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Author Topic: Minirant on eBook prices
Wordcaster
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Sorry --

I just had to rant a bit on eBook prices. I get it -- the cost of paper isn't all that much and most of the cost of a book goes to the editing and packaging of a book.

My complaint is that eBooks are priced near the price of a hardcover on Amazon and sometimes more than the paperback. That would be okay with me except for one key factor -- publishers are doing a very poor job of formatting the eBooks. Some don't have a table of contents, nonfiction books have images that take up only 1/3 of the screen (i.e. illegible), atypical characters do not translate properly on the screen (such as Greek letters or accented characters) and section headings are not clear and distinct like they are in the paper versions.

Anyone ever write a publisher or Amazon to return an eBook for a hardcover version? My whole reason for getting an eReader is to not collect books all over the place. If publishers are going to have the audacity to charge as much for an eBook as they do for a printed version, the same diligence in formatting should be expected.


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pidream
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If they introduced a cheap clean renewable power source tomorrow we would all sign up, right? What happens to the economies of the oil producing countries, the oil companies, the oil tankers, refineries and petrol stations and the lives of the people who depend on them? Chaos that is what happens and not to pretty a sight it would be, so donít expect it to happen anytime soon even if such a power source exists.

The same applies to eBooks. I am only guessing that publishers would love to go all digital. Why? No paper, no warehousing, no shipping costs and the best/worst of all no book stores to deal/haggle with. So the reason prices are the same or close to the same is all the mom and pop, and huge bookstore chains and the printers out there still have the clout. They do not want you to buy eBooks because if you do then bookstores like phone booths will one day all but disappear. The price of eBooks will drop but it will not happen until the demand reaches a tilting point, book readers are dirt cheap and people like me who like the way a book feels in their hands no longer see the point. I love paper books but I have too many and have given away a more than I currently have a several times over through the years.

I know someone here must know the proportion of costs that goes into the overhead of paper books that would all but disappear once eBooks take over the market. It would be nice to know how much less we might spend when that day comes and it will come.



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Meredith
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Nathan Bransford has had several posts on the cost of producing books and how little is actually the paper, etc.

Most of the cost of ebooks right now is because the publishing industry is stuck in the mud and not embracing the new technology.

Professionally ("traditionally") published e-books will probably never be as cheap as independent authors can make them (less than $5.00). That said, I can't see any viable reason that e-books should cost more than a paperback, at the most. It's just that publishers want to preserve the margin they get on hardcovers. (ie. They want you to choose the hardcover over the e-book.)

Reference last year's clash over e-book pricing between McMillan (I think it was) and Amazon. The publisher was actually pushing Apple's agency pricing model (which results in a smaller return to the publisher) because it let them keep control of the price.

They're circling the wagons against this new "threat" rather than innovating and trying to get onto the cutting edge. And, in my opinion, it's going to cost them in the long run.

Edited to put in the link.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited June 18, 2011).]


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Natej11
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Big companies do always circle the wagons instead of innovating, and it does always cost them . You'd think they'd learn, but they just keep on doing it over and over again.
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LDWriter2
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Meredith already answered part of what I was going to say. Most of the big publishers are not embracing e-books. I heard that one is pricing them upwards to keep from selling them. Some smaller one like Baen have gone along with e-books for years. They have some free ones I believe.


As to prices and being complete. I can't say about Amazon but I checked a few prices at Barnes and Noble about three months ago. The newer books seemed to be in-between the price of a hardback and a paperback. Older books were significantly cheaper. I can't say for sure but the size of the book seemed to be a factor in the price.

Other e-publishers like Smashwords sell them for less than paperback prices. Just now I found a 80,000 plus word book for $3.99. Of course more than likely they are not writers that have been around for a while but some might be. I found Dean Wesley Smith stories on Smashwords. He and a group of pros are going the e-publishing with some of their older books. Prices for them are down too. And a couple of my favorite new writers, T.A. Pratt and C.E. Murphy... I think... has some e-books out. Both have the traditional paper books plus anthologies just out in e-books formats. Not sure about the prices though but I'm just saying you can find pros on Smashwords and other type of e-publishing. So if Amazon charges too much look around. B&N has a huge assortment of free e-books.

