Out With The Old, In With The…Cranky

January 5th, 2009 · 57 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

I kind of wanted to stay out of the way of the ScrollMotion Iceberg iTunes application. While I have issues with the execution — can’t the publishing industry use something akin to, oh, collective clout to create a real iTunes store for books instead of foisting endless application after application (and associated management of said applications) upon us? — I applaud the fact that people out there are thinking of ways to bring books and people together.

On the the other hand, I also feel like Iceberg is a clear example of the utter contempt some people in the publishing business have for their customers. I’m not sure if they think we’re stupid or desperate or what, but nothing could exemplify this contempt more than the pricing applied to the (limited number of) titles available as Iceberg editions*. For the heck of it, I’m going to focus on the most appalling example: Brisingr by Christopher Paolini.

When the ScrollMotion App and titles and prices were announced, I had one question for the publishers involved: are you on crack? Seriously, what were you smoking in that meeting? I know, I know, you want to control the market, you want to control prices, you want…what? To, oh, maybe sell some books? The hardcover price of our poor example book, according to Amazon, of Brisingr is $27.50. The Iceberg edition is $27.99.

Are you trying to kill the market? Are you trying to be funny? Do you truly think outrageous prices are the way to bring in new, younger readers? Do you think we’re stupid?

Don’t give me that crap about fixed costs and creating an e-edition and all that. Creating an e-edition does not increase your overall costs that much, unless you’re putting all your energy into silly, consumer-unfriendly DRM. I am well aware that this book is in the throes of its hardcover release, and, based on the general prices of all Iceberg books, it’s obvious that the publishers involved are desperately trying to mirror current list prices (never mind that these books are easily obtainable at far lower prices).

Let’s go through this one more time: ebooks are a new, different market. You, dear publishers, have been given that rarest of gifts: a new revenue stream (think: home video for the motion picture business). These books are not competition. While there are more than a few readers who would love the luxury of choice of format/style/device when it comes to purchasing and reading books (you’re reading one), the ebook customer is different than the print book customer. Even if your ebook sales are growing by leaps and bounds each quarter, they’re nowhere near the volume that print achieves.

You’re dealing with a different animal, and — wahoo! — you now have the opportunity to change how you do business. Let’s start with smarter pricing. No, let’s start with the idea that you, publishers, are not the only game in town. You don’t “own” these books, your authors do. Your job is to prove that you can distribute these books better and more profitably for those authors. While, certainly, selling Brisingr at $27.99 is potentially a lot of money for both you and the author, how many copies can you realistically expect to sell?

At one point do you say, “Well, we tried selling books on the iPhone, but it was a failure.” Will you look in the mirror while you say this?

Especially when you consider the competition; note these search results for Brisingr ebook. Selling this book, regardless of how sacred you hold your publishing windows, at $27.99 shows that you’re out of touch and clearly not understanding your audience. Let me try this another way: do you honestly think there’s a contingent of readers out there who stayed on the sidelines, wanting this book, but swearing to stand firm until they could buy it on their iPhone?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you won’t be like the music industry. Too late. Already you’ve let Amazon force its vision of pricing on you. Already you’ve decided you know the market better than the market knows itself. Already you’ve let free become more desirable than paid. That is what the music business did. They created a business model that made paying for music the least-best option: from convenience to price to selection.

You can do this, of course, and spend a fortune fighting piracy the hard way. Or you can treat your customers with respect and acknowledge that some things have changed. I don’t think I’ll ever convince you to stop holding back trade or mass market editions of books during the hardcover window. For some reason, you think it’s just fine to risk loss of reader momentum during that year or so between format releases (you do all that lovely marketing upfront, but do you sustain this effort?), but maybe I can convince you that you’re not stealing from yourselves by offering reasonably priced, readily available e-editions of books from Day One.

While you’re at it, you might want to consider who buys iPhones and ebooks. The selection offered up by ScrollMotion — a selection you must have offered up yourselves — is targeted toward men and young adults. Where is the women’s fiction? Do you all even have a clue who buys ebooks? Do you think it’s just teenagers and geeks? This is the least grown-up female-friendly selection of books I’ve ever witnessed.

