On Publishing: What is the Right Price for an E-Book?

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A recent discussion on a listserv I share with a large group of professional genre writers has had me thinking for days now.  There was one comment in particular made by a long-time pro with an established track record of writing terrific fantasy and science fiction.  And at the risk of setting off what I suppose might become a heated discussion, I thought that I would share the gist of this person’s comments along with my thoughts on them.

The point this other writer made was essentially this (I am paraphrasing here, and actually adding my own thoughts on the matter):  It can be infuriating for me as a writer to hear people say that they will only pay, say, $1.99 or less for an e-book.  Why?  Because such a statement assumes that the value of the book lies largely not its artistic merit or the production efforts of editors, copyeditors, typesetters, and other production staff, but rather in its physical form.

Yeah, like I said.  This could lead to a heated discussion.  But let’s look at this more closely.

Prior to the advent of ebooks, the vast, VAST majority of books sold here in the U.S. came in one of three formats:  hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market paperback.  (For now we’re going to ignore more specialized items like limited edition leather-bound books on the one hand, or spiral bound small books or chapbooks that were marketed by some small presses.)  Hardcover books have tended to sell for $24.00 to $28.00.  Some might be somewhat less, some might cost more, but that has been the range in our genre for some time now.  And yes, in that format, consumers paid a premium for the physical book itself.  High quality cloth binding, higher quality paper, heavy-stock paper jackets; all of these things combined to make hardcovers more expensive and more desirable for bibliophiles and book collectors.  Writers get the highest royalty rate from the sales of these books usually starting at 10% and climbing through 12.5% to 15% as sales hit certain benchmarks.

Trade paperbacks, the larger format paperbacks that are often associated with non-genre literary fiction, tend to cost about $10.00 less than a hardcover, and so are usually between $12.00 and $16.00.  They are sized similarly to hardcovers, but are not cloth-bound.  Their pages are also made from high quality paper, and their covers, while paper, tend to be of a higher quality than those one sees on mass market paperbacks.  They are not prized by collectors the way hardcovers are, and they are not quite as easy to carry as mass market paperbacks, but they look and feel like a quality product.  Oddly, author royalties on trade paperbacks tend to be the least generous of the three physical formats — usually starting at 6% and then sometimes rising to 7% after a certain number of sales.  (Occasionally, a good agent can get you a flat rate of 7.5% on all trade sales.  — Waves to Lucienne –)

Mass market paperbacks are the familiar small format paperback books one sees pretty much everywhere — bookstores, airport newsstands, drugstore book racks, etc.  They usually cost between $7.00 and $9.00.  They are cheaply made — thin paper, flimsy covers, poor quality gluing to hold the package together.  Let’s face it:  They are basically one step removed from piles of paper bound by duct tape.  On the other hand, they were for a long time the cheapest option for readers, and they are easy to pack and carry.  These editions generally yield royalties that start at 6%, rise to 8% after, say, 100,000 copies have sold, and then jump again to 10% after another 100,000 sales.  Sometimes the rate will start at 8% and then jump to 10% after the first 100,000.

Okay, so now let’s look at e-books.  Again, for many readers $2.00 ($1.99) seems to be the threshold beyond which they start to feel that they’re paying too much.  Why?  Yes, I know that creating an e-book costs less than creating a mass market paperback (and that’s the yardstick I’m going to use, because nobody in his or her right mind is suggesting that ebooks should cost $25.00).  But really the production costs of creating that paper book are not nearly as high per unit as you might think.  I will concede that there is a certain cost as well in the transportation and storage of the paperbacks that are not an issue with ebooks.

But let’s look at value.  Say you buy Faith’s latest, Raven Cursed, in paperback.  The book costs you $8.00.  How do you assign that $8.00 value among the books various components?  Is three-quarters of the value of the book simply in the paper itself?  Really?  Or is there inherent value in the story as it’s written — in the prose, in the plotting, in the characters, in the setting?  What about the value of the editing work?  Faith would be the first to tell you how crucial good editing is to the quality of all her books.  I would tell you same about my books.  So would Misty and A.J., Kalayna and Catie.  What about the copyediting?  That has value, too, right?  And what about that fabulous cover art?  There is value there, as well.  My point is that Faith’s book is more than just a pile of paper.  It is an artistic work, the value of which is at least somewhat divorced from the physical form in which it’s presented.  People ought to be willing to pay a certain amount for that work, regardless of format.

As long as we’re comparing book platforms, we should also ask ourselves about the value of the electronic format.  Are readers buying ebooks only because they’re cheap, or are they drawn by other factors, too — convenience, lack of bulk and weight, cool gadgetry?  The fact is, ebooks are worth a certain premium; they have inherent value of their own.  Let me put it this way:  People often compare the digital revolution in books to the digitizing of music.  It’s actually not a comparison that I find very useful beyond the most superficial similarities.  But still, I think it’s worth mentioning that even as the CD market has bottomed out, giving way to iTunes and MP3 sales, the price of music has not gone down substantially.  A single song costs $.99 or sometimes $1.29.  Getting an album’s worth of music still costs $10-$15 — around the same price as a CD, even though the content is being conveyed without any physical manifestation.  Only in literature is the content devalued because of the ease of electronic file-sharing.  That seems crazy to me.  A CD is much cooler than a paperback book.  It’s shiny and comes in a cool case with liner notes and that kind of stuff.  A paperback book is pretty much a piece of junk next to that.  And yet, the “loss” of the CD has no effect on the price people are willing to pay, while the “loss” of the paperback leaves people feeling that they only ought to pay a fraction of what they were paying.

Books have value because of the artistic and production labor that went into them.  Yes, hardcovers and trade paperbacks have somewhat more value because of their higher quality physical attributes.  But I would argue that an ebook ought to be priced comparably to a mass market paperback.  You want to take out the price of the paper and glue, a bit for storage and a bit for transportation?  Fine.  But then let’s put a bit back in for file formatting across competing platforms and the cost of electronic storage, backup and uploading.  And then we can price ebooks at something reasonable — say $5.99 or $6.99.  And if it concerns you that the big publishing companies will be making too much off sales of the e-book form, let’s give the extra money to the folks responsible for the content: the artists and editors and copyeditors, and yes, the writers, too — because they’ve all been getting way too little of the pie for far too long.

Let the discussion begin.

David B. Coe
http://davidbcoe.livejournal.com
http://www.DavidBCoe.com
http://www.dbjackson-author.com
http://magicalwords.net
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54 comments to On Publishing: What is the Right Price for an E-Book?

