On Markets and Perception

November 6th, 2008 · 10 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

At the 26th Story blog (HarperStudio), Seth Godin talk about the fundamental shift in thinking necessary for the publishing industry to move into the future.

The market doesn’t care a whit about maintaining your industry. The lesson from Napster and iTunes is that there’s even MORE music than there was before. What got hurt was Tower and the guys in the suits and the unlimited budgets for groupies and drugs. The music will keep coming. Same thing is true with books. So you can decide to hassle your readers (oh, I mean your customers) and you can decide that a book on a Kindle SHOULD cost $15 because it replaces a $15 book, and if you do, we (the readers) will just walk away. Or, you could say, “if books on the Kindle were $1, perhaps we could create a vast audience of people who buy books like candy, all the time, and read more and don’t pirate stuff cause it’s convenient and cheap…” I’m a pessimist that the book industry will learn from music. How are you betting?

File Under: Quote of the Week

10 responses so far ↓

  • Joe Cottonwood // Nov 6, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Re: Learning from the music industry:

    As it happens, I just got a new contract from a publisher today. There’s no mention of ebooks by name, but there’s this language about digital rights: “Publisher may include up to 25% of the work on its website without further payment to the author. In the event publisher includes more than 25%, publisher shall pay to author 20% of receipts or the equivalent of the current print royalty for each such copy whether sold or offered gratis.”

    Seems fair to me. I especially love the “whether sold or offered gratis.”

  • Heather S. Ingemar // Nov 7, 2008 at 10:19 am

    I agree with that. I’d read more ebooks if they didn’t cost $15-$20. I mean, c’mon! I’ll pay $7 for a paperback, $15 if it’s trade, but I avoid hardcovers because they cost so dang much (unless it’s an author I really, really like). But to sell a digital file for that? IMHO, an electronic file is only worth $5 max. Short stories shouldn’t be much more than $1 (depending on length — AND they should be sold individually!), a novella between $2 and $3, and novels no more than $5. Maybe $6 if it’s a honking big one.

    What are they thinking, charging full paperback price for something a body can’t even hold in their hands? It doesn’t make sense.

  • Sam Wilson // Nov 7, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Figure the cost of visiting the library ( 20 miles round trip for me) vs the convenience of downloading a book at home any time of day or day of the week, too. Consider buyer’s remorse as well. I’m so old, modern plots are uninteresting and I can’t finish. Do you read Michael Masnick at Tech Dirt Daily ? He is sort of evangelical about Internet Marketing.

  • Brenna Lyons // Nov 7, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    I started out as e-book only and moved into e-books and print or print only from there, so I’m very familiar with the market, with the contracts and with what the indie readers expect and tolerate. Here’s my two cents, if it’s worth that…

    First of all, e-book have evened out at a level where readers EXPECT to pay just less than mass market for a book. IOW, for a long novel that you would pay $8 or $9 in mass market, $6-$7 is an acceptable e-book price. For novellas that might go for $4 in mass market, you might pay $3-$3.50.

    $15 for a Kindle book is outrageous, even if it is a new release from NY. While I personally give free shorts to bring in new customers, and I agree that we shouldn’t be paying $10 or more for an e-book novel, I don’t see any reason to undercut a working system at just under mass market and sell all novels for $1. Maybe, at some point when piracy is under control (more under control, because we’ll never kill it) and the market for e-books is matching that for print, we could reexamine the idea of cheaper e-books than what we see in indie press now. Right now, I think we’d be cutting the industry’s throat.

    Readers are savvy enough, these days, to reject DRM, and I’m with them. According the Fictionwise (a few years back), secured formats caused 10 times the number of customer service calls as unsecured, and a reader who had a problem with a single secured book was 10 times less likely to buy secured formats again. There are a hundred reasons not to go secured (from functionality to cost padding) and none to use it, since there is NO security that can’t be broken, at this time. The music industry learned that; note the scheme of paying slightly more for unsecured formats in music downloads? Need I say more?

    At the same time, I’d beg (and have, with few results) to have the feds take e-book piracy as seriously as they now take music piracy and movie piracy. Maybe we need a Napster shake-up to move us forward, as it did music.


  • Sammie Jo Moresca // Nov 7, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    I’ve been a published eBook author for three years. Some of my titles are also availble in trade paperback. One of my publishers has decided to include the ‘search inside’ feature at Amazon on my $7.99 book and raise the price to $14.99, figuring they can deeply discount it so the reader gets a perceived deal. It’s their business and I don’t pretend to know anything about marketing, but as a consumer, no way would I buy a paperback for $14.99 from an unknown author, peek inside or not.

    I have asked Santa for a Kindle reader for Christmas. I want to go green and start buying eBooks for my own reading pleasure. It will get me away from the PC so I can curl up in front of the fire. According to the reviews, there is a way I can email myself eBooks bought elsewhere and upload them to the Kindle for free. I hope so, if Kindle is going to price gouge. Perhaps I should research a little more before Santa places his order…

  • Helen // Nov 7, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    bear in mind that the actual manufacturing cost of a paperback is peanuts. so its cover price largely reflects other costs that won’t necessarily vanish just because the book is published electronically: cover design (i imagine some kind of image will still be necessary for marketing purposes); typesetting; editing; the publisher’s overheads; and of course author royalties. the middle man (bookseller) gets a hefty cut too. so the publisher might not be selling you a physical object but they are probably only saving about a dollar per copy compared to making a paper book, if that.

  • Ashlyn Chase // Nov 8, 2008 at 4:21 am

    People have options re: ereaders too. An expensive Kindle or Sony isn’t necessary. There’s ebookwise. http://www.ebookwise.com It’s been out for years, costs only a little over $100. and everyone I know who has one loves it!

    I read ebooks on my PDA. I have loads of other functions on there as well.


  • Tim Cooper // Nov 8, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Just to add a little more color to the posts–most of the physical book’s cost is due to supply chain issues–if you think about some of the stages a book goes through: printing and binding, cartoning, shipping, receiving, storage, order fulfillment, shipping to customer, receiving at store, shelving, pulled as return, packing, shipping back to pubisher, receiving, storage again–it’s a vicious cycle that adds incremental cost at each step. But the trade publishing business model is built on managing all of the parts of the physical puzzle, and mastery of that complexity still leads to positive business results. eBooks are still riding on the back of that traditional cycle, and are priced to accomodate all of the associated risks.

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