I seriously thought about buying an Iceberg book and testing the reportedly nice interface for myself (though I have questions about maintaining the integrity of the printed edition — does that really make sense for most books?). Then I thought about what that would be doing: I’d been enabling and encouraging. I’d be telling you that you can squeeze nearly $30 out of me for an ebook. An ebook I couldn’t return if I hated it, unlike a physical book where I could either return the thing or sell it to a used bookstore (or give it my mother or a friend or a stranger on the street).

You’d think you could do it again. I’d rather you respect me in the morning. I’m a bit sorry that the ScrollMotion folks have to suffer for some bad choices made by publishers. It’s not a good message to send to innovators.

Of course, it was an even worse thing to say to your customers.

* — And what’s up with those books that aren’t even available in the US? Couldn’t you have licensed, oh, books that everyone can buy?

File Under: Non-Traditional Publishing

57 responses so far ↓

  • Richard Nash (Soft Skull) // Jan 5, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Here’s the basic problem. Amazon and Sony (who can make money from the hardware, unlike a software developer like ScrollMotion) are selling books at (and probably below) cost. They are willing to pay publishers outrageous wholesale prices so as to get content available for their platform. Even though this has anti-competitive effects, publishers are going along with it, because they like getting these crazy high wholesale prices and it has not hurt us, we think, because Amazon and Sony are willing to lose money in order to create semi-reasonable prices for customers. We call this some kinda nonsense like, “we need to hold the line on pricing,” as if the publishing business is some kinda oligopoly, as if there’s some imaginary OPEC-esque cartel.

    Of course, we can’t have our cake and eat it, even through we think that’s what we’re doing, because we are hurting innovation outside the Sony/Amazon sphere by making prices artifically high especially on platforms like iPhone and Android that are not specific to books, and where the hardware is subsidized by the mobile phone companies, rather than the hardware doing the subsidizing of the content companies, as is the case in our backasswards world.

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  • MoJo // Jan 5, 2009 at 8:40 am

    * — And what’s up with those books that aren’t even available in the US? Couldn’t you have licensed, oh, books that everyone can buy?

    And what’s up with the books they’ve banned?

  • Sean Cranbury // Jan 5, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Why does the book publishing world believe that they need specific technology for their readers?

    Why do we need the Sony Reader or the Kindle?

    Why are ebooks not created for mass technology that already exists in the hands of common people.

    Why not generate files or books that can be easily downloaded and viewed on blackberry, iPhone, Samsung, Motorola, whatever?

    Are we not at the intersection of technology and life?

  • Anne // Jan 5, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Well, Happy New Year to you, too! A delightful rant and very interesting to me: I just downloaded some books onto my iPhone via BeamItDown. 4 Dickens novels for $1.99.

    They have Woolf’s first three novels (the only ones in public domain) for the same price, too and I could easily recommend that as an option to my students.

    I am an academic, public domain texts interest me more than they do many, but I know that backlist titles make a lot of money: why not offer them.

    Or children’s & YA lit: on a recent long car trip, it was great to pass the iPhone back to the kids to play with. If they could read a great backlist title for $2 or $3, I’d download w/o a second thought.

  • Kat Meyer // Jan 5, 2009 at 9:33 am

    That’s a lot of grumpy for a Monday, morning! :)
    But, I share the frustration. We (being the publishing community) have such a tremendous opportunity to engage with readers (new and existing) via e-book platforms, and I think the whole scary concept of “new technology” is overwhelming the whole happy concept of “give readers choices.” (Or the whole concept of “gouge the customer” is overwhelming the concept of “make the customer happy.”)

    In regards to the pricing, I think there is some merit to the argument that it takes time and money to format some titles. But, few of the ebooks I’ve purchased thus far are in this category. For Kindle, most of the titles I’ve viewed have minimal formatting and design. And, I haven’t (yet) tried out IceBerg, but I’d really like to. I do love the convenience (and pricing) of the ebooks I’ve read via Stanza on iphone, but I am very curious if the design/formatting of IceBerg books makes for *that* much more or less of an enjoyable reading experience than the Stanza reading experience.

    If, as you suggest, the IceBerg formatting is focused solely on maintaining the integrity of the printed book, well – that’s just silly and not worth the prices they’re asking. (If you’re going to the effort of creating a well-designed/ formatted ebook, and want to charge more/same as the print book, I would suggest focusing on features you can’t get with print books (embeds, links, social networking, etc.).

