How Much is that E-book in the Window?

Well the first debate seems to be whether or not one includes a ndash in the product name or not…

Personally, I find it sexier with, but there’s also a cute and sassy appeal to the without look. But, seeing as how I haven’t yet conducted any control group researching, I’ll leave that discussion to the general population.

NOW to address other concerns: How do publishers work with e-books and not sacrifice their prices, or forfeit their “control” over piracy?

Happy to say that publishers sat down this past week at the London Book Fair to discuss just this. To credit them, they have fully accepted the necessity to embrace the ebook and learn how to profit from it. And as its a common topic in the industry, their concerns are valid: look at what piracy has done to the music and movie industries. Once the tangible product becomes digital, all bets are off.

So here are the sides. Take your pick, or give me another option to consider.

Pro-Publisher: Sell e-books at the exact same price they are sold for in their current form, and find a way to police illegal distribution of their material. This is an understandable argument. As PW reported, there is the belief that “publishers are “short-changing authors” if they don’t price e-books the same as physical books.” And lets not forget that even without the killing of trees and over-seas shipping costs, there is still a large staff to pay at the end of a publication (publisher, editor, marketer, publicist, art design, seller, finance, legal, agent, author, etc.). And as for piracy, well, we all know it’s technically wrong (what with it being illegal and all). So lets not dwell on that yet…

Pro-Consumer/User: Not to say that the publisher isn’t concerned for the readers, but they are trying to run a business. So what is there to say for the audience? Well, do we or do we not buy these digital contraptions to make life easier, and to save money by online purchases (see iTunes and/or Netflix)? So shelling out a few hundred for an e-book reader seems like a good idea…until suddenly the consumer is paying $25 for a new release that didn’t kill the homes of millions of woodland creatures or take multiple gallons of bankrupting ink-jets. Production costs cannot be that high. And as far as piracy goes, face the facts: if its online, its fair game. Maybe not legally, but try and explain that to the average user. Also, there is the argument that allowing some piracy actually promotes a product and encourages users to purchase the legalized content (again, see iTunes).

So what’s the solution? Sorry to say, but it’s still pretty unclear. As pointed out by the Guardian (who also covered the book fair), while publishers are still unsure of any solution, “readers are doomed to be confused for the foreseeable future.”

For some older articles and blogs discussing these concerns, check out the Huffington Post, the NYTimes, Boing Boing (really old), Techdirt, and NYTimes blog Freakonomics.

And finally, a bit of irony, brought to you by Mr. Walt Disney: There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates‘ loot on Treasure Island and at the bottom of the Spanish Main.



Filed under Digital & Mobile

4 responses to “How Much is that E-book in the Window?

  1. Naomi speaks!
    e-mail is now email. Once it becomes common enough the hyphen will be dropped. Question is whether is should be an en or a hyphen. I’m going with hyphen.
    I throughly dislike en dashes, they only confuse the issue.

  2. Emily

    Other thoughts about the topic:

    Consumers don’t want to pay full price if they are not getting a tangible product, they don’t feel an e-book has as much value. I guess you could credit iTunes and the Long Tail theory for that general feeling.

    The publishing industry may be broken anyway – they pay authors ridiculous advances. Maybe if this weren’t done, books could be sold for cheaper. Hmm, someone’s being greedy (I won’t name any names, but it’s not the publisher).

    But, don’t greener solutions command higher prices these days? Although that is slowly going away with all of the “learn how to go green on a budget” advice. Still, I’m in the publishing industry and I don’t think they should cost as much.

    Who else is contributing to the crisis – you guessed it, Amazon, B&N and others who believe that they must show their customers that 40% off retail sticker in order to get more sales – because that’s what consumers are demanding. And I feel that these companies are looking out for themselves, not the industry as a whole. When that happens, okay, yes you may be number one in the industry, but if that industry crashes, you’re still not in a very good position.

    Do I want e-books: yes. It’s inevitable. But I think the bigger question, is how will the publishing industry fix itself so that it can offer e-books not whether they will.

    • nycbookgirl

      There was an interesting point brought to my attention as far as e-books for children go: there seems to be a general feeling that e-books are going to eventually make real books for adult obsolete, but not for children.

      While I agree that it will probably take longer for board books and picture books to convert completely, I think it’s a safe bet to say they will eventually run their course. Children are using computers earlier and earlier in life. And they love electronic games and videos (thank you LeapFrog).

      Granted, the novelty behind the illustrations will keep them popular for a longer period of time, but only until someone creates a mobile device to make that more appealing as well.

      • Emily

        Hmm, I disagree – I don’t think print will become obsolete. I don’t care how sophisticated computers become, there are some things that have an important tactile experience.

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