  • Mikaela

    My belief is that prices should vary. It should reflect the length and the cost for editing and cover art. And this is for both publishers and authors that are self-publishing. When it comes to e-book exclusives ( both publishers and authors) I think one important question is: Do they want to attract new readers or keep old readers? Old faithful readers pay 3.99 for a novella. New readers are more likely to not buy the ebook.

    This is just my 2 cent :).

  • My first thought: “You get what you pay for”

    My second: “Congratulations, you no longer have to work in publishing to read the slush pile! You can now pay .99 to 2.99 per work for that right!”

  • (Yeah, that’s totally not the topic on hand. It’s early. I’ll be less sarcastic and more on point later in the day.)

  • Kalayna: It does feel that way at times, especially since not all ebook platforms let you read a sample before you buy.

    “Only in literature is the content devalued because of the ease of electronic file-sharing.” I would say that’s true, but I would want to look into more areas, such as art.

    I guess what I’m curious about is the percentage of a book’s price that actually goes into the physical materials, and whatever labor can be calculated on an hourly-basis (typesetting, formatting, etc.). When everything except the talent and development has been stripped away, what’s left? Why not work from there?

    I guess, despite not knowing what the formula is, I’ve always felt the process for deciding the price of books – whatever the format – should be fairly straightforward. I don’t mind paying roughly the same as a paperback book for an ebook, though I have to say, I would rather have the paperback. I just don’t really like reading books on a screen. I know. I’m a luddite.

  • KR1L3Y

    I’m very torn on this issue. While I feel that a good author is entitled to a higher price, and I will spend up to $8 on a cheap paperback, I tend to stick to the lower cost ($.99-$1.99) e-books. I recently purchased the last book of Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series in paperback for $7.99. It would have cost me $9.99 on the kindle. That was a no-brainer. If the price had been significantly less for the digital version I would have bought it, but at this point I feel that anything less than a $3 savings isn’t worth it; I still really enjoy having a physical copy. I guess it is kind of like art – sometimes a digital copy just isn’t enough.

  • Martin

    Interesting. I had been wondering for a while why e-books cost as much as they did, but I bought them because I love reading and they’re convenient. I was of the school of thought mentioned near the end, with the cost of paper, transportation, storage, etc. weighing on my mind. You’ve opened my eyes to the issue, though. I still feel that an e-copy should be slightly less. After all, you do have to pay an upfront cost to be able to read it. You don’t need to buy a bookshelf to pick up a paperback. $2 is ridiculously low though, IMO. I’m usually happy paying around $5.

    I will say as a musician, however, that that comparison may not be quite apt. Typically speaking, a professional musician or producer will have upwards of $3000-5000 of equipment. An average band will consist of 4 members and the album will have a producer. That’s in the range of $15000-25000 before the work is written, or the studio time and raw production and mastering is paid for, which can easily double or triple that for the big labels. That’s saying nothing about marketing, but that is equivalent in most fields anyway. The final cost of a major label record can easily reach into six figures. A lot of independent labels or “low-fi” bands don’t pay these, but like Kalayna said, you get what you pay for. The sound quality is usually inferior and the sales are lower. Additionally, the cost of producing a physical CD was always low (somewhere around a dollar), so it’s easy to see why the digital versions haven’t dropped in price much. After all, servers, bandwidth, and IT professionals cost money too.

    How do those costs compare with the cost of publishing a book?

  • Okay, to make what should have been one comment three, I’ll actually talk about the topic at hand: the proper price of e-books. I couldn’t agree more with David’s statement that “Books have value because of the artistic and production labor that went into them.”

    My earlier replies probably sound rather close-minded for a gadget-whore in her twenties and no doubt clue people in that I don’t read self-pubbed books unless I have a really compelling reason–like I know and trust the author. (Not that I don’t like sales–love sales, I recently bought e-copies of books I already own paper copies of simply because the publisher had a great sale and I was willing to pay again for the convenience.) The truth of the matter comes down to one simple statement: My time is more valuable than a five dollar cost difference.

    I don’t have as much time to read these days as I would prefer, so when I devote that precious time, I want something that has been vetted and edited. (And as we all know, tastes differ so even then I sometimes hit duds.) I’m willing to pay that extra four or six dollars for a book that has been through the works with a publisher because I’m more likely to get a good read than something that might be polished, and might have even been pulled out of the slush pile and passed up the chain, but isn’t actually ready to be published, which is usually the best case scenario with a self-published book. (And I”m sure we’ve all seen the worst case scenarios *shudder*) That vetting and editing process comes at a cost, which I’m willing to pay. And no, not just because it says published by Roc instead of Amazon Digital publishing, but because there are a lot of people working behind the scenes in a house published e-book.

    You have first readers who sift through the slush, acquiring editors, developmental editors, copy editors, a marketing team, an artist, an art department (who add the words and layout to the artist’s work), the person who formats the book, etc. In many publishing house several of these hats might be worn by a single person, but they still need to be paid. Then of course there is the author–we like to get paid too. And don’t think the companies hosting and distributing the books (amazon/b&n/etc.) aren’t taking their pound of flesh from each sale. Oh and speaking of different distributors, as each company tends to have their own propitiatory format for e-pub, that means the file needs to be compiled and laid out not once, as for print, but for each and hoops must be jumped through to get the book up on the different sites–that is someone’s job as well. That’s a lot of people to pay. How much do you think each would make if the book sold for .99 cent?

    No there isn’t a paper cost, but how much does paper actually cost? Printed in bulk it might be a dollar’s worth of the paperback price. You’re not paying for paper, you’re paying for content and the people working behind the scenes to make that magical content the best it can be.

    But wait, you say, wouldn’t it be better to sell a ton of .99 cent copies than risk losing readers by selling at 6.99? Really? With the gazillion .99 cent slush hitting amazon everyday, do you think a book would really stand out in the massive ocean of books? My sales are okay, but like most authors, I could always wish them better. I’ve hit a couple lists and won a couple awards. Would I be selling any better if my books were cheaper? Maybe, but honestly, probably not. And if they were cheaper, would my editor have time to work with me, or would publishing take on a “crank them out so we can all eat” model? Scary prospect.

    If there is a price difference between e-book and paper, I can see knocking off a dollar from the mass market price, a little more for the trade and hardback. But knocking off six dollars? I think you’d see a terrible deterioration of quality in work hitting shelves, even from houses.