    And, the IceBerg selection/audience issue is a big fat turn-off. But, I have a bigger issue with trying to browse for books via my iPhone in both the iTunes store or in FictionWise/Stanza’s catalogs. If you don’t have a specific title in mind, it’s, er challenging to find a book worth taking a chance on.

    So, publishers – please just listen to Kassia. Cuz, we don’t want her all cranky in 2009.

  • Karen Templer // Jan 5, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Great rant. I’m on the record as being opposed to the Iceberg thing (http://www.readerville.com/index.php/blog/view/new-iphone-book-app-im-not-feeling-it/), but the more I think about it, the more I really find it troublesome. I’m afraid publishers will actually do damage to the potential of the market by going down this road. It’s astonishing to me how few iPhone/Touch users even know that reading books on the device is an option. But if they do an app store search on books, and what comes up is all of these expensive and clumsily standalone books, how many will shake their heads and dismiss the whole idea before discovering the world of books available to them via the better apps (i.e., eReader and Stanza)? I think it’s a big, big mistake.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 5, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Interesting comments, all of them. Anne, love your experience (I admit to buying some reasonably priced Jane Austens for my Kindle because a girl shouldn’t be caught without, unless she has her Woolf handy!).

    And I think your comments about public domain texts and academia are interesting because I think, as the net generation moves up the scholastic ladder, the options for public domain (or, relatively inexpensive) works will meet their needs and more.

    Richard — the one thing that I’ve been turning and turning in my head is the pricing structure of books in general. I do realize there are contractual and other limitations, but it seems to me that smart thinkers could throw away the previous model and, knowing this is a new type of revenue stream that can (potentially) open the door for other new revenue streams — new revenue streams being something rare, all things considered (think ringtones for the music business) — come up with pricing that acknowledges this possibility.

    I don’t know the answer, but do know the consequences. I didn’t buy any of these books, despite my eagerness to try new reading experiences on my iPhone (the device I carry *everywhere*, even more than my Kindle).

    Kat — as noted, I am basing my formatting comments on hearsay (good hearsay, but still!) because, alas, I couldn’t make the purchase I wanted and needed to.

  • Sean Cranbury // Jan 5, 2009 at 11:29 am

    So, for the price of buying a physical book +more you get what is essentially a text file, though with some design perks for viewing on your iPhone (among other platforms)?

    Is there no other incentive to spend the money? Is there no ‘value-add’ to get people excited about purchasing the text file?

    Friends of mine use the iTouch/iPhone to download and read books/magazines wherever they are and they love the technology and the ease of use… but they’re not paying for the files. If they wanted to shell out cash they would just buy the book. Same with music downloading.

    I don’t want to make too direct a comparison to the music biz – oh hell, why not – but when I buy a slab of new vinyl the ‘record label’ usually includes a code that when entered into their website provides me with a high quality digital
    version of the album for rocking via iTunes or whatever.

    Would it be a mistake for the book publishers to take a similar angle. To begin to seed their market by offering free downloads or audio or text files of their books with every purchase of the hard cover – or something similar?

    Though many publishers are engaging the digital realm, doesn’t it make sense that their true understanding of how it will work for them is still a few years away and that they should spend this time asking questions of their audience and engaging their readers rather than trying to force their old economy on the nascent one?

    I am wondering whether book designers will be the real beneficiaries of this new technology as publishers turn to the designer to make their digital work more engaging.

  • Kirk Biglione // Jan 5, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I think this story is actually a bit *worse* than Kassia makes it out to be.

    Yes, publishers have been given the gift of a new revenue stream. But with the App Store they’ve also been given a unique opportunity to do some very rapid price testing in a real-world marketplace.

    iPhone app developers are constantly re-pricing their apps in order to maximize revenue. You would think that publishers would seize the opportunity to find a pricing formula that generate maximum revenue (I think that’s Business 101, but obviously not Publishing 101).

    @Anne – Instead of paying for public domain books that come as standalone apps, you might try the Stanza App. From the library click “Online Catalog”. You’ll find a bunch of sources for free and PD books, including Project Gutenberg. They’ll download right into the Stanza app.

  • Karey Shane // Jan 5, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Good morning Monday! Thought-provoking rants, Kassia and all. All these new terms and where have I been? Iceberg, Stanza, Beam it Down.

