back to article WTF is... up with e-book pricing?

Electronic books are a topic that never fails to generate comment on Reg Hardware – most often along the lines of, 'why are they so expensive?' With the launch of Amazon's Kindle in the UK, many book buyers hoped that e-books would become cheaper. Together with the falling price of readers, and Amazon trumpeting large e-book …

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  1. Angus Bell
    Big Brother

    b*gger e-book pricing

    WTF is up with the Hansard article on the home page of Charlie's Diary linked to above. That is real and much scarier than an e-book price increase.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Title

    Presumably the publishing houses will start suing people for not buying massively overpriced ebooks when those users discover how to type "ebook" into binsearch.info

    Presumably they are trying to generate Hollywood levels of piracy in record time.

    1. ph0b0s

      Slapping allowed?

      I think when any of these publishers start bleating that illegal distribution is a really big problem for their industry and they don't understand why. Whoever they are bleating to should be allowed to slap them and tell them to stop being so stupid....

      So in the move to digital distribution all media industries have seen it solely as a way of increasing profits rather than sharing the savings with the consumer and trying to make a dent in illegal distribution. You can never stop all illegal distribution, but lower pricing will reduce it by making it less attractive.

      I don't support illegal distribution and support reasonable efforts to curb it, but these idiots deserve what they get. Only a shame our governments don't feel the same and are quite happy to protect their price gouging archaic business model at the expense of proper rule of law.

      In the efforts to clamp down on illegal distribution all we get is the stick, where's the carrot?

  3. Steven Jones

    eBooks

    I use my Kindle only to read out-of-copyright material. There are tens of thousands of titles like that, and others I know do the same. It would be interesting to know if that's typical. If so, then then the economics of eBooks for the sellers may not look so good.

    1. JMB

      eBooks → #

      "I use my Kindle only to read out-of-copyright material"

      I keep thinking about getting one similarly as a convenient way to carry around PDF files in an accessible form.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not just out-of-copyright material...

      I use my Kindle to read anything I can copy and convert myself. I haven't bought, and probably won't buy, stuff with DRM that I can't bypass.

      Apparently DRM can be very expensive for small publishers so they tend not to use it.

  4. BeardyOldUnixGit
    Alert

    Or try buying your eBooks from somewhere else?

    Not usually to be plugging someone what takes their money in USD, but look at Baen Books. Switch authors. They have a lot of good stuff and don't charge daft amounts of money for it. Eric Flint has a good explanatory rant at http://www.baen.com/library/ but the real kicker is this is a real publisher and doesn't seem to be out of business yet...

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Hell yeah

      Many a good writer here and they even offer free intros either as the first few chapters or in a lot of cases the whole first two or three books. As mentioned by Beardy, Eric Flint (no mean author himself) has a very real-world view which would give many an Exec at these more rapacious publishers heart failure........hmm now there's a thought

      1. djack
        Thumb Up

        Baen Rocks

        I second everything said above about Baen, they are great to deal with and actually seem to be keen on making a good impression and keeping you as a customer.

        No nonsense, no ball and chain, cheap good products and the attitude that they prefer to have happy customers who will keep coming back rather than try to gouge everyone at the earliest opportunity. They have a great business model and it works for them and for me as a customer.

        1. Neoc

          Baen Rocks x2

          Baen has embraced eBooks with a vengeance - they regularly make some of their older stock available free of charge, albeit for a limited time (generally a month) and rotating the available titles.

          Another Baen example: when I bought Lois Bujold's latest Miles vorKosigan book, "Cryoburn", there was a CD included which contained *all* of the vorKosigan saga (including Cryoburn) in ePub format. *Without* DRM. Yay!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Happy

            Baen and your local Library

            For tohse that do not have to patience to download Baen books from their free library online, I''ve come across the occasional "Baen hardbound book that comes with a CD at our local branch library. It actually encouraged you to copy the CD and give to your friends. I've been a loyal Baen (print) reader since they first started up and every year they seem to do something nice for their loyal, and new, readers. Nice to see someone knows how to get, and keep, their readers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Another thumbs-up for Baen

      They have some very talented authors and they really know how to do ebooks right. Their ebooks are cheap, or in some cases free, as well as not being encumbered with DRM. If I have a physical copy of a book and I want to put it on my phone, I'm more than happy to search out a torrent rather than pay for an expensive, DRMed copy - but I make it a point never to do so for anything published by Baen because of how well they treat their readers.

    3. Shakje
      Thumb Up

      Thumbs up again

      Thanks, you've made my day. Seems like there are some sensible people in the world of media.

  5. Rupert Stubbs

    Or you could just buy from the US

    Just get yourself an amazon.com account, and buy your Kindle ebooks from there - despite what Amazon says, it's significantly cheaper.

    This also allows you to do the sort of impulse buys that (a) have sold so many Apps in the iTunes Store etc., and (b) thus provides more income for the publisher/author.

    How often do these dumb industries need to have evidence that their pricing policies are counterproductive rubbed in their face before they admit they're wrong? Stupid question I know.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Cost?!?

    You totally seem to gloss over the cost issue in 2 paragraphs on the first page.

    The fact that ebooks involve no printing, shipping, wherehousing, they cannot be resold and there is no "lending" them to friends. Should affect the cost in real and meaningful ways. I understand the costs to create the content remains static but it is simply rediculous to argue there are no real costs savings over dead tree books!

    When I buy a book I get to keep it forever. I can lend it, sell it or simply reread it 20 years later. I would bet a million dollars that 20 years from now my kindle will be long dead, and whatever device they are selling then, will use some new format and I will be asked to buy my books over again. The book companies are tricking us into a situation like we face with music and movies. We will have to keep paying to replace things we already bought (once, twice or more).

    Unless we as consumers stand up and say NO and demand a more fair system we all will lose more than we planned!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      You've missed the point

      The books you buy from Amazon are not tied to your kindle. If your kindle is lost or stolen you get a new reader and sync your books back to it. No'one is asking you to buy books again. In fact, if you associate the same account with two readers, two people can share books, although it would be linked to one payment card, so you'd have to trust each other in terms of how much you'd spend on e-books. The Nook in the US already allows you to "loan" books, hopefully Kindle will at some point to.

      Stand up and say NO when you understand the current system, and not some system you imagine is more repressive than it actually is.

      1. Syd

        Touching!

        You don't seriously believe that if you'll be able to download (for nothing) the same books that you bought for Kindle in 2010 onto 'Son of Kindle III' in 2020?

        "Oh sorry - that isn't the same book - we upgrade the print to a high-definition format, with color capability, so you need to pay again!"

        1. Jason Hindle

          Re: Touching

          Books bought on my Peanut Press (known as ereader.com these days) account (for use on my Handspring Visor) back in 99 were still available to download to my iPaq a few years back and now work perfectly well on my iPhone today.

          "You don't seriously believe that if you'll be able to download (for nothing) the same books that you bought for Kindle in 2010 onto 'Son of Kindle III' in 2020?

          "Oh sorry - that isn't the same book - we upgrade the print to a high-definition format, with color capability, so you need to pay again!""

      2. Just Thinking

        Re You've missed the point

        I have books I bought thirty-odd years ago. The authors are dead, the bookshop where I bought them is gone, the publishers aren't even around any more. But my kids can still read those books.

        Will Amazon still be selling eBooks in thirty years time? How is anyone going to resync their eBooks then?

      3. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Completely unjustifiable level of optimism.

        > The books you buy from Amazon are not tied to your kindle.

        Of course it is. Or rather, it is tied to the Kindle app. It's not quite so much like proprietary Mac software but more like proprietary MS-DOS software. The effect is still the same. YOUR "property" remains essentially a rental that Amazon can revoke at any time it likes.

        The fact that Amazon is not a single hardware vendor standard is somewhat nice but the same basic problem remains. You don't really own what you buy. You are not in a position to resell it or take your own steps to preserve it. You remain always at the mercy of Amazon.

        As long as some corporation "owns the format" of your data, you are in the same vulnerable position.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Yep - that's my objection too.

      "Rather than price per se, the chief objection seems to be that with many e-books, they’re paying more for a product that, thanks to DRM, they can do less with than the ‘old fashioned’ paper alternative."

      As you say, AC, with a normal book, you can do what you like with it. You simply can not do that with a "book" contained in some strange non-standard file format that's all DRM'd. You wouldn't buy a paper book that had a padlock on the front (with one key that might rust and be useless at some time in the future) and that could only be read under the light of a special bulb that you could only buy from one shop, would you? But that's exactly what all these e-books are like.

      I would love a Kindle-type device - I think they're a really nice idea. Convenient, very lights, etc etc. But I'm simply not prepared to lock myself into content arrangement that is in place. It's a similar thing to the whole iPod walled-garden thing, and I don't like it. And as the article points out, the prices are often way above what they should be. A shame.

      1. AdamWill

        Can be circumvented

        You can de-DRM both Kindle and Sony Reader Store books (don't know about other formats), quite trivially once you have the tools. I de-DRM all the books I buy from the Sony store so I can put them on my crappy Android tablet and my phone, and so when something goes wrong with the DRM system in future, I'll still have my books...

        Once you de-DRM the Kindle books you can convert them to a less odd format with Calibre. The Sony ones are already ePub.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Alert

      Good luck

      >>Unless we as consumers stand up and say NO and demand a more fair system we all will lose more than we planned!<<

      The only way for consumers to do this (historically speaking) has been contract violation*. This goes back to the days of Napster - even people who owned a real album/cd/tape were downloading because the format was open.

      Notice the ability to now obtain digital music easily and - just recently - without DRM so that you can play it on any device capable of playing your purchased licensed music. The problem with this type of objection though is it creates two lines of issues:

      1) "Piracy! Piracy!"** gets blamed for poor performance when the people in charge are screwing the consumers so badly an elephant would feel it.

      2) Publishers have a lot to hide when it comes to prices. I've seen threads on authors sites arguing the exact same; usually trying to understand the cost - if there's no raw material, and only one copy, albeit a high quality one, needs to be made; then costs are practically zero. No shipping. No materials. No risks on those materials. No depreciation on the machinery, no paying staff, no need for large warehouses, no need for excessive QA.. When arguing this, publishers always come back and say those things are practically nothing, and that the cost does not reflect materials. So they "hide" the numbers by pretending it's material costs.

      * Yes, I refuse to use the word piracy, it's childish I know but then I prefer to speak English and not market-shit.

      ** Why yes, yes I did just use that word.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        There are *some* costs associated with digital

        I consistently see arguments comparing dead-tree costs but rarely, if ever, the costs of digital delivery. The publisher has costs for storage arrays, servers and the like as well as the costs of its network provider(s) and energy. While it is easy to argue that the publishing houses would pay all of these costs anyway to maintain a web presence I would love to get real numbers on both forms of publishing. [CO2 footprint data would be nice as well, but that's wishing for this econometrician] One thing that I haven't also yet seen brought up is the costs of returned dead-tree books. [Actually they aren't returned. The cover is ripped off and returned to the publisher and the contents chucked.] That isn't mentioned anywhere. Digital books do not have to front for that. Without real numbers all of this is speculation. Informed speculation I'll admit. I seriously doubt we'll ever see them though.

  7. Daniel Durrans
    FAIL

    Price fail

    For as long as I can buy a new physical copy for less than the digital copy then there is something inherently wrong with the pricing model. Publishers need to understand this.

    Secondly in order for me to accept eBooks I need them to either fully work across readers or for each book store to have the same range of books that Amazon can supply me in physical format.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Have a Kindle ...

    .. haven't bought a single eBook. While prices of physical products are cheaper why would I? Plus I resent paying VAT on them.

    Buy the physical book, Google for a DRM free digital copy and use that. You could of course skip the first part, but that would be naughty.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's the point though right?

      Because it starts with "I'll just get the books I own". Then you realize how easy it was to get that free copy and you notice other titles you haven't got access to..

      The music business brought their current troubles on their own head by not listening to their customers - and they're still not listening. Over €1 for a song with no physical cost? Are they dumb or just plain screwed in the head??

      I also blame authors for this - not new, first-book authors, but the older, established crowd. They can easily take over the process, just like several musicians now do. And there are a few (way too few) who have done this, with GREAT success. These are the ones who have the power to totally change the system but they won't do it en-mass - leaving the consumer to fight the battle. Personally, I don't like the idea of not rewarding my favorite author but.. you're a part of the problem or a part of the solution.

      Regardless. All they're doing now is encouraging the piracy process. Until such time as it's so bad people won't be buying books - then who'll be crying for the authors that did not stand up for their fans in the first place?

      I don't know about you, but definitely not me (and I DO pay for my eBooks by the way).

      1. Hollerith 1

        If authors could be marketers...

        I am a published novelist and books don't pay the rent unless you hit the jackpot, as did JK Rowling. Most of us have day-jobs, which is why I am an El Reg reader.

