Saturday, January 29, 2011

eBook Greed

I read a lot; and I read fairly fast, a normal fiction paperback only lasts me a day. I live in a tent, and eventually a cabin that's not much bigger; I simply do not have the space to keep a large library of physical books. There is no library or bookstore even remotely close to us, so I rely heavily on digital publications that I can download online. All-in-all, I think the digital book revolution is great and wonderful thing; however....

I think paying paperback price for a digital edition is a sin. The Sin of Avarice to be exact.

See, I used to be in the publishing game. I know how the system works. When you pay $7 for a paperback, only about a dollar (give or take) goes to the author, the rest goes to the retailer, the printing and distribution companies, and the largest chunk to the publisher. Now, with an eBook, all the cost of printing and distribution pretty much goes away. Yeah, you need a small investment in Digital Rights Management software and a website for sales and promotion, but that equates to pennies per copy (at the most!! more like fractions of pennies for a best-selling author). So, where does all that extra money go? Mostly right into the publisher's hands for doing nothing more than clicking a button on their typesetting program to export into a DRM digital version. That's it... pretty much nothing, and they get to double or triple their take. Very few authors get any additional percentage of the sale unless they have a really spiffy contract for an additional percentage of the sales on digital rights as opposed to hardback and paperback rights.

But seriously -- if paperbacks are half the price of hardbacks, why aren't eBooks half the price of paperbacks? And now even magazines and newspapers are doing it... digital subscriptions for the same price as paper subscriptions. Jesus wept, folks! Digital delivery removes a huge chunk of operating costs and you still want us to pay top dollar? Really? Greed Greed Greed. It's slightly more excusable if the author is making the additional profit, but it's still greed and a Big No-No as far as I'm concerned. It's just plain wrong in my book (pun intended!).

I love my Kindle... but not loving the publisher set pricing on Amazon for the proprietary DRM content. Might just have to go back to the non-proprietary PC reader formats and my discount eBook sellers... even though they have a more limited selection and a lot of publishing houses won't distribute through them since they don't make as much of a profit. If I were an author working with one of those houses, I'd be really worried about losing my faithful followers due to the pricing... I really really would. You can only gouge your consumer base so long before they start to get really pissed off and stop buying altogether... especially buying from you ever again, even if you eventually buckle and lower your prices in the future.


Urbancowgrrl said...

Back when I dabbled in publishing by setting up my own small publishing company (mainly to self-publish my novels) I found that Amazon was by far the greediest bookseller ever. They could care less about small publishers - they want big bucks and that's it. Probably good business if you're looking at "the American Way" but kind of a turn off to someone who just loves books.

I must admit your post is making me think that digital book publishing should be my next career.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Google have a huge "Free" library on line you can download?

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, we don't share your space constraint. The obscene price of digital books is exactly why we don't, and won't, own a digital reader.

Jerseykat said...

Love my kindle but agree that the pricing policy set by the publishers is insane. What I find is that I haunt the free book section and download the classics listed and some of the other freebies. They may not be the best but they are free. Also I have friends also with kindles and we "loan" each other books. Unfortunately the pubs set this feature also so the big ones do not allow this. But independent pubs usually do.
LOL let kindle fans know what you read and if they have it and it's available they can loan.

Off Grid in WV said...

Urbancowgrrl, we can be your first client.

Plickety Cat said...

I do download the free books from various sites -- but they are usually classics which I've mostly already read, or out-of-print reference/DIY books and the info tends to be woefully out-of-date.

I find that anything with pictures or diagrams only conveys to PDF format in digital, otherwise you really need to get it in paper. I haven't found an eBook format that handles graphics well at all. In addition to Kindle, I've used (on the PC) Adobe Digital Editions, MobiPocket, ePub, and eReader... they all have their pros and cons, but all suck for graphics.

I don't think it's just Amazon charging too much for digital pubs... even Barnes & Noble and Borders do, as well as the other eBook sellers. The discount brokers usually service the smaller houses and the self-publishers and you can find some good stuff on them if you look hard enough. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the prices since Napster, et al, got away with charging a dollar a song for download.