Filed under: Copyright, DRM, Industry Change, Pricing | Tags: Amazon, Book Publishing, Dan Brown, Digital Books, Digital download, Digital Rights Management, DRM, eBook, ebooks, File Sharing, Free Content, Harry Potter, P2P, Piracy, Publisher's Weekly, PW, S&S, Scholastic Books, Simon and Schuster, Stephen King, The Lost Symbol, Under the Dome
UPDATE: This post has been refreshed from its original state. That’s what I get for taking Publisher’s Weekly at its word.
Anyway, mid-way through this piece I ask readers to suspend their disbelief – difficult to do when reading a post on book publishing, pricing and digital content, I know – and follow my argument as I use the information from the Publisher’s Weekly column slightly out of context but not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
Please add any comments that you think are helpful.
Apparently S&S will be releasing the 1000+ page novel on November 10th and then dropping the ebook on the market on December 24th. Timing is everything, I guess.
The Publisher’s Weekly piece also notes that the S&S will be charging $35 for the eBook, however some further research conducted at StephenKing.com indicates that the ebook will sell for standard Kindle-pricing.
Mr King asks his readers not to “believe the press reports that the e-book reader price for Under the Dome will be $35. This was the result of confusion from a press release from the publisher… It is true that you cannot order the book as an e-download until December 24th, but the physical book, which is a beautiful thing, you can pre-order for less than $9–so who’s better than us?”
So, pricing right? It’s all up in the air. Nobody knows what anything is worth whether it’s a brand spankin’ new hardcover or an infinitely replicable digital file. Are they both worth $9? Really? Are publishers seriously asking the public to swallow that crock?
But they’re trapped between the ruthless capitalism of dominant retailers at war with each other and the ruthless efficiency of the digital age.
Let’s say for example that the Great Book Pricing War of 2009 wasn’t happening and skewing this argument beyond proportion and let’s say that S&S thought that $35 for a hard cover was a fair price – which it is – and that $35 for an eBook was also a fair price – which is arguable to say the least.
I float this scenario forward for your consideration because I have heard book publishers say the very same thing – that a digital file should be priced at the same level as the physical product.
To me this notion of equal pricing for physical/digital looks more like a series of test balloons designed to reinforce industry fears than skillful marketing strategies for new books by some of English language’s most beloved authors.
Who gave the final OK on that pricing strategy and where is he/she getting their information?
It’s well documented that the last Harry Potter book – itself a hefty tome – was pirated and disseminated almost immediately upon release (in fact, an in-house perp at Scholastic did the job even before the book hit the shelves) and surely the people at Simon and Schuster are aware that this will happen here, too. I expect that this book will be seeded widely within 24 hours of officially going on sale.
I have documented the bibliographic zeal that Stephen King’s fans show toward his work online in my presentations on DRM and Free Content. I expect that a great majority will look at the cost of $35 for the hard cover version as a fair price to pay – and indeed many of the people who use P2P/torrent sites to download and share Stephen King’s books are dedicated enough to purchase the physical copy – and will see the same price for a digital file as incomprehensibly expensive.
This will certainly bear watching. I have to believe that this is some kind of Big Author Test of Current Market Conditions rather than a strategy that S&S expects to trot out for every new hard cover release.
Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol showed us something about this new digital/print landscape and the new Stephen King promises to yield even more data even if it seems that it will come at the expense of common sense.
But one must keep an open mind. Hopefully this publishing event will show us something new.
Filed under: BookCamp Vancouver 2009, Copyright, Creative Commons, DRM, Industry Change, Pricing | Tags: Book Sales, BookCamp Vancouver, Books, Brian O'Leary, Digital Rights Management, DRM, File Sharing, Frankfurt Book Fair, Free Content, Magellan Media Partners, O'Reilly Media, O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishers, P2P, Piracy
Filed under: Copyright, Creative Commons, DRM, Enthusiasms, Imagination, Industry Change, Pricing | Tags: Andrew Savikas, Chris Anderson, Free, Free Content, Scribd, Spiegel Online, Wired Magazine, Wired.com
The first time that I read Chris Anderson’s new book “Free” was on a website called Scribd. The book had just been released and Scribd was (and still is) allowing readers to check out the book’s entire content for free: so long as you’re not trying to read the book for free from Canada. That kind of cross-border digital experience is strictly forbidden.
Didn’t bother me much. I wasn’t paying for it so I couldn’t really argue but I’ve been following some of the conversations and interviews that Mr Anderson has been doing online over the past month and I thought that I’d share a few links that I think are interesting.
And then there’s a very interesting interview that he did with Der Spiegel Online about the demise of print journalism, traditional media and the inability of old terminology to adequately describe new realities.
The interview is called “Maybe Media Will Be a Hobby Rather Than a Job” which is a mis-quote from something that Anderson said during the interview. It sounds juicier when taken out of context.
The interview ends with this nifty little exchange in italics below. I think it’s a lucid distillation of the issues that journalism, traditional media and the publishing industry are facing now.
SPIEGEL: Conclusion: There is no convincing solution so far — even from provocateurs like yourself?
Anderson: I think we will discover that whatever the business model of the 20th century was, it will be different in the 21st. Maybe we realize that selling ads is not the business we’re in. Maybe we’re into selling online content to audiences, or in creating communities or into selling events — in a similar way to which parts of the music industry is making money from concerts. Maybe companies that were built around the old business model will go away and other companies will come up, in much the same way as old record industry labels may disappear but the Apples of the world, with their iPods and iPhones, will continue to do well.
SPIEGEL: One last thing, why isn’t your book free?
Anderson: You only pay for the hardcover version. The marginal cost for the digital file is zero, so I’ll give the digital text and the audio files away for free. However, if you want to have the abridged audio book in a 3-hour-version, then you’ll have to pay.
SPIEGEL: Because time is money?
* I have added this last bit to the conversation that Michael Tamblyn and I had over at the ShortCoversBlog and have updated my earlier post about eBooks pricing. Note Anderson’s mention of ‘marginal cost’ for a digital file – it would appear that Scribd is still offering Free for free on their site but Amazon US has it for $19.99 ($9.99 for the Kindle edition) and ShortCovers has it on their site for $9.99 ($11.99 CDN). The devil is in the details as always.
** By the way, I was tipped to a lot of this by Andrew Savikas who wrote about it here. If you’re not familiar with Andrew’s work please take the time to read through his site especially his piece, Content is a Service Business. Compulsory reading.