    I’ve already been wrestling with the despotic rule of two companies (who will not be named) in the world of electronic readers, and now the Iceberg? It almost sounds feudal. ‘Yes, master, you may own the land I live on, but may I just have a crumb of bread to feed my children?’

    @Sean and all: Here’s a possible solution with regards to your cogent comments: How about we write Stan Soper who started TextNovel.com (mentioned in New Yorker magazine)? It’s in beta form but is really taking off.

    I’d love to see him take the bull by the horns and create a fresh solution, a fresh “yes we can” approach for readers to have choices in how they read electronic books at affordable price points.

    And I’d be first in line to cheer him on . . . hoping to have company in the cheering section.

    If Stan Soper is this gutsy in creating a new way for authors to write and publish (for the English speaking humans of the world, that is), maybe he’d take our communal ranting to heart if we all wrote him at Stan@TextNovel.com. He’s already got some good momentum going.

  • Stan Scott // Jan 5, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Excellent article. As several of us have pointed out, you only need to look over to the music business to see how DRM has badly hurt their market. This, by the way, is about the ONLY reason why there are so many different machines and software relating to eBooks. If everything were available in just a few formats (PDB, PDF, HTML), there would be absolutely no need for them.

    You’re also right about the outrageous pricing they’re trying to use. It’s ridiculous, and I won’t pay for it, even though I’ve read MANY (say, over 100) books on my various computers, PDAs and, yes, iPhone). They’re shooting themselves in the collective foot.

  • Karen Scott // Jan 5, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Why not generate files or books that can be easily downloaded and viewed on blackberry, iPhone, Samsung, Motorola, whatever?

    It’s bad enough reading on a laptop, reading on my Blackberry or my normal phone would drive me to drink.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 5, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Karen…is there something *bad* about being driven to drink?

    I’m actually surprised at the number of people I encounter who read on phones/PDAs. More than my old eyes would imagine. I do mostly blog reading (RSS feeds) on my phone, so, hmm, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

    Interesting comments, Karey. Very interesting.

  • Angry Young Man // Jan 5, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Am I allowed to comment, even if my name doesn’t have a “k” sound in it?

    The fundamental challenge of e-books is readability. Me, I don’t mind reading on a PDA, and now that I have a Nintendo DS I might take up HarperCollins on their offer of 100 classic works from Project Gutenberg for $10. But others appreciate the page, which lets you more easily go back and reread something. The eye also likes to jump ahead and look about the page. Hence the size of the Kindle and Sony Reader and the discomfort of others reading by the far larger installed user base of PDAs. The challenge then is to deliver a different, better reading experience.

    As for DRM, the publishing industry is learning from the record industry and trying their very best not to make the same mistakes. Instead, they are making far larger mistakes. Amazon isn’t helping. By charging people to put their own material on their Kindle, and in a crippled form of Mobi, they are just asking people to circumvent it.

    As for pricing, that’s a great idea: changing prices around to find what the market can bear. But then why not do the same for printed books? Because any price reduction is an invitation to that new price being the new standard. And different prices for different accounts just begs a discrimination suit. In addition, lower sticker prices for books, not discounted prices, give books the taint of remainders, and they become less desirable.

  • David Thayer // Jan 5, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Kassia, Reading your article made me think of the New York Times article this morning about the brave new world of publishing ( no more lunches at the Four Seasons, video conferencing in lieu of posh resorts, the realization by industry experts that high priced poetry will ruin us all ( I’ve been saying that for years). Your thoughts are substantially more interesting than the NYT’s even if I’m not sure what you’re saying on the technology front. That’s my bad. I don’t know how Israeli tanks work either but they seem to.

  • Paul Clayton // Jan 5, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Very interesting piece to me, as a writer with three titles available on Fictionwise, all formats, $8.99, all of them published professionally in the nineties: Calling Crow, Flight of the Crow, and Calling Crow Nation, a historical series based on The Conquest. Imake about fifty, sixty dollars a year in royalties. Also, to offer up an interesting bit of irony, to me, at least, my last book, Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam, a finalists at the 2001 Frankfurt eBook Awards (the final Frankfurt eBook awards after they, someone, decided that ebook were just not going anywhere) along with David McCullough’s John Adams and Joyce Carol Oates’ Faithless) is unavailable in an ebook version. Three years after being named a Frankfurt finalist I finally managed to get Carl Melcher published in hardcover (Thomas Dunne Books). The erights were not sold at the time as they still remained with the company (now defunct) that had epublished the book originally. Carl Melcher is now ‘out of print’ by Thomas Dunne, but they still have not reverted the rights to me (e, or otherwise). One thing I’ve learned over the years I’ve been involved with writing and publishing is that everyone makes money except the writer. But that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to write. Happy New Year to all!