        I could turn turn my out-of-print stuff, where the rights have reverted to me, into digital books, and hten market them, but if I sign up to sell through Amazon, I would be locked in. I don't have the power and clout of a publisher to be able to sell to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, etc. etc.

        I woudl also have to spend a lot of time being my own marketing department. I have worked as a publisher's marketer before, and it is hard work. It takes up time I could be spending doing the writing bit of writing. Being a one-man-band is a tough gig, for musicians and for authors. For authors in particular, going out and touting your own work does not come naturally. We are solitary souls, after all, or we wouldn't spend our free time alone with imaginary friends.

        So I am not sure I have the wherewithal to be my own PR machine, and I feel as if the survival of the fittest is not the best way to serve the world of books. Should an author succeed merely because he or she has chutzpah?

        1. Nigel Whitfield.

          Well worth re-iterating

          For the vast majority of authors, writing is not the way to make a living. A few high profile people are fortunate enough to be able to live by writing alone. Thanks to the RegHardware reader who emailed and pointed out that figures from the Society of Authors suggest only 2-6% make enough money to survive by writing alone.

          Most, then, have to have another job that pays the bills. Writing is done in their free time, and that means that there's precious little time for them to do all the other things that publishing companies do - the editing, the marketing, formatting for eBooks, and so on. Many, many writers simply wouldn't be able to do that, or would have to produce a lot less work if they did.

          That, of course, doesn't mean that publishers are all cheery lovable people who are only trying to help. Many of the big groups have utterly failed to grasp the expectations of people who would love to buy eBooks, if only they didn't feel their pockets were being picked when they did it.

          But I think it's hard to dispute that for most writers, going it alone is not really a realistic option. You do need some assistance as part of the process. The issue that has to be worked out is how the efforts of all the different parties are balanced. I don't think many would dispute (certainly not judging on the comments here) that at the moment, they're somewhat out of kilter.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            IT Angle

            I have an idea!

            What we would need is a slightly commercialized SourceForge for publishing. The reason I say slightly commercialized is that authors that go this route should still get paid their normal royalty; whatever that is these days. This would also need some low amount to pay for hosting as I imagine this would get very popular, very quickly. Hopefully. (And there's the rub.)

  9. John Riddoch
    FAIL

    Well, that put me off eBooks...

    So, I can buy a paper book which I read anywhere, never runs out of battery power, will never go out of support and I can pass round friends...

    OR

    I can spend £100 plus on an eBook reader then have to spend more on the books themselves than I would for a paper copy, I can't pass the book around without the rest of my e-Library and it's liable to end up unsupported at some future date...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Buy Adobe DRM books..

      They allow you to share with up to 6 devices. In my case I share books with my daughter since we have the same tastes in books.

      Yeah, not quite the same thing; but it is a partial solution; and in my case with the sony reader software coming in December I'll be authorizing an old smartphone I have lying around (and you can get them for cheap off ebay).

      1. Rattus Rattus
        Thumb Down

        Buy Adobe DRM books? No.

        I for one will not buy an ebook at all if it has DRM infesting it. I don't care how widely-supported a particular DRM infestation is or whatever other claims are made by the snakeoil peddler who comes up with it.

        DRM is an instant "no sale!" and I will only buy the dead tree edition while acquiring a DRM-free ebook version via some other method.

  10. Tom 15

    Hmm

    Everyone accepts they've got to cost money but they shouldn't cost more than their physical counterparts. For instance, a lot of books are lent around by people whereas you can't do that with e-books therefore e-books in the long run will sell more and should be discounted appropriately.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ebooks...

    The way I approach the whole thing is... can I get it DRM free if yes then buy if no then buy the deadtree version and get a digital copy from somewhere else.

  12. David Lucke

    Finally! People supporting Adobe DRM

    Thank god! Finally, people are beginning to support Adobe DRM! Maybe now it will actually be possible to buy a decent selection of non-kindle books in the UK and read them on an iPhone - though I note that despite the article claiming that Stanza now supports Adept DRM, there is no mention of it on the Stanza website.

    Incidentally, as usual, the article makes no mention of the only publisher that seems to "get" eBooks, Baen, whose entire catalogue is offered DRM free in multiple formats at generally around $6 a book (or $15 for monthly release bundle of 5-6 books, 3-4 of them new releases), with no region restrictions. Fantasy and Sci-fi only, and their writers include a bunch of Hugo and Nebula winners and New York Times Bestsellers.

    (No, I don't work for them - but I've been reading their eBooks for nearly a decade now, whilst cursing the rest of the publishing industry for being rubbish)

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Baen and DRM free

      We had to cut some things because the piece was already a bit long - and the mention of Baen (together with some other on the ball publishers, like O'Reilly) was one of the things that went missing, I'm afraid.

      I'd love to see more innovative ideas, like the jacket for hardbacks having a unique code that entitles you to download the eBook version too, so you have both for the same price.

      There's also the whole subject of libraries, and it seems to me that some publishers would rather the issue of libraries and eBooks went away altogether; no space to cover that here, either, but you can read my companion piece (and weep!) at http://gonedigital.net/2010/11/23/libraries-and-ebooks/

      1. mego

        @Nigel

        >>I'd love to see more innovative ideas, like the jacket for hardbacks having a unique code that entitles you to download the eBook version too, so you have both for the same price.<<

        Nigel - I don't know why nobody has thought of this yet. Absolutely would go in for this idea. And if the publishing crew feel that it makes piracy too easy, one could even use that same code to activate the copy on a device, requiring you to "check it back in" if you want to move it elsewhere - I'm sure Adobe DRM could be adapted to this process. Adobe DRM allows you to activate several devices anyway as it is.

        1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: @Nigel

          I look forward to snapping hardbacks' e-book codes with my cameraphone in a bookshops and getting free e-books. Hee-hee.

          1. James Hughes 1

            @Tony Smith

            The code could be validated at point of sale, so only because valid once you have bought the book. For additional security, give the customer a slip with an additional code on it - get home, type code from book and code from shop in, hey presto, download ebook version. Needs central database and net link in the shop, but hey, how difficult would that be...??? And in case there are any patent trolls listening, I claim dibs on the idea as of 11.05am, 26th November 2010.

          2. Campbeltonian

            Just print it on the receipt.

            It can't be beyond the wit of man.

          3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Put the code inside a sealed pocket perhaps?

            It can't be beyond the wit of a bookseller to insist that if someone has opened the packet, they have bought the book, and if they disagree, the local constabulary would most likely see it from the bookseller's point of view. After all, if someone went into a newsagents and started ripping open packets of crisps looking for little evelopes with £20 notes in (remember those promotions?), they would most likely not get away with it for long!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          And for movies...

          When you buy a cinema ticket, give a discount on the DVD / Blu-Ray.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what a con

    The publishers are hiding behind the cry "won't someone think of the authors".

    The issue is NOT that people want ebooks for free, or at a price that is simply isn't sustainable.

    Ebooks cost LESS to make and distribute than physical books.

    Physical books are NOT subject to retail pricing control

    So ebooks should be priced LESS then the physical book. That price should be set by the retailer in the same way as for physical media.

    I also have no problem with ebooks being priced relative to hard-back pricing if the paperback is not out yet. People who must have the latest release as soon as it is out pay the premium for it.

    As soon as the paperback is released, then drop the price (amazon sometimes don't help here, as they list the paperback price before it is available to buy, so people see a huge ebook markup relative to a format that is not out yet)

    The government also need to address the VAT position of ebooks. That probably eats up all the price differential we can expect from ebooks already.

  14. James 51 Silver badge

    Don't buy ebooks

    There are a lot of sites which offer free ebooks. Mostly those out of copyright but also those like little brother which are released under copy left. The black library website has a few books for free on it as well. Some libraries offer ebooks in epub. Push your local library to offer them if they don't. There is no excuse (I don't accept sheer greed) for ebooks costimg more than paperbacks.

    1. mego

      Overdrive has this feature, but you have to buy each book

      There is a library in the UK I believe that offers the service. There's one here in Ireland but they're crap - they haven't bothered updating since they launched, and they have mostly junk that's free or near free anyway (5 copies of Great Expectations, WTF!).

      Personally? I would gladly pay a subscription for an all-I-can-eat service like netflicks in the US. Charge me a tenner a month and let me access up to three books at a time (and expire the book each month if I don't pay). Libraries use this expire feature already to great effect.

      Any VC companies out there willing to fund a new venture??

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        There are quite a few

        Lots of libraries around the UK offer eBooks via Overdrive - but see the link I posted earlier to my own blog, for a little more despair. Essentially, some publishers seem to think that if you want to borrow an eBook from a library, you should have to take your reader to the library, to load it there.

        Because doing it at home could have all sorts of awful repercussions, obviously

  15. RocketBook

    Ahh The same old song

    This is effectively what damaged one of the first generation e-readers, the Rocket Book. It was a wonderful device, I still have and use mine for self generated content, but the publishers could not seem to get their heads round pricing below hardback level.

    Now they seem intent on profiteering from the new generation of e-readers and they have a bigger target audience to squeeze.

    e-reading is very convenient, though I have to admit to having purchased more dead tree format of late, the ability to carry multiple books in one convenient device is brilliant - but not at any price.

    Oh well, do you think if we compressed the book people with the music people at high pressure, we could get the next gen fosil fuel, after all, we are running out of the original dinosaur juice.

  16. Andy ORourke
    Happy

    Tipping point?

    I just received my Kindle (with the free 3G) and I don't mind paying for my eBooks, nor do I care that I can't do anything with them like, oh, I don't know, resell or give away or otherwise distribute my eBooks

    That said I can read on the kindle at night, pick up my iPhone at lunch time whilst at work, pick up where I left off and then when I get home my Kindle knows where I'm up to. That's more than enough functionality for me thank you very much . It means I can read my book wherever I want because I've always got my phone with me.

    Ah yes but what if you get rid of your kindle, you can't move your books to your new reader can you thanks to the evil DRM!

    OK, fair point but why would I want to get rid of my kindle? it offers me all the functionality I want, the books are not exactly overpriced and it works well, even having a "free" 3G connection which allows me to browse the web (el Reg renders quite well in the Kindle)

    eReaders are still a niche market compared to hardback & paperback publications, that's why the price isn't coming down (and why publishers can charge pretty much what they like) I don't think its right or wrong, these businesses will charge whatever they can, that's the free market economy for you. I don't think 1 eBook sale = 1 physical sale lost, I have bought some books for the kindle that I already own so it's additional income for them.

    Until eBooks and eReaders take off to the point where there is more demand for them than for "traditional" publications then I don't see any reason for publishers to bring the prices down too much, do you?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Same Old Story

    RIAA, MPAA and now ths bunch! Have heard similar arguments to pay the artists/authors before.

    Tell us something new, el reg. Wanna support the cocaine lifestyles of these bunch??? GO buy Kindles, Sony's etall and fight the format wars all over again.

    B**tards all !

  18. Timbo 1
    Thumb Down

    I almost wouldn't have a problem paying around the same money........

    ................if it were not the case that the formatting and spelling errors in a large deal of the official publishers’ e-books shuck big time. That's unforgivable.

    1. brianlj
      FAIL

      Iain M Banks - Surface Detail

      'Surface Detail' mentioned in the Reg article. Check the reviews on Amazon. It's AWFUL on Kindle. Inappropriate hard-hyphens in the middle of words, mysterious line-breaks where there shouldn't be any, missing paragraph breaks where there SHOULD be one.

      Shoddy.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Not to mention

        The hardcover has a very pretty dust-cover illustration, which I imagine a monochrome electronic version might lack.

        When they make a waterproof ebook reader that I can use in the bath, I'll stop buying cheap paperbacks...

        1. Irk
          Boffin

          Oh, they have those

          Stick any ebook device in a ziploc plastic bag after pulling up your book, and then use the next/previous page buttons to read. Easier/less danger to the book than a paperback. If you're in the shower the plastic fogs up a bit though, gets kind of annoying. Lack of pages to turn is still great.

  19. Big_Boomer Bronze badge
    FAIL

    Why?

    I've never seen the point of eBooks.

    You pay a small fortune for a "reader".

    You pay almost as much for an eBook as for a paper one.

    If you want to lend the book to a friend, you have to lend them your reader.

    I'll stick with paper thanks.

    I'm sure they will be a brief success thanks to massive advertising, but in the long run open file formats (no DRM) and the ability to read them on any smartphone are the only things that will make eBooks a commercial success.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ability to read them on any smartphone

      Already there for any decent smartphone, and also on the iPhone. Symbian support is pretty crap, that's the only one that doesn't do the job afaik..

      1. kwhitefoot
        WTF?

        Damn it, why does a reply to someone else's post need a title!

