Irony: Ebook About Clueless Media Moguls Costs Many Times Brand New Hardcover Version

from the pricing dept

A little while ago, we pointed out that the ebook for the book Appetite for Self-Destruction -- all about the recording industry's clueless strategic moves -- was amusingly priced higher than the physical copies of the book. It seemed rather ironic that a book about how the recording industry couldn't deal with digital would show such clueless pricing. However, apparently this is not the only such case. Copycense, which pointed us to that pricing conundrum, has been highlighting a bunch of other ebooks that are more expensive than hardcopy books, and has found one that's perhaps even more ridiculous: a book about clueless media bosses. The book is actually called The Curse of the Mogul: What's Wrong with the World's Leading Media Companies, and as of this posting, the pricing certainly suggests what's wrong with the world's leading publishing companies.

The Kindle ebook version is a whopping $18.99. Yet, if you actually want to kill some trees, the Hardcover is $10.51. The paperback is $11.56. And that's just if you order from Amazon directly. If you order from an Amazon partner, you can actually get the hardcover for $2.96 new or $2.49 used. And someone thinks it makes sense to price this book (of all books) at $18.99 as an ebook?
It's as if the publishing industry has learned absolutely nothing from the difficulties other industries have had in adjusting to digital goods.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Stephen, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:01pm

    remainder versus agency pricing

    What you're seeing here is the problem of agency pricing when it meets a price that takes advantage of a high discount, in this case what looks like a remainder discount. You can see the same thing in bookstores when remaindered hardcovers cost less than the paperback editions of those same books.

     

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      Michael Long (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:51pm

      Mike is confused. Again.

      Mike is confusing the publisher with Amazon again. The PUBLISHER is discounting the ebook to $18 from $26. About a 30% discount. But as you pointed out, it looks like Amazon picked up some cheap copies at wholesale from somewhere, so AMAZON is discounting the paper book's price below that of the ebook price.

      Not only does Amazon still make a profit, but they also benefit from the sputtering rage generated by all of the ignorant masses who read Mike's article and think that the PUBLISHER'S are screwing them, all because Amazon's artificially lowered discount price is below that of the publisher's discount ebook price.

      This benefits Amazon, as they in turn can use the turmoil generated in further price negotiations with the publisher. Get the prices down, and Amazon will sell a lot more Kindle ebook readers, AND sell a lot more books through the Kindle platform.

      In fact, this is happening so often that I tend to suspect that Amazon's pricing strategy is deliberate. They're willing to take a hit on a few books now, just so they can dominate the ebook market later.

      Finally, the comparison to used prices is just stupid. Follow that logic, and apparently we're supposed to discount the price of every digital purchase to a buck, just because some scratched used physical CD or DVD is available for $2 at Half.com.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 2:12pm

        Re: Mike is confused. Again.

        And what you're missing is: There is no reason why the publisher can't sell an E-Book at $3.

        Unlike Amazon which has to sell at a loss, the publisher does not. Instead of setting competitive prices, though (even $5-$7), they choose to mark E-Book prices up exorbitantly and effectively kill off interest in their own product.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 3:22pm

        Re: Mike is confused. Again.

        Does it matter who did what?

        At the end of the day the digital copy is pricier than the deadtree one.

        By the way the kindle is dead, long live the iPad and the other iPadishy ones that are coming out on the Android platform.

        I'm waiting for the day I can glue e-paper on my wall so I can put a big screen reader on the ceiling and read till I go to sleep or keep watching my wall LoL

        Who wants a kindle?

         

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          Michael Long (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 2:17am

          Re: Re: Mike is confused. Again.

          Read for comprehension...

          "...AND sell a lot more books through the Kindle platform."

          That is, for the Kindle apps on the iPhone, iPad, Android, and so on. As to who wants one... it appears as if a lot of people do. They're selling 'em like hotcakes at $139, and blew through a thousand or so used ones at $89 in just a few SECONDS.

           

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        Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 3:34pm

        Re: Mike is confused. Again.

        Finally, the comparison to used prices is just stupid. Follow that logic, and apparently we're supposed to discount the price of every digital purchase to a buck, just because some scratched used physical CD or DVD is available for $2 at Half.com.

        If you were selling CDs, and the only place you were able to sell them was right next to a bin of used copies of the exact same CD priced at $2, would you set your price at nearly ten times that?

        If so, good luck with running a business.

