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Old 04-21-2009, 03:44 AM   #1
snipenekkid
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Ebooks should be priced in line with Used Books

Bear with me a bit on this one. But for every paperback or hardback sold the retail market gets ONE sale back. Then the book lives on, being resold perhaps 100s of times in it's lifetime. The publisher and new retailer receives none of this, nor should they.

OK, so now with situations with DRM and devices like the Kindle we really are not buying a book anymore. We purchase a license to read the book (just accept that for now, not debating the validity but rather that is the way the market wants us all to think.) OK, if ebooks were competitively priced from day one with the prices in used book stores, mostly just fiction titles because, really, that is what most of us read. But priced in line with that market I for one would probably never buy a used book again.

I know this sounds like another ebooks are too expensive thread, but really it is and then it really is not. Currently publishers get only a portion of that first sale. Well, by pricing in line with current used pricing models, or at least in the ballpark, odds are they will get a fair portion of the used book buyer market too if the titles are easy to buy, are priced along the same lines. I would probably not even mind DRM if all ebooks were in that $2-$5 range. Well, as long as I was not limited as to what specific reading device I had to use for the books.

Just using some WAG, I bet retail book sales would eventually at least 2x in the first few years and who knows after that as the used book stores are driven out of business by the lower cost, easier to buy, crisp & clean new ebooks sales.

I use Baen for most of my content as well as the free sites. I also support Indie & quasi-indie authors I have stumbled across here and other places...may of whom are regular posters here. I think they get the whole point and see the advantage of a lower unit price driving a higher sales volume.

Publishers have been gnashing their teeth over used book stores for ages and here they have a true shot at recovering sales lost to those stores and for some reason they are not willing to take that shot. Hey if you don't bet, you can't win, right? I just feel the publishers hold all the cards with the growth of ebooks, finally. And yes, there will always be dead tree books sold used or otherwise, it just seems the time is now to aggressively pursue the market.

Even if they let etailers of ebooks do the 4 for 3 thing like Amazon does on some titles, that is a big step in the correct direction. Fictionwise is close too with their 100% micropay rebates. BTW, hats off to FW for figuring a way around the price fixing by publishers using what amounts to a customer loyalty program to reduce the effective price of books in the same way people currently use a used book store when trading in books for credit.

I know this was not expressed as I see it in my head but I think the idea is there.

Last edited by snipenekkid; 04-21-2009 at 03:47 AM.
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Old 04-21-2009, 03:53 AM   #2
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Could you provide any evidence to support your claim that the typical book gets re-sold "hundreds" of times during its lifetime? I very seriously doubt the truth of this assertion.
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Old 04-21-2009, 04:03 AM   #3
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of course you DOUBT something Harry...that is all you ever do around here, you demand proof of anything and post the contrary excessively. People don't need to prove anything to you, learn it yourself.

But for your obvious lack of knowledge in the business of buying and selling of goods, specifically books, I'll provide an example. I can walk into any used book store here in my mud puddle of a town and find 100s of used PB's 30-40yrs old (or older) and they show it too. Are you proposing those have only been through the mill a few times? Common sense would imply otherwise.
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Old 04-21-2009, 04:32 AM   #4
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I know this has been studied but any current number is hidden inside for-pay industry reports. I know textbooks typically get resold 5-7 times over their life; I assume other books aren't resold nearly as often. I'm tempted to say that an average book is probably only resold 2-3 times but that's just my guess. (Most readers I know never resell their books, so if they pick something up at a used bookstore chances are it's not going back into one until they die...)

But it's not fair to say that the industry uses DRM to try to kill the used market and get a piece of the pie. That's just not their primary motivation. They've lived with used books for years and they know how to make money with pbooks anyway. Ebooks are a way to make more money, yes, but ebooks are so new and so small that the opportunities for resale have so far been miniscule. So they aren't exactly raking in the dough from people who can't buy a used ebook copy of The Dresden Files.