        I read loads of novels on my N73 with MobiPocket, it works fine. Just finished Josephine Tey's fictionalised biography of Henry Morgan http://gutenberg.net.au/plusfifty-n-z.html#letterT

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge

      e-books enable the poor ...

      E-reader - a modest three-figure sum.

      House big enough to keep a library of paper books - a very large six-figure sum.

      I paid £210 for an e-reader. I'll never be rich enough to afford a dead-tree library.

      (just for a bonus, I download books from Gutenberg).

      1. Cupidknewrap

        got to agree...

        sadly a move of house has left me with very little room for my collection of books. Getting an E-reader and laboriously "backing up" (read scanner and OCR aided copyright breach) my books has allowed me to clear out my rooms and put every book in boxes in the garage. Now I carry around all 300+ books at the same time, have a copy on the PC, have a tidier house and save on bookshelves £120 well spent.

        The price of new e-books is simply outrageous, the physical cost of book production are gone and distribution costs must be next to nothing. Almost every e-book I've seen is around 1MB, an utterly trivial amount of bandwidth there is no way that and e-book should cost significantly more than the hardback issue. Before you know it the publishers will be crying that no-one wants to buy e-books and 'piracy' is a runaway problem.

        1. Goat Jam
          WTF?

          WTF?

          "Getting an E-reader and laboriously "backing up" (read scanner and OCR aided copyright breach) my books has allowed me to clear out my rooms"

          Rooms? Of books? Scanned?

          Sir, you are either certifiably insane or a bullshit artist of the highest order.

          Do you value your time @ cents per hour?

      2. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Oh Pulleeeze...

        > House big enough to keep a library of paper books - a very large six-figure sum.

        Are you kidding? There were people in the Soviet Union that could afford books and had place to put them. What kind of spoiled American (oops, forgot where I was posting) suburbanite are you that you can't find a little space for a bookshelf or three?

        You will put yourself in the poor house buying everything for that DRM-laden book reader. You will be stuck paying hard cover prices for stuff that you could get at the local used book shop for pennies on the dollar. Passing stuff around friends or lending from the local library would also be out.

        I offered the kid an e-book reader. His immediate response was lackluster due to the understanding that we would have to pay to put stuff on it. Smart kid. Reads lots of books. Most come from the library.

        No. LIBRARIES enable the poor.

  20. Alex Walsh

    Its a problem

    This is something I've written about a fair amount on my blog. The deep discounting of hardbacks means it's often cheaper to buy the hardback on release (for example the last Dan Brown was an eye-watering £4 cheaper in hardback than Kindle ebook on Amazon at launch)

    I've read Stotts analysis and don't particularly agree with it, it doesn't tie up with my knowledge of the publishing industry. At the moment the vast majority of cost of production with an ebook has already been incurred with the hardcopy. The only other costs are minimal. I think the big issue is how they are allocating existing costs against the ebook- this is how they justify the moronic price that is stopping mass adoption.

    Currently the publishers are stuffing the authors up with ebook royalties anyway and we know from an incredibly honest blog post that a NYT charting "dark fantasy writer's book can make an author....as much as $50,000.

    And now the piracy fears has got going- volume 13 of the Wheel of Time has been out 3 weeks but the ebook delayed until the end of Jan to stop piracy.

    Anyway, you can see my take on it all here:

    http://www.iamcurrentlyreading.co.uk/2010/07/01/ebooks-ereaders-prices-going-forward-and-stuff/

  21. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Its about control.

    Project Guttenburg shows the way though

    Free and you get to play with the content should you so wish,

    The e in e-books does not have to be the sound of money being pulled out of your wallet.

  22. Ragarath
    Alert

    Price thresholds

    Would't a system where the price of books drops based on sales. In my mind (as warped as it is) the cost of creating a book is paid back within a certain amount of sales. So then the price should drop as it reaches / exceeds this?

    The only problem with that is new authors. But then I am inclined to buy a book based on its description so if a book was good it would get recommended and then drop in price.

  23. James Foreman

    WTF is... the fuss about?

    I tend to be in agreement with the arguments Charles Stross puts forward; but perhaps I'm biassed because I like his writing. Where e-books are more interesting for me is when I feel I'm being gouged by my local booksellers - in Hong Kong, a paperback that would cost 7 or 8 quid will retail for 2-3 times that amount.

    Now, you might wonder whether you're being stuffed in the UK with higher prices, but it's not so clear then: you can't get a cheaper version of the same book posted to you from the other side of the world and *still* have it cheaper than going into your local bookstore. If an e-book costs as much as a hardback, then *maybe* you're being ripped off, but *maybe* that's the tax you pay for wanting to be one of the first people to read it. What's the pricing like on the books that have been out for a year?

    (Then again, I'd pay more for an e-book version of Anathem, because I think it would be more comfortable than having to carry around several pounds of dead tree. But that's longwinded authors for you...)

    1. Alex Walsh

      more

      Like I said, the last Dan Brown (as an example, I didn't buy it) cost 4 quid less as a hardback than it did as an ebook at launch. Bonkers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Joke

        @Alex

        You'd save yourself a lot more than 4 quid if you just bought some real toilet paper. Although I can't imagine the kindle version being quite as absorbent!

  24. Mark 110

    Why not?

    When you buy the real book you get a voucher for free download of the eBook from the publisher in your preferred format.

    Best of both worlds.

    Job done.

    1. JaimieV
      Thumb Up

      Back to Baen again

      I just picked up Lois Bujold's new book in hardback. For my hard-earned cash I got a lump of dead tree with ink on it, and a CD in the back.

      On the CD is the book itself, and almost all of Bujold's back catalogue in the same series - over a dozen novels and novellas - in DRM-free HTML, rtf, epub, and some other formats I don't use myself. Plus some supporting material, Bujold's notes and suchlike.

      *That* is the way to do it, publishing world - are you listening?

  25. Pete 2

    Very little commonality with paper books

    > Of the 17 steps to creating a book that he outlines, the majority apply regardless of whether the result is an e-book or a printed one.

    No, actually there aren't.

    Step #5: Scheduling is a requirement from the limited publishing capacity of the process. Removing the _print_ limitations makes this step simply go away

    #8, Advance reading copies. Again, paper driven. Just send 'em an email

    #10 Typesetting. Yeeees, Ok. There is some need for typesetting. However, just as everyone these days does their own worm processing, rather than employing a secretary I feel this stage is something that an author could outsource, or do themselves. Maybe not for paper, but deffo for ebooks

    #11 Marketing copy. Yeah, right. Who are we kidding here

    #12 Review page proofs. Basically take out the errors introduced by the (almost) redundant step #10

    #13 Collate advance orders & order the print run. Nope, gone.

    #14 The print run. ditto

    #15 The printing process. and again

    #16 Shipping

    #17 Invoicing and accounting. Paypal

    So thats 10 of the 17 steps either removed or radically streamlined (and we haven't even talked about the management and marketing stages. ISTM that with the right infrastructure (who can say, it probably already exists) there is not much to stop an author engaging freelance editing/proofing, cover art and distribution. Or for a third party such as the author's agent, to organise this on their behalf.

    What we end up with is a nicely disintermediated (guess who learned a new word) industry. Where authors and their agents sell their books directly to the consumers via an electronic marketplace. They charge (maybe) $2 for a DRM'd copy - with half going to cover the outsourced costs. The number they sell depends on how well they tweet or virally market their wares. Rather than on the whim of a faceless publishing house who decides that there is no market for their style, or genre - or that they've already published the one SF/Vampire/Historical romance in their schedule this year. We end up with many more books, from a wider range of authors and a lot of the big names get lost in the noise. Good or bad? who knows.

    1. max allan

      Direct sales

      "Where authors and their agents sell their books directly to the consumers via an electronic marketplace"

      That sounds perfect to me. Why do we need the middle men to do all the marketing BS. I very rarely want to buy a book that has been marketed (mass market trashy romance novels etc...)

      I would be quite happy to pay the author directly for what they write.

      They probably get a lot more cash that way than letting the publisher take their cut.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Less change than you might think

      Even sending advance reader copies by email and even if it's mostly automated, it still needs to happen. Point is that it might be less work, but it's still some work.

      Typesetting still needs to be done, even if some authors mostly do it themselves. The late W. Richard Stevens did and explained how*. It's fairly time-consuming regardless of who does it, and yes, the results are very noticeable. I do pass over or throw away (e)books if they're typeset poorly. Oh, and indices won't go away either.

      Marketing still needs to be done; things like the sales blurb. In fact, since you can't idly leaf through an ebook, the blurb will become *more* important.

      No, proofreading is not at all the same as typesetting. Yes, it needs to be done. Look at the community of people who OCR scans and then proofread them *multiple times* to get a reasonable electronic facsimile.

      Invoicing and accounting still needs to be done even if you outsource it to amazon or have automated it almost entirely. No accounting means you won't know where your money is so you won't know whether you'll eat next month.

      That's five out of ten out of seventeen you couldn't throw away after all.

      * http://www.kohala.com/start/pagelayout.html

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        #17 Invoicing and accounting. Paypal

        Says it all realy. This in it self shows how little you know about how any industry work.

        Do you honestly think that Amazon will use paypal to pay publishers, with no terms? Or will pay for each book as they are downloaded? Or that even then there is no cost and no accounting involved? Or are you sugesting the publishers sell direct? They can do that now but chose not to for very good reasons. For a start they would have to run there own servers, at huge cost. There is a reason Amazon is able to run cloud servers as a side line.

        1. Pete 2

          "Or are you sugesting the publishers sell direct? "

          We're talking about ebooks, not *all* books. What I'm suggesting is that once WRITERS have a process that allows them to produce (or have their agents manage outsourced services on the writers behalf) their own ebooks, which can short-circuit all the overheads and bloat of a traditional, paper-based publisher then the price to the customer goes down dramatically. The time to market goes from 12 months to a few months and more writers get to have their works published. Whether they then make any money rather depends on how good their writing turns out to be.

          Paypal is merely an example of how they could use existing means to get paid for their sales.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I can't believe nobody else has bitten

      "everyone these days does their own worm processing"

      Apparently so...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    DRM removal is the key...

    > "if your device can display both Kindle and ePub formats, it’s

    > definitely worth using that ability to shop around"

    Or just use the free Calibre software package to convert any format into .mobl, or whatever your eBook reader uses...

    As for me, I only got a Kindle when I was sure that hackers had developed a way for ordinary users to remove the DRM on Amazon's eBooks. I don't mind paying for their books, and the high price doesn't particularly bother me that much (as a good book entertains me for perhaps five to ten times as long as a movie). What I didn't want, however, was for my Kindle DRM'ed book collection to be unreadable on whatever eBook reader I happen to be using in 3 or 5 years time.

  27. The erm undecided

    Use Baen publisher where possible.

    Baen have a good policy with a lot of their books. They give you the ebook along with the hardback edition on a CD. There is no DRM and they actually don't mind if you pass the books around. Their attitude is that by doing it that way some people who will want dead tree versions, will buy from them that might not have otherwise done so.

    They have been doing this for a few years and they are still here so it seems a good policy. You can get a lot of their catalogue this way as well and they are in most of the common formats already.

  28. moiety

    Deja vu all over again

    Exactly the same as the music industry and look what happened to that. Are these people incapable of learning?

    The simple fact is that a virtual product is worth less than a physical product. More so when it's DRM'd. Until the pricing reflects that problems are going to continue to occur and the publishers are going to continue to be seen as the wallet-raping sons of whores that they are.

    Granted, a virtual book and a physical book share some of the same costs (author cut, editing etc) but I would suggest that the difference of 20% in the price estimated in the article is suggestive of piss-taking by whoever is doing the adding up. Or at least loading up the virtual book price with some of the physical book costs.

    The financial waters are muddied somewhat by whether you treat the virtual product as only a virtual product or -as in the real world- the actual product is a fusion of the virtual and physical products. That is, do you treat the virtual and physical products as entirely separate projects, or do you treat bringing the book to market in all it's separate forms as one big project?

    The public perception is that shipping virtual products is _considerably_ cheaper than shipping virtual products. Because it is. So they either need to address this pronto or come up with a much better excuse than any they are waving currently (and brainwash the public into believing it).

    Or they can just carry on as they are and we can watch them implode.

    1. yeehaw.... Silver badge
      Stop

      Full Stop.

      "The simple fact is that a virtual product is worth less than a physical product."

      Wrong, it's worth whatever people *think* it's worth.

      I used to be heavy into EverQuest and I know it's happened in other games where people would pay real(?) money for plat, equipment, and special items in Real Time(tm) to use In-game. Virtual made-up stuff for cash... At one time you could use ebay for selling items - whole guilds would focus on Real Time cash ventures - sucked if you were questing that item...

      If you really want to get into it, money(Pound, dollar, yaun, ruble, euro, etc) is only worth what you and others think it is - it's also virtual and not tied to *anything* real. Wrap you head around that.

