View Full Version : Frustration with Geographic Restrictions and E-Book stores in general


KevinH
03-04-2010, 01:22 PM
I am beginning to think that geographic restrictions make no sense when applied to e-books. They obviously do not apply for print books. I have never been turned down buying a book in stock at any book store in any airport or country in which I have visited.

So here is my rant about current e-book stores and publishers ...

I recently found Steven Erikson's work (fantasy - but not children's) and started to read his main series. I liked them. I was able to find books 1 and 2 via Amazon (in Kindle format).

I live in Canada (and so for that matter does the author Steven Erikson!). Unfortunately trying to buy his third book in any e-book format in Canada is next to impossible.

Amazon has Kindle format e-books of all his books available for US residents but only books 1 and 2 to Canadians (up until the most recent).

So I tried EReader and Barnes and Noble - no luck

I next tried Stanza - Fictionwise and again no luck.

Our big book chain in Canada is Indigo/Chapters. They point you to the Kobos site for e-books, and again no luck there at all. If you ask them in the store about e-books they look like you are crazy.

I tried the Sony Online bookstore and again a few of his works but not the one I was looking for.

I tried manybooks.net. I tried every damn ebook store that I could find. But living in Canada has made it next to impossible.

No luck.

Finally went to Waterstone's in the UK and was able to buy the book (a bit more expensive given the price in Pounds) but ...

Have e-book stores missed the whole point?!?

Why are they not "stocking" the entire series from an author when the marginal cost of carrying that "additional inventory" is 0?

Why are they not creating e-book versions of the previously popular (high selling) but out-of-print works?

Why limit anything based on where your internet connection or credit-card is based? No print book-store does it?

Why are they charging more than the current paperback prices for the books that are out in paperback or even older than that?

Why are they pricing books in Canada based on out-of-date exchange rates just because it is printed on the cover of the printed book?

I want to buy e-books and the bookstores and the publishers are going out of their way to make it difficult!!!!!!!!!

There is a huge market opportunity for the first good international e-book store that understands this and makes it easy to find books, buy books, etc without all of the stupidity in the current system - sad really.

End of rant

asjogren
03-04-2010, 01:59 PM
If countries continue to push the copyright privilege to absurdities and publishers continue to control the market, perhaps some "rogue" country will take advantage and create their own media eBusiness.

Kind of like some small island nations and taxation. Or certain small countries and banking.

In the meantime, perhaps you can become a "temporary" US resident with a fake address, a VPN, and a prepaid credit card.

They just don't want your money! They would rather have control. Sick!

tench
03-04-2010, 02:04 PM
I'm not knowledgeable enough to answer your many questions, but if you search through the forum I think you may find that a lot of them have been discussed thoroughly in the past. :)

Shaggy
03-04-2010, 02:15 PM
I am beginning to think that geographic restrictions make no sense when applied to e-books.

No they don't, but they're not really meant to benefit consumers.

clockworkzombie
03-04-2010, 04:05 PM
I have purchased two books from Fictionwise in the last year. The other titles were all region locked. I attempted to buy about 20 books from them. I may have bought more if it were possible to do so.

Edit

I have been buying from the Baen Books ebook section http://www.webscription.net/ and could not be happier.

MrBlueSky
03-04-2010, 04:29 PM
KevinH, now you know why file-sharing is such an attractive alternative.

All nine of Steven Erikson's series (plus the three satellite novels by Ian C. Esslemont) are readily available, and extremely well formatted in HTML, over all the usual (nn-standard) networks with no DRM, no geographical restrictions and (mostly) through an easy one-click download method.

You sir, have jumped through a hell of a lot more hoops that I am willing to jump through in an effort to PAY Mr. Erickson to read his books -- and he is one of the very few authors I'd willingly go out of my way to to do THAT for.

I don't care about their politics, their business reasons or their monopoly practices as being reasons for all this restrictive nonsense -- I just want to read his goddam books. If they don't want me to pay for the 'privilege' of doing so, that's fine by me -- I can find plenty of other stuff to spend my money on.

And no, before anybody jumps in with the usual excuses, justifications and rationals against file-sharing, I am not going to 'go without' simply because of their sheer incompetence in serving A POTENTIAL CUSTOMER.

Their loss, not mine.

Erina
03-04-2010, 05:51 PM
Correct me if I am wrong ( and I know this is very simplictic ) but the author signs a publishing deal with the publisher - in some cases its worldwide with one large publisher in which case the eBook version is usually available worldwide OR the publisher is local. At that point it depends on the contract and whether the book is popular. If the book takes off either the author or the publisher will look to sign a deal in other countries with sometimes different publishers in each country. So the Europe publisher wants to protect his rights and makes sure the US publisher cant sell outside the US.
The author just wants his book sold everywhere someone wants to buy it. The publishers are just protecting their business rights.
What we need is some way of all authors being able to publish worldwide - but I have no idea how to do that. A worldwide economy is a dream ( nightmare? ) that is much more involved than just eBooks.
Until then, if its not available in your location, tell the author he is missing a sale. Or do what ever you have to do to get the book you want.

sabredog
03-04-2010, 07:22 PM
I have all the same problems. Hopefully sense will prevail and Publishers will realise their customer base might increase if GR was abolished, put to bed and forgotten about. But I will not hold my breath over that hope.

