.

    The only physical book I still pay for are technical ones and some from contemporary authors I favor particularly (e.g. my favourite philosopher). As long as the electronic versions will not have a price that aligns to their real cost of publishing, I will continue to buy the printouts.

    As a conclusion, it is correct to say that device makers are shaking the book industry just as the Internet shakes the music industry. But they should adapt, not us. One can turn the problem in every way, the users are not at fault. The way I use my own device does indeed means less immediate money for publishers, but I consider my way both legal and moral.

    Of course publishers can try to lobby to have copyright laws changed, they can try to force DRM on electronic publications. But, in that case, they will loose me an probably many others.

    With electronic publications, the ball is in the camp of writters and people seeking new business and distribution models. There are lots of similarity with the case of the music industry, really.

     

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    Alan Gerow (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Barnes & Noble shot up a bunch of eBook prices this week. "The Singularity is Near" was $9.99 at the beginning of the week. Just as I was about to purchase it ... the price shot up to almost $22.

    I purchased a $250 nook ... not because I'm rich, but because it has value. An eBook does not hold $22 worth of value to me, most barely hold $10 of value. I've purchased exactly 3 eBooks and didn't pay more than $5 each, and everything else has been free & legal through B&N or another website that distributes public domain and license-free ePub files. And then there's free eBook check-outs from my local library's website.

    So, I can get all the legal free content I need to read on my nook. The publishers can go suck one.

    "The Singularity is Near" ... that I ended up getting on The Pirate Bay in a torrent that came with the PDF and a DOC version. I would have paid $5 in an INSTANT for this book even with DRM ... $10 caused me pause and I waited ... but $22, screw you guys!

     

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    mark, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:21am

    hardcover:paperback::paperback:ebook?

    I recently started wondering if this was a "release window" problem, i.e. are publishers trying to monetize the people who will pay a premium to acquire a higher-quality book, earlier? For some books (the last Harry Potter, for instance) the hardcover window is years long.

    It's a mystery to me why publishers wouldn't sell out-of-print books electronically at a discount. I guess they figure demand for the out-of-print is a kind of crop to be harvested: as the supply of existing copies dwindles through attrition, and as new people learn to read, enough new demand comes into existence to justify another printing.

    But now way does that serve consumers' interests. I think copyright holders should have to physically print and sell their wares, or lose the rights to them.

    (As a new Kindle owner I've promised -- maybe we all do -- to exhaust my supply of free classics before purchasing anything. We'll see. But I'm 29% of the way through my first Jane Austen).

     

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    Doug Wheeler, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:37am

    Talking points = anti-trust violation?

    It seems to me that publishers getting together to support some sort of pricing "policy" could easily be interpreted as illegal price fixing. It's one thing if one publisher sees how another is pricing its products and acts in a similar manner - it's quite another for them to get together to form some sort of ad-hoc alliance in support of a particular pricing policy/philosophy.

     

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    Scott, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:38am

    Ebook Prices

    Ever since I bought my Sony PRS-500 I have purchased more books than I ever have in the past. Hardback prices are $20-30 dollars now, and it seemed to have risen unnoticed by casual readers. It wasn't that long ago that paperbacks were $5, but they are now $7 or $8. If a company like Amazon is willing to take a loss when selling something for less than they purchased it, then let them. $10 is good, less would be better. At $15 I stop buying as many, and start looking for freely shared ebooks on the internet (and there are many).

    And I agree with an earlier post. The typos and quality of the ebooks being sold are incredible. And they want to increase the price on that? If you purchased anything else that had that bad of quality, you would return it to the store. With online ebook stores, that can be difficult.

    Authors are going to let publishers take money out of their pocket by allowing this. What would it really cost an author to write a book, format it for an ereader, and sell it on the internet. I think their profits would rise, and the money mongering publisher fools would be the one's losing.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:59am

    Every industry that pulls this stunt does a faceplant.

    Movies: I haven't been to more than three movies in the past year. I don't plan to hit more than one in the coming year, "Toy Story 3" and NO, I'm waiting on Netflix/Redbox for "Avatar," assuming I bother.

    Music: Bought indie music from CD Baby and some mp3s from Amazon. Amazon's squabble with Macmillan has taken them OFF my "buy from them" list. (Not the defense of prices, but arbitrarily removing the books.)

    Books: Several thousand legitimately-purchased or public-domain novels and stories in open or DRM-removable formats (which by now is all of them). I've been buying more books than I can keep up with, removing the DRM, and archiving them for later reading.

    At least so far, with the exception of Bloomsbury(Rowling), they haven't actually shot themselves in the kneecaps.