Ebook prices are high primarily because of supply and demand and the nature of the market. The number of ebook owners out there is still very low. Most of those that are are cutting edge early adopters of technology. They've also paid a lot of money for their ebook reader. And the total selection of ebooks is still limited. So you have a highly motivated customer with a lot of disposable income looking for goods in a market where the supply is still low. Result? Producers of supply can charge a high price, and get away with it.

Once they've gotten all the folks willing to pay $15 for an ebook, then they'll move down to $12, to $10, to $5, etc. Once more grandmas have ebook readers they'll sell more books at a price grandma can afford. The Kindle has been a great step in this direction, and the growing integration of portable computing into our daily lives over the past decade cannot be overlooked. But ebooks are not quite mainstream yet. As they become mainstream you'll see prices fall!
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Old 04-21-2009, 04:41 AM   #5
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OK, so maybe hundreds of times is a bit of an exaggeration, but I think Skipenekkid makes some excellent points.

Selling an e-book has to be one of the best business models, since once the book is created, every sale is almost pure profit (i.e. there is no direct cost associated with each unit sold). With a paper book, there is a large cost (and no I can’t quantify this) required to print, warehouse, and ship the product. I would be much happier to have far higher sales volumes with a much lower price.

Dave.
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Old 04-21-2009, 05:05 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snipenekkid View Post
of course you DOUBT something Harry...that is all you ever do around here, you demand proof of anything and post the contrary excessively. People don't need to prove anything to you, learn it yourself.
If you make ludicrous claims, you must expect that people will question them. Please don't be impolite.

Quote:
But for your obvious lack of knowledge in the business of buying and selling of goods, specifically books, I'll provide an example. I can walk into any used book store here in my mud puddle of a town and find 100s of used PB's 30-40yrs old (or older) and they show it too. Are you proposing those have only been through the mill a few times? Common sense would imply otherwise.
I very much doubt that the average paperback is sold more than once or twice in its lifetime. The fact that it's 30 years old is immaterial - it's probably been sitting on someone's bookshelf for 29 years. This is easy to check: 2nd hand book stores generally write the price on the inside cover of the book, or on the title page. If your claim that a 30 year old book has been sold "hundreds" of times is correct, there will be, at a minimum, dozens of different prices written. Is that what you see? I have never seen such a thing myself. One typically sees a couple of old prices at most.

Many of the publishers' expenses for a pBook still exist for an eBook. I very much doubt that it is possible to profitably sell an eBook for $2. If you go to $5 - there are already lots of eBooks sold in that price range; look at Baen or Fictionwise.
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Old 04-21-2009, 05:48 AM   #7
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@snipenekkid: If you want to be believed without any questions you should do one of two things:

1. prove your assumptions
2. make a monologue

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Old 04-21-2009, 06:50 AM   #8
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Perhaps someone would care to pop into a used book store and ask a friendly bookseller if they think some of the books they sell come back into the store more than a few times? I'd do it myself, but nobody speaks English around here(!)

Or perhaps there's some friendly booksellers who could provide some info on this basis? I ask mainly because rather than going back and forth whether it's true or not, let's find out if it is, based on at least some direct experience. I can imagine that in a 'small mud puddle of a town', some second-hand books might indeed be sold several times to different people for lack of a well-stocked library or a box-store bookseller within easy reach.

In my home town of Glasgow (no, not the place where nobody speaks English, though it could be argued), there are a *lot* of charity shops selling 2nd-hand books, and indeed these have cards mounted on their shelves encouraging you to return the book once it's been read so they can resell it yet again and generate more income for the charities they represent.

