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Publishers Warned On Ebook Prices 352

Posted by timothy
from the some-people-hate-free-markets dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The DoJ says Simon and Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan and HarperCollins conspired to raise the prices of ebooks. The report originates from the WSJ, but the BBC adds comments from an analyst bizarrely claiming increased prices are somehow a good thing and thinking otherwise is the result of 'confusion'. I'd like to see an explanation of why the wholesale model, while continuing to work fine (presumably) for physical books, somehow didn't work for ebooks and why the agency model is better despite increasing costs for consumers."
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Publishers Warned On Ebook Prices

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  • Market Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashgrim (1247284) * on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:55PM (#39290359) Journal
    Sounds like these publishers don't know their market. I only buy ebooks because they are inexpensive. At relatively close prices I'd prefer a physical book (where at least I won't be restricted by the publisher's "loan" policy!).
    • Re:Market Analysis (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mws1066 (1057218) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:00PM (#39290433)
      Exactly. Who would pay $18 or more for a book on iTunes that you can't even LOAN to a friend?
      • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

        by clodney (778910) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:10PM (#39290617)

        One time bought I book on my Kindle that I had sitting on my bookshelf, just because I wanted to reread it before starting on the sequel, and didn't want to carry the physical hardcover with me on a trip.

        So I paid for the extra copy purely for my convenience. Given a choice between a physical book and an ebook at the same price, in most cases I will buy the ebook, because that is the format I prefer.

        • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ultranova (717540) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:32PM (#39290991)

          Given a choice between a physical book and an ebook at the same price, in most cases I will buy the ebook, because that is the format I prefer.

          I would too, if that was actually possible. Unfortunately it isn't. Nobody sells e-goods, they're "licensed", which means that I may use them as long as the publisher lets me in ways they like (which they may change at any time they like), or as long as the publisher or some unrelated third party who happens to own them at the time doesn't mismanage its finances and disappear. Assuming, of course, that some other entity doesn't assert that they own the e-good instead, in which case it gets un-published and disappears like it never was.

          But yeah, it would sure be nice to be able to buy e-books.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Obfuscant (592200)

            Nobody sells e-goods, they're "licensed",

            Really? So all those DRM-free books I've been buying in multiple formats from Fictionwise are ... ummm. Huh?

            which means that I may use them as long as the publisher lets me in ways they like (which they may change at any time they like), or as long as the publisher or some unrelated third party who happens to own them at the time doesn't mismanage its finances and disappear.

            Dell Magazines is going to have a real hard time finding all the copies of the magazines I've "licensed" from them should they ever go out of business and want to stop me from reading them, much less just change their mind about my being able to read them.

            If you are paying money to people who can take things back from you at their whim, that's your problem.

            But yeah, it would sure be nice to be able to buy e-books.

            Yes, it is. On the other hand, there are

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:47PM (#39291283)

            Try Baen Books or Smashwords. They sell DRM free titles.

            Baen has mostly top notch, mainstream authors, albeit only SciFi and Fantasy. Smashwords is a little more of a mixed bag, but some well established authors (like Kristine Kathryn Rusch) are publishing on Smashwords.

          • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:54PM (#39291393)

            After your purchase, use Calibre & dedrm plugins to put them into a form where you have control. See http://apprenticealf.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/hello-world/ [wordpress.com] for dedrm info.
            Calibre is a great piece of open source software which makes managing ebooks on multiple devices easy.

            • I don't use Calibre; but I do deDRM most all my Kindle books as soon as I buy them, then copy them to a backup disk. I expect Amazon will be around a long time, but I want control over my media - and having to jump through hoops to "lend" a book to my wife or daughter is annoying. This way, they can just go grab it off the backup disk and put it on their Kindle or computer without my having to do anything, same as they would with a paper book.

              The Topaz books are a problem, though.

              Anyway - along with other p

          • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Informative)

            by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:23PM (#39291845)

            Nobody sells e-goods, they're "licensed", which means that I may use them as long as the publisher lets me in ways they like

            While it plays to the peanut gallery here on slashdot, this is not really true. Lots of good publishers sell their content DRM free - Oreilly, Pragmattic Programmers, Baen, Smashwords, Cool Camping, Pan Macmillan etc.