Personally it is pretty bad when ebookstores proudly advertise their store sells internationally when most of their inventory is unavailable to international customers.

K-Thom
03-04-2010, 07:30 PM
Simple: get rid of publishers. Or rely only on those who are willing to serve both customers and authors.

There is no reason at all why a publisher in the US couldn't licence the printing rights to any regional publisher worldwide but still retain the rights to publish the books in English worldwide.
That's so silly.

Erina
03-04-2010, 07:36 PM
The US publisher may not have the UK / Europe printing rights ( each contract is different ) and / or the US wont pay advertising / promotions expenses in foreign countries. The core problem is we dont have a world wide economic system but a collection of national systems.
Cant see it happening any decade soon either.

HansTWN
03-04-2010, 07:40 PM
This has been discussed at lengths in various threads. There are numerous reasons for why we have these restrictions, including tax laws and trade matters. But while I can understand such restrictions for customers from other countries where a distribution contract for an English version exists it makes no sense for such countries where they have no distribution at all or only foreign language versions.

Obviously printed books are different. When you buy a printed book in the US and have it sent overseas you will definitely pay a lot more than buying even a much more expensive version in your own country, since you have to shell out for shipping and, perhaps, taxes. So nobody cares if US sellers sell physical books to foreign customers.

Newcomers can search for old threads on this. Fortunately we can easily circumvent these restrictions, and I am glad to try to help anyone who contacts me by PM. Please do not discuss actual workarounds in the forums, we don't want the loopholes to be closed.

Regional restrictions exist for many things, not just books. Try buying electronics in the US. A lot of ereaders are US only, or much cheaper in the US. The US is a giant market and Americans tend to be extremely price sensitive. Higher prices can be set in other countries. And producers/publishers do not want to be totally at the mercy of US sellers. Online people would naturally go to those sites with the lowest prices. How could sellers in countries with taxes for online transactions compete? Who would promote the books locally?

I can easily imagine a scenario where brick and mortar bookstores in Australia, Canada, the UK and other countries would "punish" a publisher by not carrying their pbooks anymore because that publisher is giving US sellers worldwide ebook rights.

K-Thom
03-04-2010, 08:05 PM
I can easily imagine a scenario where brick and mortar bookstores in Australia, Canada, the UK and other countries would "punish" a publisher by not carrying their pbooks anymore because that publisher is giving US sellers worldwide ebook rights.

Bookstores? Do they still exist? That's so 20th centuryish ... kinda quaint, though.

Kali Yuga
03-04-2010, 08:28 PM
I am beginning to think that geographic restrictions make no sense when applied to e-books.
They do, it's just unfortunate that they are getting in the way of a consumer like yourself.

Different nations have different sales tax policies; e.g. the UK and EU have VAT, the US does not. There is no international clearing-house for sales taxes.
Curent region restrictions are based on the contracts between the publisher and the author. The publisher is limited by that contract.
Authors do want to sell books, but they don't necessarily want to turn over all international rights to one regional publisher. (E.g. Bloomsbury UK may not have been the ideal company to sell Harry Potter exclusively around the world.)
Contracts, and other issues like tax collections, do not become null and void just because 5 years ago, someone figured out how to easily distribute content internationally.
A US publisher is unlikely to have the expertise required to really sell an international edition -- e.g. translations, local marketing, navigating local laws, setting the title up at prominent local retailers, getting the book reviewed and so forth. As usual, people imagine that publishers spend 90% of their time smoking cigars and counting money, when they are actually expending all kinds of resources to get books sold.

I've noticed that lots of MR readers throw a fit when a publisher does something they don't think fits the contract such as proclaim they hold ebook rights when it wasn't specified in the contract -- but then turn right around and blast publishers for actually abiding by the contracts, by not violating the stipulations to sell outside their region. Go figure....



Why are they not "stocking" the entire series from an author when the marginal cost of carrying that "additional inventory" is 0?
Because the cost is not zero. It can cost quite a bit of money to convert a book into epub, mobi or other formats.
Because ebooks, for all the hype, still constitute 3-5% of sales (possibly less, internationally)
Because rights over electronic editions are not always clear-cut. It's explicitly addressed in more recent contracts, but not always in older agreements.
In the US alone, around 250k new books are published each year; somewhere around 45k of those are fiction. If the publishers wanted to just convert all new fiction books from the last 10 years, that alone hits close to half a million books. And obviously, priority is going to the new books, which have much stronger sales than back catalog titles.