  • Corporate Hack // Jan 5, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    As someone who works in eBooks for one of the largest book publishers, let me try to provide some insight into our thinking in working with Scrollmotion. Yes, we recognize that the Scrollmotion solution of standalone apps isn’t ideal. Yes, our readers can purchase content from Fictionwise and others, and we are happy to sell to those customers as well. But as much as we love Fictionwise, we don’t necessarily think their approach to commerce – forcing users to go off to a separate website to buy – makes the most sense.

    Our opinion is that capitalizing on the ecosystem that Apple has put in place is the best way to succeed in the iPhone market. Apple provides a consumer-friendly and economically reasonable way to charge users for our books. Currently, that means charging for our content directly in the App Store and then downloading standalone apps that bundle the reader. This provides a transaction and download experience that is relatively seamless – a key factor, we believe, in the surprising success Amazon has seen with the Kindle. Furthermore, while the Scrollmotion reading experience isn’t perfect, we think it’s much better than what’s already out there, and we expect the experience to only improve over time.

    Clearly, we would like to see Apple allow users to initiate App store purchases from within Apps directly, thus eliminating the need for standalone applications. But that’s not possible today, and we’re trying to work within the confines of the framework that Apple has created.

    I, too, am concerned about pricing, and we clearly don’t want price to be a limiting factor in our growth in this market. But I think that, if we can nail the purchasing and reading experience, then we can experiment with pricing to better determine how elastic demand really is and try to determine the price that maximizes revenue for us and for our authors.

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  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 5, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Corporate Hack — thank you for taking the time to offer some of the in-house thinking. If you’d like my thoughts on the matter (what the heck, they’re so cheap, they’re free!), standalone apps aren’t the best choice for readers. Already, my iPhone is an application wonderland. Things are getting lost. My ideal solution would be a single app that allowed me to download books either from inside the application or the web or iTunes or… Well, you know. Let me get to the book from the place I am. I can do the rest (reading is the fun and easy part).

    While I hear you on the pricing argument, what happens when Apple decides to get into the ebook game (I know what Steve Jobs said, yes)? If you came in with serious research about price points, etc, you’d be in a better position to set the prices you believe are fair, rather than ending up like the music business, who let Apple dictate the prices. (I wish I could take credit for this line of thinking. Kirk Biglione said it first. I’m just writing it down.)

    These are my thoughts, worth every penny. I get the in-house tensions that come with these moves, but firmly believe that the most important thought, the one thing that should be front and center, is consumer experience. Without us…

  • Susan Gable // Jan 5, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Kas, I was bellyaching about the price of ebooks long ago. (I know, you bellyached with me. )

    I have, however, loaded Mobipocket on my Treo cell phone, and have several ebooks from eHarlequin on there (They’re giving some ebooks away this month, just FYI.) I LOVE having multiple books with me when I find myself waiting unexpectedly. (Like, when I go to pick my kid up at work, and he’s not ready for a half hour longer. Or in doctor’s office – don’t touch their GERMY magazines. Ugh!) I also like that I can read in the dark. It’s easy to hold (in one hand) and I can “turn the page” easily with just one hand. (Great for when I’m…oh, say, drinking wine at the same time. )

    I’m not giving up paperbooks. But I don’t buy the same book in both formats – I either get the “real” book, or an ebook.

    But I agree with your crankiness. Ridiculous prices. (After all those years when they kept raising prices because of “ink and paper costs” now they say the ebooks can’t be much cheaper?) Lack of ease of use. At least Mobipocket lets me register THREE devices, so I can transfer boks between my computer, cell phone, and now my new HP Mini. But it still limits me. What if I get a new desktop? Can I transfer them to that one? I don ‘t know.

    On the other hand, pirates who want my work for free annoy the heck out of me.