    And that’s my actual 2cents. (All earlier sarcastic comments aside)

  • Fireheart1974

    Interestingly enough, I don’t particularly buy the 1.99 books from authors I don’t know because I assume they are slushy. I tend to buy books by the authors I’ve already bought. Either new ones or older to replace the library at home. And I think I’m paying $1-$2 less than a paperback. I might give a new author a try based on reccomendations, meeting at cons, etc but I’d still probably pay the $6-7 for the ebook in that case.

    On the other hand, the recent Jordan was $13 or so and I paid it. I could have waited for the paperback, but it was 1/2 the cost of the hardback and the convenience I wanted to have it on the Kindle.

    I think for me I tend to assume that e-books are a little cheaper than paperbacks to produce but I’ve never assumed there to be that much difference. I suppose because I’ve always intuitively known that there are those other costs: editors, copy-editors, artists, etc, that go into a novel and I’m willing to keep paying those costs.

    ~Fireheart

  • TwilightHero

    Darn right! I fully agree. After all the effort that gets put into a good story, by, quote unquote, the artists and editors and copyeditors, and yes, the writers too, two bucks an e-book is just not acceptable. Considering it’s a little less than mass market prices, $5.99 seems fine to me.

    From a consumer’s angle, though…I should probably add I’d be unlikely to buy an e-book in the first place. Old-fashioned though it is, I’ve never been a fan of reading a book on a screen. I spend too much time staring at screens already 🙂 I guess portability is a valid reason for people to like e-readers, but I still believe a ‘real’ book is one you can hold in your hand. With portability comes variety, but let’s face it: even if you can carry around ten books, or twenty, or a hundred plus at once, how much time do we have to read anyway? Even if the e-book stays cheap, I’d rather go out and buy the paperback.

  • I’ve heard very few people gripe about paying the same price as a mass market paperback for an ebook, and usually if it’s a buck or two less, people don’t seem to mind. I price my short stories for a buck (following the pricing model for a song), and my longer works typically for $4.99-$5.99. I’ve had no complaints from anyone about that pricing.

    I see a lot of complaints about ebooks priced significantly higher than the mass market paperback price point, or even the trade paperback price point. People who really want the book will buy it at that price, but I have to wonder if publishers aren’t losing revenue by not immediately releasing ebooks at the MMPB price, instead of releasing them at an inflated price for a period of time and then dropping the price when the MMPB releases. There is no inherent increased value of an ebook due to release date, so having a timed price drop is a bit infuriating.

    But I don’t hear many people who are avid readers saying that they won’t pay a reasonable price for an ebook. I hear many people who aren’t avid readers talk about never paying for a book again, because so many classics and new books are available for free, but that’s another problem entirely.

  • TwilightHero

    I agree with Kalayna too. You could have made that a post in itself 😛

  • wookiee

    The only beef I have with ebook prices is when they’re higher than the paper copy. When a new book comes out, I will gladly pay $15 for the ebook when Amazon is selling the hardcover for $18. But next year when the paperback is released and is selling on Amazon for $6, I cringe a bit paying $8-10 for the ebook – but I still do it, viewing it as the convenience fee for immediate reading.

  • John, I think you point out a very interesting point about the release of higher priced e-books during the release of the hardback having no more inherit value than the same e-book re-released at the mass market price later. That is a conundrum for publishers though, isn’t it? The jump from mass market to hardback was once a sign of a successful author that the publisher thought could maintain sales in a more ‘esteemed’ (and higher priced) format, but the books are exactly the same. You’re paying for timing. (And I’ve also noticed the riots on Amazon.) But then, with a hardback, you’re also paying for timing (unless you’re a collector **guilty**) because the mass market will typically be out 9 to 16 months later. Avid readers buy the hardback. Others wait for the mass market. Will e-books remain with that model, or will the outcry force a change?
    Interesting times.

  • Had an entire piece, but it was long and pulled, perhaps, from an irritated place, so I’ll just toss it on my own site later. However, I’ll add this one thing as a useful anecdote, learned from my Dad.

    On the “get what you pay for” thing: My Dad owns his own business. He makes things, as well as does labor type jobs for people. He’s an excellent woodworker. Someone gave him some pricing advice once for his woodcrafts, which kind of works well here too. Price it what it’s worth. If you price too low, people will likely see it as cheap, or shoddier than it really is and not buy it. Oh, sure, there are always people looking for the “steal,” those who think everything is overpriced, but your real business is going to come from people who appreciate quality. If you price it higher, or more competitively, people will actually be MORE likely to buy it. As soon as he did so, he sold his handmade cedar chest, which he’d previously priced too low. Not because of a lack of quality, but because he thought it would sell at a cheaper price. The implied value and quality was greater, thus, those looking for quality in the product were drawn to it. Just as a cheaper price can bring people looking for the deal, a higher price can bring people who look at such things as an implied level of quality and worth to the seller. After all, if you think your work’s only worth a dollar or two, what does that say to others?

  • Hepseba ALHH

    I just have to jump in with a comment about the “no more inherent value but scheduled price drops” comment. Timing is a *major* inherent value. If you want it as soon as it comes out, you pay the price, period. Otherwise, you wait. We are completely used to this model with all sorts of other things – video games, electronics, etc… Why do some people think that timing convenience has no inherent value when it comes to books?

  • DizzyMia

    I think a large portion of people have gotten… spoiled, for lack of a better word, by having such cheap books. New authors, or people just wanting to say “I published something!” would price at 1.99 and people thought it was the greatest thing ever.
    Then when other authors started to think that epub might not be so bad, but their publishers wanted the proper pricing for the books, the public freaked out. It will probably take some time, and maybe a major news piece by someone or other, to get through the idea that the books are worth more than just 2.00, whether they’re in hardcopy or epub format. That’s just my thoughts though.
    As a side thought, how does a new author decide about doing epub? Is it better to build up a fan base while you’re sending out the book to agents, or is it better to just stick to the traditional route? ( Hope it’s ok to ask in the comments!:) )
    Ciao,
    Mia

  • Going to have to agree on that one. I stayed up all night waiting for the third book of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, “Goliath”, to hit Amazon. I got it in ebook format AND in audio (because Alan Cummings is boss, as A.J. is well aware), and I was willing to pay a lot more to get it right away. I love the series and trust the author. I had no qualms about pricing, though I did wonder what made the ebook price so close to the hardback. I think if the general public understood the break-down of pricing in terms of print vs. electronic, there would be a lot less grumbling.

