I don't mind the price of e-books, although the lack of paper, printing, binding should be a little cost offset (not much). My biggest complaint on e-books and digital media in general is DRM and the lack of ownership. I sell (or usually donate) all of my books that I no longer read to people who will read them. Because publishers CAN, they do retain rights on digital works and limit what we can do with them. It is only now that SOME books you can loan to a friend to read. I'm still waiting to see how it goes when someone kicks the bucket and wants to leave their digital works to different people in their will.
For the record, most computers can use e-reader software. It's not as nice as hand held, but some people do use it. Computers themselves are becoming less of a luxury item and more of a necessity.
Dear Lady !
I did tried to buy fair and square "The speed of dark" book You created.
But,i You may remember,it was not possible,and i admitted on torrenting it ,and offered to pay the cost of this e-book directly to You .
And,i still do want to do so,'cause it sit on my phone,waiting to be re-read 8)
"The Speed of Dark" is available in e-book format - for Sony, iBooks, and Kindle at least. I own a copy of the Sony-format book and just verified the existence of the iBooks and Kindle versions. I know for a fact that the Kindle and Sony versions have been available for several years.
So if you really want to pay for what you torrented, you can easily do so, and have been able to do so for some time.
2012-06-12 08:35 pm (UTC)
but in my opinion someone needs to write better software for both writers and typesetters/printers.
Someone did. 35 years ago
. (Granted, a popular add-on
makes it easier to use, but the basic idea was there.)
The WYSIWYG revolution of the '80s set back semantic markup
by decades, and we've been paying the price ever since. The concept of a "style" in MS Word can sometimes serve a similar role, but they're hard to explain and very easy to omit.
Semantic markup is easier for writers, because it allows writers to ... write. Without worrying about formatting. Move paragraphs without worrying about page breaks.
It's easier for typesetters, because it allows them to separate formatting from content, and it lets them modify format without touching the content. (This can also be a boon to the writer: want double-spacing? Drop caps? Internal thoughts to be italicized instead of delimited by asterisks or colons?)
There are a very few specialized fields where this doesn't work very well (e.g., poetry where the author wants a certain layout of words). But for the vast quantity of prose fiction and non-fiction, switching to semantic markup is a tiny cost with huge benefits.
More benefits: changes made to the text can be mechanically identified as changes to the text
, and not random formatting noise.
Switching layouts (hardback, paperback, e-book, pdf, html, braille) is trivial. Further, it allows features like automatic reflowing or hyperlinks if the platform supports it.
Providing (or, possibly, requiring) a standard layout and format is simple, and very hard to get wrong. (Compare to manually going through a document and checking each paragraph for the proper start indent character, etc).
As for ease of use... there is a steeper learning curve, and the tools are different than what most people are used to. On the plus side, straightforward prose is incredibly easy to type, and the lack
of formatting removes a whole series of menu clicks, pulldowns, and other trivia that is required in a WYSIWYG world.
2012-06-13 05:02 am (UTC)
Re: better software
Right now, the thought of taking time off writing to learn a new system (and losing access to my old files) is pretty daunting. But the history of the TeX is interesting--thanks for the links.
First off, let me say I don't hold you responsible for what the publisher decides to charge for an e-book of your work. I had the impression that decision is solely up to the publisher, so I would never complain to an author about it.
That said, the answer to "when you want X you pay more for it" is "I already did. When I bought my expensive electronic device for reading it."
I object to people trying to make me pay more for it twice.
Especially when one of the reasons I made the capital investment in the first place was to be able to take advantage of cheaper books. Because, 1) it was explicitly advertised that way and 2) it just makes sense that when you take the blank book out of a book, you save money (blank books cost nearly as much as paperbacks do), and a smart seller passes some of that savings along to the customer.
I don't mind publishers making a profit of me; I expect that. I want that, because I want publishers to prosper and hire many authors. What I mind is publishers trying to make more profit off me than they do off my brother who buys paper books. Now they're just gouging. Punishing me for doing what was the smart thing at the time.
And Baen has been selling e-books, without DRM, in multiple formats, for two dollars less than the paperback, from the hour the hardback was released, for something like a decade now--I presume this isn't a charity move. If the other publishers are having trouble making reasonably priced e-books pay, perhaps if they took the Baen folks out to lunch and asked nicely how they do it, they could get some help with the basic nuts and bolts.
