On Maximum PC, author David Gerrold slots the e-book into place as the latest member of a distinguished lineage of disruptive media that build on what came before them. Movies built on novels and Broadway plays, radio built on records and vaudeville, television built on radio, and so on.
He points out that the imperative for old media when faced with the new has always been “adapt or die”—and litigating has historically been a poor method of adapting. (He brings up the example of Lotus 1-2-3, which essentially sued itself out of existence.) He brings up the e-book reader, with its attendant features and advantages. And he suggests the e-book is beginning to reinvent itself.
E-book readers, he notes, are good for more than just e-books now—many of them also know how to handle magazines, blogs, RSS feeds, comics, and other print media. And the Kindle itself (and to a lesser extent the Nook) has moved beyond being just a hardware reader—with apps for many other platforms, it’s now part of a whole Kindle (or Nook) medium. As a result, the stand-alone e-book reader may be relatively short-lived if tablets can improve enough to match the quality of their reading experience.
Also, by greatly decreasing the resources needed to publish, the e-book reader is shifting publishing from a culture of scarcity toward a culture of abundance. Not only can anyone publish an e-book of any quality now (and in fact a lot of people are), but established writers can put their backlist back into circulation and pick up more income that way.
Gerrold suggests that just as movies, radio, TV, and the Internet changed over time from their backward-looking inceptions, the e-book is about ready to get over its focus on the past—being a new way to view old media—and inventing new forms of its own.
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Crain’s New York Business reports that the multi-publisher auction that resulted in Amanda Hocking signing a two-million-dollar four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press had one unexpected participant—Amazon.com. Although Amazon has worked several exclusive deals to publish backlist books or specialty projects (most recently signing the Catherine Cookson estate for a 95-book deal), this is believed to be the first time the company actually competed for the right to publish frontlist titles.
If Amazon had won the auction, the print editions of the books would have been published by Houton Mifflin Harcourt, which could theoretically have meant the books would be carried by Amazon competitor Barnes & Noble, too (though there is some doubt that B&N would have been willing to play along knowing who the “real” publisher was).
Perhaps most interestingly, Amazon actually made the highest monetary offer for the book, according to insiders, but insisted on being the exclusive outlet for the e-book edition. Hocking and her agent reportedly found this offer less attractive.
“[Amazon] has less than 65% share of the e-book market and dropping, and 20% to 30% of the print market,” the executive said. “[The author and agent] would have anticipated significant lost sales.”
If Amazon wants to get into the frontlist publishing game, the company may have to compromise on the exclusivity part of the deal. Amazon might be an 800-lb gorilla, but it doesn’t entirely rule the jungle. It seems unlikely that contract terms reducing overall availability will be popular with most authors and agents.
The Digital Reader is carrying an article by Eric Landes, a technical writer dabbling in fiction, looking at the question of e-book pricing from an outsider’s perspective. Landes considers the changes that are taking place across the publishing industry, how the industry is responding by pricing its e-books, and how the industry ought to price its e-books.
Landes starts off by noting that the mainstream print publishing world has two major sales factors that account for most of its money—hardcovers and bestsellers. Hardcovers cost little more to manufacture than paperbacks but retail for twice (Landes is being conservative here, he should be saying “up to three to four times”—but on the other hand, I suppose few people pay full retail price for them these days) as much, and being a bestseller make those expensive books sell better.
The profits they make on hardcover bestsellers funds most of publishers’ less-profitable sidelines. But e-books are threatening both the “hardcover” and “bestseller” aspects of that profit channel.
On the “hardcover” side of things, paper book sales are dwindling, while e-book sales are going through the roof. After Amazon started discounting e-books to .99 as loss leaders, publishers instituted agency pricing so that they could dictate higher prices.
What the big-6 seem to be doing as a result is pricing ebooks in a way that attempts to protect hardcover revenues. While this has the initial appearance of pricing ebooks fairly (hardcover retail price is , ebook is ) the effect on the street is to make the hardcover and ebook price nearly equal. This produces a disconnect with customers. (“Hold it, you have to pay real money to print the hardcover, and digital is produced for free, why do they cost the same?”) Many people will buy the hardcover in this case, but many won’t buy either. They want the digital, but at a cost they deem fair. Nearly equal to print in their eyes doesn’t equate to fair. There’s also cases where publishers have not dropped ebook prices after the paperback comes out, making the ebook significantly more expensive than paper.
And “bestsellers” are under siege by the vast number of under- (and in many cases under-) self-published titles that are crowding out the more-expensive pro-published books. Publishers are starting to panic because they can’t afford to keep up (or, rather, keep down) with self-publishing authors who can keep a lot more per sale than traditionally-published authors so don’t feel they have to price as high.
Landes thinks that revenue rather than units sold might be a better yardstick for judging success of a book—since marginal costs for digital media are essentially nil, the publisher is free to price the book at a level that will maximize overall revenue—and past evidence tends to suggest that pricing between and maximizes revenue for an e-book. The problem is that publishers still make more money per sale on even a hardcover, and see cheap e-books as cannibalizing hardcover sales rather than as generating more digital sales and hence more revenue.
