Where’s our price war?
Back in August, Reg Hardware compared book prices and found that the launch of Kindle had failed to ignite a price war. Fast forward to late October, and blog Gone Digital repeated the comparison, revealing that prices at Waterstones had gone up, rather than down, though WH Smith was still fairly competitive with Amazon.
Classic mistake: agency pricing makes publishers' out-of-copyright editions expensive.
The same work could well be free and DRM-less from Gutenberg.org
However, book pricing has recently become more complex with the introduction of ‘agency pricing’ for e-books, a move that Amazon believes is bad for the consumer.
Agency pricing is very similar to the old Net Book Agreement, where publishers set the price and retailers didn't discount it. Those that did would no longer be supplied by that publisher. The NBA collapsed in 1997, when it was ruled to be against consumers’ best interests.
That's certainly true, the NBA was anti-competitive, preventing booksellers to beat rivals by cutting prices. However, while it was argued that the abolition of the NBA would allow bookshops to flourish, in fact hundreds of them subseqently went out of business.
Agency pricing introduces the same notion of price maintenance as the NBA, with the same goal of levelling the e-book playing field. It has already increased the prices of some books. Amazon states “This price was set by the publisher” on agency titles, resulting in some recent e-books titles now costing more than the hardback edition, which, because there's no longer an NBA, bookstores remain free to discount.
Iain M Banks' Surface Detail on the Kindle Store
That situation is, of course, made worse by e-books attracting VAT. For example, Iain M Banks’ novel Surface Detail is £9.49 in hardback, but £9.99 - £8.50 plus 17.5 per cent VAT - for Kindle, and will likely cost £10.20 in the new year, unless publishers absorb the incoming 20 per cent VAT rise, or the government takes advantage of a 2009 EU rule change that would allow e-books to be sold at the lower VAT rate of five per cent.
Next page: Paperback priority
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.