      When you think about the psychology and social engineering behind it all, what they charge for ebooks is really a niche issue.

  29. rpjs

    Stross

    The SF writer Charlie Stross has a series of posts on his blog (<http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/04/common-misconceptions-about-pu-1.html>) about the the costs of e-books and the publishing industry in general. He points out that the vast majority of the costs of publishing a book go to humans: author, the copy editor, the typesetter etc, and only a small proportion on yer actual dead tree and the costs of shifting such around.

  30. cpage

    e-books are competing with free libraries, not with physical bookstores.

    A more serious problem, it seems to me, is that with an e-book you don't actually own it, you just rent it. With a physical book I can lend it to others, or sell it when I don't want it any more. If I want a book for just a period I can borrow it from a library. That suggests that e-book rental pricing ought to be *much* lower than it is at present to be attractive.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    tit-less

    I've long ago already decided to stay away from stinking eBooks. It's been rather clear from the start that they're only milking every drop of cash they can with those, like they do with download versions of games, music and movies.

    Besides I rather have physical book/paperback even though they do take more room. I can much easier to lend them to friends too.

    I've been thinking though what would be pricepoint I'd be interested to get eBooks. I've come to conclusion that only something like $1 might cause me to impulse buy something as eBook. Otherwise I just go find me a 2nd hand book/paperback.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    MP3 "wars" all over again

    Lets see...record companies overcharged for music, and DRM'ing.

    Result? Widespread torrenting of cracked media.

    Publishing/agencies overcharging for books, and DRM'ing.

    Result? I'll give you one guess...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All hail the great competition of commercial forces

    I can see the point of e-books. I would gratefully welcome them except...

    1) DRM. If there is one pointless technology that was highlighted as a complete, total and utter commercial failure, it is DRM. The film industry have tried it, the music industry tried it ... it is just total pants.

    2) Cut to the author. I don't believe for one moment that the publishing houses are passing any of this on to the authors. I remember the poultry, per-copy cut that I got with my books. No one made a living writing books ... unless they were best seling authors that got the dosh on film deals. I don't trust publishers as far as i can throw them. I have yet to deal with a corporate that didn't also equate with the word, Greed.

    3) They're not using an, "open," format which stands a chance of sticking around and being at the very least, backward compatible through the technical onslaught of the years. There are already issues with various readers that limit the formats they handle.

    4) The technical control. I don't want companies wiping material off my devices, even if they DO refund me the cost. It is just a step too far. They don't come around to peoples homes and reposess paperbacks. I just don't know what makes them think they've got the moral right to do it, just because it is an electronic copy. Bugger that for a game of soldiers.

    5) To be honest, no one has come up with a reader that I like. The Kindle is actually difficult to grip without putting my thumb all over the screen. I'm also not happy with the back and forward buttons, or the weight. I'm just not comfortable holding or reading them. They have a long way to go, IMHO, before they replace the comfort of paper.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      No wonder you didn't make a living writing books!

      "I remember the poultry, per-copy cut that I got with my books. No one made a living writing books"

      Either you meant "Paltry" or you got paid in chickens or other avian livestock, either way it's easy to see why you couldn't make a living at it :-)

      Paltry

      1. Lacking in importance or worth.

      2. Wretched or contemptible.

      Poultry

      domestic fowl, particularly those raised for food or laying eggs.

      Or maybe the money publishers pay to editors and proof readers is actually worth it!

  34. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    They're offering the wrong product...

    Whatever the publishers claim, ebooks per se will always be ephemera, irrespective of format. I have books on my shelves going back a couple of centuries - what's the betting on any particular ebook being available after the publisher goes under, or changes hands a couple of times?

    1. Alfred

      More than you might think, I reckon

      "what's the betting on any particular ebook being available after the publisher goes under, or changes hands a couple of times?"

      Thanks to the wonders of the modern age, the cost of storage of ebooks is effectively zero. I can go out onto the web and recover usenet posts from 20 years ago. I reckon that even without anyone deliberately archiving eBooks, once they're in the wild they will hang around somewhere more or less forever.

  35. notmenotmenotme

    Or.. join a library

    London libraries consortium + Bromley / Lewisham and a few others now have ebook lending services.

    Not sure how great the selection is.. but.. libraries have just become a tad more interesting.

  36. breakfast
    WTF?

    What the publishers want and what I wouldn't mind

    It seems to me that the publishers really don't want us to own anything aside from the reading apparatus, they would like to see the idea of "owning" a "copy" of a book totally vanish. That's not going to happen but if I had an ebook reader I wouldn't mind being able to loan a book for, say, 20p per week, being able to mark it finished and having it removed from my reader after a while. This would facilitate casual reading, impulse buying and given that there are very many books that I will only ever read once, still work out cheaper than buying physical books.

    Or it would if I didn't spend so much time in the second hand bookstore anyway. Not many ebooks there, I notice.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    my neighbour claims

    to have bought 20000 (twenty thousand) eBooks on an online auction site for a few pence. I haven't verified this (yet) but I suspect this 'free' supply aspect of market forces will satisfy some of the freetard demand. Probably the works will be mostly "public domain" - but whether they were garnered before the retrospective EU Copyright Duration Directive (93/98/EEC) is something I'll have to carefully check by closely reading the material to be sure they're not a derivative or parody. OTOH wasn't there a 'create & sell your own eBook' bestselling eBook, such that we can all write our one good book and sell it on Amazon for as much dosh as we can!? confused!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      format is a question

      The question would be what format are they in. Are they portable? You could argue that for a few pence, it doesn't matter. But it is nevertheless another interesting and relevant question to ask them; especially if they intend reading through these over the comming decades but the reading technology might not last that long.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Sir

        Were these sci-fi books?

        I only ask because I'm aware of a very large torrent with around that many titles in it. Most of the books are represented in multiple formats (so not 20000 individual titles) and the formatting/OCR correction is a bit poor.

        The fact that someone paid money for something that is freely available is a bit odd, unless they don't know about torrents.

        Personally, if I was to go down that route, I would select only titles from the torrent that I already owned and re-format and spell check them myself before converting them to Kindle format. I don't suppose the end result would be perfect, but as I'm already familiar with the material any spelling mistakes and formatting errors would be live-able with.

  38. Matt Hawkins
    Pint

    eBooks are a rip off

    There is no justification for the extortionate prices they are charging for ebooks. The distribution costs are almost zero compared to physical books. They produce the physical books anyway so the actual cost of creating an ebook version of existing content is also almost non-existent.

    £9.99 for an ebook? They are having a laugh. £0.99 more like.

    But then the rip-off price model is the same as for music. For years we are told the high prices are due to manufacturing, retail and distribution costs. When those costs evaporate the price stays the same. Why?

    At least a physical book can be used as fuel when the Russians turn off the gas supply. What use is your £10 ebook?

    1. JDX Gold badge

      re:eBooks are a rip off

      You're an idiot. At the very most, you can't make any argument costs for a physical copy being more than 50% of the total.

      Authors have to make a living just like musicians.

  39. Karnka
    Unhappy

    Iain M Banks

    Iain M Banks latest was a good one to use in the article but there's an even more stark example in the Kindle store.

    Consider Phlebas is £5 in paperback or £7.99 on Kindle. Madness. Especially given that you can buy a second hand paperback from amazon market place for ~£3.

    Sigh, maybe I don't want a Kindle for Christmas after all.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Consider Phlebas ...

      ... is indeed one of the books that I used in the comparison (and one of the 36 in the group I've been tracking).

      I originally bought it from Waterstones, when it cost me £7.04 (adjusted for the current rate of VAT that's equivalent to £7.19).

      By August of this year, Waterstones had put the price up to £8.48, while WH Smith had it for £7.37 and Amazon launched the UK Store with a Consider Phlebas priced at £4.86. Foyles was listing it for the full price of £8.99.

      When I checked prices in October, it was no longer available from WHS or Waterstones (along with many other agency-priced titles, which disappeared while systems were updated), and cost £4.93 at Amazon.

      Now it's £7.99 across the board. On the bright side, I suppose Watersones users won't pay as much any more...

  40. hammarbtyp Silver badge
    FAIL

    Yep its a rip off...

    I have a kindle and although I love the device the range and price of available ebooks is a major issue.

    Now I am quite happy to make sure Authors make a living and for new books like Surface Detail I would of quite happily bought at the same price as the hardback edition.

    What irks me is books like starship troopers that were printed years ago and the authors long dead being sold for prices at or above you could by it in paperback. Its here that the publishers whole argument breaks down. The cost of generating, storing and distributing such books are tiny in ebook form, but the price no where near reflects this. Strangely I think they would sell loads more and make a bigger profit if they reduced the price to say 99p.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Its about the customer silly

    Talk about failing to reference the elephant in the room.

    eBooks are about 1MB in size. As per usual, the DRM gets broken. As a result the rise in eBook readers we are currently seeing is fuelling a growth in the eBook sharing market.

    If publishers don't take their heads out of their collective arses the market in DRM free, shared content will rapidly dwarf that of the paid for market. Why pay prices which you consider over-the-top when you can download in a few seconds enough content to keep you amused for months?

    The punter will accept a certain price level (I'm guessing in the region of £1-£5) for a book, on the proviso that most goes to the author. They are NOT going to pay over £5 in future. Sorry guys, that's a given. The only question that remains is how you go, quickly, from a model that's predicated on the publishing house, to one predicated on the author. Its going to take some seriously agile feet, which I'm not seeing to date.

    If you have shares in a publishing house, sell them now.

  42. Code Monkey

    So the answer is...

    ... campaign for e-books to be 0% VAT like their paper counterparts?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Zero rating is unlikely

      It's virtually impossible to move things onto zero rating - for changes like that, you need cross-EU agreement.

      However, it would be possible for them to move to the lower VAT rate, a move that was agreed in Directive 2007/47/EC. The lower rate in the UK is 5% (and that won't be shifting), so in theory (it's merely allowable, rather than compulsory) that rate could be levied on eBooks if the government were so minded.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Gutenberg - great project

    Good for you for pointing out the brilliant Project Gutenberg. I recall using it in the 90s on my PalmPilot for reading while travelling, and it good to see them finally coming into their own.

    SHE Who Must Be Obeyed got a Kindle for early-Christmas, and that was quickly populated with a few hundred classics from Gutenberg and elsewhere, like manybooks.net, and all DRM-free.

    Back on topic, do keep holding publishers to account for their profiteering like this. There's really no excuse other than greed.

  44. Timjl

    VAT

    There isn't going to be a 20% increase in VAT. It's increasing TO 20%.

  45. Colin Miller

    Book price markup

    Given you can buy Penguin Classics for £3 (IIRC), and they are out-of-copyright, then this must be close to the lowest price a physical book can be printed and distributed for, albeit using cheap binding.

    Therefore, I don''t see why eBooks should not be £3-£5 less that the dead-tree equivalent, giving the same profit margin to the companies involved.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Ebook £6.49, dead tree £1.99, Project Gutenburg £0.00

    I am confused why anyone would buy the ebook version of John Buchan's "The Thirty Nine Steps", for £6.49, when they get it for free at Project Gutenburg, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/558. You can also buy the dead tree version for £1.99 from Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1853260800/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=103612307&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0140621091&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_r=18QKV5K5X4MYNA9TV0X9.

  47. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Unhappy

    Only one rule

    All the arguments aside there is only one rule, as usual it's "Sell your product at a price the market will stand.". If they could get away with selling them for double the costs shown, they would.

    1. Rattus Rattus

      "...a price the market will stand"

      Which is why copyright and patents are fundamentally incompatible with a free market. If someone has a monopoly on a particular good, you cannot vote with your wallet and purchase it from someone who is more willing to meet your needs.

      P.S. - Where's the Adam Smith with horns icon?

  48. John Hawkins

    Project Gutenberg and a smartphone/tablet is all you need

    There are a *lot* of interesting books available on Project Gutenberg that are no longer under copyright. You may end up writing a somewhat quaint English and you will have to put up with some attitudes that are no longer regarded as politically correct (you decide yourself if that is a problem), but there are some good yarns out there for downloading.

    I use Aldiko on an HTC Desire. I've changed the default values for the reading UI to lower the contrast and battery drain (grey instead of white background); easy to read but the battery life is still nothing to get excited about.

  49. DrXym Silver badge

    There can't be a price war

    Amazon and publishers have agreed a contract where the same book cannot be sold elsewhere for less than Amazon sells it for. Same with Apple. Probably same for Sony, Waterstones, WH Smith etc. Everyone is locked at the same price with no scope for competition.

    It's horribly anticompetitive and I am surprised the EU at least doesn't stamp all over the practice. Ebooks are way too expensive. And games, videos and music too.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surface Detail is a good example

    Having been an avid ereader for a good few years now (I still use a creaky old iRex Iliad), I come up against this ripoff pricing a lot.

