Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The problem with e-books

I think I posted on e-readers before, or at least did long comments before I had one.

I have had my e-reader for a month or more now, so maybe I am more qualified now ^_^

To be honest I am not posting on what an ideal e-reader might be. Nook Vs Kindle or anything. This post is about the e-books themselves, not so much the e-reader.

There are some really good things about e-books. You can get them instantly (when you are allowed to buy them) any time.

You can put a library on an e-book and have more choice than if you had a case full of books with you. Awsome for flight weight limits.

But there sure are big drawbacks that need to be ironed out as well.

Firstly with e-books, the copyrightable material is separated from the physical book, like you could float the story off the pages of an ordinary book and put them on some other blank pages in another book. And not just once but as many times as you choose. Like magic a Disney movie.

So what does that mean? Well firstly it costs a publisher hardly anything at all to print an e-book and...

Secondly they will never loose money because they print too many and have to pulp them.

Thirdly they don’t have any materials or shipping costs.

So take, as an example, Jane Fallon’s “Got you back”. Amazon’s RRP for the paperback is £7.99. Their discount price is £5.29 with no shipping fee.

Amazon's e-book for the Kindle is £5.99

Or Penguin’s site £7.99 for the paper back £5.99 for the e-book

I don’t think you can get the e-book in Canada right now. The paperback is listed at $22.95 discount price $16.57

So there are two things wrong there right away.

One they want to charge you practically the same price for the actual physical book as they do for the e-book.

Now the physical book they had to get the paper and ink and glue for, that they had to print and guess how many copies they could sell. Books they had to bind and pack and ship all over to stores.

And an e-book, that I figure must have cost so little to print and ship that you may as well call it nominal.

Now I am not dumb. I know they have to pay the author and the agents and the editors. The electronic typesetter and the artist and the advertising, secretaries and their offices in Sydney, London or Manhatten or Boyse Idaho. The servers the site runs on and whoever processes the payments.

But that same set of costs applies to the actual physical paperbacks and hardbacks also.

So where do Amazon get off actually charging more to download an e-book than to send me the actual physical book?

Would you be willing to pay the same for a physical CD as you would for the same music on your mp3 player. I really don’t think so.

It’s not like I don’t think they deserve a reasonable profit, but really.

And now to my second point. Right now you could order the physical book and get it delivered most anywhere in the world, or probably get your local book store (who the e-books make me worry for) to order it in.

But you try to get the e-book, you will probably get some message that they can’t sell it in your region.

That is totally crazy why can’t you buy it? Why can’t you buy a book in the US that you can in the UK or vice versa? Something to do with copyright I guess.

Why they can’t have a world copyright deal for e-books I do not know. Because not being able to get a hold of a copy of something you know is out there is a strong inducement to piracy for a generally law abiding person who would be happy to pay for it.

Not that they are wanting something for nothing, but that they don't see why they should not be allowed to read what someone else can. That goes against everything an avid reader believes.

Another problem is all the proprietary e-book formats that try to lock you into one particular e-reader. Did you know that if you buy an e-book for one reader it is really difficult to transfer it to another if you upgrade to a different make… unless you buy all your books from an independent supplier in the more–or-less universal e-pub format.

Adobe look like they have cornered the ‘independent’ proprietary copyrighted material market. You have to download their software to put those bnooks on your e-reader. OK so it is free at the moment, I bet the publishers have to pay big time for it tho, so you do pay for it in the price somewhere. To give them credit they can put it on most any e-reader.

Come on e-publishers. There would be much less reason for piracy if you had a universal world release instead of only letting some of the people buy your books and you didn’t rip us off on price.

All of us who like to read know Authors and publishers need to make some money or they just wouldn’t keep writing the stuff we like to read, we don’t mind paying £1.00 or $1.50 per book, even probably twice that, or maybe a bit more still when it is only out in hardback.

I would love to hear what someone in the “Industry” had to say about all this. Bet I don't.


Steve Hayes said...

That's one reason I'll never buy an e-reader.

Another is that I don't think it would be wise to use it in the bath.

Do they have cheap book sales for remaindered e-books? Didn't think so.

James Higham said...

You can put a library on an e-book and have more choice than if you had a case full of books with you. Awsome for flight weight limits.

Ah, I wondered what the e-book was for.

Moggsy said...

Steve. No remaindered e-books, but there is lots of free content. Out of copyright ones and some publishers give free "tasters" so you can see if you like an author.

James you can put a library of e-books on an e-reader. The e book is for reading, the e-reader is what you use to display the e-book.

Think of the e-reader say the Kindle or Nook being like an iTouch and the e-books like the MP3s.

jmb said...

Interesting post Miss Moggs and instead of putting my thought here in the comment section I am writing a post which will follow soon.

Monique Trottier said...

Technically, I'm not in the industry anymore, but I like to follow what's happening.

Here's the thing with book pricing, lets say the author gets a 15% royalty (the percentage varies but lets go with 15%). That means for every $5 book, they get $0.75. Anywhere from 40-60% goes to the site selling the book, and the rest to the publisher to cover all the costs of creating the book, and often the publisher doesn't breakeven.

When it's self-published, the author retains the publisher portion, but they've also self-financed the cost of editing, production, distribution and marketing.

Thinking about ebooks only as digital versions of a book isn't the way to think about it. These are two separate products. I know it's easy to compare them that way but if I was a published author or self-published author, I'd want the price of my book to reflect the value of its contents, not the medium it's delivered in. And, I'd want to charge enough so that I could continue making more good books that people want to read.

The issue of ebooks being available in different territories but not Canada, for example, has to do with how rights to books are sold. It doesn't make sense in the digital world we live in, but good publishers are trying to smooth out these issues that in the grand scheme of things are still relatively new challenges.

Anyway, I hear and understand your frustration.

Moggsy said...

Monique, Thanks for a really good comment.

I get that people need to be rewarded for making a book or we might end up killing the goose.

I do see that a new book might command a higher price than one that has been out for a while.

I just think that the seller’s are taking a bigger cut of an e-book than is comparable to a published actual book and ditto for the publisher.

An e-book seller really only needs one copy, so they don’t need a warehouse or anything like that. They do have costs but they are much smaller.

The cost of distribution is contributed to by the buyer and is much less. The Publisher does not have to pay for materials or storage or transport or have thr risk of producing too many or too few in a run.

The buyer has to take a hit and is making a commitment buying the e-reader.

I figure both the publisher and the book seller both must be saving quite a bit and yet the price does not seem to reflect those savings. It seems like they could pass some of that saving on to the customer.

It is a sort or relationship a reader has with an author. I think most book lovers want to support the industry and support their favourite authors just not get ripped off and it feels a bit like being ripped off.

I also wonder if cheaper e-books might mean more e-sales and more actual income?

I figured it was something like licencing stopping e-books being sold evenly to every territory. I really think this is something they need to get a handle on very quickly and in my opinion is a greater inducement to piracy than anything else.

Supporting the industry is one thing, but having it seem to keep you from reading something you know others can read and that you are prepared to pay good money for?

That makes a person think ok. You want to be like that… and try to find a way round it.