Why are they charging more than the current paperback prices for the books that are out in paperback or even older than that?
That's relatively rare. Also, it really doesn't cost a lot less to make a paper edition than an ebook edition -- maybe 15%.


I want to buy e-books and the bookstores and the publishers are going out of their way to make it difficult!!!!!!!!!
Again, your frustration is understandable, but you really ought to calm down. Ebooks are just getting started, and there are millions upon millions of books that need to be converted, lots of legal issues to be sorted out, and both publisher and author resources are finite. Contracts, international law, authors, publishers, retailers, and society at large do not perform 180 turns the second you bought your ebook reader.

HansTWN
03-04-2010, 09:13 PM
Bookstores? Do they still exist? That's so 20th centuryish ... kinda quaint, though.

We still have all those pbook sniffers around, haven't you noticed? The aroma of the glue, maybe they have a special recipe? Some addictive drugs, perhaps?

HansTWN
03-04-2010, 09:19 PM
Again, your frustration is understandable, but you really ought to calm down. Ebooks are just getting started, and there are millions upon millions of books that need to be converted, lots of legal issues to be sorted out, and both publisher and author resources are finite. Contracts, international law, authors, publishers, retailers, and society at large do not perform 180 turns the second you bought your ebook reader.

Yes, and with the help of other people on this forum you can get your books now with a few tricks while we all wait for this whole mess to be sorted out.

Blue Tyson
03-04-2010, 11:54 PM
Kali,

We've also seen people in the publishing industry throw more than a few fits when people download stuff even when they can't actually buy it, too. ;-)

drplokta
03-05-2010, 02:52 AM
The only fix for this problem is a change in the law, but luckily it's an easy change in the law. Regional rights for a book must mean the right to sell the book from a server located in the region, not to a customer located in the region, the same as it is for paper books. Problem solved.

Nakor
03-05-2010, 02:57 AM
Think of the chain effects of that.

International licences will lose a lot of their value if the international publishers cannot get exclusive rights to publish ebooks in their region. For that matter it means local publishers can't either -- the only way to get exclusive local rights to publish the ebook at all would be to get worldwide exclusive rights for publishing the ebook. One of two things happens:

1) The local publisher signs for those exclusive worldwide ebook rights in addition to exclusive local physical distribution, but as they don't really have the expertise to advertise internationally, refuse to pay more (or much more) than they would have for local exclusive rights. (After all, their primary interest is physical sales -- they're not going to up their price for the tiny percentage of sales international ebook sales would accrue.) Because international publishers can now not get ebook rights at all, they may not be willing to pay as much.

2) The local publisher does not get exclusive ebook rights worldwide. As they are now losing the exclusivity that they had on local ebooks (because an international publisher who also gets ebook rights can distribute in their region), their price drops.

That's a rather loose explaination, but that's where the problem lies. I'm sure there's a solution somewhere, but I'm also sure I don't know it.

fastesthamster
03-05-2010, 04:24 AM
Why are they not "stocking" the entire series from an author when the marginal cost of carrying that "additional inventory" is 0?
• Because the cost is not zero. It can cost quite a bit of money to convert a book into epub, mobi or other formats.


[CITATION NEEDED]

I think that's bull.

K-Thom
03-05-2010, 06:47 AM
International licences will lose a lot of their value if the international publishers cannot get exclusive rights to publish ebooks in their region.

Thats fine with me as long as we are talking about a localized language conversion. But there is no reason why I as a German reader am not allowed to buy an English edition from a US-publisher.

The German publisher won't lose any sales simply because he doesn't offer the English eBook version. Neither the printed one, btw.

I think that's bull.

If you're referring to the costs of converting books into eBooks: I've earned money that way. I've paid money that way. That means it does indeed cause some costs.

Ben Thornton
03-05-2010, 06:59 AM
I've noticed that lots of MR readers throw a fit when a publisher does something they don't think fits the contract such as proclaim they hold ebook rights when it wasn't specified in the contract -- but then turn right around and blast publishers for actually abiding by the contracts, by not violating the stipulations to sell outside their region. Go figure....It's fair to say that they are being reasonable in abiding by their contracts, but I think that there is a reasonable frustration in the fact that I can buy a pbook from Amazon.com and import it easily, but not an ebook. I don't mind paying the VAT. The problem is the different definition of the point of sale for p- and e-books.

The key fact that the industry hasn't got its head around is that geography doesn't map well to the internet - it's web is world-wide, not local. So a deal to publish an e-book in, say, the UK only doesn't make a lot of sense.

In the meantime, they could at least allow a sale to happen local to the vendor which is then shipped, with duty.

fastesthamster
03-05-2010, 07:02 AM
If you're referring to the costs of converting books into eBooks: I've earned money that way. I've paid money that way. That means it does indeed cause some costs.