    What I did with Surface Detail was buy the hardback, then download a copy in electronic form (unencumbered by DRM and format-shiftable) and read that. I do this a lot. It's often slightly cheaper too, which - looking at the hefty wedge of nicely printed, good quality paper that makes up the hardback - makes me wonder exactly how that costs the publishers negative money compared to the electronic version.

    Best one I saw was a few years ago when the then-latest Pratchett was £7 in hardback form or £22 in DRM'd ebook. I phoned his publishers and pointed out that I'm far more likely to steal that book if they insist on trying to screw me on the cost. They, to their credit, agreed with me. I did, in the end, buy the paperback (and then format shift it via the internet).

    Legally, this way of reading might technically be a crime, but morally - I don't think so. The author and the publisher and the distributor still get paid. I still get to the content. I didn't actually want a slice of dead tree into the bargain, but hey. It's comparable to downloading mp3s of an album I already own - and who hasn't done that?

    Format shifting is another plus point to doing things the "pirate" way - my reader, due to an idiotic Mobipocket/Adobe tiff, won't read ePubs. What should I do, then, when the book I want isn't in a format I can read? If I bought a Kindle copy of Surface Detail, the only ebook format available at launch, I probably wouldn't be able to read it. As far I can see, I have only two choices - get drm-free books via the pirate network, and pay for them some other way; or buy a new reader which I can't afford to replace the - still superior to most and functioning just fine - one that I have. If the software manufacturers were a bit less childish, I wouldn't have to make that decision.

    Amazon's AZW format is merely Mobipocket rebadged. It's DRM was cracked a long time ago. Not that I buy Kindle books and rip the DRM from them. But other people do, and often post the results online. The genie is well and truly out of that DRM'd bottle.

    I've spoken with a number of major publisher's digital strategists about ebooks and it's interesting how consistent their responses are - they know we want to pay sub/near-paperback prices for DRM-free content. They understand they need to be more attractive than free, easier than piracy. They know this. Their bosses, their accountants, most of the authors don't - yet. The publishing industry is a slow and momentous beast, even more so than the music industry, but they will get there.

  51. max allan

    Won't someone think of the trees?

    Consider the cost of making real books and what happens if it doesn't sell well. You print a few million copies anticipating some demand and only sell a few thousand. You've got a few trees worth of paper to recycle.

    If you print a few thousand and it's popular, then you get told off for restricting supply etc...

    I bet a large proportion of the initial cost of a physical book covers the risk. Compare new books costing >£10 with 6 months later when you can pick them up for under 5. I expect 5 is nearer the "real cost". So to inflate the eBook price to match the initial cost of a paper book is effectively susidising the publisher's risk on the paper book.

    If they took the plunge and went all E, the prices should fall.

  52. JDX Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Hardbacks

    I have no problem at all with an eBook being more expensive until the paperback comes out... hardbacks don't cost so much more than paperbacks due to production costs either, and I'm happy to wait for cheaper paperbacks.

    My two complaints are:

    1)eBook should clearly be discounted some amount compared to physical version. On Amazon many eBooks seem to cost MORE than the hard-copy

    2)What about 2nd hand books? I can get 2nd hand book for £2 which is in decent condition but how does this compare to eBooks?

  53. Tony Paulazzo
    Linux

    Title

    >Consider Phlebas is £5 in paperback or £7.99 on Kindle. Madness. Especially given that you can buy a second hand paperback from amazon market place for ~£3.<

    Or 60p in a second hand shop. Point of fact, I already bought dead tree 'Consider Phlebas' (plus all the other culture books) for hard cash (had to wait painfully for paperback versions), therefore the publishing house owe me the electronic version... Oh it's ok, found them thru' Google, Jeez, 'Surface Detail' is already 'freely' available - thank the Gods I'm so honest!

    Same goes for all those records I bought in my youth, then again as CDs, then again as MP3s, surely having bought the license to listen to them once the others should have been 'free'.

    Oh right, copyright only works one way, got it...

  54. Mick Stranahan
    Unhappy

    Product costs...

    As with an iPad, a BMW 3-Series or a bottle of Calvin Klein CK1 the price is what the market will support and has sod all to do with the genuine product cost-to-market.

    Right now the Kindle, both as hardware and content, is a blazing success for Amazon, and until such time as that changes prices won't drop or until Amazon thinks that that a price drop will massively increase demand and consumption and thus overall profit.

    And at the end of the day, like iPads, BMW's and CK1, eBooks are not essential purchases. If the price pisses you off so much, don't buy them.

    I can't foresee any mechanic on the horizon that will force a drop in new published eBook prices so I suspect we will see some degree of parity between eBook and paper edition prices for some time to come.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Pirate

      The end result?

      "If the price pisses you off so much, don't buy them."

      People aren't.

  55. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Smartphone? No thank you.

    I paid £500 for a pocket-puter[1] and £210 for an e-reader. Both run Linux and support a wide range of e-book formats, but there's only one I'd choose to read them on. The 6" e-ink screen is its value.

    [1] Known to some as a smartphone. But my real smartphone is a different device, that happens to be smaller and lighter to carry around, much more comfortable to hold in the hand, and has a far better battery life.

  56. Justicesays
    Unhappy

    What about Geographical Restrictions? DVD regions anyone?

    Not just the pricing is a problem, you just cant buy some books in ebook format in the UK.

    It's not like they aren't available, you can get them electronically in the US/Canada, and the dead tree version can be bought in the UK, but because the rights to "online" are tied into the country you sell to, not where you sell from, its down to the "local" publisher of the book to sort out ebook formats, and if they don't, you are stuffed.

    This doesn't stop you buying physical books from other countries of course, apparently the rules are different then.

    In fact, a while ago it was alot cheaper for me to buy a (hardback) book from the Amazon.com US store, and pay for postage across the world to uk, that it was to buy the UK hardback copy, or the ebook .

    Not sure what the rules are on shipping the ebook on a physical medium, like an SDcard, maybe someone could start up a business reselling US books to the world by posting 10mb SD cards around.

    I'm surprise they haven't strapped region detection onto their (completely ineffective) ebook DRM mechanisms. I used to buy US e-books, but the publishers had a crackdown early in the year and now alot of the content I want to read is US only, or only available in the UK on kindle.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Like music ...

      ... territoriality comes into it far too much for a connected world, but that's probaly a reflection of contracts not having been updated in line with the technology. Some authors may, for example, have different publishers on different sides of the Atlantic, and the one that holds the electronic rights here won't be very happy if people are able to buy it cheaper from the US company instead.

      That, as with music, is likely to take a long time to untangle. And things can be more complicated with back list titles - older contracts may not include anything to do with eBooks. There's been a big fuss with MacMillan (for one) contacting authors directly, trying to get them to sign over electronic rights, and bypassing agents. Meanwhile, at least one prominent agent has decided that, on behalf of the authors he represents, he'll deal directly with Amazon for eBooks, cutting out the publisher. Amazon has been reported as having approached some agents directly too, with the intention of cutting out publishers (especially as a way of subverting Agency pricing).

      Exactly what's going to happen longer term is going to be interesting, to say the least. It's going to take some time to settle down. An interesting question is whether, while we wait for that to happen, the general public (as opposed to RegHardware readers) will end up with impression "Oh, eBooks are just a rip-off."

      To an extent, with music, people could buy players and even if they didn't want to pay for music, or be saddled with complicated DRM, it didn't matter so much, as they could easily convert their existing CDs to MP3 and still use the shiny gadgets.

      With eBook readers, that's not really the case; sure, there are out of copyright works, and some other free sources like Baen.

      But the mass market is for those books that people are looking to buy at Amazon or WH Smith - the very titles in many cases that are being hit by agency pricing. I don't think people will wait around forever for the prices to drop. They'll think "these books cost too much, I'm going back to paperbacks" and stick the Kindle or Sony Reader back in the drawer.

      Right now, there are loads of people pumping out e-ink readers, but I don't see that continuing if people start to feel that most of the books are too expensive. They may still be willing to buy a more general purpose tablet that can be used for other things.

      1. AdamWill
        FAIL

        I'm with OP...

        ...and the reason is that territoriality is *new* in the ebook market. They didn't used to bother with it. They've just recently decided it's a good idea.

        Check out this lovely email I got from Waterstones:

        "We see from our records that you have previously purchased an eBook from Waterstones.com whilst having a registered address outside of the UK and Ireland. We regret that as of 20th October 2010, we are no longer able to sell eBooks to customers placing an order from anywhere outside of the UK and Ireland. We have had to take this action to comply with the legal demands of publishers regarding the territories into which we can sell eBooks. Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience that this may cause. Please note: Your previously purchased eBooks are not affected by this and will still be available in your ‘Digital order history’ in your online account."

        Where for 'legal demands of publishers' read 'they're used to ripping off Canadians' (our market for dead-tree books is nowhere near as competitive as the UK's).

        The most ridiculous thing about this is that it makes it flat out impossible for me to buy quite a lot of books. Surface Detail's a good example: I don't know if it's changed, but when the book came out, there were quite simply *no* publishers offering the ebook version for sale in Canada. None. This a science fiction book, at that. I could walk into any book store and buy the dead tree version, but ebook? Nope. So what did I do? Well I went and got the thing anyway, of course. Then I emailed Iain Banks to offer to send him a tenner. If the publishers are going to be so fucking stupid about it I figure I'll cut them out of the equation.

        I don't see people putting ebook readers back in the drawer, I see people just downloading the ebooks for free, as many have commented in this thread. If the industry wants to waste five years arguing internally about who should get paid for what and blah de fucking blah, that's their right, but they'll find at the end of that period that no-one's interested in paying for ebooks any more.

  57. Dave Fox
    Go

    Technical Library

    I use my Kindle mostly as an extremely portable technical library. Those books are mostly going to be concerning current technologies (e.g. SQL Server 2005 etc), and so that idea that an e-reader from 10 years in the future might not be able to read them is not a worry for me because they'd be so out of date its untrue.

    That being said, I'm sure I could strip the DRM from them and convert if I really wished.

  58. andy gibson

    Egon Spengler

    In Ghostbusters he uttered the phrase "print is dead". He was wrong then and 26 years later he's still wrong.

    Even if it were free to download I'd still prefer my battered, but beautifully bound and resilient hardback copy of Buchan's 39 Steps (and the sequels).

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Egon Spengler

      Fair point, but isn't that a bit like saying Doctor Who is crap on a plasma but fantastic on an LCD?

      What matters, surely, is the content not the packaging?

      I remember some folk bemoaning CD because they didn't get a big picture on the front.

      Don't get me wrong - I love books. But they're simply a delivery mechanism. True, the only delivery mechanism that's been remotely practical - or even possible - for the last thousand years or so, but a delivery mechanism nonetheless.

      Print isn't dead, it's just in the process of upping sticks and moving from paper to screen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: Egon Spengler

        Print definitely has upsides, and as the premier store of knowledge at least for the western world, we shouldn't pretend we can do away with it just yet. We haven't really caught on but our digital storage lasts a nanofraction of how long print lasts. Alright, there's plenty of pulp and acidic paper and ink that'll rot, but we know pretty well how to deal with it. We don't yet know that for digital. And then there's the many many formats around. This is already making archival "interesting" for obsolete word processor formats, archive formats, and so on.

        Of course, access to digital books is so much easier... as long as the hardware, the software, the network, and the services (book seller, payment processor, webhosters, banks, etc.) on the other side are available. But that isn't all there is to it. Meaning that for the foreseeable future, print will remain pretty important. For when (not if) the hardware or even the power fizzles out, *poof* and all our knowledge gone.

        1. JEDIDIAH
          Linux

          Crassius Maximus is the real problem.

          > We haven't really caught on but our digital storage

          > lasts a nanofraction of how long print lasts. Alright,

          > there's plenty of pulp and acidic paper and ink that'll

          > rot, but we know pretty well how to deal with it. We

          > don't yet know that for digital.

          Nonsense. If the data formats are open, and not owned by some company like Microsoft or Amazon then dealing with pure data is actually pretty simple.

          My "media store" includes stuff that's over 15 years old. It includes things in well understood formats and even includes some older "e-books". If data is in a format that is actually intended to be read openly by any platform, then the challenges are much less difficult.

          Most of my digital music collection predates any effort by Apple in this area.

          Stuff like DRM and proprietary formats are what complicate things.

          Are you stuck using a Microsoft, Apple or Amazon product to read your data?

          Books simply should not come with a corporate brand and associated necessary proprietary decoders.

  59. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Simple explanation

    When many book contracts were signed there would be a clause that it was for printed media only. So when a new format comes along later the publishers have to sign another contract with the author which is usually for an inflated price due to the book now being popular.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Two points

    although doubtless made previously above (yes I read them but there are so many...)