            Your nightmare scenarios might hold true for books bought from ibooks or for kindle for example (particularly for kindle as the whole 1984 episode showed), but they are not true for publishers who publish books in standard formats like PDF with no DRM - you can buy good ebooks today, you just have to be discriminating, and not all books you might want are available. Hopefully more publishers will see the light and stop trying to impose DRM (which is inevitably cracked anyway).

          • Re:Market Analysis (Score:4, Informative)

            by Jessified (1150003) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:49PM (#39292287)

            http://diybookscanner.org/ [diybookscanner.org]

            Scan the books yourself. Don't pay for it twice. I can't imagine this being illegal on books you already own. (And they can't exactly put DRM on physical books.)

          • The button you click says "Buy" therefor it is sale regardless of what the publisher thinks they did. The Clayton Act makes these EULAs illegal anyways.
        • Re:Market Analysis (Score:4, Interesting)

          by NatasRevol (731260) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:33PM (#39290995) Journal

          You probably should have checked your library to see if they loan ebooks.

        • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:55PM (#39291439) Homepage Journal

          Given a choice between a physical book and an ebook at the same price, in most cases I will buy the ebook, because that is the format I prefer.

          Not me, I try to avoid being stolen from.

          With a physical book they have the cost of materials, printing costs, warehousing costs, shipping costs, retail space costs. An ebook has none of those costs, to charge the same price for something physical that costs money to get into your hands as something that is essentially free once they've paid the editing, proofreading, and other pre-production costs is nothing short of highway robbery.

          And as another poster said, you own a physical book. You don't own an ebook.

          Were it not for collusion, the competetion would ensure that ebook prices were far loawer than the price of a physical book.

          I think they should give the ebooks away when you buy a copy of the physical book. I mean, a CD might add a nickle to the cost of the physical book. A code on the paper book's index page could lead to a download of the ebook and wouldn't cost them a penny.

          • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Caerdwyn (829058) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:17PM (#39291761) Journal

            With a physical book they have the cost of materials, printing costs, warehousing costs, shipping costs, retail space costs. An ebook has none of those costs.

            But an e-book still has the costs of editing, marketing, royalties, a legal department to track copyright issues, a business development department to manage relationships with e-publishers, accountants, payroll... and for the e-publisher you can add data center costs, bandwidth bills, IT personnel costs, etc.

            The physical part of a book is actually not the majority of the price of a book, and e-books have some costs that physical books do not. However, people tend not to value something they can't physically hold in their hands, regardless of how much the intangibles actually cost.

            • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

              by steveha (103154) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:49PM (#39293149) Homepage

              But an e-book still has the costs of editing, marketing, royalties, a legal department to track copyright issues, a business development department to manage relationships with e-publishers, accountants, payroll... and for the e-publisher you can add data center costs, bandwidth bills, IT personnel costs, etc.

              Absolutely correct. I agree 100%.

              The physical part of a book is actually not the majority of the price of a book

              I don't think you are correct here, at least not for all cases. This may be true for mass-produced paperbacks, but what about textbooks on non-mainstream subjects, where there may be hundreds of pages with equations and graphs, and not very many copies of the book are ever bought?

              Also, what about the cases where a publisher thinks that a book will be a hit, prints ten billion copies, and then the book fails and all those copies get landfilled?

              So, I think cost of materials is still a significant factor in the cost of books. In turn, I believe that ebooks ought to cost less than paper books: they shouldn't be free, because as you correctly noted they still have significant costs. But the cost of goods is zero, and the financial risk is greatly reduced, and those things do matter.

              Even taking the above into account, obscure textbooks will still be expensive as ebooks, because they are expected to sell only a few copies, so the overhead is paid by fewer sales.

              Of course, ebooks based on public domain materials really ought to be very inexpensive: extremely low production costs, no cost of materials, and no risk.