  • On Wookiee’s note, which is a good one, one way to assuage that issue would be to add some other benefit to the higher “hardback” ebook pricing, which wouldn’t cost much more in the grand scheme. Say, some other cool stuff to the file. Something the lower priced ebooks don’t have. An in depth interview with the writer. More information about the setting. An extra short piece from the same world. An excerpt for another of the writer’s books (which can only help sales for other books). A full color map of the setting (for those who can see such things with their ereaders). Character art. Something to make it worth the extra money to the reader to buy right now rather than wait for the lower pricing. After all, with a physical hardcover book, you’re buying the higher quality and collectible item. Make that the same for buying the 16 dollar ebook and it might see more sales. Just a thought.

  • Predictably, I’m with David (and most others here) in asserting the value of the content over the form. I agree that e-books should be priced less than paperbacks, but not much less, and the assumption from some readers that an e-book should be priced under two bucks by definition makes me crazy. It should perhaps be said that the pricing issue is compounded by battles over platfrom and format, so that we’re used to see Amazon’s slightly defensive “Price set by publisher” tag. In other words, if it was up to us, it would be cheaper, even if we make a loss on it, because that promotes the Kindle platform over its rivals. The fight over this a couple of years ago had some of our titles unavailable on Amazon for a while (Tor was one who went to the mat over this), and most authors thought the outcome (allowing publishers to dictate their own price points for e-books) was a good thing, but I’m still not entirely sure. I’ll have two titles out within the year published by imprints owned by Amazon: physical and e-book formats. It will be really interesting to watch the sales numbers of these two compared to my other (non Amazon owned) titles, since Amazon will be able to price lower and engage in other kinds of promotions that Tor or Penguin. Will probably generate a post of its own…

  • And I agree with Daniel. I think we’re going to see e-books with all kinds of augmented content, web links etc. which might make them in some ways MORE desirable than conventional books. Shortly after the moon will turn to blood and we’ll need special frog-proof umbrellas, but in the meantime it should be interesting…

  • I don’t think literatur is the only artistic endeavor where physical form values or devalues the work of art. I’d suggest that visual art is another such area. The original of a painting is worth substantially more than a print. The print more still than a digital image sized to display on a screen. Some digital images are worth almost nothing in value, since they are so easy to reproduce and/or recreate. But visual art is a poor analog for literature, and fills a very different role.

    For me… an ebook is practically worthless… because I don’t have an e-reader. Reading an ebook is thus much more of a hassle (a computer is not a great reading device), so it’s not something I’m willing to pay for. But if I had an e-reader, I can see paying as much as I would for a Mass Market PB, because the experience would largely be similar. But I do think there’s an intrinsic value in a quality physical publication that adds something to the experience of reading which makes a Hardcover worth the extra investment. Like many other bibliophiles, I prefer hardcovers for my favorite authors and books.

    Related to e-books and e-readers vs. digital music, though, I think the cost of the delivery mechanism is a factor. E-readers all cost in the $100-$500 range (from low-end Kindles all the way up to a low-end iPad). That’s a substantial investment, and I think people factor that in. They expect the investment to pay off over time in the form of cheaper books. On the other hand, today, you can get a digital music player starting in the $20-range and going up mostly based on storage size. That’s a less significant investment, requiring less mental justification in terms of the cost of the content. Plus, there’s a differentiation in the content format: full CD-albums versus bite-size chunks in single song files.

    The imaginary corollary, if you will, is a world with much cheaper e-readers and a normal business model of selling something like $0.50-0.99 individual chapters… (And in the long run, that would lead a whole e-book to cost more than a physical book). But I think that particular pricing model is a bit bizarre.

    All of that said… I agree with Kalayna: I’m more willing to pay more for a physical book from an author I know and enjoy, or even (though somewhat less so) for one who has proven a certain minimally-acceptable level of storytelling skill by dint of having been published through one of the genre-imprints I read and admire than I am (even if I hypothetically owned an e-reader) to pay substantially less (even including free) for an e-book from an author I’ve never heard of who’s self-published. I don’t have time to waste on crappy books, and I don’t have time to waste sifting the wheat from the chaff. My time is more valuable than the monetary cost. I have reached the point in my life where if by the halfway-point in a book it’s not working for me, I put it down with no regrets. But if I know going in that it’s not likely to work for me, then I don’t even bother starting.

    On a whole, all other things being equal, I think an e-book should cost less than a physical book (how much less I’m not experienced enough to say, but the $2 example seems overly excessive). But all other things are not equal…

  • Mikaela

    There are already e-books with extra content, mostly excerpts from other books by the Author. Personally, I am not that found of them. ( Which might be because the publishers add the covers. Which result in a large epub file.) If there were short stories, and information about the world, I might feel different.

  • @AJ – Yeah, it’ll be about that likely. 😉 Then again, to hear some talk, ebooks are already more desirable and are the wave of the future. Course, so was the house of tomorrow…

  • Also… Daniel Davis’s point is one that we hased out in some of the marketing classes in my MBA: there are some goods (especially luxury goods) where demand for the product is the opposite of what normal economics tells us to expect. One direct example we had was of an independent software-designer who was pricing his software and consulting services at something like a twentieth or less what you’d pay IBM for the same thing. He had no sales. Later he quadrupled his price, and his sales shot up. There was a perceived lack of quality at the lower price.

  • I’m used to paying a bit more anyway – Canadian prices put mass markets at $9 to $10 typically. I haven’t used an e-reader much, and in fact just tried one with an app for the first time this weekend. I’ll probably be getting one later this year, since the platform I’d get, the Kobo, is being priced fairly low for its colour version right now. And all things considered, I’d be happy paying about $7. But I still prefer getting the paperback if I know it’s something I can get signed.

    I completely agree with Daniel about adding enhanced content. I would love to see fantasy maps and character/location art! For that, I’d pay what I’m paying already, $9 to $10.

  • This is a facinating discussion to me. I saw a discussion about crafting–a woman explained in a blog post why her hat cost $100.00. A customer had picked it up, saw the price, and balked, wondering why at hat would cost that much when she could buy one at Walmart for $10.00. The answer is because it isn’t a hat. It’s art. Now, it’s art that you can wear on your head. Art that has a function, too, but art. This reminds me of that. People suggest that an ebook should be cheaper because it’s just a bunch of words, and that’s easy, right? They don’t get the time (months? years?) that takes to write them. You mean my 2 years is with $.99? *whimpers*

    I also like the idea of sort of “hardback” editions of ebooks–like delux DVD/Blu-ray sets. You can just the movie for $19.99 (or whatever) or you can get the box set with the extras. On an ebook it could be stuff like cover art, or more art, or author interviews, or, heck, why not deleted scenes? Or rough scenes? Or bloopers (hee hee), previews for upcoming books, etc. Never before read short stories, etc.

    But really cool discussion.