So when the price of an e-book annoys me, I don't buy that e-book, you're right. Often I won't even buy it in paper, because I start to associate the book itself with people trying to gouge me, which is unfair because I know the author doesn't have much say in the e-book price, but emotions aren't always rational, and buying is an emotional business. So I go get something from manybooks.net or Baen or the library or I go into town and visit the used bookstore. Or I get something more reasonably priced and sometimes discover a new author I like and have someone new to follow.
Because just because I made the expensive capital investment doesn't mean I'm chained to it. If publishers try to gouge me, I have other options. And so does everyone else with an e-book reader.
On the other hand, Baen's proofreading is getting *abysmal*. One of other books on the August release list (and thus "50% available" to folks who've purchased it) has "hoard" instead "horde" throughout.
And I won't go into what they did with military terms in another book. Let's just say certain sentences became utter nonsense because whoever proofed them didn't know about a military term and replaced it with a similar ordinary word. Which made the sentence utter nonsense even if you *didn't know the military term, but painful nonsense if you did, since you could see what the word *should* have been.
2012-06-12 08:41 pm (UTC)
from Victorian Barbarian (Chuck)
Very well put. As someone who has made his living for the past 33-1/2 years as a copy editor, and a recent convert to using an e-reader, those formatting errors most likely come either from editing online instead of using a printout, or neglecting to check every "page" of the final electronic product. This is probably made worse by the lack of an ability to produce a hard copy of the edited final version, since you'll always miss things viewing electronically that you would catch looking at a hard copy.
2012-06-13 05:13 am (UTC)
Re: from Victorian Barbarian (Chuck)
And boy is that true. I see differently on screen and on paper...I cannot edit nearly as well on the computer screen (considerably larger than an e-reader.) The hardest things for me to catch on screen are continuity and chronological errors...there's no visual cue to "how far back" that previous reference is.
And on e-readers--at least the ones I've been shown--there are no page numbers, just percentages. So when I read the one full book I've read on an e-reader, and wanted to go back and look at a previous page again (say, 5-10 pages back) to check on something, I had no easy way to get there.
I don't object to e-books prices being similar to paper copies. I won't buy most of them at that price but it doesn't seem unreasonable. I can see no excuse for pricing e-books higher than new paper books though.
I don't exactly agree with the idea that e-books are a more convenient form. They are more convenient to store in the short term although they become problematic in the long term, particularly if DRM is involved. I don't regard them as more convenient to read though and reading is the reason I obtain books. I buy fiction e-books when I can't reasonably buy paper copies or when the e-books cost significantly less than the paper copies. The books I really want as e-books are field guides. My Kindle isn't useful for that purpose though since it lacks color. I just got a hand-me-down iPad last week and now I intend to accumulate field guides for it so that I can stop hauling piles of books with me when I travel but still identify what I see.
If I understand the pricing for the new e-books...when the hardcover is released, the e-books are about half the price of the hardcover. Amazon, and yes, I'm picking on them, has a habit of discounting new hardcovers very low, and not discounting the e-books, so it can look as if the e-book price is higher than the hardcover. It's not. When the paperback comes out, the e-book price drops (it may drop before that--I don't know because I never tracked it in the in-between) and it drops again when the paperback is older. (Do I have to explain that the cover price on a book is not the money the publisher receives when the book is sold? Bookstores get a huge discount on the cover price, and are paid incentives as well to showcase lead titles. Publishers pay for bookstores for placement the same way the airlines now make you pay extra for "better" seats in coach.)
I agree that a field guide on a color e-reader could be great (having come back from trips abroad laden with field guides for that country, which I can't use here because...different birds, plants, etc.) I'd carry one in the field, if it could stand field conditions (heat to over 110F, cold down to 25F, being bounced around when I'm on the tractor, the occasional sprinkle of rain, being dropped on the ground (not often, but it's going to happen to anything I have along.) So far, when I tell my e-reader-owning friends what might happen to one in regular use here, they shake their heads. Instead, I carry a camera, photograph whatever it is, and then check it out once I'm back inside.
On the matter of books that are in formats difficult to read-if it is either free or purchased without DRM, you can convert it to your preferred format by running it through Calibre
. You can convert pretty much any format into any other format. And it is a free program.
I find it very helpful in converting work PDF files (that are extremely difficult to read on my Kindle).
Well, I've only ever read one book on an e-reader (Kindle) and don't intend to struggle with it again. (The Kindle was hard to hold at a good angle for me without accidentally hitting the button to advance the "page", and it slid around on my lap, so in addition to the formatting problem, it was just not a fun toy.)
I don't usually buy hardbacks, and before ereaders, was happy to wait for paperback.