              However, people tend not to value something they can't physically hold in their hands, regardless of how much the intangibles actually cost.

              Hmm, I'm not sure on this one. iTunes music downloads are very popular, apps downloads are very popular, and ebooks are actually very popular.

              If you are saying that people don't want to spend a whole lot on a software good, you are probably correct.

              steveha

          • With a physical book they have the cost of materials, printing costs, warehousing costs, shipping costs, retail space costs

            These are not the main cost in producing/selling a book, the main cost is the 50-60% retailer cut of the cover price, and then perhaps origination (what goes into making the book), and then printing, then warehousing etc. So most of what you think of as the big costs in selling a physical book actually apply to ebooks too (the retailer in that case being either amazon or some other online store).

            • by Endo13 (1000782)

              And if what you posted is true, it explains exactly why the digital version should be much less expensive. The retailer (which you say is 50-60% of the big cost) has MUCH less overhead involved in selling a digital version rather than a physical copy. There's no shelf space required, no stock-boy required, no "sales associate" required, no delivery costs, and all the various costs associated with a physical copy. The only retailer costs for the digital version are the website, the file server, and the bandw

    • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cinder6 (894572) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:01PM (#39290457)

      Looking at Amazon, too many of the books I would want to buy are priced identically between eBooks and print books. Besides this making absolutely no sense from a cost standpoint, I still view paper books as superior: no batteries required, no DRM, I will always be able to read it if I take decent care of it, and I can do whatever I want with it.

      At the very most, eBooks should cost $(price of print book - cost of printing and shipping said book).

      • I actually think that ebooks are more 'robust' than print. Once the DRM is stripped (yeah, that's dumb, guys), you can store them forever in essentially no space at all. You can read them on multiple devices. You can lend them and not worry about getting the original back (I'm looking at you, Terry). You can bend, fold, mutilate and staple.

        Of course, the publishers don't want you doing those sort of things so they try to cripple it, but that seems to be the way information publishers of all stripes are

        • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:13PM (#39290653) Homepage

          Oh, and forgot my current major beef. If you're going to charge nearly as much for an eBook as a physical copy, please pay for a copy editor to review the damn thing. I'm tired of gratuitous typos and pagination errors. Yeah, you, Amazon.

        • More robust than print? What could more ephemeral than a thin layer of rust with some magnetic fields recorded on it?

          Paper can last thousands of years if cared for. Let me know when e-anything looks like it will archive that well.

          • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Obfuscant (592200) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:39PM (#39291121)

            What could more ephemeral than a thin layer of rust with some magnetic fields recorded on it?

            A thin layer of organic material with small amounts of organic material deposited on the surface.

            I don't see any "thin layer of rust" in the flash chip that is currently storing one copy of Foundation I own, nor the USB stick that has another copy. There might be a "thin layer of rust" in the hard disk that stores a couple more copies, and the backups.

            Tried making a backup of a physical book lately? I can back my "ephemeral rust" copies of books up at about 100 per minute (not 100 pages per minute, 100 books per) on a whim and without getting out of my chair.

            Paper can last thousands of years if cared for.

            "If cared for", when talking about paper, means initial printing on acid-free paper, and then storage of the material in an environmentally controlled facility. It does not include "reading", and certainly not "carry on the train to read while commuting".

            Let me know when e-anything looks like it will archive that well.

            Every ebook that I carry on a daily basis has survived for the last several years of doing so, while there are few, if any, paper books that have survived that kind of use. I'd say e-anything looks pretty good compared to paper when one is actually using the products and not just trying to keep an archive of comic books for one's great grandchildren to look at through the plastic bags.

      • Re:Market Analysis (Score:4, Interesting)

        by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:26PM (#39290883)

        Why?

        Why should a publisher/author/whatever not be able to charge whatever they want for an eBook? If they want to charge more than the printed copy that's their choice surely? If they want to charge less that's also their choice.

        Why does cost of production of some other thing matter to the price of an ebook? Heck what does cost of production of the ebook matter to the price of an ebook? Value pricing isn't exactly a new idea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value-based_pricing).