    $200 for a reader compared to $10 per paperback means each reader should come with 20 free books, otherwise what's the point? Or each ebook must be discounted some huge percent to make it worth while forking cash for them. And any time the book is ``licensed'' instead of handed over in some physical form, I don't trust them to have it available for longer than it takes to say ``we need to squeeze more profit out of this bloodless stone''.

    When I get on an airplane I read a novel to take my mind off the fact that ``OMG why are there flames coming out of that engine thingy'?', and ``what's that guy in the turban standing up and shouting about?'' So there I am with an ereader instead of a paperback and the steward is getting all Nazi about ``turn all electronic devices off'', and I'm back to worrying about if this thing is going to fly or plummet out of the sky. Thank you, no.

  61. Ari 1

    don't mind paying, but being ripped off!

    I buy electronic books, and I have absolutely no problems with paying fairly for a product. A new book CAN be more expensive than an old one.

    But selling the e-book at a higher price than the hardcover is a clear rip-off and just dishonest towards customers.

    Look, publishers, it's not complicated. E-books should be around 10-20% cheaper than the currently cheapest paper version you're selling. Cheaper because the customer gets less value for money (no collectability, no resale value), but so little lower because you can charge for convenience.

    If I had to walk to a physical bookstore to get my e-book then it would need to be 50% cheaper than the paper version because you wouldn't be providing me with the convenience, which is a real addition to value. The price would have to be cut to match the lower value of the product.

    But, ok, got it?

    at least 10% cheaper than the cheapest currently available version. So if the hardcover is $20 then the kindle version should be $18.

    If the paperback is $6 then we're talking about just over $5 for the Kindle version.

    1. Michael C

      so...

      Then, by that logic, if you paid $200 for your reader, than means in it's lifespan you're willing to buy an average somewhere around 150 books in order to break even vs having a paper copy? If money is the object, you must read a lot...

      You loose the decoration for your house, the conversation starter it can be, the ability to loan and borrow books, and the ability to sell/trade books as well. iPads work great in regular and dim light, and no too bad outside except at some angles. e-ink works great outdoors and in normal light, but sucks in the dark. There's no good all around solution. Then you have to buy one for each family member (and still have issues sharing books, or deal with Kindles no reading iBooks and B&K's books?).

      And then, 20 years from now when you want to re-read an older book, can you??? At least 1 proprietary ebook format was already discontinued leaving people with unreadable books, you;re willing to let that happen again? I'm currently re-reading both the Wheel of Time and The Song of Ice and Fire, neither of which I'd be able to do more than the most recent few books if i have gotten electronic copies on release, some of them being well over 10 years old.

      Here's what I'm OK with: I buy a real book. In the back of the book is a code number from the publisher. i go to their website where I enter the code (thereby rendering it used), and they give me a coupon to go to the ebook store of my choice and download an electronic copy. I pay $2 for this privileged to get the first copy. Once every few years, i can go back to their site and get another coupon to go get a FREE copy again, provided its in a newer format not compatible with the older one, guaranteeing i can continue to have support for those books going forward on new devices. I can also go to their site and "sell" the book, disassociating the ebook from my account, and letting me sell or trade the book in such a way that the new owner can also get an ebook (but without having to wait a few years). They'll pay 40% of list price for the ebook if the book is still sold in stores, or $2 otherwise. I get to keep the ebook I bought, but can never upgrade it again, essentially giving it a fixed lifespan. This system doesn't require ebook vendors to support any kind of central system, nor different publishers to support each other, the code in the book is used by the publisher (maybe through a central service, maybe not), and all they do is issue a coupon. The publisher could care less which ebook vendor (and ion which format) the book is in, and the seller only needs the code they provided me. The publisher tracks who is in "ownership" of the book at any time so that electronic upgrades can be given freely.

  62. zxcvbnm

    Not sure about the VAT

    Don't you pay the VAT of the eu country you buy the book from? ie luxenburg for kindle books, not the uk vat. I could be wrong but it looks like it. Though why we don't buy all our ebooks from Guernsy?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Yes, but ...

      While VAT is indeed levied based on the country of supply, territoriality comes into play once more.

      If a publisher has the rights to sell an eBook only in the UK, then it's problematic, I should imagine, to give it to someone in a different country to sell, unless you can be absolutely certain that that person is only going to sell it to the countries where you have the rights.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sellers in other countries have to charge UK VAT

      unless they sell so little that it's not worth the overhead. I can't remember the actual limit's, but it's somewhere over 15K, and under 50K, as far as I can recall.

  63. Nigel Whitfield.

    Year of the Flood

    Since I used the comparison prices of this in the article, it's worth pointing out that while the publisher-set-price on Amazon earlier in the week was £6.99, it's now showing as £4.49, in line with the price at WH Smith. That at least makes it cheaper than the paperback, reversing the situation when I wrote the article.

    However, a quick check of some of the other titles reveals that, for example, the Ian M Banks titles are still pricer than the print editions.

  64. Robin 1
    FAIL

    So let's see if we can work that out...

    Ooooh. Here's fun. Follow the link that shows the publisher's costs. If you don't have time, here is the simplified version:

    From the publisher's perspective:

    Step 1. Sit around waiting for someone to write a book. Total man hours: 0

    Step 2. Continue to do nothing while waiting for the writer to send us a copy. Total man hours: 0

    Step 3. Actually read the damned thing. Total man hours: 6

    Step 4. Hire someone to market it. Finally we hit some actual costs and work. Total cost: 5% of revenue from book.

    Step 5. Have someone decide if we can make more at Christmas or in summer with the book. Total man hours: 2

    Step 6. Read the damned thing again and look for errors. With a good spell and grammar checker, total man hours: 40

    Step 7. Wait for the author to double check our work. Total man hours: 0

    Step 8. Send an intern down to Kinkos to run off a couple dozen advanced copies for friends and family -- maybe the odd reviewer. Total man hours: 4

    Step 9. Design and produce a cover. Total man hours: 40

    Step 10. Have someone else redo what you did in step 6. total man hours: 40

    Step 11. Have a meeting to convince your sales staff to get off their collective ass and sell the damned thing. Total man hours: 2 (possible women hours involved here in extremely unmotivated sales teams)

    Step 12. Covert the document to pdf format and repeat what you did in step 6 and step 10 again. total man hours: 40

    Step 13. Put together a spreadsheet that shows how many books you've sold and order them. total man hours: 40

    Step 14. Have someone print them. Ooooh! More actual work! Total cost: Conveniently Unavailable.

    Step 15. This is not a step, but a complaint.

    Step 16. Pay some minimum wage worker to ship the damned things. Total cost: Also conveniently unavailable.

    Step 17. Count your profits!

    So looking at this, the only steps that actually involve any real costs are steps 4, 14 and 16. The rest take a single person a week or less to perform, if there is any actual cost to the publisher at all. Let's not even talk about the two steps that are repeated by other people just to cover the incompetence of your own staff.

    Yeah. Someone want to try running this by me again? What a pile of.... oh wait. My typesetter says he's run out of the letter B. Ah well...

    1. Martin Nelson
      WTF?

      @robin1 Complete Rot

      Sorry but you are 100% wrong here.

      There are many more independent publishers and smaller houses that do not have loads of interns or staff. In fact even the bigger houses are now shedding workers.

      (Good) Marketing will generally be budgeted at around 10-15% of the cover price. Doing it for less will not sell books plain and simple. 5% is about right only when you are talking about books costing around £10 and being sold in their 100,000s.

      As for spelling and grammar, even with a good in-house person (because software cannot and will never be able to do the job as accurately), it can often cost quite a bit to keep them on payroll. Consider that I spend £50 on a proof-reader for a 70-page book that was relatively low budget!

      Proof copies also come out of the marketing budget and do cost money. Granted they don't cost a lot but one certainly wouldn't hand them to friends and family. Reviewers yes, but never friends and family...a waste of time and money I'm afraid.

      I could go on and on but it is clear you've not got a clue.

      Let me give you a real break-down of the cost of a 100-page paperback at least:

      ISBN (Necessary to sell in stores and only available in quantities of 10, 100 or 1,000 so this is what it cost per book): £23

      1st Proof-Reading: £50

      Cover Design: £25-£250

      Copy Writer (for back-cover blurb): £25-75

      4 Proof Copies: £12

      2nd Proof Reading: £50

      Print Run (250 copies): £750

      Total Cost: £935 or £3.74 per book

      Each bookstore demands a different margin but let's say they a 40% margin as average the cost of the book to the customer would have to be: £8 per book.

      Of that the bookstore receives: £3.20 per book

      The Publisher's profit is: £1.06 per book

      However, the publisher then has to look at paying the author so based on an extremely generous 50/50 profit share on a run of 250 book the publisher would only make: £132.5

      For a project that could have spent months in the making (and they really can) the margin is remarkably slim. It also assumes that the publisher sub-contracts out rather than hires people.

      Given then that there is more outlay to produce an eBook and that the market is so incredably small and has no universal format what is our incentive to publish eBooks?

      1. Peter Kay

        Defeating your own argument..

        You're not getting it, are you? The points are a) in an e-book world, the seller will not be able to maintain a 40% margin and b) The publisher does not have to publish assuming a 40% margin

        Base cost of dead tree, as per your figures : 935 quid. Base cost of e-book as per your figures : 185 quid.

        185/250=74p. 74p+1.06=1.80. Now add margin - even at 40% that's only 2.52.

        You can probably get away with more than 2.52 retail, and as an e-book publisher's costs are lower (no warehousing), they won't get 40%. End result : the publisher's margin is higher, and the author receives more money.

        Where's the flaw with my reasoning?

        1. Martin Nelson
          Stop

          @Peter Kay

          Your figures are all very well but they mean nothing.

          Let's look at Amazon who DEMAND damn near 60% as standard off anything they sell. That includes eBooks, which in some cases they demand a higher price for. Oh and then don't forget to tack on the cost of converting/creating an eBook professionally. Your figures are simplistic at best!

          Disregarding that you have your maths completely wrong:

          If my costs, advertising and margin add up to £1.80 and we take it as 60% of cover price that actually means the cover price of the book is £3. Not only that but there is no way that a small publisher would sell 250 books first time out. I'd have to alter my marketing strategy completely and I'd also require market research on the number of eBook readers in the local area, and interest area. I could go on about extra costs and research.

          The other thing is that most of us commenting here on el Reg are fairly tech literate. I can tell you from bitter experience that the North West of England is a tech black spot. Ordinary people don't primarily think..."that looks like a good book, I'll buy it on my kindle".

          In fact sales of eBook readers are so depressingly low that even a generous 1% of market share is so little as to reap little if any reward.

          To create a competitive pricing there has to be good reason. For most publishers there just isn't a good reason to price better on eBooks!

    2. Michael C

      complete lunacy

      First off, just sitting around waiting for someone to write a book doers have costs, but those are soft costs, and lets not complicate things here..

      Starting with step 3: First proofread might be 6 hours for a romance novel, but not for a proper fantasy or epic pushing 900 pages. lets be reasonable and give it 2 minutes a page, a fair average for a fast reader who's actually analyzing the story (and taking notes) not just reading it quick. this is not a proofread, this tis the "do we want to buy their book or not" read. lets value this person at $100/hour (their pay is probably $30-50/hour, but they need facilities, a PC, corporate overhead, management, etc; ask anyone and they'll tell you a salaried employee costs $100/hour.... ) First proofread, $500-750 average?

      Additionally, we might read 20 books before we like 1 and are willing to publish it. lets say this person finds 3 new books a month to publish.... Cost per book published, probably $4-8K.

      Now, from here we change everything: Assuming $100/hour costs...

      Step 4: Send book back to author for structural changes. Re-read it again later, this time read deeper, twice as long, a first proofing instead of a first reading). no one submits a book ready to publish, they always require editing... 40 hours for a SHORT book that is completely stand alone. This is also BEFORE we get a contract together, we might not buy this book anyway...