Now that I have an ereader, it'd have to be a really great book for me to pay more than $10, and even in that price point, there's very few ebooks I will buy at that price. I don't even like paperback prices, especially now that they are moving toward the bigger, and thus more expensive, paperbacks.
The sweet range for me on ebook pricing is from free to $7. Most of the ones I'll buy are in the $3-$5 range.
The next big thing for me, other than price, is DRM. I won't buy books with DRM if I can help it. And if I do buy it with DRM, I'm going to break it. I want to read that book on whatever device suits my fancy at any point in time. Fortunately, most of the places that are DRM-free also sell their books in the price range I find reasonable (Baen, for one).
2012-06-13 01:48 am (UTC)
I often wonder if the fuss made by some is based in the differnce in price between hardback books and paperback books? That might set up the expectation that a chunk of the cost of publishing a book is in the physical product, hence their annoyance at the cost of a electronic version.
Cost of the books was not my motivation for getting an e-reader. My husband and I are both avid readers, but while some authors, such as Ms. Moon, we both read, others only I read. Since we actually do not have enough book cases for all our books as is, an e-reader for me made sense. Also some authors are now producing novelles that only appear in an e-format.
I have not come across a book in e-format that cost more than a paperback, most have cost the same amount.
I don't own any of the dedicated reading devices, I do sometimes read books from Guttenberg, Baen etc on my laptop. Apart from the cost of the various devices I have huge reservations about a system that means I don't actually own the books in perpetuity ... or at least until I've worn them out, which does happen.
I think a lot of people just do not accept that books really are a luxury, one that many people work hard to pay for above their physical needs. I do buy new books from authors I know and trust like yourself. I also buy second hand often when I authors I like are out of print, though in that case I would very much rather buy; also for authors that I enjoy as light reads I would normally borrow from the library, but will buy cheaply if I come across them. Those books aren't keepers and find ther way back to the various local charity shops. I occasionally borrow from like-minded friends or family. But the vast majority of my reading comes from the library, because I simply can not afford to buy all of the books that I would like. I am glad that authors get some small renumeration from the PLR.
Books seem to be in the category of thing that people expect to be able to buy cheaply, but as with food, transport and much else there is a cost to that cheapness, maybe the purchaser doesn't pay it, but someone does. Demanding cheap books assumes that the people producing them will have to be poorly paid, and is in effect denying the worth of the work they do. Some forty years ago I knew a retired proof reader who had worked for Oxford University Press, when she worked each book was proofed by seven different readers completely separate to the editing and it showed in the quality of the books produced. She was retired because even then this had become too expensive and the number of proofings reduced. Over the years I have seen increasing numbers of errors in books even from the most reputable publishers and that is mainly down to the insistance on cutting costs. There are things that it is just not worth buying if you are not prepared to pay for the good stuff and books are one of them.
I'm not paying for "convenience", I'm paying for a different, less expensive to produce, format. Disk space is cheap. Yes, redundant web farms are a little expensive, but the publishers need them anyway for their propaganda pages. If the formatting is handled correctlty to start with (see semantic markup, above), format shifting by the publisher is simple. Look at the way html handles things - it doesn't take a federal project to reflow a web page, and a good formatter/software writer can make it work for varying page sizes (eg hardcover, trade, paperback.)
The publishers want the control over pricing because they want the money that they thing they can squeeze out of the readers for "read once, DRM, can't ever lend" books. E-books are a publishers dream - a book that you can't lend, you have to buy another copy at full freight. So they demand the right to soak people again for having the privilege of paying an arm and a leg for e-book readers.
Guess what? I don't buy e-books unless they are cheaper than paper, period. If the publishers want to jack up their prices, fine, I'll wait until they are desperate to sell. They *have* to make money, I *don't have to buy* an overpriced e-book.
I buy a lot from Baen - they don't abuse me with DRM and overpriced crap. Sure, the copy editing on their ARC's (advance readers copies) sucks, but that's because they are a raw product, not the final. I don't buy ARCs - I don't have to have that kind of instant gratification.
Thing is, with Amazon, the market determines the price. Apple got the publishers to turn that upside down so they could sell crap to its locked in market without having to compete on price with Amazon.
Seriously, Big Six - I don't buy. Often, if they overprice their e-book, I won't buy the paperback either. So they lose twice for their little game.
Headdesk. It's not "a little game." You've been misled. Publishers are not "jacking up their prices". E-books of any quality are not "less expensive to produce." Read my post again. An e-book has exactly the same production cost as a paper book up to the point when the file that goes to the printer has to be reformatted to go to an array of e-readers. And that is an additional cost. The physical book is a small fraction of the cost of producing a quality book.
