I didn't think there was a problem with the print online, radio or TV version of CBC's story about the price of ebooks vs. print books. Consumers, publishers and electronic retailers (Kobo) were represented in each case.
I sympathise with the publishers this far: what they are making -- books -- have an intrinsic value. People want to read the latest thriller, or Giller prize winner, or best seller because of the content. That (identical) content has value in whatever form it makes it into the consumer's hand. So, why should they sell one version vastly cheaper than another?
Secondly, publishers must defend their distribution channels -- print retailers because those partners move a lot of books on their behalf and publishers will be worse off if those channels disappear. Mainstream publishers in the US are hurting because of the closure of Borders in 2011. Publishers have a lot to lose if they undercut their prime sales partners by making goods available online at drastically different rates than bricks and mortar stores.
But this only goes so far. Few consumers are going to accept that an electronic file is the same cost to manufacture, distribute and manage inventory as multiple print editions of hardcover, trade paper and mass market paper. And publishers have been shooting themselves in the foot for a decade "inflating" hard cover prices: that $32.95 hot off the press hard cover is simply never sold for $32.95 so let's not pretend that's the real price and real value to compare for the ebook version.
So it made sense when online retailer tried to create a "commodity" price for ebook new releases at $9.99 -- cheaper than new release hard cover to create urgency to buy the ebook edition and, in reality, not far from the heavy discounting already seen for new hard covers.
In the end, there is wisdom of both tensions: Amazon helped push ebook pricing in the right direction, and publishers have tried to reset the pricing model to support intrinsic value. As this great battle plays out, consumers have actually been the winners here: ebook readership has proven to be a huge hit -- not a gadget fad as some proclaimed. There is a huge choice in books to read and the inventory is growing dramatically. Yes, some prices have gone up but as the choice of what to buy and read grows, consumers can make their own decisions on what to buy as ebooks.
And I still maintain that, at under $150 for an ereader, a "target" consumer -- those who buy two or more books a month -- will pay for that e-reader in a year or less with the savings from ebooks over print editions.
While growing pains continue as the industry (and consumers) evolve their behaviours, the balance all remains on the plus side for those embracing ebooks.