Nope, converting one digital format to another.

If someone's paying you to convert one format to another, well.

Steven Lake
03-05-2010, 07:10 AM
No they don't, but they're not really meant to benefit consumers.
Right, it's the same thing that region coding on DVD's and DRM and the like are for. It's to give the corporation power over everyone, author, artist and customer alike. They want to tell *YOU* what you will do, think, buy, say, etc. Trust me, I run into this all the time in the tech world. Concern for the customer has pretty much gone out the window, and it's totally reached a point where it's for the corporation by the corporation, and nothing else.

K-Thom
03-05-2010, 07:16 AM
Nope, converting one digital format to another.

If someone's paying you to convert one format to another, well.

Not for converting one format to another. But for convertig the basic file into different "convertible" files.

Basic files are in DOC (if I'm lucky). They will be converted via RTF to HTML (and no, you don't never ever use Word to "save as" HTML!), which is done with an old version of Arachnophilia.

The source code HTML file will be checked, formatted and revised thoroughly in Dreamweaver, which may take some time. Then this file is formatted for the EPUB version. That file then is altered to fit the MOBI/Kindle version.

The DOC file then gets some formatting to be converted to PDF.

It's not the conversion itself people pay you for. It's for the work of creating files which can be converted to fit the publishers' needs.

HansTWN
03-05-2010, 07:30 AM
Thats fine with me as long as we are talking about a localized language conversion. But there is no reason why I as a German reader am not allowed to buy an English edition from a US-publisher.

The German publisher won't lose any sales simply because he doesn't offer the English eBook version. Neither the printed one, btw.


That is what I have been saying. But they would have to rework all their contracts. My guess is that will be the first step toward more openess. For a country like Taiwan where I live it makes even less sense, for most books there is no version in any language available. Only major best sellers get translated into Chinese. And unlike Europe, taxes would not be a problem either. Most US sellers would probably shy away from "officially" selling to EU customers because then they would be asked to set up a system for collecting and forwarding the 19% VAT. The way it happens now they can pretend they don't know it if someone slips through the cracks.

the_callant
03-05-2010, 07:48 AM
The whole structure appears to derived from bricks and mortar bookstores. It doesn't mean it is the best model for ebooks. Perhaps, the ebook rights should be awarded globally by language and / or format.
As for taxation, this is an issue which is not unique to ebooks, and governments are either looking at this, or, have some scheme already in place to handle it. I notice that if I buy downloadable software, some form of tax is usually added to the final price.
The whole matter revolves around a marketing structure and model that doesn't fit the way the world is now.

Direct Ebooks
03-05-2010, 08:27 AM
Not for converting one format to another. But for convertig the basic file into different "convertible" files.

Basic files are in DOC (if I'm lucky). They will be converted via RTF to HTML (and no, you don't never ever use Word to "save as" HTML!), which is done with an old version of Arachnophilia.

The source code HTML file will be checked, formatted and revised thoroughly in Dreamweaver, which may take some time. Then this file is formatted for the EPUB version. That file then is altered to fit the MOBI/Kindle version.

The DOC file then gets some formatting to be converted to PDF.

It's not the conversion itself people pay you for. It's for the work of creating files which can be converted to fit the publishers' needs.

We usually get the file in pdf and have to go back to xml. its also true to say that it could be done in house but results are generally much better when outsourced to quality partners or indivduals.
There certainly is cost associated, boith in time, effort and money.

KevinH
03-05-2010, 09:29 AM
We usually get the file in pdf and have to go back to xml. its also true to say that it could be done in house but results are generally much better when outsourced to quality partners or indivduals.
There certainly is cost associated, boith in time, effort and money.

Then the publishing world is way behind the times. In academic journal publishing, they have been asking for electronic copies (not pdfs) for journal articles and figures, tables, etc, for more than than the last 15 years.

So I do not believe that there are no existing electronic formats for most books published over that time period. I also do not believe that that much work is required to reformat them (yes! you can actually do a save to html from Word and then run Tidy in clean mode to fix the majority of the html issues created by Word). Yes there are other programs that will read in Word files and output html.

Even if that cost is $800 per book (one full person day fully costed at $100/hr) it is insignificant when split over the number of units sold.

I would guess that many authors, would also be very very happy to convert their out of print work to ebook formats themselves if they could be promised space on the server and a reasonable split of the take.

It is funny how all publishers want to talk price and not cost, isn't it.

fastesthamster
03-05-2010, 09:49 AM
Then the publishing world is way behind the times. In academic journal publishing, they have been asking for electronic copies (not pdfs) for journal articles and figures, tables, etc, for more than than the last 15 years.

