Monthly Archives: February 2010

What Rights Do You have on your Digital Books

Really interesting article in Electronic Frontier Foundation site. The article talks about various rights issues that the user should think about before buying a digital books.

Some of the issues covered by author

    Does it (your e-book reader/service/tool, etc.) protect your privacy?

    Does it tell you what it is doing?

    What happens to additions you make to books you buy, like annotations, highlights, commentary?

    Do you own the book or just rent or license it?

    Author points out the fact that when you buy these e-books you most of the time are just buying the license to the book

    Many readers expect that the same rules will apply to their e-book purchases. However, electronic books have often been treated as “licensed” content, subject to legal and technical restrictions (primarily, DRM) that block readers’ ability to resell, lend, or gift an e-book. More ominously, last year Kindle readers realized that their provider (Amazon) could actually reach down into their devices and pull books from their virtual shelves

    Is it burdened with digital rights management (“DRM”)?

    Does it promote access to knowledge?

    Does it foster or inhibit competition and innovation?

    Complete article here

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    ISBN Agency Issues Guidelines For e-ISBN Assignment

    ISBN agency issued some guidelines on how publishers should assign ISBNs to different e-book formats.

    isbn_agency

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    iPad eBooks Priced at $9.99

    Interesting news from techcrunch

    The NYT has a report on ebook pricing for the iPad, saying that Apple may charge $9.99 for popular titles, just like everyone else in the free world.

    While most prices will be higher – it’s an iPad! Why go slumming? – popular books can hit the $9.99 if need be. Apple takes 30 percent of the sale while the publishers take 70 percent.

    I’m all for more expensive ebooks. The 99 cent song has essentially turned the music business into a freak out fest and the publishing industry is even less prepare for the volcano that’s about to erupt right in the middle of their industry.

    I’d say $12.99 is a good price for an ebook. At that price Apple gets $4 and the publisher gets about $8. This, in turn, gets the author 2 cents on a good day.

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    Why Consumers Should Not Pay More For An eBook

    “People who can afford an ereading device can afford all proposed ebook prices.” – That was Michael Cader’s advice to the publishing industry.

    What Cader is trying to say here is that consumers are unreasonable in saying that they cannot afford higher prices for ebooks. And where does he derive this from? – well! from the fact that if the same consumers can afford an ebook device ranging anywhere betwen $300-$500 why can’t they afford a $3-$5 hike in the ebook prices. I don’t at all believe in this theory because the truth is that there are a huge set of consumers who actually bought a Kindle or a Nook just to save money over the long term.

    Moreover, in my opinion what consumers are paying for an ebook device versus what they are wiling to pay for an ebook is like comparing apples to oranges. (It’s like saying since I bought an expensive book shelf I ave to buy expensive books as well – it doesn’t work that way)  But let’s play the devil’s advocate here and see how the other side looks.

    Even if a consumer can afford a higher price for a digital book, I don’t see any reason why he should. I think most of the value of the e-book format comes primarily from the device and not the publisher. Accessibility, reading experience, ability to share across multiple registered devices, mobility- all of it is provided by the device and the retailer’s back end (Amazon, B&N). Moreover, it is reduced overheads for the publisher. Why? – No additional content over the print version, no custom formatting required, (may be typos) no additional printing cost. So why won’t a consumer want all these cost savings to be passed on to the them?

    High time publishers should actually listen to the consumers and price their ebooks with certain considerations.

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    HTC To Introduce Their Own eReader

    As per sources smartphone maker HTC is soon going to introduce their own e-book reader as part of a new Sense update.  This new program will be named as Reader and is said to be an application for showing e-book content. In addition, there will be an integrated bookshelf for content collections and screenshots will also be available which will show content from Borders and Adobe.

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    What Stops Users From Buying an Ebook

    American Editor recently ran a poll to figure out what stops users from buying an ebook. The results are out and no surprises.

    1. 57% of the users feel that they are not comfortable buying ebooks due to DRM restrictions set by publishers

    2. 26% of the publishers think that pricing of ebooks above $9.99 is detrimental in them buying an ebook. This seems to support the argument given in a recent NYT article about ebook pricing which was condemned by publishers.

    3.  8% of the respondednt think that price  greater than $4.99 is an issue.

    Clearly, the sweet spot for ebooks lies somewhere between $ 3.99 and $9.99. Now its upto publishers, Google, Apple and Amazon to use their brain power to figure out what price they want to support.

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    What Are Your Thoughts on eBook Prices

    Very interesting thoughts from Thomas Nelson Publishers CEO Michael Hyatt on why he does not think the $9.99 price is too high for ebook users.