  • If what one pays for a book is based on its artistic merit, there are a number of authors/publishers who owe me money for having read through the dreck they produced.

  • Slightly off-topic, I fully agree with Kaylana’s first post re: pricing… and like others, I would much rather pay up to the equivalent MMPB market value for an electronic version. Much more than that, I get kind of twitchy unless there is a “known” entertainment value from the given author.

    On topic, regarding pricing, I think it’s a perception thing… I don’t think the average consumer really knows what all goes in to the production of a (vetterd) work, and with so many self-pubbed options popping into the marketplace it makes for very murky waters for the “average” reader, or someone new to going the ebook reading route.

    Charles Stross wrote something about this a couple of years ago (as part of a series about publishing), and the two things he mentions that that still strikes me today are: 1) “Publishers initially saw ebooks as merely being a different imprint” and 2) his projection that “the ebook will eventually kill the Mass Market channel.” I think that as long as pricing remains close, it’s more likely that more backlist titles will be gotten as ebooks (which could shrink the amount of MMPB copies produced).

    So, yeah, I think the $7-8 range is the sweet spot for a vetted ebook, for now.

  • Hi all,

    So sorry to have not posted before now — I was taking my daughter on a college campus visit and we just got back. I’m not going to try to respond to everyone because it would take all night and you all seem to be having a great discussion without me. A couple of random thoughts in response to what I’ve read:

    It seems that the mass market price-point minus a dollar or two is the pricing sweet spot among those who have commented here. I would tend to agree with that.

    A couple of people pointed to the visual arts as one that has been devalued by the ease of file-sharing. Yeah, all right. But I really don’t think it’s an apt comparison at all. Books and music can be downloaded with ease without degrading the artistic experience or the value of what’s been created in any substantive way. Yes, some people prefer to read books on paper. I know I do. And there are many audiophiles who believe that digitized music doesn’t sound as good as music on vinyl. But those are fairly fine distinctions. Seeing the “Mona Lisa” in person and trying to appreciate it on a computer screen, or an iPhone are two substantively different experiences, and really can’t be compared to reading or listening to music. Photography is a somewhat closer comparison, and I do believe that photographers have suffered due to the digitizing of their art.

    Personally, I would enjoy books priced a bit higher with bonus content, depending upon the content.

    I agree that there is a higher initial investment for ebook owners. I can read my paper books with nothing more than good light and a pair of reading glasses. I don’t need to pay for the gadget. But I think we are already seeing (with iPads and other tablets, the Kindle Fire, and Nook’s tablet) that dedicated readers are being phased out. Pretty soon people will be buying gadgets that read books but do lots else. And if dedicated readers remain, they will get cheaper and cheaper until they cost little more than a cheap mp3 player.

  • Oh, and one other thing that is kind of related and kind of not. Amazon is, of course, driving the cheap e-book market, and I can almost guarantee you two things: One, those books won’t stay that cheap for very long. Just as Amazon used to discount books much more than they do now, so they will gradually wean us off those cut rate prices once we as a consumer society are thoroughly hooked on ebooks — KINDLE ebooks… And two, in the same way, Amazon is inevitably going to start cutting those great royalty rates they currently pay authors of ebooks. They are not contractually bound to keep those rates high, certainly not on new books. It may be that the older books will be grandfathered in to the old rates when the new ones come down the pike. But Amazon is interested in cornering the e-publishing market, and so they are trying to draw authors as well as readers. As they consolidate their position in the market, they will have less and less incentive to keep the rates so high. Something to keep in mind.

  • Razziecat

    “Only in literature is the content devalued because of the ease of electronic file-sharing.”

    Not quite. Newspapers are failing in record numbers because nowadays, anybody can go online and blog their opinion of anything, and many, many people do not recognize or appreciate the difference between quality journalism and dreck. Very few newspapers are able to charge for their online content. Newspapers were, for a long time, more concerned about creating a presence online than in fighting the desire among readers for free content. Trust me when I say that newspapers are now fighting for their very existence.

    I think part of the problem, both with newspapers and with books, is that to the average person an e-book doesn’t “feel” like much. It’s more of an abstract concept than a concrete object. Couple that with the average person’s belief that they could dash off a novel in a couple of days (or a blog–aren’t millions already doing that?) so the content “clearly” can’t be that hard to create, can it? :/ Add in the pirate sites that make e-books available for free, and you have a problem.

    I agree with the idea that if it’s priced too cheaply, people assume it’s poor quality. I think the abundance of free content (regardless of quality) hurt the newspaper industry, and it’s hurting books now. The question is, can the creators of that content stay in the game long enough to wait for things to even out?

  • Razz, I was talking about the arts, and should have been more precise in saying that between music and lit, Lit was the one taking the hit. I suppose some would say that film has been similarly devalued, since services like Netflix offer lots and lots of movies at a very low price (compared to the cost of renting movies from a store, when that was more common, or compared to the price of seeing a movie in the theater). Anyway, I think that I would say that the newspaper v. book point that you raise more reinforces my point than anything else, since, as you correctly point out, the phenomenon is much the same and both involve the devaluation of the written word. Thanks for the comment.

  • I have a(n old) Kindle e-reader. I have the Kindle app on my laptop (free). I have the Kindle app on my Android phone (also free).
    I love real paper books, but I’m quickly running out of shelf space and the space to build more shelves. I tend, now, to only buy paper copies of those books I intend to keep for a long while. For entertainment reading (as in, I’ll probably only read it once) I prefer e-books now. They don’t take up space and I don’t have to cart them to a used bookstore or Goodwill or a library. I can also read them anywhere, at any time, since I always have my phone with me. The convenience of the e-book means I don’t usually mind the MMPB equivalent price. I even buy self-epubbed works without too much quibbling, especially if I know or trust the author, because I think that author deserves the higher percentage of sale price gained through self-pub. If the e-book is crap, so what? I’ve read paper book crap from just about every publishing house, too.
    ** slightly off topic – I used to buy entire series when I shopped at bookstores so I didn’t have to go back for the next book. I don’t have to, now. And it was a crappy paperback trilogy that first made me realize if that hack could get published, so could I! 🙂 **
    If I find a tale that I really like and want it on my shelves, I will buy it in paper – and the author benefits again!