So I do not believe that there are no existing electronic formats for most books published over that time period. I also do not believe that that much work is required to reformat them (yes! you can actually do a save to html from Word and then run Tidy in clean mode to fix the majority of the html issues created by Word). Yes there are other programs that will read in Word files and output html.

Even if that cost is $800 per book (one full person day fully costed at $100/hr) it is insignificant when split over the number of units sold.

I would guess that many authors, would also be very very happy to convert their out of print work to ebook formats themselves if they could be promised space on the server and a reasonable split of the take.

It is funny how all publishers want to talk price and not cost, isn't it.

Exactly. Let's talk about the large publishing houses for a moment. They will have typeset everything for the print edition. They could then have a program that converts their inhouse format to mobi, epub, whatever. This would have to be set up once. After that, the marginal cost is zero.

K-Thom
03-05-2010, 09:52 AM
Then the publishing world is way behind the times.

It is. It definitely is ...

So I do not believe that there are no existing electronic formats for most books published over that time period.

Sure, PDF optimized for print, which is the least favorite format you'd use to create an ePub or Kindle eBook. You won't believe how many publishers (or authors) simply deleted any DOC or RTF after the PDF was created. So silly ...

Yes there are other programs that will read in Word files and output html.

Sure, there are. But it is still your craft and your very own two eyes which get the job done. Never rely on software when you can do better yourself.

Even if that cost is $800 per book (one full person day fully costed at $100/hr) it is insignificant when split over the number of units sold.

Definitely right. But still $800 (in your example). Quite some money for small press publishers if they want to offer their whole product line. Not for the big companies, agreed.

KevinH
03-05-2010, 10:09 AM
> Because the cost is not zero. It can cost quite a bit of money
> to convert a book into epub, mobi or other formats.

I simply do not believe this is true if any electronic version of the book exists. With the right tools, you can do Word to RTF to xhtml and keep most if not all of the styles. If I start with an electronic version it should not take even 1 full person day (at full costing say $100/hr) to convert an electronic version of the book to an ebook.

> Because ebooks, for all the hype, still constitute 3-5% of
> sales (possibly less, internationally)

So then why the need to even worry about geo restrictions at all. I can drive to the Buffalo in under 3 hours from my house and buy books (hardbound) until my heart is content. The bulk of the population of Canada could claim the same thing (within about 100 miles of the US border). This is allowed and I am sure would be welcomed by every book store near the border in the US. I just can't buy them online.

> Because rights over electronic editions are not always
> clear-cut. It's explicitly addressed in more recent contracts,
> but not always in older agreements.

So authors are not required to assign copyright when they get published? Even so, I can not believe that offered a reasonable piece of the pie, all authors would choose to NOT have their paperback and out of print books available for sale worldwide.

> In the US alone, around 250k new books are published
> each year; somewhere around 45k of those are fiction. If
> the publishers wanted to just convert all new fiction books
> from the last 10 years, that alone hits close to half a million
> books. And obviously, priority is going to the new books,
> which have much stronger sales than back catalog titles.

Again, in the academic journal business they have been asking for electronic versions for over the last 15 years or so. If an electronic version exists, then the costs to translate them (especially when handled in bulk) is not that large.

As an alternative, simply ask the authors themselves to create an ebook for any of their titles they would like to have for-sale that is 5 years or older or out of print. My guess is they would welcome the chance to get these books out their in e-book form as long as they receive the a decent percentage from every book sold.

> That's relatively rare. Also, it really doesn't cost a lot less to
> make a paper edition than an ebook edition -- maybe 15%.

That is bull. Simply look at the fully loaded supply chain costs including the bricks and mortar required, vehicles, the number of people it takes to handle and stock books on shelves, count them, audit them, display them, move them, sell them, order them, track them, plus all of the material costs and the entire carbon footprint of the printing operations. Even divided by the total number of titles available in any one year, this is not 15% of an paperback book's price. Simply grab your companies books and look only at the cogs, depreciation of property, plant, and equipment. Even per book, that is more than 15%.

Your idea of costing just looks at editing and author fees and tries to keep the exact same paradigm making none of the supply chain related costs variable in any way. The entire way business is done needs to change and then the costs of selling e-books can go way down.

> Again, your frustration is understandable, but you really
> ought to calm down. Ebooks are just getting started, and
> there are millions upon millions of books that need to be
> converted, lots of legal issues to be sorted out, and both
> publisher and author resources are finite. Contracts,
> international law, authors, publishers, retailers, and
> society at large do not perform 180 turns the second
> you bought your ebook reader.

Nor do I expect them to. I do expect them to act intelligently for their shareholders and to listen to their customers, to be forward looking, and understand that a completely new selling paradigm is needed (and will come) and that they need to be at the vanguard and not fight tooth and nail to prevent it from coming.

"Making it next to impossible to buy an e-book" is not something that in any way shows they deserve to remain as top management for any of the firms involved.