As to how the books are formatted, with indexes and such, that might be the writer's fault more than Amazon, B&N etc. It might be a good idea if they had some basic rules. But some e-writers may not think about it or care. I hadn't really thought about it but than I don't have a book ready yet and I think I would have realized the book needed those things before I put it up. Dean's group... I forget the name... would most probably do it right, it would seem like most traditional publishers would too but e-publishing is new so mistakes can be made. I think that is what one other person here was saying.

I have no idea about returning an E-book or trading it back for a paper one. I think it would be difficult but maybe some stores have already been though that so have a policy to handle it.

So before you get too frustrated look around at other e-stores. Amazon might be blowing it with their prices. Or maybe since, in most cases, more money per book sold goes to the writer; they want to make sure they get a large hunk of the price also.


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Wordcaster
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I understand there is a transition, but I shelled out $20 for a book that if it didn't have the electronic format anomolies, would be worth the price. For $2 more, I could have bought the error-free hard cover.

I'm going to write the publisher and see what happens. Catching up to the market is no excuse for an inferior product.


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Pyre Dynasty
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I so totally agree, they need to provide a better product if they want us to pay more. Typesetting needs to be important. And it needs to be made static. (To fix the odd character's problem.) You get this with many PDF's.
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Robert Nowall
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Books don't cost much as artifacts...used to be around twenty-five cents per book, but we've got to allow a little for inflation these days, now, right? So most of what books cost is the overhead---the cost of editorial and sales staff salaries have to be made up, and, oh, yeah, the writer has to be paid, too.

So it would seem, for the publisher, e-books eliminate only that twenty-five cents...


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Wordcaster
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Prices are not set based on cost -- they are set by the market. Everyone keeps making the argument about the low cost of paper and ink, but it is completely irrelevant. But even so, my complaint is not that ebooks cost near the price of printed books, it is that the ebooks are poorly edited by the publishers and they portray them as being equivalent in quality. If a product is inferior, the market (namely, me) demands to pay less.
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mrmeadors
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I do agree that there should not, either in print or electronic books, be so many errors as I have been seeing lately. It stinks.

As to the cost being the same as a print book, or almost, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has mentioned in her business of writing series that the cost of producing an ebook is actually not that much less than printing a book. Yes, you save on paper, binding, etc, BUT you have to pay PEOPLE (which are the highest costs of all) to format the ebooks into all the different formats for NOOK and Kindle, and ibook and all that stuff. I think that was in part 4 of her business series.

Here is a link for those interested (And I really apologize, I can't for the life of me figure out that tiny url thing) http://kriswrites.com/2010/11/10/the-business-rusch-how-e-bo oks-will-save-big-publishing-changing-times-part-four/

eta: OK, I'm going to try this: KKR's business series pt. 4

[This message has been edited by mrmeadors (edited June 19, 2011).]


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LDWriter2
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As to the tiny url, there are two ways. One is to rename it, that takes longer to explain and I'm about to leave. Someone or two will explain it. but the other way is to go here http://tinyurl.com

I think the site is easy to understand.

Someone here showed me that site... sorry, I forget who... and I have come to appreciate them doing that a lot.


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KayTi
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easiest way to embed a URL into the line of text on a post here is to use the UBB commands. Like HTML, you tell the computer "here comes something I want you to do something special with"

In the embedded URL, the way to do that is use the straight brackets (they look like this [ ) then the command URL (must be capitalized!) Then an equals sign. Then paste the URL you want the user to go to. Then close that straight bracket (using the other side of it - this one ] ) Then type the "friendly text" -- the words you want to use to reference the website. After this you need to tell the computer to STOP treating this section as special stuff, so you close the URL command by using a forward slash, and the capital URL. You have to use straight brackets on either side of this command again. Got it yet?
Straight left bracket
URL
=
pasted URL text
Straight right bracket
friendly text (e.g., this website)
Straight left bracket
/
URL
Straight right bracket

Like here's My Website

I think you can also click to "edit" my post and see the commands I used to put it together.

