Saturday, 3 March 2012

Are e-books fairly priced?

I just read an interesting article on Mobiledia, Are e-books fairly priced? (part 1, part 2) I don't agree with everything in there, but it does provide a concise summary of some of the battles taking place between traditional publishers and intermediaries such as Apple and Amazon.


One of the points which I felt could be slightly misleading was:
"But with profits on shaky ground, publishers could become even more selective about which authors they publish and promote, placing their bets on established bestselling writers and not new talent. The result will likely mean decreased diversity in titles that hit the marketplace, and fewer opportunities for new writers to get published."
The point about traditional publishers is true, but in their place are direct routes to publication now, where writers who are currently unknown, or who write material that is not considered mainstream enough, can bypass the old guardians and connect directly to readers. As a result the diversity of titles is vastly increased, and the opportunities for publication are greater than ever before. Sites like Smashwords enable writers to easily publish to multiple online and e-book stores, and Kindle Direct Publishing does the same for giving access to Amazon and Kindles. In some ways, with the continuing growth in the market for mobile devices which can display e-books, this is perhaps the easiest time in history to get published.

The comments at the bottom of part two were interesting. One was from a consumer of books, Jason Scott:
I already think of e-books as a completely different product from print books. I think of it as a product I can't trade, sell, or loan so I am unwilling to pay anywhere near what I would pay for a print copy. The books I buy now are almost always on sale and every time I compare the prices to buying digital it would cost me more while getting less benefits from the digital format so to me a digital copy of a paperback is too expensive if it costs anymore than $1 or $2. I think of digital as disposable since in the end I have nothing to show for my money so it is worth significantly less.
This backs up what I have said in the past about DRM as a means of alienating customers. Without DRM the purchaser can keep the book forever, preventing it from being seen as 'disposable'. I agree with the points made: e-book prices should be lower. Hence Turner is about £6.30 in print, most of which goes to the printer and distributor (Lulu), whereas the e-book versions are c. £1.88. It is interesting that my profit from the sale of the e-book is almost identical to the print version, hence being able to charge such a low amount.

The other comment was from Kathleen Brooks Montgomery, the Director of Operations at American Book Publishing, so someone tied to traditional print publishing. It isn't a surprise to find Kathleen disparaging the ease of publication now that traditional publishers can be bypassed:
In my mind one of the big issues here is quality, will consumers continue to buy self published books at amazon after downloading poor quality slush pile manuscripts that are not edited and were never good enough to be published by professionals? I don't think it will be long before they look to first to see who published the book, looking for a respected publisher's name instead of an author's name before buying it.
Of course, the argument seems sensible on the surface. And self-publishing can lead to some dross in the way that is described above. However the argument ignores a large advantage e-books offer the consumer: with e-books you can get a free sample to read at your leisure. For example, with the Smashwords version of Turner, I enabled a 60% free downloadable sample of the novel - so you can read most of it before having to decide if you want to buy. This means there is no harm in trying things out (new authors, new genres) - if it is badly-written rubbish you will soon know. However with print books you either have to take a gamble if the book is ordered online (trusting to other people's opinions if there are any reviews), or you can skim-read a bit of it in a bookshop. Additionally, I have heard that many publishers no longer hire copyeditors or proofreaders, so the quality on traditionally-published titles is going down. The clear lesson - read some before you buy, or caveat emptor.
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1 comments:

Alyson said...

Or skim read a bit in the library first before borrowing it!