As I said, there is a real opportunity for an international e-book store who understands these things and are willing to make an end-run around the publishers to get things done, directly with the authors if need be.

jayne80
03-05-2010, 12:38 PM
If you want to look on the bright side, I suppose we could say that Geographic Restrictions save us money, they have definitely saved me hundreds of pounds on ebooks I would have bought if only I didn't live in the pesky UK, with its behind the times (or couldn't be bothered) publishers. It's one thing to say 'you can't sell that ebook here because i'm selling that ebook here' it is totally another to say 'you can't sell that ebook here but we won't sell it here either'

I am also in the camp publish the ebook at the same time as the hardback book but make it the same price, then at least we have the choice.

Kali Yuga
03-05-2010, 01:06 PM
Then the publishing world is way behind the times.
Why, because they haven't spent considerable sums of money on unpredictable future infrastructures over the past 5 or 10 years, to cater to a nearly non-existent market...?


In academic journal publishing, they have been asking for electronic copies (not pdfs) for journal articles and figures, tables, etc, for more than than the last 15 years.
Sure, but academic journals (and other periodicals) have used electronic distribution for a long time. 15 years ago, the ebook market was beyond non-existent.

Even if the publishers had stipulated a format that 15 years ago, chances are it would still require work to convert into a viable ebook format.


Even if that cost is $800 per book (one full person day fully costed at $100/hr) it is insignificant when split over the number of units sold.
Keep in mind, though, that around 45,000 new new fiction books are released each year. At $800 per book, that is $36,000,000. For one year. If it takes 30 minutes to do each one, that's 22,500 hours of work.

I concur that the costs are generally quite low, and as more conversions happen the cost will go down. But they can't just snap their fingers and convert every single book in the back catalog overnight.


It is funny how all publishers want to talk price and not cost, isn't it.
Actually they discuss cost every now and then, as indicated by a recent NYT article which listed many of the costs. People just don't want to hear the counter-intuitive idea that paper costs are far, far lower than they believe.

fastesthamster
03-05-2010, 01:35 PM
Keep in mind, though, that around 45,000 new new fiction books are released each year. At $800 per book, that is $36,000,000. For one year. If it takes 30 minutes to do each one, that's 22,500 hours of work.


Are you trying to say that publishers do not already have a digital copy of a book? And they would have to spend the same amount every time they wanted to publish a new book? Seriously?

I really need to donate a bucket of money to Kovid for Calibre. He's saving me millions.

Kali Yuga
03-05-2010, 01:50 PM
> Because the cost is not zero. It can cost quite a bit of money
> to convert a book into epub, mobi or other formats.

I simply do not believe this is true if any electronic version of the book exists.
Oh, really? Try converting a Revit document into InDesign. Let me know how that works out for you. :D

Digital conversions are not magic, especially when dealing with TOC's, footnotes, variable formatting, tables, illustrations, and at least two major -- and very different -- ebook formats (ePub and mobi). Heck, from what I understand, just performing basic edits in ePub can be rather time-consuming.


So then why the need to even worry about geo restrictions at all.
Because companies cannot violate contracts at their convenience, or for the convenience of their international customers.

Also, if you physically drive across a border, issues like sales tax, royalty rates, and abiding to local laws are taken care of. That's not the case if your computer is in Canada and the online bookseller is in the US.


So authors are not required to assign copyright when they get published?
Sort of.

The author completes the book (technically, it is in a "fixed form") and it is automatically copyrighted. The author and his/her agent then negotiates with the publisher; e.g. "we will publish 3 books by you at these royalty rates in the US. When it's hardcover you get 15%, trade paper 10%, mass market paperback 8%."

I don't recall when, but either in the early 80s or 90s the publishers started requesting electronic rights on books. So you have decades of contracts, and millions of books, where the issue of electronic rights is not specifically referenced in the contract. The status of ebooks for those contracts is not yet resolved, and will likely depend on the language in those specific contracts as well as agreements reached between various publishers and the authors.

Some authors also refuse to allow their books to be digitally distributed, notably JK Rowling. It's inconvenient for the ebook owners, but the publisher's hands are tied. And yes, she would definitely protest if they went ahead with an ebook version anyway....


>Also, it really doesn't cost a lot less to
> make a paper edition than an ebook edition -- maybe 15%.
That is bull. Simply look at the fully loaded supply chain costs including the bricks and mortar required (etc etc)
I have. It's not bull. It's economics. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/01/business/media/01ebooks.html?scp=1&sq=ebooks&st=cse)

Paper is cheap; inventory and shipping costs are spread out along the supply chain; and the retailer is going to take a cut regardless of whether it's paper or electronic.


Your idea of costing just looks at editing and author fees and tries to keep the exact same paradigm making none of the supply chain related costs variable in any way.
Incorrect.

