In my last post, I wrote about e-book pricing, and how strange it was that some of them were priced higher than their printed counterparts. (If you missed that one, read it here.) After all, the costs for producing an e-book appear to be lower.
Apparently, both publishers and bookstores are facing even more changes than I realized. And good old-fashioned competition has more to do with those changes than even the advent of digital books.
We are already seeing the strain on bookstores. As most of you are aware, Borders has already gone bankrupt and is closing many of its stores. Barnes and Noble is also struggling, and is searching for a buyer. And if the big guys are having trouble, you know that the smaller booksellers can’t have it easy.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the industry over the next few years. I expect that things will be a bit dicey at first while we all figure out where this is going.
But I am optimistic that the future of
books – both digital and print – is better
than ever, as there will be more options
for publishers, authors, and especially
We may be headed for an initial storm, but after that may come the golden age of reading, where there are more books available and more people interested in reading them than ever before.
I don’t yet own an e-reading device, but lately I have been comparing the different readers- just in case a long-lost millionaire uncle I never knew about decides to leave me his fortune.
As I researched, I was surprised to noticed that some e-books actually cost more than the paperback version of the same books, which is the opposite of what I expected. So I was interested when I learned about a survey showing that while some readers think that e-books should cost less than their counterparts, not all readers do.
Those who already own an e-reader appear less likely to think that the downloads should be priced lower. I wonder whether this is because they have gotten used to paying the higher price, or because they are willing to pay more for convenience and instant gratification, or perhaps because those who could afford to buy those devices were not so concerned about book pricing as the rest of us.
What are the benefits of digital vs. printed books?
The main benefit of e-books seems to be convenience. But convenience aside, they lack many benefits of traditional books.
I have books that I have owned since I was a child and now share with my own children , and favorite books that I have loaned out many times to friends (without the limitation that they must be returned within 2 weeks). Other books I’ve read once and either sold (so I could afford to buy more books!), or donated to benefit my local library.
When you buy an e-book, you are not really buying a book at all, just a license to be allowed to read the book. Add the limitations of its use to the facts that:
you have to first purchase a device for reading the books then spend more for permission to read each book,
you can only give the book as a gift if your friend also happens to have an e-reader (and the right one),
other family members can’t read the book you bought unless you either loan them your reading device or buy them each one of their own along with their own licenses to read each book (which would be quite a hunk of change in a large family like mine. Hope that rich uncle doesn’t forget me!),
you can not re-sell the book used to reclaim some of your original expense and
you cannot donate it to charities to sell used,
and suddenly the expectation that e-books should be priced lower doesn’t seem either unrealistic or unreasonable. In fact, I’m surprised that more people don’t think it should be lower!
What about publishers? Shouldn’t we worry about them going out of business?
Even though the publishers still have many expenses with e-books (editing, formatting, promotion, etc.), they don’t have the printing or inventory costs that exist with traditional publishing. There are no supply limitations, so they don’t have to guess at how many copies of a book will sell; 200 electronic copies won’t cost them more to produce than 50 copies. Some publishers are also giving a smaller cut of the profits to authors than they do with printed books.
Some publishers will certainly fold because of the e-book revolution, but I doubt it will be due to low e-book pricing. More likely it will be due either to greed (see above about authors getting a smaller cut, driving them toward self-publishing), bad debt (as other companies such as bookstores go under), or most likely of all – a failure to adapt to a changing market.
Those who make it will do so because they see digital books as an opportunity to expand the book market, rather than a contest between e-books and traditional ones.
What do you think?
Do you have an e-reader? Do you think e-books should cost the same, more or less than traditional books?
How might publishers and authors best adapt to a rapidly changing market?
I just bought several copies of this wonderful little book to give as Christmas gifts. (If you didn’t get one from me, I’m sorry. You’ll just have to buy your own!)
A Lump of Clay, by Rich Johnson, is a short parable that will touch your heart and put a lump in your throat. It tells of the life of a simple little lump of clay, who sits on the shelf day after day waiting for the master to mold him into something wonderful.
Haven’t we all felt, at times, like a lump of clay?
Haven’t we all wished to be better, to be beautiful?
If you know someone who needs to be uplifted or encouraged, this would make the perfect gift. If you know more than someone like that, the author is giving a special deal if you buy more than 5 books at a time. Check it out!
Disclosure: Rich Johnson is a friend of mine, but I do not get any money from the sales of his book, nor am I recommending the book because of our friendship. It is simply a book that I feel is well worth reading and giving.
Did you know that boys are scoring much lower than girls in reading proficiency tests? I ran across an excellent article today about How to Raise Boys that Read, which addresses the problem of what people are trying to do to solve the problem!
The author mentions desperate parents trying to bribe a 13 year old boy to read, using video games. I understand their desperation (I have two teenagers myself), but the tactic seems counter-productive to me. They may get him to read a book or two, but they’re also teaching or reinforcing the idea that video games are desirable, and books are one of those unpleasant things in life that you have to do just because your parents say so.
Boys won’t read more unless they are taught the value of a good book. The key word here is taught. It takes time. There’s no quick way to do it. The easiest way is to make reading part of every day life from babyhood, reading together often and giving the child books as presents.
Though it’s not as easy, you can still teach an older child, by making the book or reading time the reward, or by “allowing” a boy to do things like stay up and read when you wouldn’t let him stay up otherwise. Have good quality books available at all times, and set a limit for time spent on less desirable pursuits.
And I can’t stress enough the importance of example. Regularly bring home a variety of books from the library. Let him see you reading, and talk often about the books you’ve read. Don’t turn it into a lecture. Share your favorite part, or something funny from the book. (Better yet, laugh loudly every so often while you read, so he’ll wonder what you’re reading about!) Talk about an idea you read and why you do or don’t agree with it. You don’t even have to share these things with him at first, you can just start discussions with your spouse at the dinner table in front of your son, and maybe he’ll join in with his opinion at some point.
For a boy that’s still young enough to let you read to him but old enough to read by himself, find a very compelling, page-turner kind of book and read to a very suspenseful part – then put the book down and walk away. Hopefully he’ll be dying to know what happens, and compelled to pick the book up and at least read the next paragraph or two.
Treat books as treasures and eventually they will, too.