There is a pretty interesting look at the CEO of Barnes & Noble this week in the NY Times. It shows how much of a David and Goliath fight B&N is in for, with 1% of the valuation of Amazon who they are trying to compete with.
I have very mixed feelings about Amazon, and continue to have mixed feelings about my kindle, and the closed nature of the device. But I’m becoming less and less a fan of the book publishers. They seem to just be missing the point that their old pricing model, and scarcity model, doesn’t work any more.
Their insistence on pricing control dramatically makes me buy less ebooks. An unlendable ebook has an intrinsic value of $5 or less to me. They are priced typically at 3 times that, which has made me a frequent buyer of used hardcover from … Amazon, where no one other than Amazon is making any money on it.
If ebooks came without DRM, so I was sure I’d still be able to reread it in 4 decades, or could lend my mom & dad the book once I was done with it, then the current $10 – $15 range would be something I’d be fine with. Though I expect I’d still purchase more dollars worth of books over all if they were priced closer to $5.
And then, there is the scarcity issue. Richard Wiseman, an established author, couldn’t get his book Paranormality published by any of the american publishers because it says ghosts aren’t real. American publishers are so focused on cranking out supernatural to their readers, that they block out anything that calls that into question. Failing to get an american traditional publisher, he self published on Amazon and Apple in ebook form.
All of which makes the book publishers look, feel, smell, a lot like other big media, and completely out of touch with what their paying audience is interested in.
While shopping on Amazon for some red filters for Astronomy proofing things I came across this:
Who knew there was enough DIY around this to make it a bundle at Amazon.
Oh Amazon, thanks for letting me know there are lots of geeks at home that watched too many episodes of mythbusters. I really wonder how many emergency room visits this led to. I’m sure the stories all start with “it seemed like a good idea at the time…”
If you don’t know why this is both amusing, and dangerous, read more about it here. (find courtesy of my friend Mike)
I really love my Kindle, and I’m happy I bought it. I haven’t completely given up on real books though. One of the reasons why is evident below:
This is not a new book, it’s a year and a half old. The Kindle price is higher than a brand new hardcover. This isn’t actually Amazon’s fault, the price here was set by the publisher. If Amazon had it’s druthers all these ebooks would be $9.99 or less (and they were until they lost that fight with publishers).
I’ll probably read this book, but I won’t buy it for the kindle. I’ll either get this from the Library or buy a used hardcover which I can then give to my parents as reading material. No incremental revenue to publishers, no additional sales.
I broke down and bought myself a Kindle this past week. I will say that I am definitely in like with the device, but not really in love with it yet. The major reason for that is because in the kindle I can see so much more potential, which Amazon clearly has no interest in. Sadly, their main competitor, the Nook, has fully abandoned e-ink for the glossy shiney promiss of interactive CD-ROM… oh, sorry, wrong decade. I think they are now calling it interactive magazines.
E-ink is beautiful. Just beautiful. It is a pleasure to read, creates no eye strain, it’s paper, but better.
The missing potential is around how completely locked down development is, and looks like forever will be, on the Kindle. I recently tried to get access to the KDK to play around with astronomy code on the Kindle. E-ink represents a unique value in astronomy, because it is a dynamic screen that generates no light. I’ve got 15 lbs of books that I take to every star part (and another 15lbs I leave at home) to look up targets, facts and figures, when in the field. Replacing that with a Kindle would be amazing. Having Where Is Io run on the kindle would just kick some serious butt.
But that’s not in the cards. While this time I actually did get a response from the KDK folks, the tone was clear. They don’t want a homebrew market on the kindle, they only are going to let folks in with a product plan in place. Kindle active content is going to be extremely limited because of this, which I think is Amazon’s intent. Given that they are the ones paying for the wispernet cellular connection in every device, they’ve got some incentive to keep very tight control on what people can do. I get that, but as an open source developer, I still don’t like it.
It does sadden me, because I can see so much more potential for this device. Maybe Amazon will have a change of heart in the future. For now I’ll just have to live with this being a really great reader, and possibly play with some custom authoring myself.
I really do expect that your ebook pricing is going to be at least 50% lower than you list price for your print book. O’Reilly’s 20% lower model just doesn’t do it for me, and the fact that I can buy the dead tree copy of almost any of ora’s books at Amazon for less than the ebook directly from the publisher, makes no sense.
Why is it that I demand this price differential? Because the book is not lendable. I’ll be a good citizen and not hand around your PDF to friends, at least not if I keep a copy, because I do get that that violates the spirit of the sale. I’m actually ok with that, because I like your content and I want you to keep making it, and am happy to tell others they should buy a copy of the PDF as well. But that limitation limits the value of the book substantially.
I’m also not buying anything with DRM, period. There is no way I’m buying something that’s tied to a device that is going to go out of fashion some day. And, if I buy something electronically from you I expect that you’ll keep a copy of it for me forever. Pragmatic Programmers does quite a good job on most of these fronts.
Otherwise, I’m going to keep going to the library, like I’ve been doing. It has many of the advantages of ebooks, i.e. not taking up space in my house, and it’s 100% discounted. Plus, the Librarians are one of the few groups that are trying to ensure we have a sane copyright policy in this country.
Dear Amazon.com Customer,
As someone who has shown an interest in magazines, you might like to know about the following offer:
Serious Amazon, magazines aren’t really an interest area. Time to flag that category as something more complex and stop suggesting house keeping magazines to me.