The costs involved do include author's advances and royalties, editing and proofreading. It also includes taxes, legal fees, marketing, PR, cover art, market research, the retailer's cut and general overhead. Of equal importance for a publisher is covering the costs of books that do not break even -- which is, in fact, the majority of titles.

I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but yes, the costs associated with paper just are not that big. Neither are publisher's profit margins; they tend to range from 8-15%. And most authors still won't be willing or able to do all the tasks performed by publishers and retailers, so those roles won't change nearly as much as many people believe. There will be changes in the supply chain, but the real losers will be the middle-man distributors like Ingram, who will basically get knocked out. But that'll be invisible to most consumers anyway.


I do expect them to act intelligently for their shareholders and to listen to their customers, to be forward looking, and understand that a completely new selling paradigm is needed (and will come) and that they need to be at the vanguard and not fight tooth and nail to prevent it from coming.
That's fine, but they can't spend millions of dollars performing conversions overnight. Nor can they trample on international laws and contracts at will, no matter how valid a consumer's desire to buy X can be.


As I said, there is a real opportunity for an international e-book store who understands these things and are willing to make an end-run around the publishers to get things done, directly with the authors if need be.
Retailers also cannot trample on international laws and contracts. Sorry, dude.

Since such actions would be largely illegal (except for new books with a contract that explicitly grants one company world-wide rights), I'm not really sure I'd want to give that type of store my credit card number. ;)

Kali Yuga
03-05-2010, 03:39 PM
Are you trying to say that publishers do not already have a digital copy of a book? And they would have to spend the same amount every time they wanted to publish a new book? Seriously?
From what I understand, they sometimes have PDF's or other formats that are not easy to convert into HTML, ePub, mobi and so forth. Especially things like TOC's and tables are rather fussy. It's complex enough that commercial services are available for the conversion; and at least one MR poster (I forget who) does it for a living.

More importantly, there are millions of backlist titles that don't have an electronic format at all -- e.g. anything written before, say, 1990. In which case, you need to find a completed copy, OCR it, fix the OCR, and format it.

Publishers don't always do a good job with their conversions, but for commercial purposes you often need to do a little more than just run it through Calibre.

Nakor
03-05-2010, 03:39 PM
Thats fine with me as long as we are talking about a localized language conversion. But there is no reason why I as a German reader am not allowed to buy an English edition from a US-publisher.
Localization based on language rather than location, eh? That might just work for a lot of the world. It doesn't solve the US/Canada, UK and Aussie problem though. The three locations are too spread out for a publisher to easliy distribute physical copies, so you wind up back with the problem of offering physical rights only to two out of the three while not making any extra money off the English language ebook rights to the first, who now tack two more regions on to their sales.

KevinH
03-05-2010, 04:14 PM
Hi,

I guess you an I will just have to agree to disagree.

Converting books is simply not that hard. The bulk of the process can be automated. Epub is nothing more than html 4/xhtml, and mobi is nothing much more than html 3.2 with a couple of specific mobi tags. Converting books from almost any electronic format to something xhtml based is simply not that hard. As worst, a custom script (python or perl) can be written and used. I have done it many times and ended up with better formatted books than the originals.

So we are not talking about millions of dollars ... and we are talking about something that many authors would do themselves given the right incentive structures.

Also it is not international law, it is contract law we are talking about. Sales taxes and things like that are only an issue if you have operations in that country. Individuals can already file tax forms for sales tax on things they buy overseas (or they are supposed to!)

Your "economics" are again all based on purchasing from upstream supply chain partners and your margins on top of what you pay and again are not reflecting the changes that a new selling model would bring. So I disagree completely with your 15% margin and your "economics" model because it is based on assumptions that all other costs and therefore your basis remains the same.

Assuming you can not get an e-book in some country, then another international seller could easily go directly to the authors in question for their back catalogs and could bring them to market and not "wait" for the old school publishers to see the light.

I think you are defending an old model that even current publishers know is going away but their admitted plan is to make it rough enough and slow enough so that their operations and book stores do not suffer.

This is a bad strategic decision. They should in fact cannibalize their own sales to be the first to move to the model and then take advantage of being first.

So my guess is we will continue to disagree on most of this.

Oh well, what fun would the world be if everybody agreed on everything!!

HansTWN
03-05-2010, 06:47 PM
Localization based on language rather than location, eh? That might just work for a lot of the world. It doesn't solve the US/Canada, UK and Aussie problem though. The three locations are too spread out for a publisher to easliy distribute physical copies, so you wind up back with the problem of offering physical rights only to two out of the three while not making any extra money off the English language ebook rights to the first, who now tack two more regions on to their sales.

Australia? You call that English? :cool:

HansTWN
03-05-2010, 06:56 PM
Assuming you can not get an e-book in some country, then another international seller could easily go directly to the authors in question for their back catalogs and could bring them to market and not "wait" for the old school publishers to see the light.


