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Old 12-08-2008, 11:47 AM   #16
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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.
What about selling an e-book at a discount instead of an used copy on which the publisher gets nothing.

To me it's insanity to have 15$ or higher priced e-books competing to bountiful 4$ used copies (1c +3.99 sh)
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Old 12-08-2008, 12:27 PM   #17
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I'm afraid the publishers are simply responding to their desire (need) for profit, which they are in a better position to control in the present book market. I.E., they can essentially force booksellers to take the books they want to sell, limit the buyback as they see fit, and fairly accurately predict the amount of profit they'll make even in a bad market. They simply can't do that in the current e-book market, undeveloped and misunderstood as it is.

The other issue is their understanding of Human Nature, to wit: The cheaper, the better, and Free is best. E-books are still too easy to pirate... and they believe prospective customers still find it too easy to get a copy of a book from someone they know, or from a pirate site. They expect to lose their shirts on pirated e-books, so they see it as too much of a loss to even be worth using as a loss-leader.

Thing is, both of these issues can be addressed. Problem is, the big pubs just don't want to be bothered. They prefer to stay ignorant, deal with the production systems they already know, and avoid rocking the boat... bird in the hand, and all that.

So, regarding the e-book "tax": I'm sure they use the premium cost specifically to discourage the buying of e-books, in favor of the printed books that allow them to more accurately control distribution and predict profits.
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Old 12-08-2008, 12:49 PM   #18
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Let's say you find an ebook that's definitely more than it's p counterpart, does the publisher tend to charge more for all of it's works when they're in e? I'm wondering if it's title-dependent?
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Old 12-08-2008, 01:00 PM   #19
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So, regarding the e-book "tax": I'm sure they use the premium cost specifically to discourage the buying of e-books, in favor of the printed books that allow them to more accurately control distribution and predict profits.
Maybe the current recession, the "Black Wednesday" of last week in publishing, or the huge recent pile of returns from B&N will lead to more sanity in ebook pricing.

Though to see today new e-books advertised at 14$ or so list price when they have been available in mmpb for a while and I think that are available cheaply as used is just insanity.
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Old 12-08-2008, 01:28 PM   #20
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The other issue is their understanding of Human Nature, to wit: The cheaper, the better, and Free is best. E-books are still too easy to pirate... and they believe prospective customers still find it too easy to get a copy of a book from someone they know, or from a pirate site. They expect to lose their shirts on pirated e-books, so they see it as too much of a loss to even be worth using as a loss-leader.
I wholeheartedly agree here. The big thing they seem to be missing, though, is that if the book has any popularity there is very likely going to be an electronic version of it out there whether they release one for sale or not. If someone really wants the ebook version and the publisher refuses to make it available, there's a good chance that they will feel downloading the pirate copy is justifiable.

Most folks I've talked to about illegally downloading music have no ethical problem with it. I know very few people with the level of ethical qualms about it that I see here. I don't expect books to be much different once reading devices become as common amongst the reading public as mp3 players are amongst music lovers. Sure, some people will always download stuff illegally, but I think most will buy the official copy if it's cheap and easy enough. Getting some money is better than getting no money.

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Old 12-08-2008, 01:32 PM   #21
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Steve Jordan - even though as I understand it you are in the business, what you are saying cannot possibly be true. Most books these days are retailed by giant chain stores, either book specialists such as Borders, or general merchandisers like Costco and Walmart. They are more powerful than the publishers, who cannot dictate to them. Further, they get to force the publisher to repurchase the unsold copies of books.

So actually selling to retail is very high stakes and uncertain for the publishers because they cannot know for sure how many paper copies will sell, and it is quite expensive to distribute a paper copy that winds up not getting sold.

Also, although the costs of producing the books may not be great, the retailers take a huge percentage of the final price to pay the bricks and mortar cost of selling: the sales staff, the rent, the utilities, insurance, profit, etc. Most of this retail cost can be avoided through electronic distribution.

Because the incremental cost of selling electronically is near zero, it should be a no-brainer to push e-sales over paper sales, especially paper sales from regular stores. The only explanation that I have heard as to why publishers seem to be avoiding electronic sales is the fear of piracy.
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Old 12-08-2008, 02:02 PM   #22
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Because the incremental cost of selling electronically is near zero, it should be a no-brainer to push e-sales over paper sales
Did you use No Brainer and publisher in the same sentence

Seriously, I think its more a question of Fear then anything else.

They know that the current Status Quo is not helping them but they still cling to it as a matter of familiarity. I.e. Better the Devil you Know Mentality.

Another Problem appers to be that the people making the decisions have a very romanticised view of Paper books, and cannot believe that anyone would by choice not share their passion for them. To them its an either or Decision, and they are firmly in the Paper camp.

There is also a perception, at least among some publishers that eBooks are a "lesser form" , and anyone who is gauche enough to get them deserves what they get. There was a guest post on Teleread (Which I can't find right now) a couple of months ago by someone who works in Publishing, who mentione some (Not all) of these sentiments.
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Old 12-08-2008, 02:17 PM   #23
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And there are more at Fictionwise today...I saw elsewhere that <em>some</em> of the HarperCollins books have been "corrected" on Books On Board, but I'm wondering if that's a below-cost choice they're making, too. The first couple of these I checked there are still listing at the higher price.