    So I don’t know how to balance the needs of the reader with the need for protection for the author.

    Frankly I don’t CARE if the person who downloads a pirated copy of my book would never have bought it. I don’t work for free unless I SAY I work for free. Buy it, borrow it from a friend or the library, harass me for a free copy…but don’t steal it.

    And that’s my .72. (Inflation, you know. )

  • Rich Rennicks // Jan 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    How can you possibly get enough real-world user info to “nail the purchasing & reading exp” if the ridiculous prices prevent real customers purchasing anything? Professional IT testers might ensure the code works, but gives you no real feedback and the customer’s experience or expectations.

    This is such a ridiculous situation. No incentive to try an ebook when the cost is the same/higher than paper. No inducement to buy a product that’s less-versatile that paper (can’t resell). No way to show consumers what they’re missing if the price is too high. And, there’s no significant difference to the product were you to buy one (except you need to keep the reader charged).

    I’ll keep checking out the free ebooks Tor make available. If I like the story, I’ll do what I’ve done several times now: I’ll buy the portable, never-needs-recharging, resaleable paper book, and email my copy of the ebook to a friend who I think would enjoy the book.

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  • Bob Gillham // Jan 6, 2009 at 4:21 am

    I get ALL my e reading from Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and a few other Free& Legal sites. When I want ‘New’ fiction I go to ‘Bookwise’ in Hay On Wye and buy Publishers remainders for 50p to £1 a book… why would I want to buy over priced e books? Y’know what motive could I have? These people have mental health problems that those of us in the real world know nothing about….

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    “BookEnds” not Bookwise advancing age, sorry…

  • Karen Newton // Jan 6, 2009 at 6:34 am

    Like Susan I carry my e-reader everywhere but mine is a Kindle. I bought a new purse when I got it, just so I would be able to do that. It’s great! No more wasted time, and I have read as many books in the two months since I got my Kindle than I read in the year before that.

    Personally, I think the ScrollMotion folks are nuts. It’s not like there aren’t other options. There is this wonderful thing called the Internet that makes it easy to find free and/or cheap e-books. -)

  • Sean Cranbury // Jan 6, 2009 at 8:08 am

    A smart publisher will find a way to bridge the divide. Obviously, digital files are immediately transferred, torrented, downloaded and redistributed infinitely as soon as someone posts them online. That’s fine, it’s not even worth complaining about.

    So how does the publisher invest these files with unique properties or value? Something that makes them unique and worthwhile? Something that makes them a perfect companion to the crazy 3 dimensional book thing?

    E-reading has to be about what tomorrow’s audience wants and needs. It has to hold the hand of the old technology – the book – and explore the new technologies.

    Explore. Not just supply a data/text file.

    If the main focus is pricing – then no real progress is likely to be made very soon. Let it be a loss leader, take feedback from your audience, pay attention to experiments in other industries and apply the successes.

    The main focus should be how to offer your customers the best product, the most interesting, challenging, inspiring use of the technology that we have.

    A little imagination is what the industry needs right now and in my humble opinion – if the industry is in danger of being raided by these ‘pirates’ why don’t we welcome them aboard and make friends?

  • Roger Sutton // Jan 6, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Could someone tell me how to find these Iceberg books in the App store? I’ve searched under “Iceberg,” “Scrollmotion,” and “Brisingr” with no luck.

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    […] Krozser at Booksquare basically calls a spade-a-spade. Publishers are out of touch. And publishers’ choices breed alienation amongst readers. That […]

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 6, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Roger — the weird thing is that now I can’t find the book either. Because the App store is a nightmare to navigate, I had to back into my search originally: from iTunes>Applications, I clicked on the “Get More Applications” link at the bottom. Then I selected the “Books” Category. After scrolling alphabetically, I gave up and went to the U-Z section, worked backward to “T” and found “Twilight”, another title I knew was part of this group. From the “Twilight” page, I was able to get more apps from the producer, and, sigh, finally to the full group.

    But now I can’t even find “Twilight”.

    Anyone else able to find these books?

  • Roger Sutton // Jan 6, 2009 at 10:28 am

    At least I know I’m not crazy. Not that I was ever crazy enough to spend that kind of money on Brisingr anyway.