        Now collusion amongst the publishers is a different story - that's illegal without even considering the existance of physical books.

        • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:03PM (#39291561) Homepage Journal

          They are allowed to "charge what they want" for ebooks.

          What they aren't allowed to do by law is get together with competitors and all agree to the same prices.

        • Why should a publisher/author/whatever not be able to charge whatever they want for an eBook?

          Putting the issue of collusion aside, who, exactly, is saying that publishers can't charge what they want? Is someone proposing a law capping ebook prices at an arbitrary level? No?

          Then what are you going on about?

          People are simply pointing out that pricing an ebook at the same price as a physical copy from a store is a ripoff for the person buying the ebook. With a book you have actual physical costs: printing,

      • what you're talking about is socialist economics. The problem with that system is, who determines how much it costs to produce and ship it? If you let the business decide, they'll obviously lie. So then the government has to set a price and.. well... we all know where that leads. Instead we have a capitalist system. In capitalism, the price of something is based on how much the consumer is willing to pay. If the consumer is willing to pay less, then the buisness need to find a cheaper way to produce and sh
        • You are talking about an economy that has free and open competition.

          Obviously that isn't the publishing industry. THAT is an oligarchy with a few large entrenched businesses that have obviously colluded to set prices.

      • Book and eBook = $X (same price)

        I buy eBook(DRMed) from vendor, put it on my device and read it. I'm done. Can't do anything else with it.

        I buy Book from same vendor. I read it. I'm done, so I go to local book reseller and sell it for $Y (or credit). Someone else buys the book for $Z($X). Wash rinse repeat. OR I can loan it to my friend who reads it and trades me a book they just finished, and then take it to local store for credit)

        Which one is a better value? I don't care, but until eBooks are priced somew

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe they understand exactly and wish to perpetuate the physical book model since there is a higher barrier to entry for competitors and they have more control. If ebooks become the dominant medium (which they may already be, or are rapidly approaching) then it is much easier for individuals to self publish a work on Amazon and cut out the publishers entirely.

      So bad pricing is likely intentional, since they either push you to the physical book (a win for them) or you buy at an inflated price (another win

      • Re:Market Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:04PM (#39290509) Journal

        And what they'll get is a high level of piracy of eBooks. Fucking idiots.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          And what they'll get is a high level of piracy of eBooks. Fucking idiots.

          I read a year or two ago about a book publisher who commissioned a study to find out how much piracy was costing him. It takes a couple of weeks for a pirate book to hit the internet, so they watched that, and were amazed to discover that rather than a drop in sales when the pirate version came out, there was actually a sales SPIKE.

          So not worrying about piracy is far from idiocy. Piracy sells books.

    • Re:Market Analysis (Score:4, Informative)

      by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:08PM (#39290585) Journal

      At relatively close prices I'd prefer a physical book (where at least I won't be restricted by the publisher's "loan" policy!).

      Exactly. I don't buy ebooks. Actually, I bought two about 7 years ago, and was rapidly disgusted at both the price and the insane restrictions (especially the "no copy & paste" lunacy, but also the "can't copy to another device" and "can't print more than X pages per month" stupidity).

      Amazon gets a lot of business from us, and so do several local bookstores, but only for real books - ink on paper. Real books can be shared with other family members (occurs very often - we have shared interests), loaned to friends (uncommon, but it happens occasionally), and sold on at second-hand stores (also uncommon, but does happen when kids' books are outgrown). We're all bookworms, and none of us really enjoys reading on a screen.

    • The key to the whole thing is the following, from the BBC article:

      The shift to agency pricing was also seen as a protective measure to head off attempts by Amazon to corner the market in ebooks. It had been aggressively cutting prices to win customers over to its Kindle ebook reader.

      The publishers are afraid that Amazon, in an effort to kill off their competitors and corner the ebook market, will set prices extremely low and sell ebooks at no profit or at a loss. I don't blame the publishers for being paranoid about it.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        The publishers are afraid that Amazon, in an effort to kill off their competitors and corner the ebook market, will set prices extremely low and sell ebooks at no profit or at a loss. I don't blame the publishers for being paranoid about it.

