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Old 01-08-2009, 06:40 PM   #46
Elfwreck
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Side note: One area where I might agree with the cynical view is in textbooks. Clearly an area where ebooks could be of enormous benefit to the user, the student. But my brother is a textbook author, and he says his publisher simply doesn't know what to do about it, and they are, indeed, running scared.
This is one of the few areas where licensing might work--being able to sell 2nd edition (or 3rd, 4th, or whatever) to people who already have the first edition, at a reduced price, the way many software vendors sell 3.0 at half-price to registered users of 2.0.

College students probably only want a textbook once--but professors would pay for the upgrades, and so would professionals in the relevant field. And they could sell new editions at full price (whatever that is) to students, and upgrades to the pros, who might otherwise stick with the older edition of their ebook.

But overall, all publishing companies are going to need to deal with the ebook markets. They'll have to decide whether to branch into the new area, or license it out, or try to avoid it and watch their book sales drop in comparison to those that cater to customers who want ebooks.
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Old 01-08-2009, 07:45 PM   #47
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There's way too much "Hollywood Pricing" in the mass book industry. What do I mean by that? Here's an example from the book The Whole Equation. Creative head of a studio developes serious health problems in the early 1930's. His doctor tells him to take 6 months off or get fitted for a pine box.
So he does. But he loves his job, so as he's loafing on the French Riveria, he can't help but think about various picture projects in various states. He thinks about 50 pictures in six month, and calculates he's spent $50,000 worth of time thinking about them. How does he bill the time among the pictures? Simple. He bills $50,000 to each picture! That's "Hollywood Pricing"!

And so with p-books/e-books. Here are the general costs for a book.

Manuscript acquisition - (One price - all forms nowadays)
Editing cost to polish manuscript - (One price - all forms)
Typesetting/galley costs - (P-book only, once per edition)
Polished manuscript to e-book format (e-book only, once per format)
Printing and distribution costs (p-book only)
Server costs (e-book only)
DRM costs (e-book only, optional)
Marketing (p-book and e-book, verious amounts per type)

Let's assume a 4 tiered progress. HC first, pays for manuscript acquistion and editing. Second, Trade PB - pays on any residium from HC. Third - MMPB, editing paid for, but manuscript still costs. Each P-book has own typesetting/printing/returns cost. Finally, e-book, manuscript costs plus e-book only costs. All 4 have various marketing costs.

So why is everybody screaming about editing costs of e-books? It's already been paid for upstream! E-book is not the lead format, no more so than the broadcast showing of a blockbuster movie its premier! The only editing cost of an e-book should be for scanning the p-book, and proofing it to precisely the same as the p-book. That's all folks. If the author feels he needs to rewrite some passage(s), give the scanned/proofed copy and tell him to return it in the same format.

Now this is for fiction books. Reference books are a whole 'nother kettle of fish (i.e. much more expensive to scan and proof.) I, personally, have scanned and proofed several books for PG Austrailia, and completed the task in under 40 hours for a 300 page book. And that's for free! (And frankly, I did a better job that half the commercial e-books I've bought.) But if I were getting paid $50 an hour, that's still less than $2000 per book. For a scan that will last forever. Shucks, you could probably get a fan to do it for free. (But the "Hollywood Pricing" is busy spending a $2.5 million advance for a first book from a comedian (that hasn't even been written it yet), because it's gonna be a "Blockbuster", and whine about e-book piracy! <Shrug>)
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Old 01-08-2009, 10:49 PM   #48
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This is one of the few areas where licensing might work--being able to sell 2nd edition (or 3rd, 4th, or whatever) to people who already have the first edition, at a reduced price, the way many software vendors sell 3.0 at half-price to registered users of 2.0.
Upgrades/updates. What a tremendous idea. It could even open up new markets.

- Technical books: The buyer for Java for Dummies 2008, who would rarely repurchase the full-price 2009 edition, would probably pay $1-$2 for the 2009 update merged into his full eBook.
- Different language: for those who think they might want to learn a language. There could be an option to merge the two books paragraph by paragraph.
- Biography: e.g., a sports bio about a current player, where a couple of years more of playing might warrant an upgrade. (Although society doesn't need the many biographical upgrades warranted by the varied exploits of O.J. Simpson.)

Fiction writers would probably find ways to cash in via updates. (Gah, we'd need to read Amazon reviews for the original and all subsequent updates!)

And publishing bigwigs might be less paranoid about offering upgrades once they knew only the updated information was being sent out (a PC-based book-merge program would be easy to implement).

And the merge could be turned on or off, or the updated info presented in a different font, for those who want to see what was in the original.

Or it's a terrible idea. Consumers' wallets will be milked dry by updates and sequels. And writers will look to embellish their "milk cows" rather than being creative. Oh, they already do that?
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Old 01-09-2009, 10:11 AM   #49
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Preparing manuscript for a publishing as an e-book can be *very* quick ...

... once you have done all that intensive work needed to prepare manuscript for your in-house format for p-book publishing.
You're missing one point: Standard formatting for printed books is very different than formatting for e-books. At the moment, there is no one-click "translation" button to convert one to the other cleanly. Therefore, the publisher has no choice but to format the document twice, essentially from scratch.

Until that changes, publishers will be hesitant to commit that extra time, for so little of a return in e-book sales.
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Old 01-09-2009, 10:17 AM   #50
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Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
You're missing one point: Standard formatting for printed books is very different than formatting for e-books. At the moment, there is no one-click "translation" button to convert one to the other cleanly. Therefore, the publisher has no choice but to format the document twice, essentially from scratch.

