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Old 12-11-2009, 10:26 PM   #1
DMcCunney
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The ebook windowing controversy has subtext

An interesting take on the decision by Simon and Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins to delay release of ebooks because of unhappiness with Amazon's pricing.

http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-eboo...sy-has-subtext
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Old 12-11-2009, 10:38 PM   #2
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There are two important aspects of this that will play out later. One is that what the publishers can do to Amazon today, the authors can do to the publishers tomorrow.
why wait for tomorrow?
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Old 12-11-2009, 10:50 PM   #3
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Instead of creating a window which will encourage pirating, it would make more sense to me to promptly release eBooks in the formats of the cooperative retailers, and let Amazon hang by their thumbs for four months.
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Old 12-11-2009, 11:06 PM   #4
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Besides pissing off Kindle (and other ebook reader) owners, it'll turn many to the darknet for ebooks. Withholding ebooks from Amazon hurts not only the Kindle owners but other devices running the Kindle app.

Personally, if the publishers dropped DRM I wouldn't mind paying a little more but not hardback prices unless I was legally allowed to lend or sell my ebook. In other words let me treat my ebook like a hardback then I won't mind paying more.
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Old 12-12-2009, 09:56 AM   #5
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Instead of creating a window which will encourage pirating, it would make more sense to me to promptly release eBooks in the formats of the cooperative retailers, and let Amazon hang by their thumbs for four months.
A good idea but one that won't work if the big publishers have signed contracts with Amazon similar to the contracts I have seen for smaller publishers. The contracts I have seen have a clause that says (paraphrasing) if you make something available to our competitors it must be made available to us.

I think the article may well have hit the target in terms of the rationale for the delay. It certainly makes more sense. Amazon, unlike other booksellers, is a major threat to the publishing industry because it has spread its tentacles into virtually every aspect of the industry. If Amazon continues its growth in the bookworld, those who acclaim it for low prices may well sing a different tune; the more dominant Amazon becomes, the more likely there will be an increase in pricing.
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Old 12-12-2009, 12:44 PM   #6
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Instead of creating a window which will encourage pirating, it would make more sense to me to promptly release eBooks in the formats of the cooperative retailers, and let Amazon hang by their thumbs for four months.
If I'm a publisher, I'm not going to be concerned by a window for piracy. Sure, piracy occurs, but how much of the market actively does it? And the pirates will do it anyway, regardless of when the ebook is actually released.

As for cooperative retailers, that's a questionable benefit. "Cooperative" in this context means "Will charge higher prices the publishers prefer". So what happens if the publishers do this? They may get some sales from folks who want the book now and are willing to pay a higher price. I suspect more folks will simply wait, and possibly be peeved at the other retailers for higher prices and not buy from them.

If I'm a retailer, I'm competing on price among other things, and I'll think hard about deliberately charging more than a competitor. I may do so if I'm competing with a "loss leader" on which my competition is losing money to gain traffic, but beyond that is another matter.
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Old 12-12-2009, 02:10 PM   #7
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This article is right on. Most people view this battle on a personal level. "Why are the publisher/authors denying me the option to read their books". From that perspective the. Publisher/author's actions makes no sense, however from an economic and control-- which ultimately translates to economics-- the battle makes sense. The publishers/authors make most of their money on hardback prices. EBooks are percieved to cost less and the publisheres are trying to fight that perception

Again if these comunity could band together to boycott such comany pratices we will be better of
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Old 12-12-2009, 02:27 PM   #8
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If I'm a publisher, I'm not going to be concerned by a window for piracy. Sure, piracy occurs, but how much of the market actively does it? And the pirates will do it anyway, regardless of when the ebook is actually released.
Yes, but the volume of piracy matters, and one of the major factors is the availability of a reasonably priced legal version.

If you're a publisher, you're stuck in a 90's mindset.
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Old 12-12-2009, 02:54 PM   #9
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Yes, but the volume of piracy matters, and one of the major factors is the availability of a reasonably priced legal version.
The volume of piracy does matter, but just what is the volume? We don't know, and we can't know. There's no way to measure it.

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If you're a publisher, you're stuck in a 90's mindset.
No, I'm stuck in a "How do I survive?" mindset.

Publishing has been in the doldrums for years. There are too many books chasing too few readers, unit sales are flat or down, and revenue is up (if it is) only because of price increases. Many major publishers are part of media conglomerates who want revenue and profitability publishing can't achieve. Some of the media conglomerates are unloading their book publishing operations (like Time Warner selling off Warner Books to Hachette, who now call it Grand Central Publishing). Management at major corporations are custodians of Other People's Money, with a fiduciary responsibility to invest corporate funds where they will earn the best returns. If my other businesses are films, TV, and music, publishing is out. It can't provide comparable returns. Media conglomerates acquired publishers in the first place thinking having all forms of content under the same roof made sense, but rapidly discovered the expected synergies were elusive, and are rethinking the business model.

Yes, availability of a reasonably priced legal edition is a factor. But the first question is "What is reasonably priced?" Publishers expecting consumers to shell out hardcover prices for an electronic edition are living in a dream world. The question is what price the consumer will pay, and everyone is reading the tea leaves trying to determine that.

My personal belief is that the market will pay for value, and to succeed, you must provide value, at a price the customer is willing to pay, and make it as easy as possible for the customer to give you money. If I'm a publisher, I see things like DRM as illusory protections, because any DRM scheme can and will be cracked,and all I'm really doing is annoying the customer.

