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Old 12-07-2008, 07:46 PM   #1
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Angry Is eBook overpricing akin to an eBook tax?

Jane has posted an interested discussion over at Dear Author about the pricing of certain mainstream eBook publishers.

If you're interested, the link is here.
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Old 12-07-2008, 08:08 PM   #2
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thanks for the interesting article. i completely agree that bloated prices are one of the major prices holding ebooks back, currently. as the author says, they are also, ironically, going to encourage piracy, which is hardly in the publishers' best interests.

i found this bit particularly interesting :

Quote:
The idea is to attract more readers at lower price points, not to deter readers with higher price points. Why publishers are moving backward with ebook pricing is beyond me. I’m not sure what we can do about it as readers because I’ve written and complained. If more of us write and complain, will that change things? Maybe the answer for ebook readers who confront the higher prices is to buy these publishers at the used bookstore instead of giving them retail dollars. Yes, this might hurt the authors but maybe the authors should start pushing for more reasonable pricing and no DRM. It shouldn’t all be on the reader.
i am in favor of writing publishers to protest every time we see an ebook at an outrageous price, or to request when a title we want to read is not available as an ebook. and i do think that if enough people write to them they will eventually be forced to listen.

but the idea of authors also putting pressure on publishers is a good idea, and one we don't hear too often... usually authors are portrayed as 1. having no power over publishers, or 2. insisting on drm because they are afraid their books will be pirated.

perhaps if authors started making some noise as well things would move faster...
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Old 12-07-2008, 08:18 PM   #3
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ebooks should be as cheap as 75% of the Lowest Price Print Edition. wouldnt publishers make as much or more than their paper counterparts if ebooks were published at this price? i think so.

if i See an ebook even a penny more than the lowest price i can but a copy for. i wont buy it.

Publishers should start embracing the Itunes generation when it comes to ebooks. when was the last time we heard of an artist that didnt sell their song on itunes?

I think Publishers are scared of loosing their Authors. Digital Print encourages self publishing. and if Eink ever becomes "i"Eink, the publishers would think they are screwed.
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Old 12-07-2008, 08:37 PM   #4
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I wouldn't call it an eBook tax because taxes typically refer to compulsory fees that apply across an industry whereas any publisher is free to charge whatever they like for eBooks. It is more of a premium, but that is just semantics. The reason they can charge this premium is because publishers have a government granted monopoly (copyright) on the distribution of a given book and competing books are usually imperfect substitutes.

The mystery is why, if publishers can make a higher profit on eBooks than pBooks, don't they always offer the digital alternative? My guess is that eBooks don't sell enough to make it worthwhile converting them and risking piracy. You could argue that eBooks would sell more if their price was much lower but I'm not entirely convinced this is the case. I'd wager that most people's book purchases are limited by the rate at which they can read books not how often they can afford them.

I think that publishers overestimate the amount of sales they would lose due to piracy and that in the long-term DRM or only selling books in a paper format will be ineffective as the eBook sharing community grows.
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Old 12-07-2008, 11:22 PM   #5
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I think publishers are overly afraid of DRM, and it hurts authors. First of all, Cory Doctorow has a quote which is oft-repeated, that obscurity is a bigger threat to authors than piracy. I agree with this. Secondly, 'piracy' is an unavoidable part of every business. The vast majority of customers are honest people who will pay a fair price for what they want. But there will always be 'pirates' and there are in every business. I know my university meal plan when I was in first year university budgeted a certain amount into the cost because people would steal forks and spoons and such. And I bet the corner store budgets a certain amount of loss into their budget to teenagers shoplifting candy bars. That's business. The threat in publishers heads is really vastly, vastly inflated to what it is.
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Old 12-07-2008, 11:45 PM   #6
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Totally agree that most consumers are honest people who will pay a fair price for their goods. I also agree that every business factors into the cost of their goods or services losses due to theft/piracy.

Artificially inflating prices though will only drive more people to piracy. Like the computer games industry here in Australia. We are paying up to $120 for an Xbox 360 or playstation 3 game. Even when the AUD was near parity with the USD we were still paying that price. Totally ridiculous but when you take into account that we can't buy games from overseas because the "zoning" or whatever it is will ensure they don't work here you can see why distributors feel they can get away with those kinds of rip off prices. Then they wonder why many people go out and pirates the games instead.