      Step 5: legal team. $250/hour, write contract and get author to sign it. Usually a 3-4 book deal, sometimes more.

      step 6: Up-front payment. This is "risk" money, paid in advance on a book not done yet. Often, an author is contracted to write 3-4 books before we ever print the first one, and this small income given on meeting deadlines is all they have until it hits shelves. We pay this, and might not sell enough copies to recoup it, thus the risk. Once sales come in, commission/royalties are deducted from the advance (plus a little interest). Depending on the legalese, this could be 3-10K books worth of royalty.

      step 7: Final editing, pagination (done for hardcover, book club, paperback, and multiple ebook formats) , book cover design (also varies by book size, done multiple times), could easily exceed 1,000 man hours for a large book that's part of a series, or be as little as 250 man hours for a simple book like a romance novel.

      step 8: advertising. For most books, nothing more than a promo pack of some bookmarks and some cover art prints given to the author, and notifying book stores of the impending release, but for the rare book that actually gets marketed (1 in 10), 10-15% of cover price.

      step 9, printing and warehousing. Yea, can only print so many a day, and setting the printer takes time during which no books are being printed, so we print a "run" of several thousand to a few million all at once, store them, and then ship them to stores. about 30% of these will not be sold this year (some may never be). For big authors, we'll do several runs, and for some even rarer several "editions" where things get changed (corrections ,bonus material, preview of next book, etc), sometimes all new cover art. Printing costs about 15% of each book, warehousing as much as another 10%.

      step 10: sales. seller takes 40-60% off the top from MSRP. 10 or so of each book goes to the author, so the publisher gets 30-40%. A few hundred to a few thousand man hours to pull this off. So, doing the math, a minimum 5-20K invested up front, as much as 1-2K invested in each book we DON'T publish (which are 10:1 more common than ones published), and 70-80% off the top in costs deducted from MSRP. Publisher might get $2-5 per book sold (and 30% might never be). Out of all this, tops, 25% can be removed from the costs in printing and warehousing but amazon takes 60% where most retailers take only 45%, so that's mostly a wash. Total costs to publish an ebook are 1-2% less than real books.

      You don't understand the publishing industry at all, or its fixed costs, you've not taken permanent or soft costs into perspective, I didn't even go into hosting servers for the author's blogs and such... Books have very slim profits. Publishing costs are increasing, not decreasing, as technology advances. eBooks are an additional cost, not a cost to themselves, but each one is the loss of a real book sale. Yes, making an e-book from a book already published is cheap, but selling one to someone who does not already own the book is a money looser. Old books sell for $4-7 in paperback, so $3-5 ebooks are a good sale. First release? If the ebook was $4, who would buy the $29 hardcover? If we scrap the hardcover, all that cost falls to the ebook anyway, and initial sales would still have those books costing $20-25 each (declining over time).

      1. Peter Kay

        Holding Amazon up as the benchmark is not sensible

        Not everyone here understands the costs - that's why they're asking and questioning assumptions.

        The basic assumption seems to be that the retail outlet takes 40-65% of the purchase price. For an e-book store this is not sustainable - at some point a dedicated e-book competitor to Amazon will start to drive down prices by taking a lower margin.

        The argument of 'who would buy a hardcover if there's an e-book available' is a specious one. Who would buy a hardback if paperback is available? To state the blindingly obvious, hardbacks sell either because the material is available in no other format, the quality of the typesetting/form factor is significantly higher or because it has a number of extras (decent illustrations, etc) unsuitable for other formats.

        There are ways selling e-books could work, whether that's a release simultaneous with the paper book or later on, but publishers sticking their head in the sand and claiming it could never work seems to me the height of foolishness.

  65. John 62

    inventory

    Once a book is printed it effectively costs money to house it until it has been dispatched. I think they crop their margins on physical books because it gives them an advantage against other book sellers and it helps them keep their stock turnover high.

  66. ratfox Silver badge
    WTF?

    I don't get it

    Why are people complaining so much about the price of eBooks? Just buy a real book, then.

    ...Or could it be that you find eBooks so much more practical, because you can keep a whole library in a single device? Well, THAT advantage is something you should, obviously, pay for.

    Honestly, I feel that people are complaining that the thing they find so much better and more useful and easier to use and easier to buy, actually costs more money.

  67. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
    Flame

    I bought nice Ian M Banks collection on Kindle

    ... in October - just before price rise. Ha, suckers!

    No, seriously - from now on I shall refrain from buying anything where price has been set by the publisher, and instead do just the opposite : give one star review with simple explanation why

  68. Dave Bell

    A harsh reality

    Most of the publishing labels are owned by huge companies, some of them already in the music business, and in many cases the ebook policies are being set at these remote upper levels.

    I fear we're going to see the same stupidity.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    I tried an ebook reader

    A friend of mine has been espousing the qualities of e-book readers to me for a while. I finally thought I would give it a try, primarily because I was about to be travelling for a month and didn't want to carry 10 books with me for the period. I had such a bad experience I won't be going back. Let me list a few reasons for this:

    1) DRM. It is a nightmare. I don't want to buy books that I don't have full permissions for the future. Especially if I'm paying the same price as the physical book.

    2) Pictures don't work. Some of the books I read had maps in them. They were virtually impossible to see properly on the e-reader screen.

    3) OCR errors. Drove me up the wall. The number of times in modern books that "the" was rendered as "die" due to an OCR error was obscene. If the publisher can't be arsed to proof read the books they convert, then they certainly aren't worth the same price as the printed version.

    4) Cost. Almost all books I looked at were more expensive for e-book versions than printed versions. I don't mind paying the same if I get the same thing. In perpetuity license on any device I happen to own, no OCR errors, and viewable pictures.

    5) Lendability. Part way through the trip my wife finished her books. I couldn't lend her one of mine to read because they were all tied up on the e-reader.

    The damn thing broke anyway, so I'll keep using it till I've read the books I've got on it, then I'll chuck the damn thing and never buy another. Piece of crap.

    1. Michael C

      my issues

      I'll accept the costs of the ebook vs physical book. The pre-printing costs are 70% of the cost (lots and lots of labor, and legal teams working contracts), and that ebooks simply are not boing to be more than $2-3 less than a book (and if you shop around, sometimes mroe.

      That aside, the biggest 3 issues are dependability, decoration (a lot to be said for books on a shelf), and longevity.

      1: When i read a ton, i constantly traded books. I could simply not afford 20-30 books a year. At a $2-3 discount, ebooks cost more than buying and trading by a LOT. I also borrow and loan books frequently (still do). eBooks have no advantages there until they come up with a universal DRM tracking system that will fully allow electronic media to be treated with 100% of the rights of physical.

      2: I have a lot of walls. They're covered in book cases. The shelves are not full of books, but they;re full of STUFF, including the books. Fantasy figures, knickknacks, heirlooms, and lots of books. some of the shelves are chock full of books, others more sparse. If I had no books, it would look odd, and I'de have a lot more blank wall in the house....

      3: Can you guarantee that in 20 years, when i buy my 4th ebook reader, than 100% of all my ebooks will work on it, or that I'll get 100% free upgrades to the newest book format for my existing books? in 40 years? in 80 years? I don't think you can guarantee 10... maybe 5. The reader itself has an ongoing cost in addition to the media as well (replacements).

      And for me: a lot of my books are signed, or worth more for being first printings. They're as much a collection as they are media.

      buying only about 10 books a year now, even if ebooks were half the price, which I know will never happen, the cost is simply still higher (counting reader costs), worse having to make very hard sacrifices to do it.

      here's a better plan. I buy a real book, and for $1-2 more, i go to the site and download an e-copy for use on the reader of my choice. Some code in the book tracks my account, and I get new copies in new formats free for the rest of my life, but if that ever fails, i always have the physical book to sell/trade/read.

  70. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    WTF?

    I'm just finishing a Master's dissertation...

    On the subject of correcting OCR errors when creating e-books.

    It's not quite as easy as it sounds. The main aim of the research has been to find a way to identify the words which are correct in context but considered incorrect by a normal spelling checker. I won't bore you with fifteen thousand words of research - merely note that in the course of it I corresponded with a number of authors about the ethics of scanning and OCR'ing their work (as opposed to out-of-copyright material where there is obviously no issue).

    They were unanimous in their approval: if you've bought the book, do what you like with it - but for your own use only please. There's an implicit assumption that you've *bought* not *licensed* the material, irrespective of medium.

    What I do find astounding is that ebooks from publishers are being delivered with format errors - some of them obviously OCR errors. Since a modern publisher almost certainly has the text electronically, what's that about?

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    lend/share

    With quite a few book readers you can lend or share books

    That said , so far i've mainly read free, out of copyright,

    Books and have bought very few commercial offerings - I certainly won't whilst they are party much the same price as the real physical version

    1. Bob_the_dinosaur

      That's assuming a lot

      That's assuming they've switched on enough to be able to convert between formats or there's any sort of consistency across their titles. Both are reasonable assumptions and both are ime utterly wrong.

      Some authors don't even use electronic word processors. Most think that word is a suitable system to write a book in and very very few of them write content that's easily converted to a standardised format. If your conversion staff is lazy, overworked or just not that good then errors will slip through by the dozen.

      I used to work converting xml formatted books into online publishable material, if the books were consistent it took me about half a day. If the books were not consistent or complex it could take a fortnight of work spread over three months....

  72. Bob_the_dinosaur

    Well, you'd think that but..

    That's assuming they've switched on enough to be able to convert between formats or there's any sort of consistency across their titles. Both are reasonable assumptions and both are ime utterly wrong.

    Some authors don't even use electronic word processors. Most think that word is a suitable system to write a book in and very very few of them write content that's easily converted to a standardised format. If your conversion staff is lazy, overworked or just not that good then errors will slip through by the dozen.

    I used to work converting xml formatted books into online publishable material, if the books were consistent it took me about half a day. If the books were not consistent or complex it could take a fortnight of work spread over three months....

  73. Chris Reynolds
    Go

    DRM can be good thing

    One of my most prized possessions is my bookshelf. It takes up an entire wall and is as much a self-portrait as any painting I could muster. I love lending books to friends, and quite often lose track of them, never to be seen again. I could do as some do and put my name on the inside cover, but don't always have the presence of mind to do so.

    Anyhow, DRM has the potential not only to benefit the rights of the publisher but also the rights of the consumer. What if I could buy a cheap eBook with DRM locked down that prevents me lending it to others. Now, what if I could buy a slightly more expensive version that allows me to lend it to others. Going on from that, what if I could charge people for borrowing my books? Amazon surely has the potential to organise such a marketplace and, by charging a percentage, profit from it.

    Public Libraries could negotiate special deals with publishers or resellers such as Amazon to pay not for the book but for the number of times it's borrowed. No more having to shell out for books that nobody borrows.

    Whilst eBooks would surely be most efficiently distributed online, there will still be a need for public libraries to provide ICT equipment (such as the eBook readers themselves) and to instead become centres of local learning and knowledge.

    And even when this utopia arrives, I will retain my bookshelf because there is something about a bookshelf that I will always like. I was more than happy to get rid of my shelf of CDs and VHS, but the shelf of well-thumbed Lonely Planet guides filled with photos and postcards of places we've visited are a rich reminder of travels past. The various signed copies (including a very special copy of Bear Grylls' Facing Up which includes an extra hand-written note noting the time he met my wife on Everest) and the OS maps that have worn thin through being folded and re-folded on various expeditions over the years are all irreplaceable and whilst I can access digital versions of all of them, the dead-tree versions contain sentiment that cannot be replaced.

    Bring on DRM! Long live the paper book!

  74. Dick Emery
    WTF?

    On OCR

    This is what CAPTCHA was invented for. ;)

  75. Adrian Lidington

    And there's always...

    I totally understand technical and reference books being on an e-reader. Love the idea of having a searchable library. However, when it comes to novels, I like having a physical book. I like the cover art, and in the case of my graphic novels, I like the printed story. Some of them come with fold-out mini posters. And some that I own are signed by the author, which personally I love. I own Neil Gaiman's Absolute Editions of the The Sandman, and I will *never* swap them for a poxy e-book; because simply put, they are just awesomely cool as objet d'art.

    The last point I'll make, (as so many of the other ones have been covered already) is that it seems I'm the only one who likes to hold a book, like a book i.e. in two hands so I can see two pages at once. I want an e-reader that is clam-shell in style, if only so that when I close it, the two screens are protected. Am I really alone in wanting this?

  76. Martin Nelson
    Megaphone

    Publishers dislike eBooks

    It's as simple as not liking eBooks for me. I HATE them with a vengence.

    Don't get me wrong, if I'm caught out waiting without a book it's nice to know that I have some eBooks on my Xperia X10 phone.

    As a publisher though there just is no incentive to publish eBooks other than for me to send to reviewers. Even then reviewers will often turn eBooks away.

    Having now been the publisher for 4 books I can tell you that at no point would I consider Kindle...or Amazon at all for that matter. They do not pay for around 2 months which means that you can be stuck without the funds to print or comission more books.

    If I ever did publish an eBook pricing would be simple. £1 below physical cover price. It triples my income per unit sold and brings the price down.

    The disadvantage though is attaching ISBNs. I have to attach a DIFFERENT ISBN to an eBook thereby costing me a tidy sum for the "benefit".

    The final blow is that people en masse do not LIKE eBooks. A book is more than just paper and ink. It is a multi-sensory experience and our consumers recognise that. eBook readers just aren't going to take off in a large way any time soon.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      £1 below?

      I think a lot of owners of eReaders would probably be quite happy with what you suggest - a little below physical cover price.

