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Old 08-09-2007, 10:06 AM   #1
Dr. Drib
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Trade paper editions and ebooks

An observation:

Whatever politicized, polarized stance one may take regarding the pricing of ebooks, we sometimes (in my opinon) often forget that the pricing of Trade paper editions are often MORE expensive than its ebook. counterpart. [NOTE: I misphrased myself and have corrected the above sentence.]

A case in point:

Elizabeth Kostova's novel, The Historian, is priced at $15.99 as a new Trade paper edition. As an ebook, the price is $8.79 from Connect.

I'm sure there are plenty of other instances where the price of an ebook is considerably cheaper than its counterpart Trade edition.

As I indicated at the beginning, this is an observation only and is not meant to alienate contrary views that verge on the histrionic.

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Old 08-09-2007, 11:09 AM   #2
Alexander Turcic
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Great observation, Don. As it happens to be, The Historian is one of the e-books I purchased through Connect.com recently.
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Old 08-09-2007, 01:57 PM   #3
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Great observation, Don. As it happens to be, The Historian is one of the e-books I purchased through Connect.com recently.
I need to make a correction (on my original post, I've just done that)....a error in what I was trying to say, but ended up saying the exact opposite!

You understood what I was attempting to say, which is that Trade paper editions are often MORE expensive than an ebook.
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Old 08-11-2007, 06:18 AM   #4
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Yes -- the pricing of e-books shouldn't (in my opinion) be compared all the time directly with mass-market paperback books.

My criteria when I buy an ebook at connect.com are this:
1) do I really like the author or am I merely curious? If I really like the author I'm more likely to buy without waiting for the mass-market paperback price.
2) would I like to encourage the author to work to get more titles at connect.com? If so I will not only buy the book but also will send the author an e-mail thanking them for making the book available (none of the authors has been aware their books were even offered in ebook format!)
3) does the publisher publish authors I would love to see in ebook format? If so, I'm likely to buy one or two at full price so that the publisher can see that there's a market out here and that it's growing.

In the paper book world, I never buy hardbacks. Not because of the price, but because I find reading hardback books unwieldy and uncomfortable while lying in bed, which is when I do most of my reading. So I always wait for the mass-market paperback edition before I buy books even from my favorite authors. The price isn't the issue for me -- I'm in the creative arts and like to support others in similar endeavors, but the dealbreaker for me is the format of the hardbacks.

I'm happy to pay similar prices to hardbacks for new releases by my favorite authors.

But when the book is published in mass-market paperback format, though, the ebook price should drop immediately as well. Ebooks which are several years old and which I know are available in bookstores for mass-market paperback prices bother me when the connect.com price stays at the hardback price. I may like to support the authors, but I'm also pragmatic and don't like to pay more than I have to.
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Old 08-11-2007, 08:39 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by dhbailey View Post
But when the book is published in mass-market paperback format, though, the ebook price should drop immediately as well. Ebooks which are several years old and which I know are available in bookstores for mass-market paperback prices bother me when the connect.com price stays at the hardback price. I may like to support the authors, but I'm also pragmatic and don't like to pay more than I have to.
If I found an ebook I wanted to purchase and the price was out of whack like that, I would contact the store and tell them of the misprice andse eif they are willing to fix it. If they do fix it, then I'd buy it.
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Old 08-11-2007, 10:11 AM   #6
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I would like to see a pricing tier, in much the same way that hardbacks typically signify a brand new release (but not always. A case in point: About 20 years ago, Saul Bellow [Nobel Prize in Literature] published as a First Edition a new work as a Trade paperback because he wanted to reach a wider audience at a better price point. He shook up the publishing world by making this decision); then, following the hardback, there would typically be a trade Paper followed, eventually followed by mass market paper. Sometimes, the trade and mass market might be released simultaneously. Again, much of this depends upon contract stipulations, in addition to market predictions. The pricing structure of these three items is from mostexpensive to least-expensive.

