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Hold the Phone (or, in this case, Kindle)

Publishing hijinks are ensuing as Macmillan and Amazon duke it out. Macmillan wants Amazon to charge more for its e-books, and in the disagreement, Amazon responded by saying, effectively, "then take your ball and go home." The e-tailer is no longer selling Macmillan books in any format.


Jay Lake, John Scalzi, and Jackie Kessler all do pretty good commentary. I understand from reading enough publishing and author blogs that e-books aren't actually substantially cheaper to produce than, say, mass markets. But I also know that I, as a book buyer, would much rather buy the print version of a book if I'm paying roughly the same cost for either edition. (The exceptions here include Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, which I'd rather not own in print, as it appears ginormous, but which has been recommended to me recently by two independent sources. Sadly, I can't find an edition for my Nook. I'd also happily buy the compiled "Dark is Rising Sequence" for my Nook to make good on my New Year's Resolution to finally finish books four and five this year, but it looks like only books 2 and 4 are available in e-book format. I would also love to get legal ebook editions of my D&D books so I didn't have to lug the things around, but WotC seems to have abandoned that plan in favor of D&D Insider, which requires an Internet connection and a subscription fee.)

I predominantly buy e-books that are novellas or short stories by authors and artists I like (which aren't available in print) or get e-books for free, which shows about where my price point runs. I tend to agree that most buyers just won't pay the $15 price point on an e-book, but if Macmillan wants to try, I think Amazon would be smarter to let the consumer show that they won't pay that margin than demand that Macmillan offer their books at a lower rate. And there's certainly no reason for Amazon to drop the print editions! That just seems foolhardy.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 30th, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
If you've read neither Foucault's Pendulum or the finale of Dark Is Rising, you need to get on that. And Pendulum isn't that ginormous, depending on the edition--I've seen really mammoth copies, and really quite slim ones. Er, no, I'm not speaking as someone who has gone through multiple copies, why do you ask?
Jan. 30th, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
I know, the Susan Cooper omission is *huge*. And since Foucault's Pendulum keeps coming up, I obviously need to fix that as well. Maybe I'll find a comfy paperback edition used... ;)
Jan. 31st, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
Many of the costs of print books over ebooks happen after the production process is complete: Print/bind (obviously), warehousing, trucking, and retailer returns. The big win of ebooks over print is that there's no high-stakes gambling involved. Choosing a print run is a black art: If you print too many, you lose money. If you print too few and sell through, you may lose sales--and thus money--if you judge that another press run wouldn't sell through again.

By my estimates, as much as half of the publisher cost of a print book lies in physical UMC, inventory management, and what amounts to insurance against the uncertainty factor described above. (The rest is production, sales/marketing/pr, organizational overhead, and author royalties.) So I think it would be fair to suggest that the price of an ebook should be about half the price of a print book.
Feb. 5th, 2010 02:51 am (UTC)
Of all of my industry folks, you're the person I'd expect to have the best handle on this -- so thanks! I'm mentioning your estimate in today's entry. :)
Feb. 3rd, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
E-books have one main advantage over the print variety in my experience, and that's portability. I can't read The Count of Monte Cristo on my commute, as I've said before. However, portability isn't everything, and I'd still much rather have a physical copy of a long book and have a smaller book-in-progress to lug around than an overly-expensive e-book.

This Amazon thing has me a little jumpy, though, I'm not going to lie. Maybe it's time to make my book-bidding service a reality: there has to be a better way to produce content.
Feb. 5th, 2010 02:51 am (UTC)
Maybe they just have to get the Big Brother out once a year or so. ;)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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