Good luck!


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mrmeadors
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Ohh it worked! Thank you guys!! That was actually very easy...
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Brendan
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quote:
I get it -- the cost of paper isn't all that much and most of the cost of a book goes to the editing and packaging of a book.

quote:
As to the cost being the same as a print book, or almost, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has mentioned in her business of writing series that the cost of producing an ebook is actually not that much less than printing a book. Yes, you save on paper, binding, etc, BUT you have to pay PEOPLE (which are the highest costs of all) to format the ebooks into all the different formats for NOOK and Kindle, and ibook and all that stuff. I think that was in part 4 of her business series.

Careful that you don't simplify it the other way too much. There is a significant difference between the two, and more so in the USA. With any product, there are fixed costs, costs the scale and costs that decrease with scale. (There may sometimes be costs that increase with scale, but I can't think of any.) Fixed costs include the business costs, editing, art and formatting costs, gatekeeping costs. Some of these, like gatekeeping costs, scale with input (e.g. number of potential authors), not output. Costs that scale with output include printing costs, distribution costs, marketing costs, risk. An example of costs associated to risk is inventory tax, which has resulted in the practice of department stores sending back the covers of unsold books every month, meaning the books are destroyed rather than retained for sale in the next month. It would only be in very small runs that the fixed costs would outweigh the scaled costs, which is why I find the quoted statements above to be a new myth.

Some of the scaled costs can find efficiencies due to scale. It is the ability to leverage the costs that decrease with scale that advantages big publishing houses. With efficiencies in some areas, the drive to create efficiencies in other areas (such as reducing fixed costs) is not necessary.

The E-book has undermined these efficiencies by making a significant proportion of the scaled costs effectively zero. Not all, but distribution costs, printing costs and inventory risk costs are very small. This is a significant undermining of the publishers' areas of advantage. Also, new publishers that cater for the ebook can focus on reducing fixed costs, further undercutting the established publishers. This does two things - it decreases the barriers to the publishing business, opening the arena to a larger number of books (although one could argue that the inventory tax did that first) and publishing houses, and it reduces the size of each publication, potentially making the average "run" below the level of profitability. This may scare investors away from the entire industry (even though the publishers know full well that in such circumstances the target is their own profitability, not their reckless competitor brands), which has its own implications with current publishers adjusting to the new directions of the industry.

Edited to add: It should be pretty easy to edit/format an e-book if the staff are already doing the same for a normal book - it might even be done through a simple template, making the cost difference effectively zero. So adding people to do that by hand sounds like another misreading of the advantages of the new technology.

[This message has been edited by Brendan (edited June 19, 2011).]


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mrmeadors
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See, I had wondered about that as well--there are only so many formats of e-books out there... it didn't SEEM like it should cost all that much to produce different versions of the same thing. And there ARE so many other costs associated with producing and selling a physical print book. It is just so confusing, I don't think anyone knows what's going on--not even the people DOING the stuff. So I try to keep up with things the best I can. But even so.... there is information and misinformation, there are people who have agendas and people who are ignorant...it's part of being in the age of the internet, I guess.
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LDWriter2
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I don't know if this article has anything to do with your problem but I found the timing interesting.

http://tinyurl.com/3qzwacp


And I want to say something I should have mentioned already but I didn't think about it. I don't blame you for getting upset about what you got for the price. Despite what I and others have said about mistakes I would be upset under those circumstances.


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posulliv
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quote:
But even so, my complaint is not that ebooks cost near the price of printed books, it is that the ebooks are poorly edited by the publishers and they portray them as being equivalent in quality.

I'm in total agreement with you, Wordcaster. I don't mind paying for e-books if they're of equivalent quality. Insuring quality is a lot easier to do for fiction, where embedded images, a comprehensive index, and so forth aren't normally expected. It's nonfiction, and picture books, and other such books that depend on well-controlled formatting that seems poor to me.