Many of these seem like re-releases of backlists, although not all are:

Kristine Smith : Contact Imminent e=$14.99, p=$6.99
Kristine Smith : Endgame e=$14.99, p=$7.99
Kristine Smith : Law of Survival e=$14.99 (b&n not listing as available in print new)
Kristine Smith : Rules of Conflict e=$14.99 (b&n not listing as available in print new)
Kristine Smith : Code of Conduct e=$14.99, p=$6.99
Robert W Walker : City for Ransom e=$14.99, p=$6.99
Robert W Walker : City of the Absent e=$14.99, p=$7.99
Robert W Walker : Shadows in the White City e=$14.99, p=$6.99
Laura Durham : For Better or Hearse e=$14.99, p=$6.99
Kayla Perrin : Gimme an O! e=$14.99, p=$6.99
Kayla Perrin : Say You Need Me e=$14.99, p=$6.50
Suzanne Enoch : By Love Undone e=$14.99, p=$6.99
Patti Berg : I'm No Angel e=$14.99, p=$6.99
Patti Berg : Wife for a Day e=$14.99, p=$6.99
Patti Berg : Stuck on You e=$14.99, (b&n not listing as available in print new)
Sunny : Mona Lisa Blossoming e=$14.00, p=$6.99
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Old 12-08-2008, 02:42 PM   #24
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Steve Jordan - even though as I understand it you are in the business, what you are saying cannot possibly be true. Most books these days are retailed by giant chain stores, either book specialists such as Borders, or general merchandisers like Costco and Walmart. They are more powerful than the publishers, who cannot dictate to them. Further, they get to force the publisher to repurchase the unsold copies of books.

So actually selling to retail is very high stakes and uncertain for the publishers because they cannot know for sure how many paper copies will sell, and it is quite expensive to distribute a paper copy that winds up not getting sold.
If you check, the first thing you'll discover is that the Big Box stores like Walmart, etc, sell very few books in comparison to what's out there... they only sell the best-sellers, which is a small percentage of the available catalogs. They probably get a good volume price for those books... but I doubt their buy-back is much better than it is at the booksellers like Borders. That means there is still a lot of waste, the publishers still make their desired profit, and the Big Box stores are making a profit, so they just absorb the loss.

The booksellers like Borders are really at the mercy of the publishers, not the other way around. The big pubs control what books the booksellers get, at what price, how much they will buy back, and for how much. If the bookstores gripe, they get fewer books to sell, or lesser-popularity books... that keeps them in line. And the fact that the big stores generally refuse to even consider books outside of their contracted publishers, even when they believe there is at least a local market for them, shows how much they are in the publishers' pockets (aka locked into their contracts).

The publishers also control the distribution of e-books, deciding what is e-published and what is held back. They establish contracted control over e-book prices, DRM, etc, as they see fit... not as e-book sellers or customers demand. Amazon and Sony and every other e-bookseller are in no position to tell the publishers what books to release as e-books... they can only accept the books the publishers release to them.

There is no doubt, the pubs are at the top of the pile, dictating what trickles down to everyone else.
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Old 12-08-2008, 02:46 PM   #25
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If someone really wants the ebook version and the publisher refuses to make it available, there's a good chance that they will feel downloading the pirate copy is justifiable.
People in general seem to be able to justify anything that saves them money, or gets them what they want. Sad, but true.

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Most folks I've talked to about illegally downloading music have no ethical problem with it. I know very few people with the level of ethical qualms about it that I see here. I don't expect books to be much different once reading devices become as common amongst the reading public as mp3 players are amongst music lovers. Sure, some people will always download stuff illegally, but I think most will buy the official copy if it's cheap and easy enough. Getting some money is better than getting no money.
Yes... the key is making the e-book buying process so easy and affordable that people won't bother to pirate them. Lower prices (and more extensive catalogs) are the most needed to accomplish that.
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Old 12-08-2008, 02:47 PM   #26
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Maybe the current recession, the "Black Wednesday" of last week in publishing, or the huge recent pile of returns from B&N will lead to more sanity in ebook pricing.
Hopefully we'll see more sanity in all kinds of products and markets...
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Old 12-08-2008, 06:41 PM   #27
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People in general seem to be able to justify anything that saves them money, or gets them what they want. Sad, but true.
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Yes... the key is making the e-book buying process so easy and affordable that people won't bother to pirate them. Lower prices (and more extensive catalogs) are the most needed to accomplish that.
This sums up what I was getting at.

People can justify anything. One of the biggest justifications I hear about is the fact that people feel ripped off. As I mentioned earlier, here in Australia we pay around $120 for a PS3 game. It's ridiculous and overseas it is much much cheaper. Therefore many people feel as if the producers, retailers, et all are taking advantage and ripping them off. Hence people who would generally not resort to piracy feel justified in doing so.