  • Karen Templer // Jan 6, 2009 at 10:55 am

    That’s weird — when it first launched, an app store search for Iceberg turned them up.

    Corporate Hack, there’s so much fault logic in your post, I don’t even know where to start. The post on the whole reads as “we’re doing what’s best for us rather than what’s best for readers.” So I’ll just say that I hope you put all the same titles in Fictionwise. I think you’ll be surprised at the difference in the sales volumes of the two versions as more and more people get the hang of buying from Fictionwise through eReader/Stanza (which really isn’t onerous). I just hope you don’t chase off too many would-be customers in the meantime.

  • Kirk Biglione // Jan 6, 2009 at 11:30 am

    It does seem that as of this morning all of the ScrollMotion titles are missing from the App Store.

    Nice work Krozser.

  • Roger Sutton // Jan 6, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    I notice that Brisingr, from Fictionwise via Stanza, is $27.50, so it looks like the high pricing probably has more to do with the original publisher/author than it does with any particular ebook provider or format.

  • Corporate Hack // Jan 6, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    To respond to Karen’s comment, if that’s what you gleaned from my post, then there isn’t much else I can say. While at the same time you fault my logic, you provide no explanation for your assertion that “[my] post on the whole reads as ‘we’re doing what’s best for us rather than what’s best for readers.'” I don’t read it that way, but we can agree to disagree.

    Yes, we currently sell all of our eBooks to Fictionwise and are happy to continue doing so. Again, we can agree to disagree about whether theirs is the best approach to commerce. From my perspective, I want to let a thousand flowers bloom

    BTW, the apps are down because Scrollmotion found a security flaw and had to pull them.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 6, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Thank you for clearing up the Scrollmotion conundrum (I like to pretend I am all powerful, but that was a bit much, even for my fantasy!).

    I appreciate the let a thousand flowers bloom perspective, and I appreciate the perspective you’re offering. We all want something from this new market. While it would be wonderful to get it all, the way we want it, each side must acknowledge the necessary growing pains. Another publisher described their approach to me as “wild experimentation”. I like that phrase because it implies creative thinking and a willingness to admit that some things simply don’t work (sometimes those things are beloved by consumers, sometimes they are hate by consumers).

  • Times Emit: Apt’s links for January 5th through January 6th // Jan 6, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    […] Out With The Old, In With The?Cranky | Booksquare – “Are you trying to kill the market? Are you trying to be funny? Do you truly think outrageous prices are the way to bring in new, younger readers? Do you think we?re stupid?” Kassia lets rip. She has some good points (as ever) but see also RIchard Nash’s comments below. […]

  • some links of note « EditWorks Writing & Editing // Jan 6, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    […] dontcha love interesting posts about e-book pricing like this one at the Booksquare site. Way to rev up those comments, which is also interesting enough to study, […]

  • thedigitalist.net » Myopia: A Tale of Two Companies for 2009 // Jan 8, 2009 at 9:28 am

    […] appears to be a fairly obvious moral for publishers in this story.  There are certainly those like Booksquare who argue that digital is a new market, a new market in which publishers will have to redefine their approach […]

  • Karen Templer // Jan 8, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Corporate Hack:

    “Yes, we currently sell all of our eBooks to Fictionwise and are happy to continue doing so. Again, we can agree to disagree about whether theirs is the best approach to commerce.”

    For the record, I certainly don’t think it’s the ideal solution. In MY perfect world, I’d be able to buy books right out of the iTunes store, the same way I buy music, etc., and they’d be transferred into my preferred reading app, but the prices would have to be at least as good as Fictionwise’s. But if the only way to put the books on my Apple account is to buy them as standalones from the app store (no matter the price), I’m out. That’s just a big cumbersome mess, and if it’s what we wind up with, I fear for the health of that market.

    And my last comment may have come across as snottier than I intended it. If it read snotty to you, I apologize.

  • Cathy Macleod // Jan 9, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Sean said: “Why are ebooks not created for mass technology that already exists in the hands of common people.”
    I believe you get close to that at Smashwords and Mobipocket. I download from these to my laptop. To simulate a traditional book-read, I use the free Mobipocket Reader software.

  • Sean Cranbury // Jan 11, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Thanks, Cathy. I will check those out.