        (and no you can't just throw 'scratched' in there - amazon doesn't sell unreadable books, so don't compare them to unlistenable CDs)

         

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        A Dan (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 7:10am

        Re: Mike is confused. Again.

        Finally, the comparison to used prices is just stupid.

        It's a typo. It was supposed to say $2.96 new or $2.49 used. So the comparison's not really to used prices.

         

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    Wesha (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:01pm

    Well, what do you expect? It only took the airline industry (and not all of it, either) about 15 years to realize that boarding passengers rear-to-front is faster. The Peter Principle at work.

     

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    Davis Freeberg, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:05pm

    The Ebook Market Is A Fad

    I'm not sure that this is such a bonehead strategy. The people buying kindles have disposable income and the ebook market is taking advantage of them. If the book publishing industry really does move to 100% digital then they will look like dinosaurs, but there is a huge difference in the print medium vs. music and film. The pricing makes it harder for them to compete with piracy, but makes sense if they are only addressing a niche audience.

     

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      Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:32pm

      Re: The Ebook Market Is A Fad

      The people buying kindles have disposable income and the ebook market is taking advantage of them.

      I'm definitely thinking you've got it.

       

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      Not an electronic Rodent, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:50pm

      Re: The Ebook Market Is A Fad

      If the book publishing industry really does move to 100% digital then they will look like dinosaurs
      Except that's the beauty of buying a digital book - it's basically text and maybe a few pictures. It's small, and very very easy to convert if a new digital format comes along.
      Oh, but wait, they've loaded it down with pointless DRM so the only way to really do that is to get a non-DRM'd copy, that's a shame isn't it?

      I think you'll find that once the 3rd-gen reader-type screens start creeping into tablets etc the format's going to become a lot more popular and mainstream. At that point if the publishing industry hasn't caught up there's likely to be a resounding "What? I have to buy the book AGAIN??? Well f**k you, I'll just download a copy from one of the 3000 bit torrent sites carrying it.", from all the Kindle owners who actually payed for DRM'd books the first time round.

      Since the modifier was dangling though the sentence still works - I'm assuming you meant the Kindle owners, but it's more likely to be the publishers that end up with the large extinct lizard motif IMO.

       

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    THe Baker, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:05pm

    I want it NOW!

    And for a mere $16 premium I can get it delivered "FREE" via Whispernet in seconds.

    ?????????

     

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    Chris in Utah (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:14pm

    Remember that old watch trick. You have your low cost watch your middle price watched and high priced watch that resembles the second. Overwhelmingly they buy the middle priced watch. My Nerdiness fails me because its an actual economics math explanation. ~~shrugs~~ Its what I get for watching shows about math rather than studying lol.

    In this case I think its protect protect protect!

     

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    sehlat (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:19pm

    Hegel was right

    The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.

     

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    SUNWARD (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:27pm

    kindle version gone

    that was fast.

     

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    Vic, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:31pm

    Hey, come on! They are not READING this stuff, they are just publishing. Huge difference!

     

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    mattarse (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:32pm

    This highlights exactly why I haven't bought an ebook reader despite really liking the idea. I would pay a large price for the hardware if I thought the books reflected a realistic cost for going from something I can resell/give away to a version that is cheaper to produce, but only I can ever read.

     

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      interval (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:42pm

      Re:

      If you can do without color you can get an off-brand (not kindle or the other one, forget the cute little marketing name) you can get a dandy e-reader gadget for a fraction of the price of the name brand ones. And no drm. Takes text, pdf, e-ink, all of it.

       

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 2:31pm

      Re:

      Honestly, buy one anyway. The amount of free, legitimate eBooks to be downloaded out there from indy-authors, places like Project Guttenburg, and Baen means you will be reading for a long, long time before you ever HAVE to pay for a book.

      Oh, and I'll send you a couple of reads by this awesome dude named Timothy Geigner, the next big thing in fiction ;)

       

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    Ragaboo (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:33pm

    Holy God ...

    ... there actually are people out there who would buy an eBook for $19? That's insane. Even if the hardcover were $25, why would you ever buy an eBook for $19? Sure, the hardback price even says [Bargain] in the title, but that's irrelevant considering the digital edition shouldn't cost that much regardless of the hardback price.

     

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    The Invisible Hand (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:34pm

    You gotta see that it is hard work making these ebooks.

    Here's a little guide to help all you laypeople to understand why ebooks are more expensive than the tree-killing alternative:

    **Step-by-step Ebook production guide, version 0.3**

    Step 1: Monkey, uh, I mean, author delivers final version of book.