If ebook releases could follow that tiering structure, with prices going down as the title "ages," -- BUT somewhat lower than their paper counterparts as an incentive to invigorate the ebook industry, and also as an overall alternative second market to paper -- then I think all this would bode well for an industry that is just beginning to grow legs and in the process of wanting to mature as a new technology fuels diversification of this industry. Authors and publishers have a right to make a profit.

Further, I think we are the ones who are at the helm of a new industry that's about to take off due to the fact that we are early adoptors. I firmly feel that eInk technology will fuel not only the ebook industry but other industries that are only now being created.

Again, these are only my opinions. This topic is not about abortion, so I personally see no need for hateful remarks. I think most of us here welcome opinions, especially when opinions are thoughtful and considerate.

...and to close: Have I ever told you what my drill sergeant said to me: "[My last name], opinions are like ***holes. Everyone has one!"

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Old 08-11-2007, 01:01 PM   #7
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Right now, the publishing industry is in a bit of a flux. What publishers publish is pushed by the big stores (B&N) and the smaller book stores are really struggling to stay alive. It is my understanding (I'm not in the industry, so all I know is what I read), that much of the business practices for publishers is set by tax laws and the problem of returned books. Since no one wants to keep books in stock, due to the tax laws, book stores are quick to return excess books and tons of books are destroyed each year, so there is a tremendous amount of wastage. Because of all of this, best salers carry the industry. With this combination of rises in book prices, making it less likely that a customer will take a chance on an unknown author and the tendency for big stores to only order books based on the numbers that author has sold, we have a vicious circle.

I think that Apple has shown the way for the book industry. On iTunes, I can listen to 30 seconds of a song, enough for me to decide if I might be interested in the song, plus the individual songs are priced at a price point that most people are willing to take a chance on someone that they don’t know. This has been a god send for indies and mid market musicians. In a very short time, iTunes has moved into third place among music stores, behind WalMart and Best Buy. A large number of people don’t particularly care about owning the physical album, they just want a easy way to buy music and it doesn’t get much easier than buying music on iTunes.

From a consumer point of view, a tiered approach makes sense. Best salers would be at one price, name authors would be at the next level and everyone else would be at a third. But more than that, most books should be priced at a point where I would be willing to take a chance on it. Looking in my book collection, I have paperbacks from the mid 70’s that were priced at 75 cents. For the longest time, paperbacks stayed under 2 dollars. As a rule of thumb, the majority of books should cost less than lunch.

For eBooks to take off, I think they will need to drop the idea of pricing based on what works in the big store fronts, and go with something like iTunes. Price the majority of books for less than eight dollars (a sandwich, chips and drink at the local sandwich shop) , build up a huge back list, let people read the first chapter online to see if they might like the book and lastly allow the customer to download the book in multiple formats, not just one proprietary format. I can export my iTunes songs onto a cd, which means that I can rip in back in mp3. Thus, even if Apple were to abandon iTunes, I still have access to my music. Audible, which markets audible books, has been around for a while, but they didn’t really take off until they expanded beyond their own proprietary format and supported iPods. I had bought a couple of books from them a number of years ago, but stopped using them because using their proprietary software to burn cd’s what a royal pain. When I found out that they had added iPod support a couple off years ago, I started using them again and have spent quite a bit of money with them since. Oh, I have all sorts of ideas of how I would put together such a store. It’s not rocket science and if you focus on what the consumer wants rather than what’s the minimum you can get away with, it’s all pretty obvious.
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Old 08-11-2007, 01:31 PM   #8
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What is this new format of paperback they are trying to foist on us? It's taller, thinner then the mass market paperback and costs around $10 vs. the normal $7.99 for the mass market. It's not a trade paperback. What it is is a sleazy sales tool to raise prices. I won't buy one of those. Not ever.
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Old 08-11-2007, 09:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Drib View Post
Further, I think we are the ones who are at the helm of a new industry that's about to take off due to the fact that we are early adoptors. I firmly feel that eInk technology will fuel not only the ebook industry but other industries that are only now being created.
Absolutely. Big publishing, probably more than most other industries, is ruled by bean counters these days. This is absolutely the time to vote with your wallet.
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Old 08-11-2007, 09:46 PM   #10
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I should add that some of the big booksellers seem determined to push the smaller publishers into finding new business models. That makes the timing for a "big e-book push" even better.

