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E-books: fair price or overinflated?


J.A. Konrath had an interesting post last month on the cost of e-books, delving into issues with DRM and publishers seeming inability to move (in a timely fashion) with new and emerging technologies.
The rules of supply and demand don't work in a digital world, because the supply is unlimited. You don't fight piracy with weapons. You fight piracy with cost and convenience.
Personally, I don't - and won't - buy e-books that cost the same (or near enough) to the hardback price. An author whose work I love had a new book out in hardback last year. I had all the others in paperback and couldn't really justfy the hardback expense, especially as hbks are less portable so I thought I'd get the e-book version to read there and then, and get the paperback when it came out a year later. Well. The e-book cost exactly the same as the hardback so needless to say, I waited the year until the paperback came out. I could have got the hardback secondhand for less, but I wanted it new - nice shiny book for me/ money for the author = win. But, if only the cost of the e-book version had been the same as (or less than) the cost of the mass market paperback, I would have willingly paid for both versions. EpicFail.
E-publishers get the model right, but (it appears to me) that print publishers are missing an opportunity.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
emeraldsedai
Jul. 1st, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
I put on a small ebook conference in 1999, centered around the Rocket eBook device. We had some authors (Dan Brown called in!), some fledgling epublishers, and some fans and users there, and back then the question was, how could this non-material, non-warehoused, non-shipped virtual item cost the same as a hardcover book?

The evasive answers from publishers were mumbo-jumbo about the cost of conversion, the cost of building and maintaining sales and download websites, etc., but the real answer was, "We hate ebooks and fear them, but we know we have to pretend to be joining the 21st century, so we're going to overprice them till people stop talking about them."

Well, ten years later, they've still failed to understand that their old "supply and demand" model doesn't apply. The cost of reading material approaches zero, and the argument that only crap is free loses a lot of its punch when bloggers and authors of fiction compete madly for readers by being really, really good.

The sad, simple fact is that publishers in general are dead and don't know it, and even the most viable epublishers are operating on narrow margins. I'll pay two or three bucks for reading material, but virtually never any more than that. The model in which information and entertainment are made intensely valuable by artificial restriction of supply is dead. The only way to compete is if you make it very easy and cheap for me to get what's very definitively better than what I can get for free.
emeraldsedai
Jul. 1st, 2009 06:01 pm (UTC)
And--I hope it goes without saying--the "you" in that comment I just left was the general "you" not the particular.

*headdesk*

Sometimes I'm a little quick on the submit button.
feed_your_muse
Jul. 2nd, 2009 07:57 am (UTC)
Absolutely. I wonder if some of the problems arise because many publishers are owned by large media companies and therefore costings are coming top-down from people with little or no understanding of any of the publishing models - print or e? Because if it's all coming from the publishing industry then it highlights their inability to change, which is worrying when you consider that survival (even in business) has a lot to do with adaptability to changing situations, especially when it's obvious that what you're (they're) doing isn't working right across the board.
emeraldsedai
Jul. 2nd, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
It's really tempting blame everything on corporate greed these days. I do it all the time, and I'm not looking for an alternative scapegoat, either, because this one is just amazingly satisfying. For the last century, models of profit for shareholders has so far superseded any idea of "letting everyone make a living" and "getting good things to the marketplace" that even in its implosive, devastating collapse, all the ideas for fixing it are based on the same models.

So, in short, I doubt if anything about the production, dissemination and consumption of stories that has any ties to the old model will even exist twenty years from now. What's rising in its place is still taking form, but certainly will fall under the rubric of limitless supply, with all the economic shakedown that that entails.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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