  • “If I find a tale that I really like and want it on my shelves, I will buy it in paper – and the author benefits again!” This. SO this. If every reader who loved our books bought it in two formats, we’d never have to sweat another contract negotiation. Thanks for the comment, Lyn. 🙂

  • It is easy, and I’d say a trap, to think of price in terms of the cost to produce. You could say an e-book costs x dollars to produce because of the wages to pay people and so on and then you’d have to divide that by the expected sales to find a per unit cost. But is that what people will pay?
    Looking at it from the market side you talk in terms of supply and demand. The supply of e-books is limitless. The demand is not limitless. If you were to graph that you’d find a point very close to zero. I’d argue the correct price for an e-book is $0. However, something Kalayna said stands true: “My time is more valuable than a five dollar cost difference.” So you can place a value on the delivery mechanism. By that method a given publisher could garner a reputation for producing only the very best quality books (A grade art, editing, story etc…) and charge more for their e-books. Not because the e-books are more scarce, but because the extra dollars you pay a trusted publisher will save you getting slush pile quality. Like I can feel confident seeing a Steven Spielberg movie, not because it will be a brilliant work of cinematography but because he consistently produces entertaining, high quality movies.

  • The Mathelete

    I . . . all the words . . . already said. Late days at work make me so late to the party here at MW, but I agree with so much of what you all said. I will add though — I quite willingly pay for e-books from authors I know that I enjoy, often as much as a dead tree version, but there is a great guilty pleasure in taking ten bucks and diving into the slush just to see what’s out there. It’s like going to the Dollar Tree 😐 Some of it is dreadful, but with the right search terms, I’ve also found some amazingly clever stuff (that no sane publisher would ever contract in a million years — for various reasons).

    I’m sure as the market matures, initial sunk costs (readers) amortize down, and the slush-avalanche of known writers trying to get non-commercial formats/niche topics/backlogs released and unknown writers dumping their word processors onto the Interwebs slows down or gets organized somehow, prices will probably stabilize somewhere more like 70-85% of a traditional mass market format. 20-30% just isn’t enough to finance the work.

    Also, scary but probably true post about Amazon, David. Everyone, remember, if we all shop at the Wall-mart, some kids will have to go break a mirror in the television department 😉 (Really? Not get the reference? southparkstudios.com, season 8, “Something Wall Mart This Way Comes”)

  • […] David B. Coe on On Publishing: What is the Right Price for an E-Book? […]

  • John, I think in a business where sell-through rates of 65% are considered good (for hardcover — it’s lower for paperbacks) and where books are being stripped or pulped or remaindered all the time, supply and demand really doesn’t get at the issue so well. One could argue that the demand for paper books is not coming close to the supply either, and so ALL books should be priced ridiculously low, but you and I don’t want that to be the prevalent business model. I agree with you and Kalayna on the time v. money argument, but again I think that we need to find some way (and I have no idea of precisely how we do this) to place a value on the creative work itself. It’s not just time, it’s not just supply and demand, it’s not just materials. There is artistic value too, and that should be reflected in the marketplace. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    Mathelete, thanks for the comment. I can certainly understand the dumpster-diving thrill of wading through the slush and discovering those gems of which you speak. I haven’t got time for it myself — I barely have enough time to read the stuff I really want to read. But I definitely see the allure. And yeah, the Amazon thing. It’s going to get ugly at some point. Sorry that I don’t get the reference; I need to watch more South Park.

  • @sjohnhuges: An Econ-101 model of supply-and-demand is a little bit of a simplistic representation, and doesn’t capture all the naunce of a truly complex market. As was pointed out above, there are product categories which simply do not move according to simple price-demand models (i.e demand decreases as price goes down). This also doesn’t take into consideration the relative elasticity of demand, and changes in elasticity. (Are books highly elastic or inelastic? That answer probably depends a lot on differences in market segmentation, which is a whole other can of worms, and it probably changes over time as well.) On a very simple model, where there is effectively infinite supply and a non-infinite demand: yes, the market equilibrium price will trend toward 0. But those conditions aren’t wholly true of the market for books – digital or otherwise.

    The key factor in this analysis is a line I used in my own longish post: “All other things are not equal.” Those kinds of market and pricing assumptions only hold true if books are a commodity. The failure of large bookstores like Borders was in treating books exactly that way. But books are not a commodity – although books look and function in largely similar ways, they are in fact the polar opposite of a commodity. A Stephen King novel is not transferable and equivalent in experience to a David B. Coe novel. Realistically, then, we can’t logically discuss the pricing of books or of e-books as if they are all apiece. Instead, we’ve got a market for Stephen King books and e-books – and we can discuss the proper price for those books in that more limited context. And we’ve got a market for David B. Coe books, and so on.

    Amazon has carved out a new market for “self-published” books, and is now trying to treat all of those as highly transferrable and equivalent… but in time that will be found to be a false notion. I think Amazon already knows this, actually. I don’t think they really care about the market for Joe Nobody Self-published books – they just care about algorithmically pushing best-sellers, self-pubbed or otherwise…

    @David: When I mentioned the visual arts, I did point out that the analogy to books was a poor one. But it was an example of a creative art where the medium directly impacts the valuation of the content. But I think you’re right in pointing out that this is at least partially, and possibly largely attributable to the impact of medium on the experience of the art.

  • The Mathelete

    David, yes, you should definitely watch more South Park — does wonders for deadlines and word counts 😉 The next time the procrastinate-bug hits you, I do recommend that episode though.

    Another interesting thought that comes to mind in relation to the economics of e-publishing is that e-books need never be deprecated. Compared to cubic footage in warehouses and shelf space in book stores, digital storage is tiny physically, expansive, and inexpensive. Because new books need to occupy limited space on store shelves, books have historically gone out of print and largely disappeared (with the exception of a very small percentage deemed “classics”), but with digital books, there’s no need to clear out the old to make way for the new. Can anyone else imagine publishers or authors doing the “Disney vault” approach, or are we going to see a future where everything that’s ever been digitally rendered for e-pub remains around forever on sale? I’m no economist, but I think this fact probably also needs to factor into whatever market model finally emerges.

  • Methelete, this is actually something that has already been a subject of much discussion among authors and agents. The Disney Vault approach sounds like a great thing, but the dark side of it comes when we start talking about rights reversion. When an author’s book goes out of print, she is allowed, under most standard contracts, to demand that the publisher revert the publishing rights to her so that she can then sell the books to a new publisher who might want to keep them in print, or publish them on her own (self-pubbing backlist titles in one way in which self-publishing really does do great things for established authors. Well, with e-publishing, as you point out, a book never really goes out of print. It is always available in e-format, and/or print-on-demand. That may sound like a good thing, but it’s really not. With epublishing, publishers may have infinite space for book storage, but they don’t have infinite advertising dollars. And so that author may have her books still in print, but no one is talking about them, no one is pushing them, and so no one is buying them. It’s a dead end for writers and in taking away rights reversion, it removes one of the best tools we have for keeping our backlist viable. So while you raise a good point, you should understand that there is, for writers, a significant downside to it, as well.