        So publishers are upset that they might make more money?

        If Amazon buys e-books from you for $5, why would you want them to sell for $10 rather than $1? At $1 you'd make a heck of a lot more sales, and Amazon would have to swallow the $4 loss on each one.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      How does that indicate they don't know their market.

      They get your money if you buy the physical book too - so losing an ebook sale to a physical book sale isn't a complete loss.

      Sure there's likely more profit margin in an ebook sale, but if lowering the ebook sale results in lots of people skipping the more expensive (higher dollar profit even at the same margin) physcial book and buying the ebook they might make less money than with a higher ebook price.

      Of course I know nothing about the inside details of

  • by TheMathemagician (2515102) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:00PM (#39290425)
    Well he got one thing right: "All the costs are the people in the publisher's HQ..." Exactly. So why don't authors just upload their e-books and cut out publishers all together?
    • by Cinder6 (894572)

      Inertia, for one thing. There's prestige/image, too. Also, much like the RIAA, the publishers in theory provide marketing and such that individuals can't (easily) duplicate. There's also a social stigma against indie stuff (though that scene has been growing of late).

    • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:04PM (#39290517)

      Well he got one thing right: "All the costs are the people in the publisher's HQ..." Exactly. So why don't authors just upload their e-books and cut out publishers all together?

      Probably because some of those cost are for editors, proof readers, illustrators, cover designers; all of whom play a crucial role in producing an outstanding or even good, for that matter, book. There may be a lot of extra costs that can be cut, but a writer alone, except in rare cases, can't produce a work nearly as good, or even good, without the help of others. Witness the proliferation of garbage titles now that the cost of entry is nearly zero.

      • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:16PM (#39290711)

        Knowing the book industry, the people you have listed are paid a pittance. I used to work with Steven Hawking's ghost writer, and for him it was strictly part time pay for a lot of work.

        Where the money goes is to management and marketing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Knowing the book industry, the people you have listed are paid a pittance. I used to work with Steven Hawking's ghost writer, and for him it was strictly part time pay for a lot of work.

          Where the money goes is to management and marketing.

          Then I suspect you don't know the book industry very well.

          I'm a published author. Getting my first novel to the stores at B&N involved my agent, an editor, two copyeditors, two graphic designers, a publicist, and an entire sales team to shop it to booksellers--twelve people, none of whom were being paid "a pittance" because 1) they all live in New York City where the cost of living is so ridiculous that they couldn't afford to live there and work at Rockefeller Center on a meager salary; and 2) they're

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:18PM (#39290745) Homepage

        Except that, at least with Amazon eBooks, they appear to have left out the copy editor and the graphics editor. Typos up the wazoo. Horridly compressed jpegs for graphics. Pagination that makes little Johnny cry.

        Maybe Amazon could crowd source those problems and give people a discount or something - but it gripes me to pay nearly full paper price for a substandard product.

        I won't even mention the DRM since it's conveniently so easy to crack.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Probably because some of those cost are for editors, proof readers, illustrators, cover designers; all of whom play a crucial role in producing an outstanding or even good, for that matter, book.

        And if your book is any good, you can hire them for a lot less than 75% of all future royalties.

        Publishers only make sense in the ebook market for people who are going to sell millions of copies and can therefore negotiate better deals, and people whose books won't sell, so an advance of a few thousand dollars is more than they'd make themselves.

        Otherwise, if your book sells 10,000 copies at $9.99, you've just paid $52,000 for those services while receiving $15,000 yourself.

        • by owlnation (858981)

          And if your book is any good, you can hire them for a lot less than 75% of all future royalties.

          Exactly. There's plenty of people doing these jobs freelance. Their rates are not beyond the range of most people. To go to them directly and cut out the wholly unnecessary middlemen is good for you, good for them, and good for the consumer.

          In addition, if you are going to sell millions, then you can do that just as easily with an agent or manager -- who works for you. There's no reason for publishers to be

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What gets me is there are plenty of books by authors who are DEAD that are priced as if they were new best sellers.

        Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler, for instance. I'm sure royalties are still being paid to various parties, but not enough to warrant those prices. Don't get me started on academic books where the "price" involved for "new" editions is simply moving chapters around so that you can't purchase used books. Baen manages to sell NEW e-books for $6, even for its best selling authors. I unders

      • by jd (1658)

        Agreed, but most of those will already have been hired for the regular books (you can't bill twice for what you've already paid for and already have), it is only reasonable to charge for new costs. I've already looked up the costs of editors ($80,000 seems average) - link elsewhere as a reply to the post that started this thread - and it shouldn't be hard to look up the costs of the other positions.

        http://www.publishers.org/bookstats/formats/ [publishers.org]

        This link gives you the net income from e-books. From that, it sho

    • by jd (1658)

      Perhaps, but people generally buy their HQ once. Unless the analyst can find a publisher that relocates every time they publish (other than ones on terror hit lists), the cost of the building is covered. The employees - ok, that's a reasonable claim, but you obviously don't need to hire any more printers, just editors, to cover e-books. How many new editors do they need to hire? Let's say 10 to cover all the additional books they're publishing. How much does an editor earn?

      http://www.indeed.com/q-Editor-job [indeed.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    From TFA:

    "The perception is that publishers are saving a fortune because they are not physically printing a book," he said. Actually, said Mr Evans, printing costs were a small fraction of the total outlay required to produce a book.

    "All the costs are the people in the publisher's HQ and the writer's mortgage," he said, adding that these had not changed significantly with the rise of ebooks.

    The move to agency pricing could mean that publishers made less from each book because of the percentage they handed o

  • eBooks prices are too high.

    I've never understood why eBooks prices are too high, sometimes almost the same price of a paper book, bearing in mind all the manufacture, paper, ink etc. that the eBook does not have at all.

    • by Cinder6 (894572)

      Sometimes? Almost? Try "often", and "exactly". New hardcovers are usually cheaper (often considerably so) than list price (though not much cheaper than Amazon's price), but mass market paperbacks seem to always cost the same as their eBook counterparts.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      eBook prices are high because they don't want to screw over the sellers of dead tree books. They could sell eBooks for $2-$5 and make huge profits. But the stores selling physical books would get quite angry that their business was disappearing. It's the same reason you don't see HP selling machines on their website cheaper than the retailers sell them (even though there is less overhead). Because they don't want to screw over their channel partners. If they started selling computers for cheaper than the
  • by sehlat (180760) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:04PM (#39290527)

    That was even before the so-called "agency" model. There were ebooks available at Fictionwise for $20 years after the paperback had been released at $6.99.

    Then they opened up on their feet with a fully automatic weapon, "agency," which attempted to raise eBook prices, banned things like discounts and rebates, and generally attempted to kill eBooks by overpricing them.

    They also canceled existing pre-orders at the lower prices. I had a book on order at Fictionwise I had pre-ordered at $8. They forced FW to cancel the deal and refund my money, removed the book and a lot of other ones from fictionwise, and "generously" offered me the book at $12 at either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. My eBook buying, which included buying books at ridiculous prices but getting store credit as a rebate, dropped from over $2000/year to less than $200.

    When publishers start acting sane (I'm NOT counting on it) I may go back to them. In the meantime, I've never stopped buying everything Baen brings out, and loving it and them.

  • by ed1park (100777) <ed1park @ h o t m a i l .com> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:07PM (#39290579)

    Why not paypal the author a few bucks and torrent the ebooks? No trees getting cut nor used books getting shipped around and the author makes money. Keep doing this until publishers realize their short sighted stupidity and change their ways.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You do realize more goes into make a book then just the author typing it up. Assuming it's just a novel, you have the editor, proofreader, designer. Then there is the marketing of the book which requires more people still.

    • by Cinder6 (894572) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:13PM (#39290677)

      Problem is, that doesn't pay the editors, copy editors, typesetters, etc. that all played a part in getting that book in your hands (or on your device). The author doesn't live in a vacuum.