And THAT is why publishers are freaking out. They see that revenue difference, and price the ebook higher – - or so. They can then net the same revenue in the ebook (.80 – .80) that they get from the hardcover. They’re pricing the ebook to fit their existing, per-unit revenue model instead of fixing their model to fit a market with a rapidly increasing digital component. You know – the ONLY part of their business that’s growing…
The problem, of course, is that most of those ebooks aren’t making bestseller lists because they’re priced too high. They see books on the bestseller lists, plug the numbers into their unit-based revenue model, and collapse from heart failure.
Landes suggests that publishers should bite the bullet and bring their e-book prices down to maximize their revenue. It might hurt their print sales quantities, but the print market is shrinking anyway—whereas e-books are growing. Cheaper e-book sales could not only sell more e-books, but could help the overall market for e-books grow faster, meaning even more e-books would sell eventually.
He points to Baen as an example of doing exactly the kinds of things he recommends—selling DRM-free e-books for each (or cheaper if you buy them in a bundle). And yet, every time he sees Baen brought up in discussions as an example, other publishers say, “That model may work for Baen, but it won’t work for us.” Yet none of them seem to be trying very hard to make it work.
I find Landes’s post to be quite insightful, though that could just be because I agree with it. Either way, the more the e-book market grows and the print market shrinks in spite of publisher pricing, the more pressure publishers will be under to give up pricing to protect the hardcover market and price to maximize revenue from e-books instead. Sooner or later, it will have to happen if publishers want to stay in business.
Author Tobias Buckell has spent a year experimenting with pricing for selling a short-story collection, Tides from the New Worlds, as an Amazon e-book. He has posted the results to his blog, complete with figures and charts.
Buckell started out selling the book at .99. It sold a couple of dozen copies each for the first couple of months, and then sales tapered off. Then Buckell decided to raise the price to .99 and see what that did for his bottom line. It turned out that the number of people buying the book from month to month remained about the same, but since he was charging more he was making more money on it.
Subsequently, when Buckell tried dropping the price to 99 cents, he did get a boost in sales for about three days, but then they dropped back to the same level, even at the low 99 cent price.
Buckell wants to try the same experiment with a backlist novel, given that novels tend to sell better than story collections, and he also wants to try selling novellas/novelettes directly. He thinks that 99 cents would make a good introductory price to get people interested in an author’s other works, but prices in the .99-.99 range are more likely to earn the most money overall in the long run.
Obviously getting more titles into the pipeline will help, it would be steady money. And I’ve been encouraging authors to get their backlist up, with smart looking covers, for sale, so that they can benefit. 3-5 extra titles you own the rights to, making each a month, is a car payment. Or more if any of the titles take off.
But at the moment, at least for him, continuing to publish “frontlist” titles traditionally still makes more financial sense. But what really makes sense to him is diversifying—continuing to work in print, e-books, and audiobooks.
While these figures only represent a relatively small sample—one book from one author—they are still good to have available, and can help writers make a more informed decision. It would be nice if more writers would post the same information.
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Android, PlayBook Tablet Accessories
Some Android tablets have unique features that set the devices apart from Apple's iPad 2. Toshiba is offering its Tablet with a replaceable battery option, which users can buy for US. Keyboards for Motorola's Xoom and Samsung's Galaxy Tab are available with specific keys that make it easy to use and navigate the Android OS. Other handy accessories such as M-Edge's Convertible Sleeve can be ...
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Its quite sometime now since we had last heard of the Cius tablet. In case you have lost track of it, here it is. The Cius is the name of the tablet running Android that has been in development at Cisco and is one more meant to be used almost exclusively by the enterprise sector. It was launched last June and there was little that we have known of it since, prompting many to speculate if the tablet is still on track for a market debut.
Well, all of that seems to have taken care of so that we might get to see the 7 incher Android soon. As a first step (or the last step) to that becoming a reality, the Cius tablet has already made the mandatory appearance at the FCC. In fact, the tablet has already been approved for its 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi as well as Bluetooth capabilities. There is mention though of 3G which might be the indication of the tablet making its debut as a Wi-Fi only model.
However, in an interesting turn of events, its OpenPeak that has filed the FCC filings and not Cisco. What this means is that that the Cisco might ultimately be manufactured by OpenPeak and not Cisco as was widely believed. From the comsumer’s point of view, that shouldn’t be making much of a difference as long as the Cius comes with a decent package and lives up to the expectations.
In another development, the Cius tablet is all set to enter the Australian market with Telstra as the carrier partner. There is no specific release date available as yet though, nor is the tablet’s expected price mentioned. The Cius will be sold in that country as part of enterprise IP telephony systems.
As for the Cius, the tablet boasts of a Intel Atom 1.6 Ghz CPU along with 32 GB of Flash storage. There is also a SD car slot as well as a HDMI out port and a mini USB port. The tablet’s front facing camera allows for video conferencing in 720p HD quality. The default operating system is Android 2.2 Froyo though the price that was last associated with the tablet was a rather high 00. Something that is attributed to the tight integration that the Cius tablet will have with Cisco’s enterprise software.
- Cisco’s Cius tablet headed to Verizon
- Cisco Cius Tablet pricing and news revealed
- Coming Cius business tablet from Cisco
- Lenovo to Pursue Enterprise Tablet PC’s
- Quanta’s own tablet hits the FCC
- New Cisco Tablet to act as Home Energy Controller