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Here’s a funny one October 23, 2008

Posted by Marco in Future formats, Kill Em All!.
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Once upon a time there was a respected traditional book publisher who really, really got the concept of ebooks, they said. Who decided they would be the market leader in ebooks, would offer all their new titles in the various ebook formats as standard, right now.

Only… where a book was only available in hardcover, they priced their ebook equivalent to the hardcover, and only when the book came out in mass-market did they lower the price to the same as the paperback edition.

Perhaps they thought no one would notice. I don’t mean notice that they are giving every appearance of being money grabbing twerps, by the way. I mean, notice that they really, really don’t get the whole idea of ebook editions at all.

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1. Lee Harris - October 23, 2008

Perhaps they were worried about their books’ perceived sales. After all, there’s no official download chart for books, as there is for music, so perhaps they thought: if we sell it at hb price we can count it as a hb sale.

Or perhaps they were just kidding themselves, and had only a vague notion of ebooks and ebook selling.

I’ve been reading ebook for five years or so, and would never even contemplate paying a hardback price for a download of pixels. That’s just crazy talk!

2. Djibril - November 1, 2008

So you don’t just mean they priced their eBooks at a premium rate to start with and then lowered it when the paperback appeared (which would seem reasonable… you’re not paying for a better product, you’re paying to get it sooner), but you mean that they literally priced their eBooks at £17 or whatever during the period of hardback sales? That [i]is[/i] insane.

3. DLS - November 4, 2008

Sounds like the old “perceived value” defence rearing its ugly head.

The same attitude as the big film distribution companies, they won’t do freebies or reduced prices due to the danger of consumers potentially devaluing their products. An odd concept as I think many consumers, especially of books, have enough sense to see them as separate products, and have an expectation of the price to go down when the overheads are reduced. Almost everybody understands the concept of economies of scale and break even point, so it is naive to think they will sell many copies of an ebook at the same price as the dead trees version.

But, I suspect this is more a point of ensuring the maximum return from the legacy format while demonstrating they embrace new mediums, but hold it back. No difference to the business model of music and film downloads. This to me is a great shame and an opportunity missed.

4. Lee Harris - December 4, 2008

DLS – I agree.

With a few notable exceptions, when I buy a book I buy it for the words it contains, not for the packaging around it. The words themselves, therefore, have an inherent value, and I am happy to pay to enjoy them in whatever format, be it eBook, physical book, audiobook, or whatever.

The problem for me comes when I’m expected to pay £18 to download text. I have no problem in paying a slight premium to read a book sooner, but expecting me to pay the same rate as someone buying the hardback is unreasonable. There’re reasons the hardback is priced at the level it is – printing costs, distribution costs, storage costs – as these costs are removed for eBooks (or lowered, in the case of distribution) – I expect these cost savings to be passed on to me, the reader. Marketing costs and other administrative overheads should generally be included in the cost of eBooks, as well as the printed editions, in order to keep them a viable commercial proposition, of course.

As far as the mistakes some publishers are making in their eBook propositions, I agree that there is a degree of “demonstrating they embrace the new medium” while holding it back, but I think there’s also a degree of not understanding the new medium, too. That’s one area that I’m sure Angry Robot will excel.

It’s the authors’ words that create the value – everything else is just packaging…


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