May I take this opportunity to posit another reason why ebook prices so often still remain high? It occurs to me that by selling an ebook, a publisher loses the opportunity to sell you that book again - in twenty years time, when they reprint it, and your original copy is starting to fall apart. Digital copies don't crumble, and can be copied onto different backup mediums indefinitely; therefore once that book is sold to you, it is likely sold only that once.
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Old 04-21-2009, 07:43 AM   #9
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Many of the publishers' expenses for a pBook still exist for an eBook.
This is true, but what about the expenses related to producing 1,000 copies of a pBook against the expenses of producing 1,000 copies of an eBook? 10,000 copies? (Just throwing out random numbers.) With pBooks, it's easy to come up with a price per unit. Would it work the same way for eBooks? I wonder how many copies of a $5 eBook would have to be sold to recoup production expense.
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Old 04-21-2009, 07:48 AM   #10
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I know for me personally, the single biggest thing keeping me from getting an ereader is that I cannot justify paying the same for an ebook, or more, than I can for that same book used. At current ebook prices it is just not justifiable to me. And while there are many free books available, most are oldies that bore me to tears. I can't relate to the societies of the classics so they are meaningless to me. I don't care how great they once were.

I want current books at used prices like the original poster suggested. Otherwise I feel like I am paying $300 + the price of the book for EVERY book I read.
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Old 04-21-2009, 07:58 AM   #11
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OK, so maybe hundreds of times is a bit of an exaggeration, but I think Skipenekkid makes some excellent points.
There was a number mentioned a while back about how many other people a publisher counts on reading a sold book. I think it was 10 but I might not remember this correctly.
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Old 04-21-2009, 10:49 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT;
Could you provide any evidence to support your claim that the typical book gets re-sold "hundreds" of times during its lifetime? I very seriously doubt the truth of this assertion.
To buy new English language books here in Spain often means paying the cover price again for postage.

I don't know about "hundreds" but near where I live there has been a very successful second hand book shop for over 20 years.

This shop typically marks their 2nd hand paper backs at the equivalent of $7/$10 (double this for large format & hback) of which they will credit you half on return.

They say the books return many, many times before they become unreadable. so in effect this is just a very expensive library where the author and publisher get nothing other than the first sale.

I personally would prefer to buy ebooks to keep where they are priced similarly at $3-$5 as I guess many would.
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Old 04-21-2009, 11:37 AM   #13
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Oh no, here we go again. Same old posts. Never anything new.

Reminder from previous discussions: Ebooks cost money. They are worth more than the pitifully low $10 bucks we pay for them. If that is too much $$$, then be satisfied with the multitude of free downloads. Didn't we do this whole thing last month, and the month before, and so on?




I'm in an achy grumpy mood today.
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Old 04-21-2009, 04:21 PM   #14
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eBooks are priced for what the market will bear (basic economics). If folks are willing to pay the price (and many are - me included), stores will continue selling at that price point until demand subsides, at which time, prices will fall.

The LotR ebooks are an excellent example where many folks bought the ebooks even if they may have had the pbooks or pirated ebook copies. I doubt many were thinking about the benefits to the publisher but how it benefited them for having the ebook.

My motivation for buying an ebook is not for how it benefits the publisher but how it benefits me. (convenience, size, permanency, instant gratification, etc.)

Of course I would like $2 ebooks but we all have the option to also speak with our wallets. If there's no demand, they'll either be lower prices or the ebook will not be offered. If the model doesn't benefit you, then don't buy the ebook.

I will speculate that the folks who complain about the prices for ebooks are also the folks that aren't necessarily early adopters for anything "new" (tech/gadgets where the prices are generally higher early on) or may generally be frugal in their everyday lives and that's perfectly OK. Perhaps those folks were the ones to finally buy a DVD player when VHS movies stopped being offered anymore. Let's face it. Ebook readers aren't cheap today and may largely be reserved for those with the ability and disposable income to purchase one. eBooks are likely priced in line with that. I'm not looking to offend but it's just my speculation.
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Old 04-21-2009, 04:51 PM   #15
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I think part of the issue is, what are ebooks competing with? Returning to the Lord of the Rings example.....are they competing with the used copies you can find in any used bookstore for just a couple of dollars (or even in the quarter bin - there's a LOT of copies of LoTR out there)? Or are they competing with the hardbacks and special editions that evidently still sell well enough to keep them in print?

At the moment, they're priced to compete with the hardbacks. I'd assume they'll follow a similar path - a year from now I suspect we'll see the 'paperback' (at least pricewise) get released.
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