But we sill have the issue of what the customer is willing to pay. The sense I have is that most folks will balk at an ebook price significantly higher than the mass market paperback edition. They know the publisher's costs are lower, as there are no manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping costs for ebooks, and expect savings to be passed along.

I can see higher prices for specialty items. I don't expect to see textbooks, reference books and similar things at MMPB prices. They cost more to produce, and have a smaller market. And I can see higher prices for titles with high demand, where people will pay more to get it now rather than waiting for the cheaper paperback edition, so I might release popular titles as ebooks simultaneously with the hardcover, at a trade paperback price point, and drop the ebook price when the MMPB edition gets released.

But if the publisher holds off on ebook release, how does pirating occur? There isn't an electronic file to pirate, so pirates are reduced to scan and OCR to produce the electronic edition. I've seen some of those. I wouldn't take them free.
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Old 12-12-2009, 03:14 PM   #10
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The volume of piracy does matter, but just what is the volume? We don't know, and we can't know. There's no way to measure it.
Dennis, I believe that the Big Champagne company does indeed measure the volume of pirated music file sharing.
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Old 12-12-2009, 03:54 PM   #11
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Dennis, I believe that the Big Champagne company does indeed measure the volume of pirated music file sharing.
Ah, yes. Big Champagne. See http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.10/fileshare.html

Meanwhile, I'm unaware of any such efforts to track ebook sharing, but as ebooks grow in popularity, it might occur..
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Old 12-12-2009, 04:18 PM   #12
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The volume of piracy does matter, but just what is the volume? We don't know, and we can't know. There's no way to measure it.
Of course there is, bar usenet. Get an account on the common ebook trackers (and most have public domain sections so you can maintain an account without breaking the law), and check the numbers.

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No, I'm stuck in a "How do I survive?" mindset.
*points at Baen*

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But if the publisher holds off on ebook release, how does pirating occur? There isn't an electronic file to pirate, so pirates are reduced to scan and OCR to produce the electronic edition. I've seen some of those. I wouldn't take them free.
In many cases, even with PD works converted that way, the quality is higher thanks to the time people put into them than the "official" ebooks, IME. (And I don't mind admitting I've gone to the darknet twice when the official ebook was completely unreadable)
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Old 12-12-2009, 04:42 PM   #13
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Of course there is, bar usenet. Get an account on the common ebook trackers (and most have public domain sections so you can maintain an account without breaking the law), and check the numbers.
Easy enough for things like Grokster, but less easy for torrents which may use private trackers, and you can't really bar Usenet.

I would not consider such numbers reliable, without knowing far more about where they came from and how they were collected.

And even with those numbers, there's still a crucial missing piece. They just tell me something has been downloaded. They don't tell me it's been read instead of purchasing a legitimate copy. And when I see things like torrents for 17,000 books, I simply don't believe the downloader will read even a small fraction of them. I've heard too many stories of folks who don't even know what all they have from stuff like that.

Mere downloads are meaningless. Download and read instead of buy is not, but that's far harder to track.

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*points at Baen*
So do I, but Baen's model may not work for all publishers.

And while I can't prove it, I suspect that Baen doesn't have the issue of ebook sales cutting into hardcover sales. Lots of folks who want to read it now happily buy an ARC ebook edition, but I suspect they also buy the hardcover when released. I suspect I'm not the only one who considers ebooks an additional format, and not a replacement for paper books.

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In many cases, even with PD works converted that way, the quality is higher thanks to the time people put into them than the "official" ebooks, IME. (And I don't mind admitting I've gone to the darknet twice when the official ebook was completely unreadable)
Oh, I concur. I've seen enough horror stories about things like Kindle editions, and they aren't the only problems. Even publishers who want to publish electronic editions are still learning how to do it right.

And I've gone to the darknet for a couple of things that have never had a legitimate ebook edition. I have the paper versions in hardcover, but the authors/author's estates never licensed an electronic copy. I'd happily buy one if it existed.
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Old 12-12-2009, 09:15 PM   #14
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Easy enough for things like Grokster, but less easy for torrents which may use private trackers, and you can't really bar Usenet.
I was talking specifically about maintaining accounts on the private trackers, and you cannot track volumes on usenet. And, um, Grokster? Sorry, you're quite litterally years behind the status-quo if you think that's still even remotely relevant today - it entirely died four years ago, and was surpassed well before then.

You can know that it's instead of a legal copy when no legal copy exists.
There are a small number of horders, but they're basically insignificant except insofar as they seed everything.

It's really not that hard!


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And while I can't prove it, I suspect that Baen doesn't have the issue of ebook sales cutting into hardcover sales. Lots of folks who want to read it now happily buy an ARC ebook edition, but I suspect they also buy the hardcover when released.
I don't believe so from the statements Baen have made over the years. But if they replace hardback sales at 1:1, so what? The money involved is higher for Baen and the author for eARC's than a hardback (and it's months earlier)! I for one tend to wait and pick up the final ebook later rather than *any* paper version.

And why, precisely, wouldn't their model work for any fiction publisher? Oh, some academic press publishers and so on might find it dosn't work, but they'd be better looking at offering a service rather than a fixed book in the first place.
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Old 12-12-2009, 09:22 PM   #15
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An interesting take on the decision by Simon and Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins to delay release of ebooks because of unhappiness with Amazon's pricing.

http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-eboo...sy-has-subtext
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We're not all attached to Amazon; why should we all suffer this totally unjustifiable delay?
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