Most people I know, talk to, read about, etc have no problem paying a fair price for a good quality product. As such, it seems to me, they would be fine with buying ebooks if the price could be justified. At present, paying the same(or sometimes even more) for an ebook can't be justified.

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Old 12-09-2008, 01:30 AM   #28
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The booksellers like Borders are really at the mercy of the publishers, not the other way around. The big pubs control what books the booksellers get, at what price, how much they will buy back, and for how much. If the bookstores gripe, they get fewer books to sell, or lesser-popularity books... that keeps them in line. And the fact that the big stores generally refuse to even consider books outside of their contracted publishers, even when they believe there is at least a local market for them, shows how much they are in the publishers' pockets (aka locked into their contracts)...

There is no doubt, the pubs are at the top of the pile, dictating what trickles down to everyone else.
I have to disagree, Steve. I don't think the publishers are anywhere near to being this much in control. They might make special deals on bestsellers, but in general, I don't think the publishers dictate at all what the stores carry, or how much, or what the returns will be. They might like to, but I just don't see them having that kind of power.

There's an assumption floating around here that publishers are afraid of ebooks because of fear of piracy, and that maybe they even want ebooks to fail. There's also an assumption that producing ebooks is an inconsequential cost to publishers. Neither assumption holds any water, in my opinion.

Sure, there might be some fear of the unknown. But mostly I suspect it's fear of investing a lot of money in something that won't pay returns. That's starting to change. But don't fool yourselves into thinking that it's a simple matter to gear up for selling ebooks. It requires setting up new production processes, working out sales and distribution, and in general a lot of things behind the scenes that may not be obvious to the reader. Many publishers are in a financial retrenchment mode already, and they're not going to throw a lot of money at a problem like this. So they're taking it slow.

We all wish they'd take it faster, sure. But keep in mind that the ereading audience is still a small percentage of the total reading public.

As for high pricing--I hate it, too. But I suspect it's mainly analogous to not wanting to bring out a mass market paperback until a hardcover edition has had its run, not some nefarious effort to hold back ebook sales.
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Old 12-09-2008, 05:15 AM   #29
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I suspect it's fear of investing a lot of money in something that won't pay returns. I suspect it's mainly analogous to not wanting to bring out a mass market paperback until a hardcover edition has had its run
I think many publishers are holding back from ebooks for that reason, but it doesn't explain the ones who have already made that investment pricing their books at silly levels. Likewise the hardback run argument doesn't hold when the ebook price stays high after the paperback hits the discount stores. That just says that insofar as they've thought about it at all, publishers think ebook readers are rich dummies. The supply of which is being chiselled away at every day.

I'm quite keen to see someone do an Amazon-style ebookstore, and I don't particularly care if it is Amazon that does it. But the whole one stop shop is attractive to me, partly because I think they'd have the leverage to explain to recalcitrant authors or the estates therof that they will put their ebooks up just the same as everyone else, there will be no special restrictions just because the author is special. I mean that as in "special needs".

What amazes me is science fictyion authors who otherwise seem quite reasonable but who can't understand that the market they sell into is changed and they need to change their behaviour to match it. Sulking and stamping their feet just means not selling as many books. I suspect that more than half the books I've read have returned nothing to the author (or publisher) because I've bought them second hand.

Which brings me to one strong argument for cheaper pricing: currently it's not legal to sell an ebook second hand. Or pass it on to a friend once I've read it. I have a few friends that I regularly exchange books with, and with certain authors we will split the cost of the latest hardback as soon as it hits the shelves, then a few weeks later donate it to a library (once we've all read it). So we pay about $US7 each for a hot off the press hardback. Or, if we each buy the ebook (assuming it's released at the same time), we pay $US25 or more... because we are idiots, I mean, "law-abiding citizens".
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Old 12-09-2008, 08:36 AM   #30
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I have to disagree, Steve. I don't think the publishers are anywhere near to being this much in control. They might make special deals on bestsellers, but in general, I don't think the publishers dictate at all what the stores carry, or how much, or what the returns will be. They might like to, but I just don't see them having that kind of power.
Jeffrey, your being "on the inside" of the publisher's world, and my being "on the outside," I defer to your opinion of the situation... it is clearly better informed than mine. I suppose my opinion comes from the outsider's perspective of how things seem to work to us... a sign that maybe a bit more transparency with regards to publishing is on order, to make the consumer understand the overall situation better.

I will point out that the impression I get from bookstores is that, yes, publishers have that power over them. They certainly seem to have no control over inventories, special orders, etc, that they will admit to. So, who's fooling who?

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Sure, there might be some fear of the unknown. But mostly I suspect it's fear of investing a lot of money in something that won't pay returns.
Agreed here, too. And yes, I also believe the publishers want to make a change, and are simply proceeding at a glacial pace due to uncertainty and tight budgets.

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As for high pricing--I hate it, too. But I suspect it's mainly analogous to not wanting to bring out a mass market paperback until a hardcover edition has had its run, not some nefarious effort to hold back ebook sales.
The only thing this doesn't explain is why an e-book would be released after a HB, and after a MMPB, yet have a higher price than either.

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