Posts tagged ebooks
I write stories, not books
Reading this article in the yesterday got me thinking more about the publishing business and the price of ebooks and a whole lot of other random things. I noticed in the comments that a lot of people who read the article were misinformed about ebooks and digital publishing. Many of the comments on the article turned to the ebook vs print book debate, about the loss of the “richly sensual experience” that reading a print book is, etc. etc. I’m so over that debate, so I skipped over those comments.

I tried to talk to my husband last about it last night, but like many people not involved in the publishing industry there were weird things about it that he also didn’t get. Like when I talked about the price of ebooks and how so many people think they should be so much cheaper than print books, he was all in agreement because you know, it costs nothing to produce an ebook.  


I also thought about how maybe I’m different than many readers (and certainly many of the commenters on the guardian article who clearly aren’t talking about genre fiction books). 

Before I purchased my Sony reader, I made regular trips to the bookstore and often dropped a hundred bucks at a time. I thought nothing of shelling out $18 for a trade paperback by one of my favourite authors. That was the price they were and that’s what I had to pay if I wanted to read them. However, I rarely bought hardback books because of the price. When a book by a favourite author came out in hardback, I’d put my name on the waiting list for it at the library and wait out whether my name came up before the paperback version of the book came out.  

Another way I may be different is that I rarely sold my books to used book stores. I keep many of them, but I’m not sure why because I also rarely reread them. I have donated ones that I don’t want to keep to charities. I’ve also shared books with friends, my mom, my aunt but most often we have different tastes in books/authors.  

So having a “physical” book to keep or sell wasn’t something I missed when I got my Sony reader. Also I was thrilled to discover I could buy those $18 books for $9.99. Sometimes even less. And since I was published with smaller digital publishers, I started devouring their books at usually about $5 a pop.  

What are you getting when you buy a book? The guardian article talks about what costs going into producing a hardcover book and claim that it costs a publisher about $3.00 print and distribute a hardcover book, which might then be priced at $30 in the bookstore. Apparently there’s not much difference in costs between a hardcover book and a paperback book, but publishers produce those “premium” editions because there are people who want to buy them.

The article says “Most people instinctively feel that ebooks should be substantially cheaper than paper books, because an ebook is not physically "made": there are no printing costs. But if, says (author Robert) Levine, the real value of a book resides in the "text itself", then the delivery method shouldn't much matter. The fixed costs – acquiring, editing, marketing – remain unchanged.” 

This is very true. Here I also have to mention that many commenters on the article (and my own husband) seemed unaware of the amount of work (and expense) involved in formatting books into digital formats. You are not reading a Word document on your Kindle. With some readers, you’re reading a PDF. Other readers use other formats. When my digital publishers produce ebooks, they have to produce them in numerous formats so that most any customer can purchase that book and read it on whatever reader they happen to have. This is not easy or cheap and often gets overlooked in discussions about pricing of ebooks.

But even so, whether you buy a hardcover book that you can hold in your hands, or a digital book that you load on your reader, what are you really paying for? In the article, “Levine points out, what you're really paying for when you buy a book is something different. You are buying the "text itself". And why is that so expensive? Because the publisher will, in many cases, have paid the author a considerable sum for the right to sell it.”

Yes, the author gets paid something to write the book. Whatever kind of book it is you can be sure a lot of work and that includes blood, sweat and tears often literally, has gone into producing that “story”. And yet  I’ve seen fellow authors say they would never pay more than $3-4 for an ebook.  


I can’t believe some authors think their work is worth that little.  

Well, maybe a short novel or novella. But a full length novel? Really? 

The guardian article points out how much Amazon has influenced this line of thinking, with their free reads, .99 books and the 2.99 price point that many self-published authors go to. They also deeply discount prices on other books. “When they first started selling ebooks, publishers argued that they should cost pretty much the same as physical books, and tried to set prices accordingly. Amazon, though, has always been in the business of driving prices down, and sought to sell them as cheaply as possible in order to gain as large as possible a share of the ebook market. In their efforts to drive prices down, Amazon has been hugely assisted (Levine points out) by the fact that they also manufacture the most popular ebook reader. Because Amazon makes big profits from its Kindle, it doesn't need to bother about making profits from its ebook sales. Indeed, if it sells ebooks at a loss, it may still be better off overall, because this will drive up sales of its Kindle.” 

One commenter made what I thought was a very salient point: “… as a writer I keep on having to say I don't write books, I write stories.”

Yes! This! I write stories. My publishers produce books! In different formats! And to me, the value is in the story that I’ve written, not the format that it’s produced in. I don't know what the right price for an ebook is, or even a print book I suppose. The market will decide that, but in the end it has to be enough for the bookseller to make money so they'll keep selling books, for the publisher to make money so they'll keep publishing books, and for the author to make money so she'll keep writing books.

Dear Chapters/Indigo
Dear Chapters/Indigo:

Thank you so much for the Christmas gift! It arrived in the mail last week, a lovely little notebook. Apparently I am one of your most valued customers. In a way that's not a surprise to me. I know how much money I spend at your store. I do love books, as do my kids. I also just love your store - the rich scent of Starbuck's coffee, the comfy chairs to sit in and browse through books and magazines, sometimes someone is there playing on that beautiful grand piano - lovely.

But in a way it does surprise me that I'm still such a good customer since I bought my Sony reader this year. I think I'm spending a LOT less money on books at your store, and a lot more at the Sony store.

So why don't you sell ebooks on-line, Chapters? Then I could still be such a good customer.

I'll still come to your store, because, like I said I enjoy the experience (and I pick up my monthly issue of RT Book Reviews). I know I have to do that sometimes, or else there won't be a store for me to visit. But I do like my ebooks...

What I'm Reading Wednesday
What I’m Reading Wednesday

Of course I’m still reading Greyhound Summer by Nara Malone at her blog, as Arie starts her journey.

I also read Sweet Persuasion by Maya Banks. Maya Banks has become one of my new favourites. This was a sweet story of domination and submission. It sounds like an oxymoron (like I wrote a vanilla ménage story according to one reader reviewer of Love Me). But it works and definitely hot yet sweet.

I loaded up my Sony Reader for a trip we’re starting on Saturday, but darn, I couldn’t help starting Lorelei James’ story Strong Silent Type. I was supposed to be saving it for the trip! I’ve got a few others of hers loaded up, too, along with a few more Tara Janzen stories. I may add a few others...

And in between I’m reading A Sports-writer’s Life by Gerald Eskenazi.