  • David, I watched this unfold with delight yesterday, and finally decided to take a plunge into the opinion pool today.
    I see it from the following perspectives:
    1. pubs have to factor in much higher losses on Paper books than on E-books for returns
    2. MM hard costs used to be between $0.75 and $0.85 each for a print run of 20,000.
    3. The current prices of e-books *should* reflect the two above things,
    4. But pubs *know* that Amazon will cut out the generous price point eventually, and so they are not willing to set a precedent (cheaper e-books) and then have to go up on prices later when Amazon kicks them in the pocketbook.
    F

  • Interesting, Faith. Thanks for the data points. The returns should mitigate for low ebook prices, while the small per unit materials cost should push in the other direction. I think you’re right about their need to hedge bets on what Amazon will do. I wonder, just to throw in another consideration, whether some day, long after physical book returns cease to be an issue, whether publishers will be forced to build considerations of e-piracy into their pricing equations.

  • I’m a bit late to this discussion but here goes. I’ve owned a kindle for a little over a year and am really begining to enjoy ebooks. One unexpected side effect? I purchase fewer books now that I mostly buy ebooks. I tend to buy when I’m ready to read the actual book, or much closer to it. In the past I stopped at the bookstore a few times a month and came away with piles.

    David, I will point out that most of the ebooks I’ve purchased are of books I had already bought in MMS over the past couple of years. I’m essentially repurchasing my own TBR pile in ebook. And I already know there are at least 50 more books I already own yet haven’t read that I will be repurchasing in ebook format, along with the new ones many of the authors here will be publishing.

    I’m fine with an ebook being just under a MMS in cost. I do have an issue with an ebook costing in the double digits aimply because it came out in physical format in Hardcover instead of MMS.

  • The Mathelete

    Hmmm, David, do writers have a natural aversion to typing the word “math” or do my MW heroes just have me pegged as a meth dealer? 😉 AJ made the same typo a few days ago.

    I typed up a big long analysis of how this persistence of material could (with reasonable variables, would) work out, and if anyone got the idea from my post that I think that it’s a GOOD idea for books to stay in e-print forever, I apologize profusely. In an effort to cut mathematical models and words like “linear growth” and “constant demand” while keeping a moderately hopeful and objective sounding post, I can now see how it could be read like I was in favor of perpetual availability. I’m not. It’s wrong, and I’ve got the math to show it 😉 In my original post (saved somewhere to my hard drive — I’ll post it up somewhere if anyone indicates an interest in reading the ramblings of a math nerd/sff writer), I said something along the lines, “This sort of model leads to the nightmare scenario of ever increasing traffic on a fixed band — like a five million novel pile up on some digital freeway.”

    In fact, I think timed or sales-volume based de-listing and rights reversion is about the only model that makes any sense in the e-pub world. (Actually, that’s what I meant by the Disney vault analogy — withholding supply to artificially increase demand; I see how that could also be confusing since in that case Disney is vertically integrated across distribution, creative investment, and copyright) I’m just not sure that bean counters will look past the aggregate of 5000 five dollar purchases in a quarter to see that distinction. For that matter, what about the solo writer who is just tickled pink to sell four books a quarter in a self-epub format for the next ten years? 🙁 Even though publishers and retailers have a long-term interest in maintaining the viability of the ecosystem, anyone who watches the news can pick at least five companies that have wrought terrible economic pain to a sector for short-term profits.

    Great post, David, and thanks for all the great dialog everyone. It really is a fascinating time for literate people everywhere. I just hope that the last real bastion of analog creative media has a more graceful and thoughtful entrance to digital distribution than some of our sisters in other creative fields. We’re all book people here. I’m sure we will 🙂

  • bonesweetbone

    I’m a little late to the party, too, but as an avid ebook reader, I wanted to contribute. I got my Kindle this past June and I have to say that now I’m buying more books than ever. I’ve never lived near a big bookstore, so I’ve always just stuck to the library and I bought books I just had to have from Amazon (once I’d heard of Amazon), pre-Kindle.

    Now that I have easier access, my budget hinges on how well I know the author’s prior work and, if I don’t know it well, how long the book is (roughly how much of my time it will take to read it and whether or not I find the price equal to that, in other words $3.99 for a novel or $3.99 for a novella) and, most importantly, how I feel about its sample. I don’t mind paying about the same price I would for a physical copy if I’m familiar with the author. Especially if it means I don’t have to hunt it down.

    I agree that ebooks have made it more difficult than ever to avoid the slush, which makes me eternally grateful for the sample feature. I can’t tell you how many bad decisions I’ve avoided because of it. However, I do agree that the ebook should be at least a few dollars cheaper than the physical copy as it is more data than paper, binding, etc. I don’t know the actual numbers in terms of comparative cost though.

  • CE, I do here that a lot from people — that their ebook purchases are often RE-purchases. I remember when CDs first came out and I replaced a lot of my favorite vinyl records with disks. That’s not a sustainable dynamic though, obviously. I understand your point about the pricing when only the hardcover format as available in paper books. But from my perspective as an author I do understand it. Hardcover books drive my income far more than any other books. To lose those sales would absolutely destroy my earnings. Just a data point. Thanks for the comment.

    Mathelete, sorry for the typo. I assure you, we don’t think you’re going to the CVS late at night to score boxes of Sudafed… And sorry as well if I misinterpreted your earlier post. I appreciate your clarification and the larger point you’re making.

    Bone, thanks for your input. I can understand where you’re coming from, but still maintain that book costs on a mass market paperback aren’t enough to warrant a discount of several dollars for an ebook. A dollar or two, maybe, but beyond that and we’re getting into the area of devaluing that content I write about above. But people of good conscience can disagree on these issues and again, I thank you for the comment.