      • by Ollabelle (980205) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:39PM (#39291119)
        So let's start up eBook only publisher, containing only the staff needed to assist the Ebook author. No typesetting, warehouses, printers, or distribution chains to the mortar shops. Then we can price the book to cover our costs and profits for both us and the author.

        The author can then negotiate two separate publication deals, one for the ebook version and one for the paper version.

        Most likely, a third person will be required, who will be paid to shill the book and get the book tour going.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          And the best part is that you can set it up in a small town somewhere with a low cost of living rather than a fancy New York office where you have to pay high wages so those employees can afford to eat...

    • by Twinbee (767046)
      No, keep doing this until we can buy directly from the authors all the time. There isn't much need for a middleman with digital goods.
      • Boy oh boy, it really shows that you haven't seen a book in its raw, straight-from-the-author form. Even with digital goods, there's still plenty of requirement for editing and other things that a publisher currently does.

        I know Slashdotters like to go on about buggy whip makers trying to force their extinct product on a society that no longer needs it, but this really isn't one of those cases - a publisher does more than take the final product from the author, slap a markup on it, and sell it to you.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          I know Slashdotters like to go on about buggy whip makers trying to force their extinct product on a society that no longer needs it, but this really isn't one of those cases - a publisher does more than take the final product from the author, slap a markup on it, and sell it to you.

          That's odd, because plenty of mid-list authors have complained that their publishers do just that. No editing, some proof reading, if they're lucky a cover that bears some resemblance to the story, then straight out the door to the book store.

  • Duh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:12PM (#39290645)
    This is why at least three quarters of my ebook purchases are from Baen [baenebooks.com]. They price their regular books fairly reasonably, "hardback" books are about $10 than list price, and when they come out in paperback they're about $2-3 off the list price. And for a lot of books if you're willing to pay a small premium they'll let you get the ARC version ("Advance Reader Copy") before the publication date. They also do monthly bundles of books, five or more books packaged together for the price of two or three books, well worth it if you know you really want at least two of the books in the bundle. Plus they have a free library [baenebooks.com] that will let you try out a large number of books for free (in the hopes that you'll buy more books from that author later of course) and their books are DRM free, because they understand that piracy isn't a real problem. [baen.com]

    Hopefully if Baen continues to do well eventually the big publishers will learn from their example.
    • Re:Duh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:25PM (#39290847) Homepage Journal
      Baen has been doing well with that model for over a decade now, the other publishers don't care. Even when Baen was literally the only company making any money on ebooks none of the other publishers would even give that model a second look. If it's not loaded down with DRM and badly overpriced, they just don't see the advantage.
    • by oodaloop (1229816)

      "hardback" books are about $10 than list price

      I think you accidentally a word.

  • Don't Need? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by jimmerz28 (1928616)

    Could someone explain exactly why an author (which I am not) of a written work is unable to release his/her content to the masses without the need of a publisher?

    I imagine I can publish a document to an ebook store (which I am assuming is not considered a "publisher" since it is a "store") or even a website for purchase and bypass the need for these publishing companies.

    Of course my imagination can be rather wild so maybe this ease is out of the scope of reality.

    • Advertising (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mx+b (2078162) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:20PM (#39290773)

      You can have the best book in existence, but if no one hears about it, no one will ever buy it. It's entirely possible to publish on your own, on a personal website, with a paypal or visa shopping cart or something attached to take orders. What publishers do is get exposure. Even just on amazon.com, maybe they don't directly advertise you, but if someone searches for books, yours will pop up in there somewhere. How do people know to go to your personal website if you are a new unknown author?

      It is feasible to do entirely on your own when you are a popular author, but someone starting out new still needs an advertising boost of some sort, or at least listed in a catalog most people know about to make it somewhat easier to discover. However, ebooks should be incredibly cheaper, given that as you pointed out, "publishers" don't really have to publish (or even edit, in some cases) anything. They simply add you to the catalog and handle the sales, and send you royalties. Their cut for something that is essentially automatic (handled by servers) should be much lower than the companies seem to think they deserve.

