If the e-book stores had framed their business as a super digital lending library (with prices to match) I might be an avid customer by now. Instead, by saying I am buying the book, and charging prices that are a delta on the cover price rather than a delta on the cost of a lending library, they draw my attention increasingly to all the things I can’t do – lend, share, resell, bequeath – and I usually order the paper version. Perhaps it’s time for some reframing? Maybe for app stores too?
Simon is in much the same mindset I am here, and it really makes me wonder how much money the publishers are leaving on the table because they don’t understand that ebooks are to books as radio is to records, at least as implemented.
Time to make these things actually property, so I can lend, resell, and donate. Or change the pricing to rental pricing.
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.
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 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.