Do publishers want control over pricing? Yes--the same way you would, if you were in business producing something to sell. You would want to sell your product for a price that covered your cost and gave you enough to live on.
If you think that with Amazon "the market determines the price" you're simply misinformed. Amazon manipulates the price of books in order to drive more traffic to its more profitable sectors, sell more Kindles, and in order to gain control of publishing--Amazon is now functioning as a (not in my view very ethical) publisher for indie writers, and manipulates the prices of their books without warning. (The Amazon contract is worse for writers than any publishing house contract I've ever signed, largely because it gives Amazon freedom to change the terms of the contract at will.)
But it's really simple. If you don't want to buy my books because you think the price is too high...don't buy them. Go to the library and read them for free.
I am so glad you wrote this. I've been wanting to ask for ages how selling an e-book affects what you get. Not meaning to pry into what you get at all. Just say, do you get a smaller amount from the e-book sales if they, meaning the sellers, sell it for a lower price? I have almost stopped buying paper books, hardcover or otherwise. My smartphone has the ability to use e-readers and I take full advantage of it. I always have my phone, except when my memory lapses and I forget it. So, I always have a book to read without taking up the extra space to bring one. I've read your last two books on my phone. At lunch by myself, pull out the phone and read. Waiting in the Dr. Office, pull out the phone and read. WONDERFULL!! I don't mind paying the price for an e-book, even if it costs a bit more than the book. But, I've yet to see one that was more. Like you said. Convenience.
The way royalties were structured pre-e-book, writers got more per sale from hardcover than from mass market paperback sales. Since we usually get an advance against royalties, the first royalties go to paying back that advance. On my very first book, the original Sheepfarmer's Daughter, I got a 6% royalty on the cover price. That came out to--if I remember correctly--23 cents per sale. My first hardcover release was Remnant Population (which tanked in hardcover--it didn't earn out by an embarrassing margin) and as I recall it had a 10% royalty on the cover price.
E-books started out with what we writers thought were pitifully low royalty rates...but e-book sales were very low for years (years in which ebooks made less than 5% of my writing income) so the cost of implementing conversions to e-books was borne by the few e-books being sold. Even Baen, a pioneer in e-publishing with its Webscription program, didn't deliver significant e-royalties for several years after starting that program. Kindle made a huge difference, and Nook provided another jump. At present, the per-sale royalty for e-books is a little less than for paper (even when the cover price is the same.) However, the sales figures for e-books have climbed to the point where publishers are seeing actual profit from that sector (also, the infrastructure for producing and selling e-books is now in place.) In 2010, I think it was, I first saw e-book sales providing over 15% of a royalty statement...in 2011 sales of e-books in the "hardcover" period were about 40% of total sales in the first 3 months (keeping in mind that if you compared cover prices, the e-book was about half the price of the hardcover), and this year, with the demise of Borders as a paper book outlet, the e-book sales were more than half the first 2 months sales.
Still: the highest e-book price (during the hardcover "season") brings in less per copy in royalties than the hardcover. And there's still a clause in writers' contracts cutting royalty rates for books sold at deep discounts (such as remaindered books.) When a bookseller drops the price to use a book as a loss leader, that can trigger the clause. When a bookseller like Amazon decides to drop the price on an entire format of book...let's just say it's a matter of concern.
I don't mind getting less per sale on e-books than I do on hardcovers as long as there are enough sales to keep me and my family afloat. Mass market always outsold hardcovers...and have a lower royalty rate...so having e-book royalties somewhere in the middle is just another step on the ladder. We all hope volume will keep up with the drop per sale. OTOH, if publishers can be talked into upping the royalty rate to compensate, that would be whipped cream.
But those of us who are traditionally published know that there's a limit--we know that the majority of the cost of production is not in the paper, but in the editing, production, distribution, and advertising, and so there's a limit to how big a bite we can take before we become unprofitable. There are options, sure. Self-publishing e-books works for some people. Frankly, I'd rather spend my time writing than editing, formatting, etc, etc, etc. The people who are succeeding with self-publishing have to do all the jobs my publisher does in addition to writing new works. I'm a better writer than proofreader, and a far better writer than marketer (I'm the girl who could not sell even one box of Girl Scout cookies.)
I agree with you, and I happily buy ebooks from Amazon/Baen/wherever (and then sometimes I buy the paperback anyway because I like having physical books on my shelf).
In my opinion all this griping about ebook pricing is kind of publishers' fault.