    I'm happy to pay for my fun and support artists and writers, but every movie, music, or book executive who talks like this just gives more reasons to say "ARRRR!"

     

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    Esahc (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 10:59am

    Sigh

    I just don't get it.

    Why should I spend more money on an e-book than I would spend on a $5.00 paperback?

     

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      McBeese, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 1:07pm

      Re: Sigh

      "Why should I spend more money on an e-book than I would spend on a $5.00 paperback?"

      Because an e-book costs more to produce and distribute? Nope, that's not it. The opposite is true.

      I guess I don't get it either.

       

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      Alan Gerow (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 2:55pm

      Re: Sigh

      Becau$e publi$her$ have people on $taff who under$tand the$e thing$ way better than you. $o hu$h up and ju$t hand over your money.

       

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    sehlat (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 11:03am

    Re: Sign

    Given the problems with DRM, and the general contempt publishers have for book quality when it's electronic(some of the typos are horrible: "It's oven" for "It's over!" in Turtledove's "How Few Remain) I'd love to know how publishers can justify more-than-paperback prices for what their policies have made a demonstrably-inferior product.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 11:30am

      Re: Re: Sign

      "I'd love to know how publishers can justify more-than-paperback prices for what their policies have made a demonstrably-inferior product"

      They cannot. But they probably see an eldorado, where costs tend to zero and margins skyrocket.

      Maybe they hope that with ebooks, they'll be able to force people in buying a book every week. Oh yeah, I see it: the 'Book Consumer Patriot Act'. Federal penalties to apply to anyone not spending 50$ a week on ebooks.

      Second-hand resale forbiden. Just like what Sony is trying to do with pre-owned games.

       

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    Jason, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 11:40am

    get them for the same price as the print version...or less.

    If you're a sci-fi & fantasy reader, Baen has them for reasonable prices...from free, to $6.99 for their regular books, or 6 for $15 if you buy the bundles. Go to www.webscription.net.

    The free books are older books by their contemporary authors, and others.

    (I know that most regular readers on techdirt.com are aware of it, but it's still worth a reminder).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 11:42am

    Why do you even need a publisher for e-books? I would be willing to pay 1 dollar for an ebook.

     

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    Brendan (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 11:54am

    I read a lot, have purchased 0 ebooks

    And its going to stay that way until eBook have all the features and more of actual books.

    Dead Tree Version:
    - Can easily give them to friends to read
    - Can read them when and wherever I want
    - Cannot be taken back by seller after purchase

    ebook version should have all of that *and*:
    - Can be purchased from anywhere
    - Can store thousands on a single device
    - Prices reflect drastically lower costs
    - I can share quotes/annotations directly with people
    - Can update to fix corrections if I ask it to

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 12:04pm

    Publishers are utterly backwards on ebooks. You can still find ebooks that cost more than their paperback cousins. Most ebook sellers are set into contracts which allow the publisher to set the price, the publisher sets it close to the hardback coverprice, and then forgets about it. The paperback comes out, but the price never gets corrected on ebook form. Ebook resellers have to contact the publisher on each and every title as they find them; sometimes the publisher fixes it, a very high portion of the time they can't be bothered though. So you go to places like Barnes & Noble, and you're left with the problem of being able to buy the paperback version for less than you can buy the ebook version. This problem is worse for sites that only sell ebooks, barnes and noble's physical bookstores give them a lot of clout other e-tailers don't.

    Then you hit the issue of release dates, not all books get released to all ebook stores at the same time. Doesn't seem to be any rhyme nor reason to it. Some authors by the same publisher can be found on one retailers site, but not another. Not all books by a given author can be found on each ebook site either. To get some series you'd have to go through upwards of three different e-tailers.

    The entire ebook industry is a freak'n nightmare. Made so mostly by publishers who couldn't be bothered to turn it into a profitable business on their own, and have only allowed themselves to be dragged toward it by people who keep throwing money at them in hopes of being able to make money selling ebooks. Because of that the entire process is a huge hodgepodge, there is no concerned effort by publishers to make it work, there never has been. And its only the numbers Kindle, and things like it, are touting in the press that is even causing them to start to notice it now.

     

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    Flaky, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 12:15pm

    For the one curious

    Yes, a real, honest boycott. For years and years I was an avid music listener. I bought a very expensive stereo, and bought tons of vinyl in the day. All I might add at retail prices of the day.

    I've had years and years to buy what I wanted from the major labels. I have absolutely no need to pirate though like everyone else, if I wished I know where to go to do so.

    I've simply reached the point that the industry as a whole thoroughly disgusts me with their actions. As a result, I buy no music any more. Not used, not indie, not any. Full stop. Period.

