Dear Publishers…

I’m not trying to add to the eternal debate about print vs eBooks, but there are a couple of things that seem ‘obvious’ to me but not to most publishers. Maybe there’s some reality that I’m missing and I’m hoping someone will throw some light on the publisher’s point of view.

The first one being about publishing e-versions of all print books. Now I get that converting books that have been in print and circulation for a while require some sizeable amount of manpower, time, money, etc. But what about those that are going into print as I write this blog. Why is it not a practice (yet) to release the eBook at the same time as the print version (if not a few days before)? Yes, some publishers are doing this with some books. But it’s still not an ‘absolutely done’ thing. When a writer submits a manuscript, I’m sure there’s a digital version of the bound one around. Books are written and edited on Microsoft Word or Open Office or whatever other software on a  desktop or laptop… a eBook is a takes a few clicks and doesn’t cost an extra dime. So I don’t get why publishers don’t publish eBooks simultaneously. Is it because it will affect print sales? Will it really impact print sales negatively?

Coming to my second niggling question, what’s with the whole price debate? Again I’m aware of the whole Amazon vs Apple and the rest of the publishing world fight. But why is there a debate in the first place? An eBook technically doesn’t cost half as much as the print one. There’s the creative cost (which can vary and justifiably so), technology cost (which is a one time cost) and lastly marketing cost if we leave the royalty aspect for a bit. Because it’s such a cost effective medium, it’s so popular with authors going the self-publishing way. So as a reader why would I pay the same price for an eBook as the print version? And I don’t know how publishers are justifying it, but I’m not buying it. If a print book costs $10 or $15, I get that it’s an expensive medium in terms of production and distribution. But eBooks? The Internet is as free as it gets. So while production cost is low, so is the distribution cost. It’s a brilliant space to play the volume game in time (given that the eBook market is still pretty nascent). Logically, the eBook should be cheaper than it’s print version. Would love to hear any publisher’s take on their pricing strategy for eBooks.

Publishing is not some new age business. It’s an industry with very old players. But when it comes to this so called digital revolution, there’s so much debate over things that seem very simple. I may be completely wrong and I hope someone can share some insights from the publishing world.

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5 responses to “Dear Publishers…

  1. I’ve got to agree with you about the pricing. When I’m buying a physical book, I’m aware that at least part of what I’m paying covers the production cost – printing, binding, shipping, etc. Those production costs simply aren’t present for ebooks, so they should cost less. I just don’t understand the reasoning behind it. Are they trying to encourage people to buy physical books? Which is all fine by me, I certainly don’t want to see print books die out, but when more and more publishers seem to simultaneously be pushing ebook sales over print sales, well… I’m just confused about their motives.

    What I would REALLY love to see are “combo packs”. Just like you can buy a DVD and Blu-Ray disc together, I want to see the ability to buy both the physical book and the ebook at the same time, maybe for a couple dollars extra. I always like to have a book with me, but the choice of books is kind of limited by how big and heavy they are, and I would love to have digital versions of my favourites to bring with me on an ereader. I know that I can’t currently get digital copies of my books without paying full price for an ebook version, but I would love, in the future, to be able to buy physical books that include a code for a free (or at least significantly discounted) digital version, and vice versa.

    • Hey Ellen… I think Amazon has combo packs where u can buy the print version n get the ebook as well… Not sure but I remember a friend telling me about this. He used to buy the paperbacks for his girlfriend n download the ebook on his kindle 🙂

      • That’s cool 🙂 I’m not surprised that Amazon has that, I figured they’d be the first, if they hadn’t already. But I’m more thinking of actual bookstores doing something like that, just because I prefer buying books from a store than buying them online, and my first choice is always to support our local independent book store over Amazon or Chapters or the other big names.

  2. Now that u’ve mentioned it, it would be pretty cool if publishers installed kiosks in bookstores where people could purchase and download ebooks onto their ereaders. I know it’s possible online, but to walk into a bookstore and be given a similar experience is a great value addition. Also, this way people who buy print books can be given a code through which they can download the complimentary e-version in the bookstore itself.

  3. the eBook is the same price as the printed because you are paying an IT team to maintain the bandwidth for downloading the file, just as a printer’s team is paid to produce the book.

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