Imagine you're a person who doesn't know anything about publishing, or the book industry, or author compensation, or how the editing process works or anything like that. You've never had the need to know anything about it, you don't know anyone in the field, and so you are perfectly ignorant. However, you like to read, and you know you can walk into a bookstore and buy a book in paperback for (say) $10, or the same book in hardback for $30.
It's not so hard to draw the conclusion that hardbacks cost 3x as much as paperbacks because its hardback-ness is expensive to produce.
And from there, you conclude that because a hardback isn't really all that more than a paperback materials-wise (a cardboard cover, fancy binding, more paper) a lot of the cost of producing a book must be tied up in the physical production of it. Okay, maybe the author earns more from a hardback than a paperback (you have some understanding of basic economics) but surely not $20 more.
Then come along ebooks, and they're also $10. Say what?? The same price as a paperback, and you don't even get a physical thing - they don't have to spend money on ink and paper! (They might have to spend money hosting the ebook on a server so you can download it, but the entire Internet has also taught you that hosting is basically free and/or entirely ad-supported so this is not a considerating for you.) That's highway robbery!
So you write angry emails to the author (whose name is on the book in large font on the front cover, as opposed to the publisher who is a tiny icon on the spine and a little name in the inside cover along with a legal notice you've never bothered to read), because you don't know any better, and well ... here we are.
Basically I'm trying to say is publishers have taught us (for generations, I expect) that the physical container for words is worth more money than the words themselves, so when they try to sell people words without the physical container, griping ensues.
A consideration, not considerating ... agh, grammar fail.
I am quite content paying for an ebook what I would pay for a paperbook. It has always been the story that I am paying for, in my mind, rather than the delivery mechanism. The ebook is thus just as valuable to me as a paper copy - actually more so, given the sheer convenience factor of an ereader capable of carrying hundreds of titles at once, and the near-pain-free reading that it provides, as opposed to paper books (thanks to joint issues). The fact that my husband and I can, for the price of a single purchase, now both read the same ebook at THE SAME TIME is a priceless joy! No more biting one's tongue, waiting anxiously for the other to finish.
One of the great moments of pride in my adult life was the realization that, once I had a solid job, I could afford to buy books NEW instead of used. This meant that I could now actually CONTRIBUTE to the continued careers of authors whose work I so enjoyed. Even if it meant that I buy perhaps fewer titles each month, I am still an active participant in a process that I value and support.
Yes, buying your own books new is a bit like passing your driving test, one of the markers that show you really have grown-up :-)
I'm an ebook junky, and am quite prepared to pay premium prices for eBooks, in return for the convenience of not having to lug a hardback around. (I mean seriously - hardbacks are generally the first generally available format, and they're really not much use for a lot of reasons).
I am also firmly of the opinion that there's a lot of overhead in producing books, which means the cost of 'a book' in the sense of a finished manuscript, will always be present.
I work for an IT company, so daily deal with operating costs of servers. They're substantial, and I'm forever being faced with ... actually quite a similar argument - people can go to PC world and buy a terabyte of disk for 'not very much' and so are horrified that we charge somewhere in the region of 100x as much, but without really considering that it's comparing apples to oranges.
But on the flip side - I'm afraid I'm also one who begrudges paying multiple times for a book in multiple formats. I also begrudge paying _more_ for a digital book, that I'm firmly convinced costs less to reproduce and distribute than a hard copy. (Because even if you do have to run servers, I reckon they're still cheaper than 'printing' infrastructure).
I would _really_ like to see that starting to follow the same model as we're starting to see on the DVD market. The 'triple play disc' where you pay, but if you do you get 3 formats. (DVD, Blu ray, and digital).
I will happily pay 'hardback price' to get hold of a book I want on the earliest possible date. But I don't usually want a hardback, preferring instead eBook generally, paperback sometimes, and occasionally audio. I have a few hardbacks, but if I'm honest, they're more as ornaments, because I actually like to read them.
I'd love to be able to pay a 'one price' and be able to request alternative formats for an additional amount that's a nearer reflection of actual cost of production.
The thing is, there are so many (legally) free and very cheap e-books around that it does feel as though one is being ripped off (please note: I said this is how it FEELS, not necessarily how it actually IS) when the e-book costs more than the paperback. In fact, I decided not to buy something just yesterday for that very reason (well, that and the fact I'd just spent rather more than I can afford on another e-book!).
My main problem about e-books is that they are just too darn easy to buy - it's easy to rack up a frighteningly large bill in a very few minutes. I have to be very, very strict with myself.