    I went to movies when sue em all started. When they started their little gig, I dropped buying or renting movies and do neither now. Before that not only would I buy but was common to rent $30 of movies at one shot. I do neither now.

    Nor do I any longer watch tv. Been long enough I haven't done that, I don't even own a tv anymore. So no cable, no PPV, no public broadcast, nada.

    You know what? I don't miss it. I don't miss the commercials at all.

    Again, I'm fed up with it and am prepared to boycott the rest of my life without problem.

     

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    Chris Brand, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 1:09pm

    How to spot dying companies

    they're the ones arguing that "my customers don't understand..."

     

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    Jon Renaut (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 4:15pm

    Share that email?

    Any chance you can share the email? I'd like to see the original. Though I understand if you need to protect your source.

     

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    Chris Pratt, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 7:38pm

    I personally don't understand the pricing of most digital content. A digital album will run you $12.99 (compared to $15-16 for a CD), a digital movie costs $14.99 (compared to $15-20 for a DVD), and an eBook costs roughly the price of its hardback equivalent. At least music and movie downloads fall a few dollars under their physical counterparts. Charging the same price as the most expensive physical version for an eBook, though, is nothing but profiteering and gluttonous.


    I can only surmise that most consumers don't sit down and think about what they're actually paying for. If I buy a CD, DVD or physical book, I understand that there's materials costs, manufacturing costs and transportation costs that go into that price. Additionally, there's overhead costs for the retailer involved in stocking physical goods. There's also hidden costs such as the little tax that gets passed on to each consumer to cover the overall theft of physical goods such as CDs and DVDs and the cost of anti-theft devices. That's a lot of cost to get a CD, DVD or book on a shelf in your local retail store.


    Digital goods, however, eliminate the vast majority of those costs. There's no materials costs because the product is ethereal. There's no manufacturing costs, unless you count the initial one-time cost of production, but music, movies and even books are produced in digital form. The most that needs to be done is some sort of conversion process, and the cost of that process is virtually negligible when spread out across the entire consumer-base. There's no physical transportation costs, but you could include the cost of bandwidth here. Again, though, cost of bandwidth is extremely low compared to paying for fuel, vehicles, drivers, vehicle maintenance, etc. involved in physical transportation. Retail overhead for digital goods is confined to storage costs. Storage itself is dirt cheap, roughly $1/GB. That's fractions of pennies for each digital good, and unlike in physical retail, it's a purely incidental cost: you only need to store one copy of that song, movie or book. Of course, you need infrastructure around the storage, so there's still some ongoing cost. Piracy could be considered equivalent to physical theft, but there's no inherent "loss" in digital theft. Stealing a physical good means that the store is out of pocket for all those material, manufacture and transport costs mentioned previously. Downloading a digital good off a torrent does not explicitly impact the seller; it only implicitly impacts in the form of a "lost sale". (We'll discount entirely here that a number of studies have shown that the majority of "pirates" go on to actually purchase the item at a later day.)


    The point is that, yes, there are costs involved with digital goods, but those costs are far, far less than costs associated with physical goods. The notion that consumers should pay the same price for digital or physical as if they're remotely the same is ludicrous.

     

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    rrtzmd (profile), Feb 20th, 2010 @ 8:59am

    Typical behavior in a dying industry...

    ...in mature and/or declining markets, managers try to maintain cash flow by the easiest alternative available -- raising prices and then seeking market protection either by legislation, restrictive contracts with distributors and retailers, and similar acts aimed at trying to maintain barriers to competition...ultimately, this always fails...and the managers, in fact, are well aware of it...but all they want right now is to keep their salaries and benefits going as long as possible...so until they retire or die off and a new vanguard of managers rises to the challenge, expect more of the same...

     

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    Stoweaway56, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 9:49am

    Antiquated publishing business models

    Overall, publishing companies operate in an antiquated business model that has taken years to catch up to them. The distribution model is positively a dinosaur! It's amazing that there are so many of them still in business when their reaction to lower profits is to reduce the margins and raise prices, rather than systemically look at what's really broken and fix it. It's epidemic and one of the reasons why textbooks are so expensive and why some are fighting eBooks so hard. If they pulled their heads out of .... then they'd realize that eBooks practically eliminate the secondary market which they've been fighting and whining about for years. I've already set a max price limit on what I'll pay for an eBook. There are plenty of books in that price range not to mention free public domain and self-publishers. It's a shame in a way that so many authors will lose readership because of it. Or maybe it will ultimately force an industry similar to the music industry now, where a ton of artists skip the big label and do it on their own because technology gives them so many distribution options they don't need the labels in the same way they used to.

     

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