The price of ebooks

It seems like book publishers, writers, sellers, printers and other hangers-on have suddenly realised they are next. And it's put the industry in a bit of a titter. It's not as if this should have come as a shock. But that's what you get with old industries that are suddenly confronted with new technologies that are capable of disrupting their whole business model. Think the book industry learned from the mistakes the music and film industry made?

Guess again.

They are quickly heading to the top of the charts of sheer stupidity. And what they don't realise is that, unlike the movie industry and—though to a somewhat lesser extent— the music industry, they have even less of a legitimate ‘raison d'être’ than their counterparts in those industries.

Just look at what you need to write a book and get it out to your readers in the “new” “Internet Age” we live in today, compared to what you need to make a movie (or even a music album). Stripped right down to the bone, you need a computer, and probably an Internet connection. For a movie or a music album (depending on your preferred choice of music, of course) you need a lot more kit to start with. And then come the supporting industries you need to make the finished product.

Granted, just a writer with his computer and an Internet connection is probably not enough. You need a good editor. You need promotion. You probably need a dozen other things. But still, the bare basics that you'll need as a writer in this “Internet Age” are a lot less than you need to make a movie.

I'm not saying the end of publishers, or printers and what have you is coming. Though I'm pretty sure if the current crop of top-tier publishers continue on the path they're taking, they will be replaced by others that approach this new technology revolution the right way. At least, I fervently hope so.

I have quite a few thoughts on the current trends in publishing, and especially on the ebook front. But lets concentrate on one aspect of it that's getting more attention lately.

On reddit yesterday, I ran across this piece by Michael Hyatt, a publisher, called Why Do eBooks Cost So Much? (A Publisher's Perspective). Go ahead, read it. It's not very long.

Well… I call bullshit. Or I think maybe he's right about the situation now. But then my answer would be: YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

But lets just dive into the specifics for this piece. Hyatt states at the start that:

As you are probably aware, Amazon is selling most eBooks for $9.99. That is already roughly half the price (depending on the format) of the typical physical book.
So, ebooks for about $9.99 and physical books for about $20?

Maybe it's the genres that I read (and maybe it's because I live across the pond, but that's a whole different can of worms I will certainly be writing something about in the near future), but that's absolutely not what my experience with pricing on Amazon is. Here, let me show you (and keep in mind that this was collected in like 5 minutes, I did no specific searching, just went on Amazon and clicked a few books it recommended to me).

exhibit a
exhibit a: pricing for A Feast of Crows by George R.R. Martin

Okay, so the ebook (Kindle Edition) is $10.57, and the paperback is… oh, huh? $8.99? Okay, must be a fluke. Let's try another.

exhibit b
exhibit b: pricing for The Novice by Trudi Canavan

Darn, $11.03 for the ebook, $7.99 for the paperback. Next?

exhibit c
exhibit c: pricing for The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Nope, $10.57 for the ebook, $8.99 for the paperback. One more try?

exhibit d
exhibit d: pricing for Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Yes, that's right. $7.99 for the paperback. And a whopping $16.01 for the ebook. Need I go on? I think not.

This last example isn't even a rare occurrence in my experience looking for ebooks on Amazon. I've even seen ebooks priced one or two dollars higher than the hardcover. Which is INSANE.

But what can I say, I think the whole book publishing industry is acting insane at the moment. Except for one, actually, which, well, read on…

Because I have an even better ace up my sleeve against Hyatt's bullshit story. Take a look at the pricing at baen book's ebook store called webscription. Here, I'll just give you a snapshot:

exhibit e
exhibit e: pricing at the webscription ebook store

There you go, $5.00 or $6.00 for an ebook. Now we're talking. But that's Heinlein, dead writer, old catalogue, so their other books probably aren't priced that low, right?

exhibit f
exhibit f: more pricing at the webscription ebook store

Wrong. Again, $6.00 for a David Weber ebook. And nearly every other ebook on that website is either five or six dollars.