The sooner publishers move into the 21st century the better it will be for them and the consumer both in my opinion.

Cheers
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Old 12-08-2008, 08:20 AM   #7
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Artificially inflating prices though will only drive more people to piracy.
I would make it my signature if I was not so much in love with mine.
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Old 12-08-2008, 08:25 AM   #8
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Artificially inflating prices though will only drive more people to piracy.
I am not sure that there is any evidence to support that claim. If I consider that the price of an eBook is too high, I simply don't buy it - there are plenty more books out there. I would never consider "pirating" a book. It is the right of the publisher to set whatever price they feel is appropriate; it is equally the right of the consumer to decide that it's too expensive, and not to buy it.

eBook prices do generally tend to fall with time. The price of the book a year after publication is generally considerably lower than it is when it's newly released, so very often the best thing to do is simply to wait a few months and then buy at a lower price.
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Old 12-08-2008, 08:39 AM   #9
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I am not sure that there is any evidence to support that claim. If I consider that the price of an eBook is too high, I simply don't buy it - there are plenty more books out there. I would never consider "pirating" a book.
Not everybody has the same scruples with respect to piracy.

I can't say that I have evidence to support the claim you quote, but it's a general impression that I have based on my interactions with people around me and on the web.
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Old 12-08-2008, 08:46 AM   #10
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I can't say that I have evidence to support the claim you quote, but it's a general impression that I have based on my interactions with people around me and on the web.
We all have to make up our own minds on issues such as that. I'm certainly not trying to impose my own views on anyone else.
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Old 12-08-2008, 08:54 AM   #11
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I am not sure that there is any evidence to support that claim. If I consider that the price of an eBook is too high, I simply don't buy it - there are plenty more books out there. I would never consider "pirating" a book. It is the right of the publisher to set whatever price they feel is appropriate; it is equally the right of the consumer to decide that it's too expensive, and not to buy it.
And your opinion is not evidence for anything either scientifically.

I seem to remember that the belief that record companies ripped off customers and the fact that artists get very little money from record company was seen as a big motivation or rationalization for people downloading music. Maybe it is post hoc in many cases but I am convinced that it also is a motivation for people starting to download.
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Old 12-08-2008, 09:15 AM   #12
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And your opinion is not evidence for anything either scientifically.
I make absolutely no claim that it is.
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Old 12-08-2008, 10:30 AM   #13
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Publishers should start embracing the Itunes generation when it comes to ebooks. when was the last time we heard of an artist that didnt sell their song on itunes?
The Beatles?

While we all want lower priced ebooks, I do sometimes get the feeling that articles and threads like this often overestimate the cost of mass producing printed books and underestimate the cost of setting up and maintaining an electronic publishing division. Prices will come down in time, and many already have (see the Kindle store's pricing on NYT best sellers as an example). But this is a very new industry and as such it will probably be a while before it settles at any kind of standard.

I've seen itunes mentioned a few times, however while they are often cheaper than the full retail price I often buy physical CDs for a similar or even lower prices than I can get on itunes. Different distribution models make for different opportunities for discounting and different retail models.
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Old 12-08-2008, 11:41 AM   #14
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The Beatles?

While we all want lower priced ebooks, I do sometimes get the feeling that articles and threads like this often overestimate the cost of mass producing printed books and underestimate the cost of setting up and maintaining an electronic publishing division.
The cost of mass producing books while significant is less relevant to the e-book discussion as the current model of unsold returns that is damaging the business when sells through are low.

With high (80%+) sell through, print is ok as cost, but with low sell (60%-, and I heard now it's even 50%- for the "typical title") the business model is jut unsustainable
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Old 12-08-2008, 12:04 PM   #15
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The cost of mass producing books while significant is less relevant to the e-book discussion as the current model of unsold returns that is damaging the business when sells through are low.

With high (80%+) sell through, print is ok as cost, but with low sell (60%-, and I heard now it's even 50%- for the "typical title") the business model is jut unsustainable
Good point. However from a publisher's point of view would selling an electronic version of a book at a discount instead of a printed version make this situation better or worse?

I think a lot of this stuff is still in the growing pains stage and we're liable to see a fair amount of change in the coming years either way.
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