    • by Cinder6 (894572)

      Nothing prevents it. But publishers have access to resources (editors, marketing, etc.) that can all prove critical to a book's success, which an aspiring author might not have.

  • by retroworks (652802) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:15PM (#39290701) Homepage Journal
    Just dramatically increased the value of "rip" and "burn" software development, same as they did with CD prices creating the MP3 market. Invest in "Writers" and "Burners", the Chinese will be happy to make the hardware.
  • ... increased prices are somehow a good thing and is the result of 'collusion'.

    There, fixed that for ya.

  • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:23PM (#39290809)

    Conspiring to break the law is legal for Apple ... they are like Microsoft++, just as evil but without any trouble from government.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:27PM (#39290889) Journal
    According to TFA, the publishers went 'agency' in order to try to stop Amazon from 'cornering the market' by selling books cheaply. Now they are under DoJ fire for what was essentially an attempt to set an artificial price floor across the industry.

    Squeeze. Crunch.

    Y'know what might have been a better plan? Not Insisting on the DRM that makes it possible, and easy, for an incumbent seller to lock in large numbers of buyers and obtain the market power needed to then put the publishers on the rack... It's not as though the story of iTunes went exactly that way with team RIAA or anything...

    If DRM actually magically worked, there might be some business case for accepting a smaller slice of an impregnable walled garden; but the present state of it is trivially weak for all the common book formats. Good work on stopping no pirates and giving large retailers the power to cut your throat, guys...
  • If I'm typical... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:27PM (#39290897)

    If I'm typical, (and I probaly am not) Amazon, et al, would get more money from me by LOWERING the price.

    90% of the ebooks I "buy" are free- either from Amazon, or Gutenberg, or elsewhere. The other 10% I will only buy if they are cheap. If eBooks were in the $2.99/3.99 range (for books I wanted) - I wouldn't hesitate- and the vast majority of books I read would be eBooks.

    Instead of making $7 profit on me once or twice a year- they could be getting $1 profit from me 20 or so times a year. Multiply me by a few hundred thousand and that profit margain goes up.

    I don't know that I am typical though- in fact I probably am not- because I actually enjoy reading HG Wells, Oscar Wilde, etc- and I don't consider it too much a hassel to not be buying the latest-pop ficiton mega-release.

    • by mx+b (2078162)
      I believe that is pretty typical -- again somewhat anecdotal, based on me and my family/friends. But especially in the current job climate, it is hard to pay the bills, I don't have 100s of dollars to throw around at a few new books, no matter how much I like them. I wouldn't mind tossing $3-5 at a book here and there though. So that's 0 books to several a year if they dropped ebook prices a good $10 (or more, depending on title of course).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      This is typical, and not even anecdotal. There's a certain price point at which people don't care Just look at Steam.

      "We do a 75 percent price reduction, our Counter-Strike experience tells us that our gross revenue would remain constant. Instead what we saw was our gross revenue increased by a factor of 40. Not 40 percent, but a factor of 40."
      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/10/24/less-is-more-gabe-newell-on-game-pricing/ [rockpapershotgun.com]

      That means, selling your product at 25% of your original price increases to
    • I've been trying to get Amazon to deep discount e-books on titles where they have a record of me purchasing the physical book. Lordy, I could convert nearly a whole bookcase to Flash RAM, assuming they were all available in Kindle format. I'm under no illusion they'd ever give them away, but on the other hand they could make it the latest editions. Call it an "upgrade".

  • Zounds! Next, you'll be showing me an ebook about Gambling in Casablanca (for an exorbitant fee)!
  • ...why the agency model is better despite increasing costs for consumers...

    I'm pretty sure you just answered your own question ;-)

  • Summary FAIL (Score:2, Informative)

    by andydread (758754)

    "conspired to raise the prices of ebooks"

    conspired with APPLE to raise the prices of ebooks - fixed

  • I finally started buying a few eBooks because the prices seemed to be drifting down. Bought some programming texts at half the printed price. Would like to see better, but my physical home library is packed as it is.

    Today's lesson: anecdotal evidence sucks.

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