And what's that green lettering you see there? That's right, it says:

Baen Free Library Book
In other words, baen is saying: here's the download link, go crazy, dear reader!

And if you're thinking they only have the dregs of their catalogue up there as a free ebook, think again.

And I know the genre is pretty narrow, it's mostly SciFi, with a bit of Urban and Fantasy stuff creeping in lately, but if you're in to those (and even if you aren't), I would highly recommend checking out a few books on their free list. What can you lose?

But enough kidding around, baen is gonna be out of business pretty soon, right? Because, just giving away your books for free can't be good for the bottom line, right? And those five or six dollars can't nearly be enough to cover those enormous costs of producing an ebook, right? Right?

Right. Let's talk again in a couple of years. And, in the meantime you might want to read this insightful piece by Eric Flint, one of the excellent authors whose books you'll find in the webscription store.

My guess is, baen is probably gonna be here a lot longer than most other publishers if they keep on showing their customers the finger. Which is basically what they're doing at the moment. Good luck with that. That tactic is working out so well for those other behemoth industries that went boldly before you, kicking and screaming into the Internet Age…

“Slush Pile Truths” response to “Cherish the Book Publishers”

I was planning on writing a response to the Wall Street Journal blog by Eric Felten titled Cherish the Book Publishers—You'll Miss Them When They're Gone, but Kristine Kathryn Rusch saved me from putting in the effort by writing this excellent response: The Business Rusch: Slush Pile Truths.

A Dance of Dragons reprimer

That's maybe one of the small drawbacks of long-running book series, such as George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

I actually started reading the first book and putting it down after 20 pages or so. Not for me… And then I was stuck on a sailboat in the Turkish waters with nothing else to read… and read the whole book in record time. And then couldn't wait to get back home to place a little order for the rest of the books.

And then it became silent. It's been a while, so when the next book in the series is released in a week or so (I had completely missed this by the way) I think I'd better work through this helpful primer up on tor.com.

Review: “Resonance” by Chris Dolley

I read Resonance by Chris Dolley a few months ago. I didn't specifically buy this ebook, but it was included in the June 2007Webscription I bought a while ago (probably because that edition included Kildar by John Ringo). It's actually also available from the Baen Free Library, so there's no reason not to check it out!

I don't know why I started reading Resonance (I have quite a lot of unread ebooks on my iLiad), but somehow the title just resonated with me I guess… Haha. Funny, me.

I'm glad I did though. Resonance is one of those books that I was unable to put away. There are books that I enjoy reading at a leisurely pace. I read a bit when I get home from work, I read a bit before going to sleep, I read a bit here and there, and after a few days or even weeks, I reach the end. Good book (otherwise I wouldn't have finished it at all, obviously).

Other books, I read more in a kind of reading frenzy. I cannot stop reading every spare moment I have. I'll even go to bed earlier so I can read longer. And then wonder how it got to be 3 a.m. in the morning already. Resonance was one of those books. I've had it worse, but I was pretty hooked on it. So instead of finally putting out the light at 3, it was more often around 1 or 2 a.m. Very good book.

What's to like

A quirky and somewhat reluctant lead character, nice character development, an elusive solution to a science fiction problem (which was not obvious to me directly, bonus points), multiple universes, even some romantic interest. What's not to like?

A lack of annoyances and minor quibbles is also what's to like. Sometimes while reading a book I hit a passage that just feels off, or annoys me, or something (one example is the 'overused word' syndrome). Sometimes this happens more than once. It brings down the total score for that book, as these annoyances and quibbles pull me, as a reader, out of the suspension of disbelief the book has created. This breaks the flow of reading the story. In extreme cases, I'll just stop reading the book.

No such problems for Resonance.

What's not to like

Not much, really.

Maybe just that the author doesn't seem to have a lot of other books he wrote in this genre. Shift looks promising. Maybe his other works are worth a look as well.

That's also my M.O., by the way. “Good book” equals “check up on author for more”.

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