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Old 11-27-2007, 05:19 AM   #1
JSWolf
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ebook prices HC to PB can be a problem

As we all know, ebook prices are usually based on the price of the paper edition be it hardcover or paperback. But, when a hardcover only book is released in paperback, sometimes we see the ebook prices missing this shift from the more expensive hardcover price to the paperback price.

I have emailed some of the ebook shps in the past about mismatched pricing and have gotten the standard canned reply of "the publishers set the price". It's like they didn't even bother to contact the publisher and point of the discrepancy of the ebook price vs. the in print price.

Is there something we consumers can do about this? Do we have to put up with unfair ebook pricing? I just posted a message on the Mobipocket forum and sent an email to BooksOnBoard. An ebook I am interested in is set at the hardcover price and not the paperback price. I basically said "Yes, I know the publisher sets the price. But would you mind going back to the publisher and reminding them that the book is not in hardcover and is in paperback so they can lower the ebook price". I did this so hopefully I would not get the standard canned answer. If I do get the standard canned answer, I will reply asking if they went to the publisher to mention this.

If we take this lying down, then ebooks will fail as people see that not only do the eink readers cost about $300 on up, but if the ebooks are more expensive then the same in-print versions, then they will never recoup the initial cost of the device based on cost savings on ebooks.

What is it that causes ebook pricing to be so fouled up when a books goes from hardcover to paperback? Cannot there be a mechanism in place that alerts the ebook sellers to this and tells them it is time to lower the price?

If we see prices that are incorrect like this, we need to let the ebook shops know so they can hopefully do something about it. If we do nothing, then this sort of thing will continue to happen and we we just end up with prices that are out-of-whack and too high and will eventually cause the downfall of ebooks.
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Old 11-27-2007, 12:42 PM   #2
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What is it that causes ebook pricing to be so fouled up when a books goes from hardcover to paperback? Cannot there be a mechanism in place that alerts the ebook sellers to this and tells them it is time to lower the price?
I think this is yet another problem that is rooted in the way publishing works. It's easy to think of a book as the content, in which case a book is a book is a book, regardless of the "container" (HB, PB, eB). The publishing world has never seen it that way. Each edition is a different, unique item. It used to be that publisher "X" would bring out the HB edition, then sell the PB rights to a house that specialized in selling MMPBs. Each of the editions would have a unique ISBN and would therefor be considered a completely different item. Later editions, even if they're reprints, reissues, or re-releases also have unique ISBNs.

See here:

The hardcover edition: Scribner, ISBN 978-1416554844
The paperback edition: Pocket, 978-1416555049

If you look here, as of this morning, Powell's is selling the old book club edition. That will also have a different publisher and ISBN listed.

So it's not really a price change, it's a source change. Publishing isn't used to thinking of content as the discrete unit, only in "rights" or "editions".

Last edited by jasonkchapman; 11-27-2007 at 12:44 PM. Reason: To elide an extraneous comma.
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Old 11-27-2007, 06:32 PM   #3
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So basically, the publishers are pricing books based on the container and not the content. In that case, ebooks should be a lot cheaper since they don't really have a physical container. It's the same container/price regardless if the physical book is in HC, MMPB, that god awful new mmpb edition or whatever... But ebooks are treated improperly. They are being based on the last released container. And even when the physical container changes, the ebook price does not always follow suit.
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Old 11-27-2007, 08:03 PM   #4
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I suspect publishers think of hardcovers the same way that drug companies think of patient drugs.

Drug companies charge top dollar for their brand name drugs while they have patent protection; they advertise heavily; direct market to doctors, etc. They see the time from drug launch to patient expiration as the time to bilk the consumer. After a drug goes generic, they can forget about it, unless they can patent the "extended-release" form or a combination drug form or some other way to charge top dollar.

Similarly, I suspect publishers see the first year of a book's release - when it is glued into stiff boards instead of soft paper - as the time to charge top dollar and make maximum profit.

They know the cheapskates are out there waiting for the paperback, but they want to get all they money they can out of the hardback buyers first. Then they release it in paperback.

It's not about content; it's not about production cost; it's about the revenue cycle of a new release.
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Old 11-28-2007, 12:35 PM   #5
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But ebooks are treated improperly. They are being based on the last released container. And even when the physical container changes, the ebook price does not always follow suit.
Yes, that's pretty much the case.

It would be interesting to see if there's any correlation between e-book prices that lag far behind the PB release and titles where the PB publisher is not the primary rights holder/original publisher. Frankly, in those cases (where the HB publisher sells PB rights to another house), there's no obvious incentive to drop the e-book price. There is one, but not one that certain hide-bound accounting types would necessarily acknowledge.
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Old 12-03-2007, 06:39 AM   #6
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It is hardly a surprise that companies are having difficulties establishing pricing structures for e books. The problem cuts right to the basis of economic theory. It has been a while since I read about this gloomy science but isn't an assumption of unlimited need and limited resources the foundation of economics. With online distribution of books and music you effectively have unlimited resources but limited needs. A historical sellers market turns into a buyers market.

Chris Anderson has a look at this very interesting subject in his book "The Long Tail"
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Old 12-03-2007, 11:29 AM   #7
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It's the same container/price regardless if the physical book is in HC, MMPB, that god awful new mmpb edition or whatever....
I think you're referring to the Trade Paperbacks, the ones that are the larger size and cost more, right? The format isn't really new, though, I have one from 1973.
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