[ubuntu-uk] Book costs (was Re: e-books without Adobe Digital Editions)

Glen Mehn glen.mehn at oba.co.uk
Wed Nov 10 10:45:10 GMT 2010

On 10/11/10 10:20, richard wrote:
> I know nothing about publishing but if you look at the banks, an online
> account is usualy a better deal because the costs are lower. There will
> always be sales for paper books, because sometimes it is nicer to hold a
> nicely made book in your hands, but when there are enough kindles etc
> out there e books will be a market on their own, selling at a discount.
> That is just my prediction, and what do I know?
>    The other aspect that occured to me was that the distribution of books
> is in fewer hands every year, with a small number of shops choosing the
> titles that they think will make them the most money. If you are an e
> book only  seller you have a usp right there.
Probably the biggest thing is the economies of scale involved. Digital 
margins are tiny. Print and distribution is dirt cheap at volume (think: 
people have been doing it for several hundred years and figuring out how 
to make it cheaper).

The bank analogy doesn't exactly make sense as banks are replacing 
something expensive for them (employees, time, and physical space) with 
something very scalable and well-understood (web apps). Books switching 
to ebook is replacing something well-understood and dirt cheap 
(printing/distribution) with something not so well understood (three 
major competing formats, a dizzying array of DRM options or not, 
personal fears in a declining industry, no standard)

A big thing is that digital distribution requires re-editing and 
re-layout to make the book readable on a variety of ereaders. There 
aren't that many people who know how to do that, therefore supply is 
restricted, and price goes up (fundamental microeconomics). Furthermore, 
there's not as high demand, so it appears to be a bit of a boutique 
item, therefore price goes up.

Then there's DRM costs. They do have to license these things. There's 
all the support staff around dealing with amazon/sony/adobe/etc. The 
difference between DRM for books and for ebooks, of course, is that you 
can loan one book out to your mate, but one person (in theory) could 
make 1mm copies of a book and really put a potential dent in sales. 
There's probably some sort of middle way that'll eventually happen.

The price will come down at some point.

Personally, I think (hope!) we'll end up in a world where content 
publishers will charge either micropayments for the service or a flat 
monthly charge for, say, groups of newsmagazines/books/whatever, and 
you'll consume as fast as you read.

Right now, the consumer (you and I) are getting the worst end of the 
stick. I've resorted to the library for most things, which isn't good 
for the publisher or the retailer.

Further pretty good discussions here:



Glen Mehn
glen.mehn at oba.co.uk
skype: glenmehn | blog: http://glen.mehn.net/mba
UK: +44(0)7942 675 755 | US: +1 415 704 4737

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