WTF is... up with e-book pricing?
Price rises coming
Electronic books are a topic that never fails to generate comment on Reg Hardware – most often along the lines of, 'why are they so expensive?'
With the launch of Amazon's Kindle in the UK, many book buyers hoped that e-books would become cheaper. Together with the falling price of readers, and Amazon trumpeting large e-book sales compared to hardbacks, could e-reading finally be about to take off? Or is publishing still an industry fighting to maintain old ways of doing business in the face of new technology?
How much does an e-books really cost?
None of the publishers Reg Hardware spoke to was willing to break down the price of a book to reveal the costs of physical distribution – paper, printing, shipping to bookshops and paying for premium display space there, though some estimates suggest only 10-20 per cent.
Taking Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings at Waterstones (top), Amazon (centre) and WH Smiths
Hint: The omnibus version is way better value than the separate editions
But all of them stressed that there is a lot of work that goes into a book before it’s ready for production in any form: finding material, nurturing talent and editing. These are arguments that readers will have heard before, from the music industry when justifying the price of CDs and downloads.
It's worth remembering that unlike musicians, authors are unlikely to make a living from other income streams, most notably performance, so their money has to come from somewhere. When it comes to just how much work publishers do, SF author Charles Stross provides a useful insight into how a book is made. Of the 17 steps to creating a book that he outlines, the majority apply regardless of whether the result is an e-book or a printed one.
There may not, then, be quite as much room for manoeuvre as some buyers think. Yet it’s clear that many publishers want to reap the rewards from high-margin hardback sales for as long as they can, an approach that pricing e-books at paperback levels would undermine. Better, they think, to cut prices only when the paperback goes on sale.
Next page: Where’s our price war?
You totally seem to gloss over the cost issue in 2 paragraphs on the first page.
The fact that ebooks involve no printing, shipping, wherehousing, they cannot be resold and there is no "lending" them to friends. Should affect the cost in real and meaningful ways. I understand the costs to create the content remains static but it is simply rediculous to argue there are no real costs savings over dead tree books!
When I buy a book I get to keep it forever. I can lend it, sell it or simply reread it 20 years later. I would bet a million dollars that 20 years from now my kindle will be long dead, and whatever device they are selling then, will use some new format and I will be asked to buy my books over again. The book companies are tricking us into a situation like we face with music and movies. We will have to keep paying to replace things we already bought (once, twice or more).
Unless we as consumers stand up and say NO and demand a more fair system we all will lose more than we planned!
Yep - that's my objection too.
"Rather than price per se, the chief objection seems to be that with many e-books, they’re paying more for a product that, thanks to DRM, they can do less with than the ‘old fashioned’ paper alternative."
As you say, AC, with a normal book, you can do what you like with it. You simply can not do that with a "book" contained in some strange non-standard file format that's all DRM'd. You wouldn't buy a paper book that had a padlock on the front (with one key that might rust and be useless at some time in the future) and that could only be read under the light of a special bulb that you could only buy from one shop, would you? But that's exactly what all these e-books are like.
I would love a Kindle-type device - I think they're a really nice idea. Convenient, very lights, etc etc. But I'm simply not prepared to lock myself into content arrangement that is in place. It's a similar thing to the whole iPod walled-garden thing, and I don't like it. And as the article points out, the prices are often way above what they should be. A shame.
For as long as I can buy a new physical copy for less than the digital copy then there is something inherently wrong with the pricing model. Publishers need to understand this.
Secondly in order for me to accept eBooks I need them to either fully work across readers or for each book store to have the same range of books that Amazon can supply me in physical format.
I think when any of these publishers start bleating that illegal distribution is a really big problem for their industry and they don't understand why. Whoever they are bleating to should be allowed to slap them and tell them to stop being so stupid....
So in the move to digital distribution all media industries have seen it solely as a way of increasing profits rather than sharing the savings with the consumer and trying to make a dent in illegal distribution. You can never stop all illegal distribution, but lower pricing will reduce it by making it less attractive.
I don't support illegal distribution and support reasonable efforts to curb it, but these idiots deserve what they get. Only a shame our governments don't feel the same and are quite happy to protect their price gouging archaic business model at the expense of proper rule of law.
In the efforts to clamp down on illegal distribution all we get is the stick, where's the carrot?
Have a Kindle ...
.. haven't bought a single eBook. While prices of physical products are cheaper why would I? Plus I resent paying VAT on them.
Buy the physical book, Google for a DRM free digital copy and use that. You could of course skip the first part, but that would be naughty.