Since you cannot be persuaded by our arguments: So why don't you just go ahead and open an online store and take advantage of this tremendous business opportunity?

sabredog
03-05-2010, 07:02 PM
Australia? You call that English? :cool:

Well we do put "u" in colour ;)

HansTWN
03-05-2010, 07:14 PM
Well we do put "u" in colour ;)

and the "i" in ate. :rolleyes:

KevinH
03-05-2010, 09:52 PM
Since you cannot be persuaded by our arguments: So why don't you just go ahead and open an online store and take advantage of this tremendous business opportunity?

Unfortunately, as a business school prof, I do not have the financial resources, time, or even energy at my age, to undertake this myself. If I did, I would certainly look at it. The timing could not be much better and the competition more screwed up.

Needless to say, I am strongly encouraging my MBA students to think of this way of doing business as a "strategic blunder" by the publishers and ebook stores, and as an opportunity for newcomers to the business.

There is plenty of material here for a "classic" case to be written. I will try and point one of my PhD students toward writing one.

Take care,

KevinH

HansTWN
03-05-2010, 10:29 PM
Unfortunately, as a business school prof, I do not have the financial resources, time, or even energy at my age, to undertake this myself. If I did, I would certainly look at it. The timing could not be much better and the competition more screwed up.

Needless to say, I am strongly encouraging my MBA students to think of this way of doing business as a "strategic blunder" by the publishers and ebook stores, and as an opportunity for newcomers to the business.

There is plenty of material here for a "classic" case to be written. I will try and point one of my PhD students toward writing one.

Take care,

KevinH

There is a nice class project -- setting up and running an ebook website!

asjogren
03-06-2010, 11:03 AM
Just get a website in a "rogue" country where the politicians can be cheaply bought and have them pass copyright laws favorable to your new enterprise. Then setup your online digital media superstore. Make this your official headquarters - even though it is just a bunch of servers and a post office box. What law changes would you need?
- 7 year copyright foreign and domestic
- any work available on physical media, but not available electronically for 6 months can be format shifted and sold with a standard royalty payment
- all "out of print" books, music, and videos revert to Public Domain
- exclusive assignment of copyright is not honored - the creator never loses the rights to their creation

Isn't that what the industry did in reverse in the USA? Buy politicians and make their wildest dreams law?

HarryT
03-06-2010, 11:19 AM
Well we do put "u" in colour ;)

But, curiously, not in "labor" (as in "Labor Party"). I've always wondered why this is the case!

JSWolf
03-06-2010, 11:25 AM
We usually get the file in pdf and have to go back to xml. its also true to say that it could be done in house but results are generally much better when outsourced to quality partners or individuals.
There certainly is cost associated, both in time, effort and money.

But after you convert from PDF, do you do an A/B compare to fix all the conversion errors?

HorridRedDog
03-06-2010, 02:44 PM
If you haven't checked it out yet read http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=76113

sabredog
03-06-2010, 06:54 PM
But, curiously, not in "labor" (as in "Labor Party"). I've always wondered why this is the case!

So have I, to be honest!

clockworkzombie
03-07-2010, 06:16 AM
http://www.australianhistory.org/labor-party.php

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY: LABOR PARTY

The Australian Labor Party is the oldest and largest political party in Australia. Its origins stem from the maritime and shearers strikes of 1890 which were brutally suppressed hence its name. This made many people within the trade union movement realise the limitations of industrial action and the need for political representation. As a result separate labour parties called Labour Leagues were formed in New South Wales in 1891, Victoria in 1892, Queensland in 1893, Western Australia in 1901 and Tasmania in 1903 and in federal Parliament in 1901. The first labour government held office in Queensland in 1899.
The Federal Parliamentary Labor party’s name was informally known as the Caucus and after Federation had its first federal meeting on 8 May 1901 at Parliament House, Melbourne. The party’s official name was adopted in 1908 and was spelt without the ‘u’ because the Australian movement felt that it had stronger ties with its American rather than British comrades.
The party is a social democratic party that tends to believe that government is generally a positive force in the community and that it is the responsibility of governments to intervene in the operation of the economy (and society in general) to improve outcomes. Its belief is that the government should ensure that all members of society receive a basic income in order to have a "decent quality of life". Labor also believes that the government should ensure that all members of society are able to access quality and affordable housing as well as education and health services. Although it is debatable whether or not these policies are still being upheld.
The Australian Labor Party is a democratic and federal party, which consists of both individual members and affiliated trade unions, who between them decide the party's policies, elect its governing bodies and choose its candidates for public office.

GeoffC
03-08-2010, 07:40 AM
Price for a book (Whoops! by John Lanchester)... [Penguin]

Hardback 20.00
Paper 9.99
ePub 20.00

frustrating ...