    Step 2: Have your best and most skilled monk (yes, one of those 5th century, robed beardy ones) copy the original text (by hand...with ink and a feather!) into paper. This will be your "original". Oh right, don't forget to have him adorn the pages with cute drawings and make the first letter of every paragraph HUGE.

    Step 3: Proof-read "original".

    Step 4: Have your "lesser" monks (just as robed as the one form step 2, but not as beardy) make as many copies of the "original" as necessary to fill your orders.

    Step 5: Proof-read every copy.

    Step 6: Pass copy through a scanner and use OCR (optical character recognition) to extract the text into pdf format (you realize you don't need the pictures after all and those huge letters waste too much ink anyway).

    Step 7: Proof-read the digital copies. In case they aren't "good", go back to step 3 (yes, the typo might be in the original, in which case, you have to restart form 2).

    Step 8: Now you realize you need some pictures...just paste the original ones the mon...artist provided into the pdf.

    Step 9: Convert to non-standard format, slap in some DRM and ship it to client. Ka-ching!

     

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    sehlat (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:47pm

    Barnes and Noble

    Treeware: $16.84

    NookBook: $18.99

     

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    Joseph Beck, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:49pm

    Also to Point Out:

    Physical books have multiple options, but there is no secondary market for used EBooks.

     

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    Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:51pm

    I bet they are thinking they are selling a "value" to consumers

    I'm sure there are a lot of people who buy the kindle for the convenience of the thing. If it weighs 1 pound with 1 book on it, how much does it weight with 100 books on it (1 pound of course). So it is convenient to carry around with lots of books stored in it. It is also a fancy new gadget. This blog talks about the economics of "things" a lot. While this is a very new concept and gadget, there will be a premium on some things. As the novelty wears off and the new competitors enter the market (remember, in economics new competitors go to where the profit margins are high and force those margins down to near zero above marginal cost). So now the nook has entered the market (and others that I can't recall), so after there is some fierce competition to be able to say that "XXX sold xxx millions of copies of books" after Christmas, the prices should start getting more reasonable. The real key is going to be getting enough competitors into the market who are competing on selling eBooks. EVERYBODY knows that downloading an eBook costs practically nothing for each book, but that maintaining the infrastructure to do so is expensive. So eventually, the cost of an eBook should approach some small cost of maintaining the infrastructure and advertising plus a near zero marginal cost of distributing the book. The $64,000 question is when will the economics take over from the "Wow" factor.

    As for the title of my post, I see no value to me (personally) for the eBooks especially after reading (here at TechDirt) about the ability to "lose" the books I would think I was buying with no recourse. And of course I can't collect them or resell them (as my wife wants me to do). For now, I'm just going to stick to the paperback ones.

     

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    PopeHilarius (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 1:56pm

    Off topic, but

    Hey Mike- I only just noticed the new 'Insightful'/'Funny' comment sorting mechanism, which is neat.

    In addition to 'Show Insightful'/'Show Funny', could we get an option for 'Show Insightful Or Funny'? I had just voted interval's comment as both, and realized there was no way to display them at the same time. The comments already differentiated with the lightbulb/lol icon, so it's not like anyone will mistakenly confuse insight for humor or anything.

     

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    Andrew, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    The e-book copy costs more because they factor piracy into it. Material costs for printing a book are negligible. You don't pay for the paper and ink. You pay for the words on the page.

    Want cheaper prices? Stop supporting piracy. Prices come down.

     

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      Theoden, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 3:16pm

      Re:

      You live in a world where $18.99 for an e-book makes sense, Andrew. Try visiting the real world sometime.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 3:32pm

      Re:

      ...or go to http://librivox.org/ that has free legal audio books for everyone.

      Yay!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 3:34pm

      Re:

      BTW, if you are not in one of those open places I don't know who you are and don't care about what you are selling, you don't exist for me, you are nothing, is there anything else you want to say about it?

       

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      Ron Rezendes (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 4:47pm

      Ummmm.....NO!

      Please, please tell me this is sarcasm!

      Never mind - I'll feed the troll:

      "The e-book copy costs more because they factor piracy into it."
      Please provide a single independent source for the piracy figures being used to calculate the new price that hasn't already been debunked repeatedly. However, there have been studies that show people who "pirate" these goods are often the ones who will buy said goods at a later date even though that may not have been their initial intention. Factoring piracy on the actual numbers means the price should go down for these items that cost virtually nothing to reproduce electronically since each user can make copies onto their own hardware which doesn't cost the publisher a penny more if one copy is made or one billion copies are made.