Until that changes, publishers will be hesitant to commit that extra time, for so little of a return in e-book sales.
Interesting point.
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Old 01-09-2009, 10:22 AM   #51
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Doesn't the marketing represent the lion's share of a book's cost? I have used the price of mascara as an example. A tube of mascara is probably about fifteen cents' worth of pigments and wax, but the elaborate packaging and advertising thereof elevates its price to the range of precious metal. No matter how simple it is to develop an ebook, it's the marketing that sells it, and I don't see ebook marketing as being very different from pbook marketing.
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Old 01-09-2009, 10:43 AM   #52
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Doesn't the marketing represent the lion's share of a book's cost? I have used the price of mascara as an example.
But books don't get marketed with Madison Avenue-created TV spots, movie product placement and glossy photos featuring A-list models and starlets... generally book ads are print (sometimes in color) in lit-related magazines, an occasional end-cap poster, and in the back pages of other books. Even endorsements by other authors are largely built-in to their contracts, and likely not costing them anything extra. They simply can't be spending that much on advertisement.

Editing, production and infrastructure (storage, retail space and transportation) are all probably larger expenditures.
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Old 01-09-2009, 12:44 PM   #53
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What Steve said on everything above. Except, er...

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Even endorsements by other authors are largely built-in to their contracts
If that ever happens, it's news to me. Authors generally write endorsements (blurbs) as a favor to the other author or editor, or to help give a boost to a new writer. Never heard of it being written into a contract. The editor sends a copy of a manuscript and says, "Hey, if you have time, could you read this and send me a quote if you like it?" And the author says, "Sure," or, "Sorry, can't."
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Old 01-09-2009, 01:59 PM   #54
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You're missing one point: Standard formatting for printed books is very different than formatting for e-books. At the moment, there is no one-click "translation" button to convert one to the other cleanly. Therefore, the publisher has no choice but to format the document twice, essentially from scratch.

Until that changes, publishers will be hesitant to commit that extra time, for so little of a return in e-book sales.
I guess that might be true.

IF and only if the publisher is an anachronism mired in the nineteenth century.

Period.

In the event, however, that the publisher should turn out to be an educated business man, there is obviously the third option of having software written and hardware set up to fully automate the process. Just like one does with any other repetitive process in any other business.
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:07 PM   #55
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In the event, however, that the publisher should turn out to be an educated business man, there is obviously the third option of having software written and hardware set up to fully automate the process. Just like one does with any other repetitive process in any other business.
As Jeffrey mentioned, that may be happening, or may have already been accomplished by someone, but he is not aware of any publisher that has as yet done that.

So, I guess either some educated businessman is keeping that knowledge under their hat... or your estimation of the anachronistic tendencies of various publishing businessmen might be true...
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:10 PM   #56
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If that ever happens, it's news to me. Authors generally write endorsements (blurbs) as a favor to the other author or editor, or to help give a boost to a new writer. Never heard of it being written into a contract. The editor sends a copy of a manuscript and says, "Hey, if you have time, could you read this and send me a quote if you like it?" And the author says, "Sure," or, "Sorry, can't."
Sorry... that's what I meant, I didn't mean to imply that it was a paid part of their contract... just that it is expected that authors will be asked to comment on other books. Bad wording on my part.
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:10 PM   #57
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I guess that might be true.

IF and only if the publisher is an anachronism mired in the nineteenth century.

Period.

In the event, however, that the publisher should turn out to be an educated business man, there is obviously the third option of having software written and hardware set up to fully automate the process. Just like one does with any other repetitive process in any other business.
The number of errors I see in many of my purchased ebooks tells me that people do, in fact, automate the process. If you want a good quality ebook, you still need to have someone check it but that's not very expensive when you think of it terms of thousands of copies.
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:13 PM   #58
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But books don't get marketed with Madison Avenue-created TV spots, movie product placement and glossy photos featuring A-list models and starlets...
(Yes, I'm quoting myself...)

Hey: How would it be if A-list actors and actresses did TV and movie trailer promo spots for books, acting out characters and scenes? That might help sales!

Oh, wait... naw. I guess everybody will just sit back and wait for a movie that will never come...
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:17 PM   #59
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The number of errors I see in many of my purchased ebooks tells me that people do, in fact, automate the process. If you want a good quality ebook, you still need to have someone check it but that's not very expensive when you think of it terms of thousands of copies.
I think that's the key point: Most publishers aren't thinking of most non-bestseller e-books in terms of "thousands of copies"... they're probably thinking hundreds, perhaps only dozens of sales, lots of pirating loss, and lousy profit margins. If the e-book field is seen to be growing in potential, however, that could change.

Of course, with the changes to the economy, and to publishing, finding a new and better way to farm out such work, to make it workable even in the early days of e-book sales, would be worth their while...
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:26 PM   #60
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I think that's the key point: Most publishers aren't thinking of most non-bestseller e-books in terms of "thousands of copies"... they're probably thinking hundreds, perhaps only dozens of sales, lots of pirating loss, and lousy profit margins. If the e-book field is seen to be growing in potential, however, that could change.

Of course, with the changes to the economy, and to publishing, finding a new and better way to farm out such work, to make it workable even in the early days of e-book sales, would be worth their while...
Yep. Most new books I get are good quality. They're probably starting with a good text manuscript so errors are few. There may be a formatting glitch here or there but they're pretty good. Back catalog stuff is iffy. I've had books that were obviously OCR-ed with no checking.
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