Sunday, August 30, 2009

ebook insanity

So, the other day I noticed that I hadn't read any fiction in quite a while. I'd fallen into a rut of tech manuals and online howtos as my only reading, and my prime source of entertainment coming from hulu/netflix or video games. I decided it was high time on catching up on some good sci-fi, and with the memory of recently lugging around boxes of novels after the move a few months fresh in my mind I decided to check out the ebook route (since O'Reilly's Safari has been absolutely kick ass for me).

I was shocked (shocked!) to find out that the publishers wanted about $20 for an ebook. That puts it on the same price level as a hardback book (which I rarely buy). Paperback novels are in the $10-12 range, and the mass paperbacks (what shows up in the airport or along that back wall at Barnes and Nobles) are about $7. That's assuming you buy the book new... which means the publisher gets a cut of that. If you buy it used from Half Price Books or from Amazon, the range is about $2-5, and the publisher makes zero dollars.

You would expect the ebook to appeal to the lowest common denominator... that the publishers would be using it as a way to snipe at those $2-5 transactions they aren't getting a cut of. But you'd be wrong. They seem to think that ebooks are competing with hardcovers. It's like they don't understand that people who already buy hardcovers do so because they like the big print, extra art, and the fact that you have a good, solid book in your hands, and that these people wouldn't be likely to purchase only the ebook, anyway.

If the story is the key piece of intellectual property that they're selling, I find it highly amusing that I can go download and watch The Hunt for Red October in 2 hours from Amazon for $6, but if I want the pdf version to spend a week reading that'll cost $18. And then the publishers have the nerve to bemoan the fact that no one reads anymore....

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