      There are always some who think if it's digital, it must cost next to nothing, or that for some reason all the production costs (editing, marketing, proofing) should be set solely against the physical version, but of course that's not sustainable in the long run (and the same people would probably complain when eBook prices went up, as the relative importance of the two methods swapped over).

      Those costs are, as you mentioned above, quite significant, and while some people are happy to read books with OCR errors, spelling mistakes (one eBook I have even had the name of the main character wrong on some pages), or annoying section breaks, I suspect that a lof of people really do notice those things.

      It's often said that, with a good story in a film, that's more important than whether it's in black and white, colour or 3D. But with a book, by their very nature, production errors can be very jarring, and confusing. One that I read lately had missing section breaks in several places, resulting in the subject of subsequent paragraphs changing completely, but with both characters male, it completely broke the flow, leaving me thinking "Hang on, why is he doing that? How did he get to that city?"

      Some of the respondents on this thread obviously differ on the importance (and cost) attached to fixing things like these, but I think they really do matter to a lot of readers, and you can't pare them down to the bone just because "it's an eBook," if you want them to sell well.

      Of course, lots of people do still prefer paper books - to a large degree, I do as well, and I'm also very willing to buy hardbacks, too. Over recent years, I've probably bought more of those than of paperback, but that likely makes me unusual.

      Alongside that, I love eBooks - much easier to read on the way to the office, or to take with me when I'm travelling. But when I'm asked to pay more than the printed edition, for a product that - experience has taught me - will very often lack cover art, and be riddled with production errors, then it's back to the very lovely Stoke Newington Bookshop.

      (And that, of course, is another whole can of worms; I love small bookshops, and I no longer buy printed books from chains. But with eBooks, you have little choice over where to buy.)

    2. Peter Kay

      Payment terms

      Without trying to be especially mean, what makes publishers so amazingly special? In most other businesses payment terms of ninety days are not even slightly unusual and sixty days is frankly good.

      Separating your own personal views from 'publishers dislike ebooks' would be wise. For you, a book may always be more than paper and ink, for others there is a balance to be made otherwise everyone would exclusively buy hardbacks. The technology still needs some improvements, and the best way of exploiting the unique capabilities of the format and the different business opportunities is probably yet to be fully discovered.

      I don't understand how in one breath you can admit that you use e-books (on an unsuitable device; e-ink is light years ahead of anything else) and that e-books make you more money, but that it's still not worth considering?!

      I have no real axe to grind either way; I don't have an e-book reader yet (because the pricing is poor). However, the technology is now almost mature enough, e-ink is remarkably good and there's a whole range of intriguing opportunities that can't be delivered from a disconnected paper book.

      1. Martin Nelson
        Alert

        Think again!

        The views are not personal, rather based on market research. In the North West of England, which is the market I operate in, there just isn't an eBook market.

        Like I have mentioned elsewhere, assuming I have 1% of the market share of paper books (which is very generous) I might realistically expect the same market share on eBooks.

        Given that there were just 60,000 kindle sales last year...no knowing how many were regional, but the North West is slightly behind in tech literacy so let's assume 5% of those sales were North West England. That's 3000 sales. I could therefore expect 30 sales.

        Is it really worth me paying out extra money to get back maybe £60, maybe £70?

        Also unlike traditional publishing the costs are a flat rate. Now for mass sales this is good. But for smaller market shares it's devastating.

        Until the market matures and people are buying ebooks in their droves can it really make sense for publishers to use this medium?

        As for reading eBooks on a device that does not use e-ink, so what? It does the job. To be quite frank I have tested an e-ink device and wasn't that impressed. If I wanted a book that I could read in the sun...or any of the other places and circumstances in which e-ink is supposedly advantageous, I'd....well sounds wacky but I'd buy/rent/borrow a paperback book!

  77. Bryce Prewitt
    FAIL

    Used books.

    No, when I want cheap books, I buy used. From libraries, from schools, from large second hand stores such as Bookman's or Half Price Books or from tiny mom and pop shops in the back alley. With Thriftbooks I can buy six hardbacks for $25 with free shipping.

    The world of e-Books does not - and from the looks of it, never will - offer such a benefit to the consumer.

    Digital products are a scam. A mighty enticing scam, but a scam nonetheless.

  78. RegGuy

    Hint: The omnibus version is way better value than the separate editions

    I don't think so. I read all the books just after I'd read Wuthering Heights. WH is absolutely brilliant. If you've never read it they you must do so. A stunning book!

    Lord of the Rings is so weak and childish. And I did persevere through all six books. What a pile of poo. I said I'd read them before watching the films. I've never seen the films.

    Rubbish.

  79. boomer4d

    E-books are just another way publishers are hosing us

    As someone that worked in the printing industry for 10 years actually printing and binding books I can assure you that the publishers have been raping us for a long, long time and e-books are the latest and greatest way for them to do it.

    The following numbers are from 10 years ago and I would doubt seriously that they have gone up since then.

    The company that prints and binds casebound (or hardcover) and softcover (or paperback) books was getting paid the following when I left RR Donnelley & Sons Inc in 2000. Note that at the time Donnelley was the largest commercial printer in the world and was regularly printing books by authors like Tom Clancy, Danielle Steele, Patricia Cornwell, Stepehen King etc...

    To do the pre-press, printing, binding and shipping of a casebound book Donnelley was getting $1.00 (USD) per copy.

    To do the pre-press, printing, binding and shipping of a softcover book Donnelley was getting $0.50 (USD) yes, that's 50 cents per copy.

    We did have two binderys that did bible work and that's where the money was really at with bibles bring from $4 - $6 (USD) per copy to do the pre-press, printing, binding and shipping.

    Now consider that most new casebound books go for between $27 and $35 (USD) per copy and you can see why I think the publishers are screwing us all on both hard copy and e-books.

    Interesting statistic here the other day on the Today show.........sales of casebound books have fallen 40% since last year this time. Sales of e-books have gone up 158% in that same time period.

    Now let's take into consideration what goes into creating an e-book. Obviously the authors text has to be put into a format that is supported by e-book readers (often more than one format is going to be involved we know that) but beyond that and some storage on a server somewhere what else is involved?

    When I see ebook versions of some technical books going for as much as the printed versions it ticks me off but until we quit buying them the publishers will continue to set the price (note that as I understand it e-book cost is set by the publisher and not the vendor) and we will continue to get hosed.

  80. Aussie Brusader
    Thumb Down

    I was looking to purchase an e-book reader

    But I can't justify spending +$100.00 so that I can then buy licences for books.

    I'm not interested, there's no financial benefit to me to change over.

    My wife and I are currently building a 2m x 3m bookshelf to store all our books and we're going to fill it, not counting all the ones we've donated to charities.

    If the publishers will let me 'rent' a book then maybe, but curently the cost (purchase & restrictions) are too high.

    1. Trygve

      All your books in 2mx3m?

      For two people? I take it you spend most of your spare time watching TV then.

  81. Cheshire Cat

    For my books...

    I publish a few books, and also make them available as EBooks (using Adobe DRM).

    I set the prices for the eBooks at the level to give the same commission on a sale to myself; since there is no printing cost this means it is about 2/3 the price (there are still publishing and retailer fees, etc). There is also a $2/book license fee for the Adobe DRM to include in the cost.

    If I was selling via Amazon, then the retailer's fees are massively higher; in fact, the actual printing costs on a $15 book are less than $5. All the rest is the publishers cut, the retailers cut, and so on... so it sort of makes sense that eBooks are only slightly cheaper than dead-tree versions. Still, making eBooks MORE expensive than dead-tree makes no sense at all, unless you're trying to screw the buyer...

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Fry?

    It would be amusing to find out what S Fry, the famous computer/electronics geek thinks of this, His latest ebook went up by around a fiver on Amazon when they were forced to use agency pricing for it. I do hope it's killed all his sales. Has he twittered about it?

  83. Michael C

    cost cost cost, not my issue

    I understand maybe 40% of the cost of a hardcover is in materials, shipping, and shelf, and about 20% for paperback (more books per pound, less space per book). I also understand almost 100% of marketing money is spent during hardcover-only time frames, and additionally, its the time the publisher holds the most risk (for unsold copies). I further understand that eBooks are not automatic, they still have to go through some level of editing and that is a cost, and eBooks further (in general) pass more of the selling price to the author than physical books.

    All that said, I expect eBooks to be within a few bucks of physical. Say $1-2 less than paperback and $3-5 less than hardcover. I don't think the publisher, except in some rare cases, can really go much lower on price. I would however like to see books start getting printed with one-time-use bar-codes or keys so I can ADD the eBook for $1-2 more than the cost of the physical book, but we need a universal system for accommodating that so no matter WHO sells the hardcover (since we don't custom print hard covered for different vendors) that any eBook vendor can supply the electronic copy appropriately, and track the key for ensuring it's been used, and further making sure this is consistent across publishers.

    My issue with ebooks (at the price of anything more than an upgrade to add the electronic copy), is that you can pry the physical book from my cold dead hands. it;s not the readers (the iPad is genuinly pleasant to read on in nearly all lighting conditions, including low light where e-Ink fails, which happens to be where I read 80+% of the time). My issue is that the $10-15 investment (I only buy hardcover), is not only for the reading, but for decoration and conversation topic as well. Plus, i can EASILY sell, loan, borrow, trade, etc books, and i can do little or none of that with eBooks. i also know a hardcover will read just as well 50-100 years from now as today, but in 5-10 years i might not find ANYTHING that can read a DRMed eBook file.

    When i can trade them freely and as easily as books, and come with 100% guaranteed LIFETIME upgrade/device migration rights (that don't require me to keep receipts, and work no matter how old the file is, and never, ever costs anything to upgrade), then I'll begin to consider eBooks as a primary medium, but until that and more is met, I won't get an eBook without a physical book, period, no way. I'll still likely buy all my favorite authors in physical books anyway as they do help fill rooms out. I don;t want a room in my house without a bookshelf except the kitchen.

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pricing

    I work for a company that sells them and E-books have a very small market share, you also have to consider the type of person that would by buy them, firstly the device its self is quite expensive, the people most likely to use them will be people wanting to travel more and not lug books about, so generally speaking the kind of individual that will be more likely to buy these ebooks are more well off people. Until Ebooks hit a point where sales are comparable to paper you will not find many "deals" on pricing, thats the nature of selling things, paper sales have a huge margin and demand is very high, compertition dictates smart pricing, and at the moment selling cheap ebooks to people more likely to beable to spend more money is just bad business.

    There you have it, reality, shops are out to make money that comes from customers (and supplier funding) there will come a point when its sensable to sell these books cheap but dont count on it being any time soon when devices are expencive and e book formats are too confusing.

  85. Matt Hawkins
    Grenade

    Book Industry

    If you are an author why would you involve a publisher or agent? Why not just type the words and sell an eBook via an online retailer?

    Why pay huge chunks of the book price to a bunch of suited freeloaders?

    Seems the book industry is as outdated as the music industry. Full of useless middlemen who generate their own work by what amounts to price fixing. In the old days you needed them to shift your product ... now you can sell to the World from the comfort of your own house.

    Won't be long before the book industry will be moaning about piracy killing authors blah blah blah

    1. Martin Nelson
      Stop

      Not everyone is a seller

      Perhaps what you are fogetting is that not everyone has the ability to make sales. Not everyone can afford to publish a book.

      Even then if you are a writer and go along to a writing group/workshop and ask people to download your eBook, chances are they won't. I've tried...a few times.

      Go to an event and promote yourself with even a cheap and cheerful staple-bound book and you'll make some sales...even if it's people who want to support you.

      It's easier to promote a physical product that something ephemeral that a lot of people have no interest in. If you don't have to finances or don't have the sales ability a publisher can help.

      Not only that but if a publisher takes on the cost of producing a book you can be reasonably sure that they think your work is saleable. It doesn't matter how many friends or family you show a book to, if a publisher will pay for production the likelihood is that they believe it will sell. Either because it's good or populist...one way or another...it will sell!

      Publishers are not always freeloaders. Yes there are a lot of vultures in the shadows waiting to fleece unsuspecting and inexperienced writers, but the good ones aren't!

  86. FlappySocks
    FAIL

    VAT Invoice

    I bought an e-book on programming from Amazon, and required the invoice for claiming back on business expenses. Amazon will not supply me with a VAT invoice, which according to HM Revenue & Customs is illegal.

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: VAT Invoice

      This is because Amazon will only sell to consumers, not businesses, and by purchasing from Amazon you are declaring you are a consumer, not a business.

      It'll be there in the Ts&Cs if you dig deep enough.

      iTunes does this too.

      Now, this is a grey area legally. Trading Standards say they have to provide a VAT invoice if one is requested. Amazon and iTunes say no, we don't because, Mr purchaser, you are a consumer not a business buyer. If you are a business buyer we will not sell to you.

      Basically, this requires a formal complaint for Trading Standards to investigate.

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