Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Back from the Dead and, Apropo of Nothing, eBook Pricing!

I had a whole post going about what's been going on for most of the month of January (and the last week of December), but then I started to take too long to make some obscure point and that one's just not getting published.

So the long absence has been down to a few things. Primarily some surgeries in the family, one planned and one not so much. Everyone's fine now, but as neither went off cleanly, it was harrowing for a few weeks there.

I've also attempted to revive some good habits, and start some new ones. Writing regularly being the former, and regular physical activity the latter. Mixed results for both, but the time required for both eats into blog time.

So as I don't like this thing to be a red frog, I've decided I should blog more often, but I've also decided that I shouldn't have to think each post, or even every third post has to be well-written or thought out or even very interesting to put up on here. (I can hear some of you asking how that's different in any way than what's come before and, man, that stings.) If 'good enough' is the new 'great', 'not that good' is the new 'good enough'. Right?

Anyway, onto the aforementioned 'not that good'.

So for Christmas my mom got one of the new e-book readers. The Sony Reader. It's pretty good. She had Lorrie Moore's "A Gate at the Stairs" loaded up on there, which helps, and reading through the first pages of that went fine. The device is intuitive and simple. The surface technology, the way the user interfaces with the machine, doesn't appear to have changed that much since they first came out but I think it has wider-ranging capabilities now than it used to. The sorts of files it can display for example. But it's lighter than a heavy book and, like my mom said, it's easier to find a comfortable position to read in when all you have to worry about is this little screen. So definite advantages.

Leaving aside for a moment whether these things will kill paper-based books, or even whether it's okay if they do, what about the price per ebook? The consumer-friendly price that Amazon set back when they introduced the Kindle was $9.99 for most new bestsellers, much less for classics (which are often free).

That appears to be changing. From the NYTimes:
"In the battle over the pricing of electronic books, publishers appear to have won the first round. The price of many new releases and best sellers is about to go up, to as much as $14.99 from $9.99."
Is a digital file of, say, Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" really worth $14.99? That price is essentially just $10 bucks off the price of an actual, holdable, lendable, throwable hardcover, and usually that discount comes out to a bit less when you consider how deeply some chain bookstores discount the stuff that really sells. To anyone reading who's got an e-reader, is the $14.99 per e-book a show-stopper or is it still fairly reasonable? Does anyone think this could be a feint, a trial balloon from the publisher and e-tailers to see how far buyers will go to load up their e-readers?

So how's the 'not that good' posting strategy going so far?


Gretchen said...

Good enough.

I wouldn't pay $14.99 for a Dan Brown book, but I might consider it for a couple of other authors.

SteveJobs said...

It doesn't really matter what they price it at. Consumers will decide and they will have to react. For instance, if your gonna buy an iPad for $500 and buy Browns book thats 515 for a great langdon adventure, totally worth the cost. Plus you can buy the movie and soundtrack on it and go to his website and his blog. Then buy the Game and read reviews of all of the above. In color.

Anonymous said...

iPad = big iPod Touch.

A Nest of Cranes said...

You have described my dilemma exactly....I love my sony reader, but fifteen dollars....too much, except for my Ann Tylers.

Harwell said...

I don't think $15 is too much. As you pointed out, that's still a ten dollar savings from the cost of the physical copy. Plus, one can always wait for paperback or find a used copy or get it for free from the library. It just depends on when you want it, and what your preferred reading method is. I love (really love) my Kindle, but that doesn't mean I'll never buy another physical book again. I think the fear of a world with no physical books is exaggerated a good deal, but I do believe it IS important to establish a value to digital books and that this ought to be done right now probably. The real concern is that eBooks become thought of as piddly little digital files that can be bought for a dollar, or worse stolen for free en masse through illegal channels. What you're paying for as a consumer with any piece of art is the content, not necessarily the medium. It certainly does not cost $26 to produce a hardcover book and when you compare this to the production costs of say a big Hollywood film that's priced comparably or less on Blu-Ray, then the public should have probably been up in arms about the price of books a long time ago.

I know Warner Bros. recently found out that raising the costs of their MP3 files resulted in fewer overall downloads, but I suspect the price increase in eBooks will make less of a ripple because it's a much newer market. Obviously I'd rather pay ten bucks than fourteen personally, but I don't think it's outrageous. Again, if price was the deciding factor then no one would buy an eReader in the first place; they'd just go to the library.

As for the iPad, I think it will definitely help sell a ton of eBooks I just wonder how many of them will actually get read. Any reading device with a legitimate way to surf the internet seems bound to become more of an internet reading device than book reading device. But maybe that's just me.