    Last week the New York Times published “E-Book Price Increase May Stir Readers’ Passions.” Michael Cader, the editor of Publishers Lunch Deluxe, took issue with the article, noting that “some people will automatically take it seriously, despite the anecdotal reporting and absence of any data.” He then exhorted,

    [P]ublishing people who care about these pricing discussions need to get in the online forums and start issuing press releases and find other ways to address readers honestly about price. The price landscape, and shift to an agency model, is honestly baffling to most people and there are a lot of price myths out there.

    In that spirit, I have taken eight of his “talking points” and provided my commentary.

    1. The eBook price of $9.99 was never the top price. In our own monitoring of Amazon’s Kindle products, we have seen that 30% of them are priced above $9.99. (Kobo’s research confirms this.) The bestseller lists regularly include commercial titles above the $9.99 price point. People are buying these eBooks. I have conducted a limited test myself on my own eBooks. Granted, they are highly specialized and my audience is limited. Nevertheless, I price-tested them at $9.99 and $19.97 and saw no difference in demand.
    2. Surveys show many people will pay more than $9.99 for eBooks. As demonstrated by their own behavior, many people are already paying more than $9.99. Some of those surveyed say they will wait for prices to go down, just as they do now while waiting for a hardcover book to be released in paperback. However, I have argued for years that people don’t buy a price point; they buy a solution (non-fiction) or entertainment (fiction). As long as the price is within a range of reason, it is a non-issue. Those in the industry make more of this than is warranted.
    3. Brand new eBooks sold at $9.99 are almost always sold at a loss by the e-tailer. As Publishers Lunch Deluxe said, “When a company with a $50 billion market cap [Amazon] can sell selected product at a loss and still make their biggest profits ever, you have to wonder about the bargain.” As publishers, Amazon is not our only customer. We want to ensure a more level playing field, so that smaller and local retailers have a fighting chance. We also want to ensure that our customers have a wide range of real bookstores and online eBookstores to choose from.
    4. The promise of cheap eBooks was made by companies who don’t have to produce the content. Amazon arrived at the $9.99 price point as a way for readers to justify their purchase of a Kindle. Sony followed suit to match Amazon. Then Wal-mart, Target, and others offered the physical editions of bestsellers through their online stores during the last holiday selling season. None of these companies has to acquire, develop, or package the content. None of them has to pay royalty advances to authors or invest in physical inventory or accounts receivable. These are not trivial investments, I assure you.
    5. People who can afford to buy an eReader can afford the proposed eBook prices. Whenever the owner of a $300 product says they “can’t afford” to pay $3.00 to $5.00 more for something, what they really mean is “I really prefer not to pay more.” In fact, they would probably prefer to pay nothing. As a consumer, I agree. The problem is that I, as a publisher, can’t find authors who will write for nothing. Neither can I find employees who will work for free. One of the thing I learned about consumer research a long time ago is that there is a fundamental difference between what people say they prefer and what they actually do. Too many publishers and booksellers are responding to consumer preferences rather than consumer behavior. In the process, they are leaving money on the table.
    6. Publishers are actually lowering their eBook prices. In reporting on eBook prices, many recent stories assert that publishers are raising prices. This is baloney. Contrary to this, all the publishers I know are lowering their retail ebook prices by 20–50 percent compared to the retail price of the physical book. Publishers understand that it costs less to deliver an eBook than a physical book. However, the cost is not zero, as some would suggest. Publishers have costs to recoup—acquisition, royalty, editorial development, formatting, marketing, and even digital delivery. We are charged by our shareholders to make a profit. While we can sell these books at less than the price we charge for physical books, we have a difficult time make a $9.99 business model work.
    7. The new “price ceiling” is going to be $12.99 more often than not. How do I know this? From talking with other publishers. This point is being lost, inside and outside the publishing industry, since no one is supposed to talk about their Apple deals in too much detail. But the fact is, the price differential is far less substantial that the press would like you to believe. I don’t know of a single publisher who is planning to charge the same amount for eBooks as they charge for physical books. As I stated above, most have either reduced—or plan to reduce—their eBook prices by 20–50%.
  1. The biggest obstacle for eBooks is still the price of the device. Honestly, I never hear anyone complaining about the price of eBooks. I hear lots and lots of people complaining about the price of eBook readers. This is the biggest barrier to the digital revolution. I have said from the beginning that Amazon should follow the razor blade model of marketing: give away the razor and charge for the blades. Granted an eBook reader costs more to produce than a razor. But I believe they should still sell the Kindle dirt cheap, even if they have to take a loss, and then sell the books at a profit. Make it easy for people to get started and then let them experience the convenience of eBooks.
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