I blame this largely on the requirement to be able to dynamically re-flow text but it's not simply that. Some of these difficulties are a function of the capabilities of the readers themselves, but others seem purely attributable to a lack of care. That's just bad business in my opinion, and one way or another the offenders will eventually pay.

I've skirted the problem by buying nonfiction in paper, and by ALWAYS checking the free sample on fiction before I buy. It's a shame that we have to do this, but in time it will work itself out one way or another.


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Wordcaster
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On a positive note:

I wrote the publisher of a book that was disappointing me. It seems the issue of the characters that failed to translate properly was a known issue and due to the formatting software of the kindle at the time, which they are planning on fixing for the next update. Other minor issues are also being worked, but the kindle does have its limitations (for example, you can't do a mouseover on footnotes).

They are sending me a pdf version of the book and will push the revised version to me when it comes out.

Now that's customer service -- my faith is once again reestored in publishers.


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Lord Darkstorm
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While I find the cost of ebooks rather steep, more for the fact that I can't loan them to a friend, or sell them to someone else as used. Yes, yes, I know used books don't make the author any money, but really, for those who don't make a lot, used book stores can provide a lot more books they normally couldn't afford.

I'd rather have any story of mine read, used or not, over not read at all.

Ebooks don't properly reflect the lack of manufacturing and shipping costs, and the fact that anyone else you recommend the book to has to buy their own copy to read it.


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LDWriter2
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Yeah, the no used books thing bothers me too. Not sure how they would do it though. You would have to transfer the whole thing to the other person which means you couldn't keep a copy. Someone might develop a method one day though. Who knows one day they could be online used e-book stores.

But I learned something when I bought me Nook. At least at B&N You can share accounts with someone-quite a few someones evidently- and that someone can read any book in your "library". You can loan a book to someone too. But the loan last only two weeks and you can't read it during that time. I think there's another way to share books but I can't recall it right now.

And evidently kindle has set up a similar method so you can "borrow" books from the library.

But I don't think must of the ones I see are that expensive. New ones at about halfway between a hardback and paperback price. Well, that might be a little expensive but still significantly better than a hardback. Older books are even less. I've seen some for $5.56 and less. I almost bought a set of fifty old stories for one dollar. That is from B&N. Smashwords have them even cheaper. Cheaper than Five anyway.


The guy who started this started this thread mentioned one for twenty dollars but I haven't seen any that high yet. Of course I've only looked at two places online.


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Tiergan
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I got my Kindle on PC, I dont know about 6 months ago, is strange it gives the ability to buy instantly, and be ready to read(Far too many impulse buys if you are not careful).

But, there is still nothing like going down to the basement and seeing the library down there of all my literary past reads. The full collection of Louis L'amour to the first addition The Virginian. My Don Pendleton (the Executioner) phase, where I collected everyone of the first 300 in the series, by going to used book stores. And nothing feels the same as a book. My kids love going to the old used remote bookstores that thrive up in New Hampshire and see what they can find.

I dont see the electronic market killing the print market anytime soon. But, I will say, it has made a bigger impact on my life and reading than I thought it would.


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LDWriter2
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I think I feel the same as Tiergan.

Love my Color nook and I'm even reading a book on it already but at the same time I don't want to stop buying paperbooks. I will be getting rid of some I have now, ones I probably won't read again like the Shadowrun books(I think it's run), but I will still be keeping a bunch.


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Robert Nowall
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My Nook Color hasn't made much impact on my life so far...one e-book was expensive, the others were cheaper...but I haven't yet bought a lot.

I've mostly been reading one (The Lord of the Rings, the expensive one), and that as a trial to see how to manipulate the Nook.

But I have used its internet connectivity to look into a few things...for instance, I went to my website and reread some of the stories I posted there. (Plenty of time has passed since I wrote them, and I find I still like most of 'em.)

(The big expense for my Nook Color was buying equipment to set up a wireless network in my house...it easily doubled the cost. But it's something I should'a done long ago.)


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