      "Material costs for printing a book are negligible."
      You might want to talk to the logging companies and paper mills doing this work - it may come as a bit of a shock to those who feed their families in those industries.


      "You don't pay for the paper and ink."
      THIEF!!!

      "You pay for the words on the page."
      Let me guess, the same way musicians and studio artists are paid for music - pennies on the dollar but only when applicable once the collection societies and the talentless have been paid for being a gatekeeper?

      "Want cheaper prices? Stop supporting piracy. Prices come down."

      Actually Economics 101 will tell you to NOT buy the product, for when there is less demand, the price will come down.

      History shows us how the big media companies handle reduced costs. Remember when cassettes were replaced by CDs and we were told music would become more affordable? That didn't happen, instead the gatekeepers actually raised the price of music albums. Did the artists get more money? No! But the gatekeepers did!

      When the useless gatekeeper tries to separate the consuming masses from having their products at reasonable and realistic prices, the masses will find a way to take what they want and make damn sure the gatekeeper doesn't get paid.

      Please find your bridge before sundown and stay there if you will!

       

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      nasch (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 11:51am

      Re:

      Want cheaper prices? Stop supporting piracy. Prices come down.

      You're saying reduced competition will result in lower prices? Why do you think ebooks work the exact opposite way of everything else in the world?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 3:29pm

    Have anybody notice the advancement in voice synthesizer lately?

    Ivona is the one that sounds more human. I dare anybody notice the difference from a real voice, just go to their site and type on the sample window to hear it.

    @DarkHelmet:

    You should really try that one, it can make audio books of your work that you can show to others and create clips for videos that you can upload.

    Personally I'm using Festival(the syntheziser a.k.a. TTS-Text To Speech) which is still robotic and difficult at times to understand but it is free.

     

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    bob, Nov 30th, 2010 @ 3:52pm

    If you got this far down the line to read this your very persistent.

    I likie that buy the dead tree book for 11 dollars, then you can resell it or give it away and someone else can read it.

    Buy the 19 dollar ebook and it can be repossessed, and you can't give it away, or loan it.

    This is truly the bargain of the 21st century.

     

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Nov 30th, 2010 @ 7:54pm

    eBooks and what works for me

    I am currently purchasing eBooks only from Baen/Webscriptions.net - all books are unlocked, and cost $6.00 USD. They also have an extensive free library that you can download at will. Unfortunately, all of their books are SciFi/Fantasy, but they have some great authors of those genres. If you purchase one of their hardcover copies, you get a free CD with the book you purchased in many formats (for all eReaders that I know of) including HTML, along with several other books that you can install on your eReader of choice. Kudos to Baen/Webscriptions for getting what the new publishing paradigm really is, and delivering superior value at a reasonable price.

     

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      Ron Rezendes (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 1:22am

      Bingo! We have winner!

      I can't imagine this company wouldn't explode in size as their offerings widen beyond the current SciFi/Fantasy genre.

      This sounds very much like what todays market is looking for in terms of flexibility and pricing structure.

      Without having looked at the site it would seem seasonal sales of 4 or 5 titles for $20 or an occasional author signing 10/100 copies of the CD would keep sales flowing nicely moving during slow sales periods.

       

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      Ron Rezendes (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 10:14am

      Re: eBooks and what works for me

      For some reason your post seemed to have a familiar idea I was in favor of. After reading through my own posts here on TD, I found this one from August:

      On the post: Digitizing Your Own Books Becoming Popular In Japan
      The publishers haven't figured this out yet?

      Ron Rezendes (profile), Aug 25th, 2010 @ 9:41am
      Every book should have a digital copy on the inside cover that allows the user to load it onto whatever device they wish!

      This saves the buyer all of the scan time and is actually providing significantly more value because you have saved each reader this time. Judging by the survey - half of the readers have at least some serious interest in doing this anyway!

      Digital copies are ridiculously cheap to make and should be a great marketing point!

      I already know there are those of you who are just waiting to say "But everyone will make copies for free and the book won't sell as well!" I have three replies to that:

      1. Prove it!
      2. Quit thinking everyone's a thief - they aren't
      3. If it were true, then they are already are doing it!

      However, the idea here is to try give the customer what they want upfront (remember Business 101?) so they won't need to do this themselves AND the book actually sells thus providing income for the author and all the middlemen!

       

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