  • kaigou // Jan 11, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Corporate Hack said, “But as much as we love Fictionwise, we don’t necessarily think their approach to commerce – forcing users to go off to a separate website to buy – makes the most sense.”

    Are we talking about the same Fictionwise? Because I order from them all the time, and while I could opt to use Paypal to order, that’s such an accepted payment-method now that it’s nearly seamless to the user. Or I can use a c’card, and again the interface is seamless even if there’s embedding going on via the c’card application. From a user point of view, there’s no grounds to this argument about Fictionwise, because the interface is about as seamless as any other, including Amazon.

    Plus, Fictionwise allows me to search based on the format I want, and being a non-Kindle, non-Moby, non-Iceberg-whatever-it-is, oh, AND non-iPhone, non-Blackberry, non-Reader person, I have no need nor interest in those formats. I get multiformat (locked or unlocked) Adobe PDF and read it on my big honking iMac screen, no squinting or additional technology required, opened in Adobe — also a cross-platform thing.

    Krozser asked, “Are you trying to kill the market? Are you trying to be funny?”

    I wonder if part of this is because when publishers act as their own retailers, they lose the gatekeepers who can sometimes be voices of reason. I mean, back when I owned a bookstore, if there was a book priced unreasonably high, I often made comments: “no way am I ordering that, are you people crazy? pass it along, I think someone over there is on crack.” I could, quite simply, refuse to sell it, and distract most customers with an alternate book/topic that wasn’t priced ridiculously high.

    When the application goes right up on the web and straight to customer eyes, there’s no savvy business-retail person in the middle anymore to tell the publishers, “you people are on CRACK.” And in my experience, publishers and distributors each know their own business really well: but their business is wholesale, not retail, and when they get into retail, they just reveal how little they really know about that half of the equation, and end up making it even harder on those who do.

  • Zoe Winters // Jan 11, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    On pricing, I really think that just like the music industry, the publishing industry is terrified of digital content.

    They want it to go away. They want us to be back in that happy reality where books only exist on paper and are therefore much much harder to pirate.

    So they offer us ebooks at the same price or higher than the print version. As if we’re going to think suddenly that the print version is a “deal” and buy it.

    I read almost exclusively in print. It would be exclusively if I didn’t have some friends published in E-only. But people who want e-books want ebooks, and they aren’t going to buy the paper copy cause of pricing musical chairs.

    They’ll just buy ebooks from someone else.

    If the big publishers are going to be stupid about this, then the smaller publishers can and will take advantage of that to increase their own sales opportunities.

  • The forbidden Apple | Moriah Jovan // Jan 12, 2009 at 10:16 pm

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  • Thursday Links of Love | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary // Jan 15, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    […] have been pulled because of some kind of DRM security flaw and that ScrollMotion had priced its books in excess of the print versions of the books.  I.e., Brisingr in hardcover is a pricey $27.50 but to have it on your iPhone via ScrollMotion, […]

  • Imagining an iTunes eBook Store | Medialoper // Jan 27, 2009 at 9:21 am

    […] Apple to gauge the level of demand for front list titles on the iPhone platform. Of course, given the pricing on some of those App Store books, this may not be the best example of market […]

  • The e-book Revolution Favours the Agile (But Deep Pockets Help) | The Casual Optimist // Feb 2, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    […] still have work to do on their e-books programs — there have been complaints about the  pricing in particular –  but, this is a period of experimentation and, with the best will in the […]

  • Elizabeth McCoy // Feb 26, 2009 at 6:39 am

    From my experience in a small niche market of publishing (tabletop RPGs), the reason for raising prices was cited as: paper costs. The reason for keeping many “also available in dead trees” documents close to the dead-trees price is “it keeps the retailers carrying our stock, because they don’t think we’re undercutting them too much.” But even those documents are at least a dollar or two cheaper than the paper books.

    I might pay half as much for a book that’s in paper format as well, to get it on my iPhone. And I’ll wait till that’s half of paperback price, thanks. Without the cost of paper in the mix, not to mention no fear of returns? I don’t see why I should pay paper prices for an iPhone book. I’ll go to Project Gutenberg instead. *cuddles Stanza*

  • Kassia Nails It Again « Publishing Industry Consultant – Where books and technology meet. // May 14, 2010 at 12:29 pm

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  • Frontier Channel » Growing Pains for Digital Media // Jul 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm

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