Here’s what confuses me: How can a publisher charge the same price for a digital copy of a book that requires no printing, binding or significant distribution costs as they do for an actual hardcopy of the book? The same thing goes for the music industy. The cost of pop music has not dropped at all with digital downloads even though a massive cost element is no longer present.
While I understand the desire to keep up your profit margin imagine how many more copies of a book might be sold digitially if it was priced like at impulse-buy levels. People buy iPhone apps all the time at 99-cents just to try them out. Imagine how many new “copies” of backtitles no longer even available in most bookstores could suddenly become profit-drivers for publishers.
Potential digital-book readers aren’t going to shell out $10-$20 for most eBooks but I think thousands would a buck-a-book to, say, get handful of old Stephen King title’s on their iPhone.
I believe one way to profit in the digital age is to take advantage of the massive numbers of potential customers. With no hard cost associated with e-publishing a book, it is just a matter of sell A LOT of copies at a low price.
Just think aloud…
Good related post on this at Futurismic
It is being fairly widely reported that dead tree media giant Conde Nast is pulling back on plans to launch new websites for a number of it’s key magazines includng Details and GQ.
Conde Nast recently took a bit of a hit online recently, finally calling it quits on tween-girl site Flip.com – though I’m not sure it was ever a central effort.
The question is, while it is surely a tough time financially for Conde Nast, is it wise to circle the wagons around the shrinking print editions and ignore the obviously expanding world of digitial media? There are very few reasons left to buy magazines and the number of reasons is not likely to go up as technology expands.
We will have to see if this is just a calculated delay by CN while they figure out their strategy or is just burying of heads in the sand?
TechDirt has a little look at the growing fight between textbook publishers and the students who are tired of paying thousands of dollars a semester and are instead finding more and more pirated scans online:
“…rather than responding to the root cause of the downloads, textbook publishers are trying to come up with systems that students can’t get around paying for, such as online subscriptions to “extra” information to go along with a textbook.”
Doesn’t anyone want to learn anything from the failings of the music industry? The only way the textbook companies will beat the pirates is to offer their books for a fair price in a format that is open and friendly to the students.
Yeah, I don’t see that happening anytime soon, either. So, expect to see plenty of new textbooks coming to a pirate site near you. Supply and demand, people. Supply and demand.
There is a great post over on CNet about the potential for the iPhone to make the Kindle into kindling.
“I’m an avid reader of digital books and for months I had my eye on the Kindle, the digital reader from Amazon, with its high-contrast screen and PC-less book downloads. Then Apple announced that the iPhone 3G goes on sale July 11.
I’m now in second-guess hell.
I know Apple has said nothing about offering an e-reading application for the new iPhone. But what happens if Steve Jobs later surprises us or some developer turns the iPhone into a whiz-bang electronic reader? I’ll tell you what happens, my Kindle ends up on eBay.”
I love the idea of an amazing eReader, but the Kindle just isn’t amazing. It’s cool but has so many limitations compared to the potential of a fully networked, portable device.
Check out the whole post for a great argument in favor of the iPhone as your next digital reader.
I’ve been having one discussion after another about the future of books and publishing.
One friend works for a company that will be rolling out print-on-demand paperbacks from a massive digital archive – kind of like an on-site Amazon with no delivery wait or a Barns and Noble that has everything. Cool idea, though I wonder if it removes us another step from one of the things that makes books cool – their all kinda different. Look at your bookshelf. It isn’t a uniform line, is it. However, this machine will make every book identical really, until you open in.
I argue that books will go the way of LP’s – not gone but specialized and collected. Less mass market, more unique. Instead, let’s face it, we’re all going to be doing all of our reading on something digital. Probably not a Kindle, since that’s first-gen hardware if I’ve ever seen it.
SAI has some thoughts on how to help move us into this brave digital age:
“Hardcover books should cost $25. And publishers should keep printing them–for people who want to buy them. Meanwhile, for everyone else, publishers should publish cheap electronic copies for 20% (or less) of the hardcover price.
$4.99 for a first run bestseller, downloadable to your Kindle, PC, or iPod–or simply readable on the Internet. The retailer keeps $1 or so, the author gets $1 or so, and the publisher takes home about $3. Some of that goes to marketing and some to overhead. And then you’re left with the typical publisher profit of less than $1 (no returns, manufacturing, or distribution costs).”
Now we’re cooking with gas.
The other day NYT tech-columnist and usually cool-seeming guy wrote a pretty ignorant and short-sighted column on why he doesn’t allow there to be digital copies of his books in circulation. He believes the whole notion that just because something can be freely distributed it should free to consume is absurd.
“So yes, this is how I, as an author who’s been twice-burned, truly feel. And yet I realize that it puts me, rather awkwardly, on the same side of the piracy issue as the record companies and movie companies, who are suing teenagers for downloading songs, and of whom I’ve made endless fun.”
That is certainly a sad place to be, Mr. Pogue. And, as TechDirt points out, your position is probably only going to worsen:
“It’s not that things ought to be free because they can be free — but that things will be free because that’s just basic economics. Price gets driven to marginal cost in a competitive market, and the reason it happens is because others do learn to put in place business models that work, and then if you’re the lone holdout, people start to ignore you.”
This is part of a huge discussion going on all over the web (and the “real” world too) regarding how to deal with the fact that so many goods and services are being made obsolete by digital transmission and consumption.