Publishing BS from the NYT

I may not know anything about the publishing business, but I know bullshit when I read it.

In the emerging world of e-books, many consumers assume it is only logical that publishers are saving vast amounts by not having to print or distribute paper books, leaving room to pass along those savings to their customers.

Publishers largely agree, which is why in negotiations with Apple, five of the six largest publishers of trade books have said they would price most digital editions of new fiction and nonfiction books from $12.99 to $14.99 on the forthcoming iPad tablet — significantly lower than the average $26 price for a hardcover book.

See what they did there? “…a hardcover book.”

Because ALL the books sold in bookstores and WalMart are hardcovers, right?

How about that paperback that has the EXACT SAME WORDS in it that sells for $8 or less? How is it that publishers can’t possibly make a profit on a $9 ebook with no printing costs yet somehow manage to make money off an $8 paperback?

The NYT article goes on with lengthy breakdowns of the costs involved in making a hardcover book, all of which means precisely nothing.

Sure costs matter, but that’s not how you price things. You sell a book or a widget, for whatever you can get for it. If your costs are less than the price, you make money. If not, you go out of business.

Publishers want to save money they would otherwise spend on printing and keep the price high so they make more money.

More power to them, I have no problem with that.

But let’s not throw out a bunch of BS to try to hide that, OK?

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8 Responses to Publishing BS from the NYT

  1. Weer'd Beard says:

    Printing AND distribution costs! Anybody with books who has moved knows that even a box of paperbacks isn’t a small task to move from point-a-to-point B.

    Meanwhile distribution costs are about the same as our humble host pays to keep the world knee-deep in obscenity-laced Viscous Circle Podcasts!

    FYI, when will somebody get a fucking e-book right? I just want a nice big screen with no backlight, minimal power consumption, that runs on standard-cell batteries. (Water proofing would be a nice touch, but not manditory) and a simple USB port so I can upload PDF and similar files to the reader.

    I don’t need funky rechargable batteries, I don’t need wi-fi, I don’t need odd formats and app stores. I just want a cheap double-size B&W PDA that can store 5-10 full-length books that costs less than a couple of hardbacks, so if I drop the damn thing, or it gets crushed in a travel bag, I can just buy a new one.

    Putting text on a screen is not new technology, I don’t know why people bother with wiz-bang devices like the kindle and the iPad, when it could be done a WHOLE lot cheaper, which would mean I’d bring the damn thing with me in the first place because I wouldn’t be afraid to stuff it in my backpack when I wasn’t reading it.

  2. Old NFO says:

    Agreed! That is one of the reasons I haven’t ‘fallen’ for a Kindle or Nook, or any other… I buy too many paperbacks for flights…

  3. Thor says:

    Aside from the fact that the readers are fragile, and you cannot read the during an entire flight… there is that pesky on/off switch again… Amazon was pricing kindle books just slightly below the paperback price. At least of the ones that I surveyed.

  4. bgeek says:

    Piracy will eat them alive, and they deserve every bit of it.

  5. bgeek says:

    Crap, hit enter. This could also give publishers like Baen a slight edge in digital sales for new fiction.

  6. DirtCrashr says:

    They’re full of poo – they have silverfish between their pages.
    Since leaving the eBook game I haven’t kept up – but our Rocket eBook reader would work during an entire flight, or at least SFO to Hawaii, and would hold almost a dozen paperbacks. We also only charged around $2.00/$4.00 depending on publisher – a lot was public domain and cost $0.99 just to process – and we had Barnes & Nobel doing fulfilment and users had a “Personal Content” site where they could store entire libraries of books untill they wanted to download them onto the device.
    The problem with getting an e-book right is that everyone, once they begin the process, gets sucked into an incredible vortex of feature-creep like the event-horizon around a black-hole – it suddenly has to do EVERYTHING: it’s a phone, it’s an MP3 Player, it’s whatever your heart desires. dial your friends, play music, look at pictures…
    One app we had was a foreign language dictionary – find the problem English (or whatever) word and it would speak-out the corresponding translation via MP3 and speaker. Great stuff if your Mandarin or French is limited, and better than the famous “bite the wax tadpole”. Couldn’t get the app to pass the Executives, they wanted other things or it conflicted with another product’s aspirations.

  7. cybrus says:

    Your missing part of the picture on here – publishers don’t introduce the $8 paperback at the same time as the $26 hardcover. They release it months later to give the hardcover to generate a good chunk of the books revenue. Then, after some time, the paperback is released.

    The problem (in the publisher’s eyes at least) is that if you release the $9 eBook at the same time as the $26 hardcover, it’s going to undercut your hardcover sales which, for most (maybe all?) publishers is where they make a sizable chunk of their revenue.

    Apple’s deal would allow them to price the eBook at $15 initially and then, as time goes by, drop the price down – just like the print side of the shop works. This will keep the initial eBook price high enough that it won’t undercut the hardcovers too much while also taking into account the cheaper delivery costs.

    So, when looking at the initial eBook price it actually does make sense to use the hardcover price, and not the paperback price, as a reference point.

  8. alan says:

    Most books aren’t published in hardback, even initially.

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