  • The Mathelete

    Meh, David, don’t apologize for misinterpreting my meaning on the short post. If I get to fancy myself a writer, I should be able to clearly articulate what I mean. By trying to cut out the boring bits, I made my argument/idea no longer concrete and objectively comprehensible. I should apologize to you for giving an uncertain and opaque description. I’ll do better next time — as long as no weird meth addicts show up at my house 😛

  • Treamayne

    Sir, Nice article and thank you for putting your thoughts out there. Before I comment, I’ll note that I am not one of those people who thinks every ebook should be >$2. I also think it’s acceptable to start the ebook slightly higher (when only NC is out) and reduce the cost as trade and MM releases occur (paying for the premium of reading earlier rather than waiting). But I do have some issues with how the current price-points are set. (I’ll confess I perused the comments but didn’t read every comment in its entirety, so sorry if my late-to-the-discussion comments are repeats)

    I think many people would be happier if this part for ebooks got as much attention as paper books. There a more then a few books I have in Paper (HC or MM) and ebook. Almost all of them have mistakes in the ebook that do not appear in the paper edition. These errors range from the simple, like spacing or formatting errors that make the product “appear” like they only worked on one version and used automated software to translate the first into other formats (.epub>.mobi>etc), to weird errors that look like negligence (one example: two female major characters names exchanged – using the name for someone not even in the scene).

    The minor take-away difference here is with digital sales, you can buy the one song you want from an album instead of paying full CD price for 1 song you like and 11 others you don’t. However, that’s an odd comparison anyways, since the CD argument was largely based on similar issues. The cost of pressing a CD vs. how much they charged always made them more expensive in the public eye that they “should be.”

    Possibly, but also a Paperback (or other paper book) will sometimes have pictures, maps, etc. But the ebook version, if it includes these at all, almost never has them in a usable form. Granted, SF usually falls victim to this more than other genres, but there is sometimes a content loss with the translation.

    To me, that wouldn’t be too unreasonable. But more often this last 12-18 months it’s more like MM is 7.99 and ebook is 9.99. That makes no sense to me.

    I think many people would have less heartburn with ebook pricing if we had the real warm/fuzzy that the money was really going to the content creators and not just extra profit to “the man.”

    Also, there is the aspect of sharing, lending and reselling that devalues ebooks in the eyes of the consumer. With a HC, Trade or MM I can loan it to a friend (who will likely love it and start buying other books from the author – esp. if I only loan them book 1 of a series) and only need one copy for my household. With some books, we resell or trade to used book stores and try to find new authors to love that way. Those options are closed off with ebooks (though B&N has made some progress with lending to other B&N Nook users) and since a consumer can’t resell an ebook (esp. if you got it and didn’t care for it – since you rarely get to preview the books) the overall product is devalued in the consumer eye. Personally I wish publishers would take a note from the movie industry and start offering a one time download of ebooks with the HC edition – like buying a movie and getting a digital copy. Wonder if any research has been done on what percentage of people that normally wait for a trade or MM release would spring for the HC with this kind of incentive. I know I would with many authors.

  • Treamayne

    Apparantly my qoted sections of you article were removed. The paragraph headings were:

    “What about the value of the editing work?…What about the copyediting?”

    “But still, I think it’s worth mentioning that even as the CD market has bottomed out, giving way to iTunes and MP3 sales, the price of music has not gone down substantially”

    “It’s shiny and comes in a cool case with liner notes and that kind of stuff. A paperback book is pretty much a piece of junk next to that.”

    “But I would argue that an ebook ought to be priced comparably to a mass market paperback. …And then we can price ebooks at something reasonable — say $5.99 or $6.99. ”

    “let’s give the extra money to the folks responsible for the content: the artists and editors and copyeditors, and yes, the writers, too”

    My apologies for the mistake.

  • Treamayne, you raise some terrific points — allow me to address them. Your point about the sloppiness of some ebooks is well taken. What has happened is that in the rush to get lots of older books out in ebook form, they have been scanned or otherwise converted to the new format too quickly, without proper quality control. Also, many of the self-pubbed ebooks that are hitting the market at low prices have not been properly edited, copyedited, or proofed, which leads to the problems you describe. New books from established publishers that are coming out simultaneously as ebooks and paper books should be free of most of these problems, or at least as clean as the paper versions.

    I do think that the music v. lit argument has always been problematic (I say as much in the post) but I brought it up because it’s a comparison that people often make.

    Again, my guess is that the problems with maps and illustrations is largely concentrated in books that have been out in paper for some time, and have been made into ebooks after the fact. I imagine that as new books are released in ebook form, the maps will be more usable.

    As someone else pointed out with respect to pricing, sometimes those higher ebook prices are for new titles that are only out (thus far) in hardcover. Publishers are reluctant to undercut their hardcover pricing too much with the ebooks. I really don’t know what the solution to this one might be.

    Your point about sharing books is a good one, and is one that B&N is starting to address (as you point out). I think that to remain competitive, other ebook vendors are going to have to address this one as well. On the other hand, I feel that publishers should be able to limit sharing of this sort somewhat. A paperback can be shared among friends, but the reach of that is fairly limited. You might lend a book to five friends or even ten. An ebook can be emailed to a thousand people all over the globe. As an author, I find that a bit frightening, and so I WANT my publishers to place some limits on the lending reach, if that makes sense.

    Again, great comments. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  • Treamayne

    No problems, I’m working on learning the industry now and I love hearing from great people like you willing to share your experience with those on th eoutside, hoping somebody will open the door. (I’m deployed Military and looking at what I want to do when I grow up and have to leave the uniform behind). That said:

    “point about the sloppiness of some ebooks is well taken. What has happened is that in the rush to get lots of older books out in ebook form, they have been scanned or otherwise converted to the new format too quickly, without proper quality control”

    I could understand this. The example I gave was from the 6th book in a series I had waited on for a year. It released Dec 2011 – first time ever in print. It had these errors. Scanner issues and “rushed” classics I can see having some issues. But new or recent releases? Really?

    Another fairly recent example (but halfway between my previous example and yours) was a nookbook I purchased at B&N’s website as a compendium of an an author’s first 4 books in a series. So, book one is a few years old and they are prograssively younger. In this, each book of the compilation seems to have been done independantly (different base text sizes and margins, etc) but each has it’s own issues. On e”book” in the omnibus had strange characters at each scene break. A different one had a character flaw with certain puctuation marks, etc.

    I do have a question for those published professionals though. Do authors ever get advance preview copies? If an author saw format or content errors like this, would it be too late to do anything about them?

    As far as lending, I like B&N’s idea (if you loan a book, you can’t access it while on loan, and there is a time limit – so after 2 weeks it disappears from their device and is re-activated on your device). It’s still narrow, because I can only loan to other users of the same device, so I would like to see it expanded if possible. But I can see the cause for piracy concern (esp with so many DRM strippers out there). I would also like to see a secondary market available of some kind, but that would take some fundamental changes in the coding for the base file types.

  • […] and the Short Story Writer I have written elsewhere about e-publishing of novels and the proper pricing of e-books, and I don’t really wish to rehash those arguments here.  But there is another aspect of […]