Courtesy of Teresa Nielsen Hayden on Making Light.
Bookstore chain puts the screws on small publishers
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Old 08-11-2007, 11:44 PM   #11
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SNIP
I think that Apple has shown the way for the book industry. On iTunes, I can listen to 30 seconds of a song, enough for me to decide if I might be interested in the song, plus the individual songs are priced at a price point that most people are willing to take a chance on someone that they don’t know.
SNIP
Oh, I have all sorts of ideas of how I would put together such a store. It’s not rocket science and if you focus on what the consumer wants rather than what’s the minimum you can get away with, it’s all pretty obvious.
What you describe is pretty darn close to what Baen does with their electronic sales. 25% of the book available online as a free sample. Open formats, no DRM. Reasonable prices -- less than a paperback even when the book is only in hardcover. Good deals on bundles of books.

Too bad the rest of the industry won't give it a try.

I wish they would...
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Old 08-14-2007, 12:22 PM   #12
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As much as I love using the Sony Reader, I can't believe they are not deeply discounted because they are NOT the same as physical books. With physical books, you can buy and sell used books, trade them to your friends, etc. And the costs of brick-and-mortar shops, the product itself, shipping, etc. are eliminated with ebooks. So where's the savings?

Unfortunately, I worry a bit about seeing books inherit the same issues that the other media types have went , with DRM, ridiculous EULAs, etc. if the idea of ebooks were to catch on. So in some ways, if I would want a book that I can get cheaper as a physical book, I'd rather do that.
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Old 08-14-2007, 12:56 PM   #13
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As much as I love using the Sony Reader, I can't believe they are not deeply discounted because they are NOT the same as physical books. With physical books, you can buy and sell used books, trade them to your friends, etc. And the costs of brick-and-mortar shops, the product itself, shipping, etc. are eliminated with ebooks. So where's the savings?
Speaking personally, the "savings" are those of space, not money. I don't have room in my house to have 10,000 paper books. I have 10,000 eBooks on an external USB disk the size of a pack of playing cards.

I didn't buy my Reader (or my other reading devices) to read books I could go out and buy as paper books; I bought it to read the books that I can't easily go out and find as paper books - the tens of thousands of out of copyright books at Project Gutenberg, etc.
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Old 08-14-2007, 02:28 PM   #14
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Trade paperbacks have just always seemed to me to be extra-large paperbacks, with no good reason to be that way except to justify larger costs. Since they also don't fit my (paperback-dominated) shelves well, I tend to avoid them like the plague.

Like Harry, I like being able to save space, and if I could replace my shelves of books with e-books, I would. I can think of people in places that are far too cramped for luxuries like bookshelves (much less books) who would agree.

I also feel e-books should be priced less than print-based books, whatever the print book costs are... there may still be prep costs, but the costs of physical printing, storage and distribution are gone, and their price should reflect that. I think ALL paperback books should cost less than $5... and e-books should cost significantly less than that.

Unfortunately, as long as e-book fans are at the mercy of a publishing industry that fears change, struggles with its own decline and decay, and has given up caring about the interests of its customers, we will continue to see silly things like trade paperbacks and expensive e-books.
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Old 08-14-2007, 07:53 PM   #15
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Well, Dr. Drib, I found one exception. The book "A Thousand Splendid Suns" sells at CONNECT for $20, while on amazon.com, the hard cover is much less, I forget now, but around $15.

I wrote a polite email to Sony pointing this out, but of course, never got any response from them.
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