Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's Your Turn

I'm a bit under the weather today, folks, so I'm going to throw open the blog. You can ask a question or post the first sentence or paragraph of a work in progress (but no more than the first paragraph, well, first two paragraphs). The floor is yours. I'll be checking back in every couple of hours to comment. Have fun and remember this piece of advice -- if you have sinus and allergy problems, Dallas is the Spring is not the place to be unless you like living on benadryl.

Edit: Here are a couple of topics I'll throw out:
  • Should you be able to download the e-book of a novel for free if you've already bought the hardcover of the book? How would you prove purchase?
  • What is the deciding factor for you in reading a new author?

23 comments:

Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

Should you be able to download the e-book of a novel for free if you've already bought the hardcover of the book? How would you prove purchase?

I'm going to say no, any more than you should be able to take your VHS tapes to a store and demand that the same movies on DVD be given to you for free. If a service like, say, Amazon, throws in the electronic version of a novel when you purchase the hardcover, that's great... but I don't think buying one medium of a work entitles one to it in all mediums.

Amanda said...

Marshall Ryan Maresca, I agree. I no more expect a DVD of a movie I bought 30 years ago as a VHS than I do a CD of any of the LPs I have. What prompted the question, and I do want to hear how others feel, was a thread on the Kindle board at Amazon where folks want the e-book for free since they've already paid for the hard cover. In fact, some want it just because they've bought any copy of the book.

But it goes beyond, imo, this sense of entitlement some folks have. It is the fact that Amazon can't just give away an e-book -- at least not if it comes from one of the Agency Model publishers. And, can you imagine the financial impact it would have if Amazon -- and other sellers -- had to give away a free e-book for every hardcover book that was purchased?

matapam said...

Baen has done well, by including CDs with their hardcover releases. I expect it to become common.

But then there's the issue of the Entitlement Mentality."I deserve" "You should give me" "Waaaa! Baby want Bottle!"

Umm, sorry.

I don't have a problem with an e-book being copied to a hard drive, a read, a phone so the purchaser can read it anywhere, anytime. I don't have a problem with a purchaser being able to download all over again when equipment is replaced.

The print versions are basically out of that loop. If they break, they can't be replaced at a minimal cost to the supplier. They can't be copied to an e-format without a whole lot of work.

They are simply two very different things. At the same time they are the same thing. I could go all philosophical about it, but I'll stop myself.

I think the crying will cease when the costs of e-books approaches something sensible, and the publishers see the advertising value in including disks in the hardcover, but perhaps not the paperbacks.

Or perhaps a different CD in the paperback. Oh, shiney!

Kate said...

No, you should not be able to download the ebook free if you bought the hardcover.

*However*, once you've bought the ebook you should be able to (as in permitted) to copy that ebook to CD or DVD for archival purposes, read it offline, or even print it if you want, so long as you're doing this for personal use.

By the same token if you really want to scan your hardcopy and create an ebook of it that way, there shouldn't be anything to stop you - again, so long as it's for personal use.

I don't see a problem with "lending" a copy to someone - but I'd say as that back of the envelope thing that if you're going to play electronic lending library, no more than one book per author would be fair. If the person you lend to likes it, they can buy their own copies of the rest of said author's catalog.

For what it's worth, I do something similar with my music collection. I'll send *a* track of an artist I particularly like to friends I think will like it. If they want more, then it's up to them to buy it.

Of course, a massive amount of my music collection is cassette copies of LPs I bought Lo! these many years ago and spent hours playing in to the computer. And the CDs I ripped. The rest is non-DRM that I've purchased. I keep it on multiple hard drives, burn CDs of it to play in the car, and do all the usual other fair use things.

On the entitlement thing... That will fade as ebooks find their price point, the same as the acceptable price for a 3 - 5 minute track has settled at somewhere around $0.99 (cheap enough to encourage impulse buys, high enough for the services that have them to make a profit). I suspect for ebooks that point is somewhere in the $5-ish range for e-only, and less if there's a print version. I could be way wrong, though.

Kate said...

What is the deciding factor for you in reading a new author?

After a chapter or so, I don't want to put it down. I get to the book by "interesting title" then "interesting cover" followed by "interesting blurb." If I've read some and I can put it back without a twinge, it's not for me.

On the flip side, if I buy a new author's book on the strength of their opening, and they don't live up to the promise, I don't go around bad-mouthing said author. I just never buy anything else of theirs. Usually ever. Life's too short and the budget's too limited to waste time on books I'm not enjoying.

Dave Freer said...

Hoping the weather you're under improves Amanda.

"Should you be able to download the e-book of a novel for free if you've already bought the hardcover of the book? How would you prove purchase?"

If it is sold as that sort of deal why not? As an automatic expectation, no.

However here is what I would do if _I_ was a publisher.

Sell the e-book (quite cheap)with a voucher number (single use) which entitles the user to a substantial discount on the hardback, if ordered directly from the publisher, with the voucher number. If I do my maths correctly - as a retailed through someone else Hardcover copy I would earn roughly $12.50 gross. It would cost the reader $27 - possibly dicounted to $17. If I sold the e-book at $5, with a $15 deal on the hardback with voucher... I get 1)Two sales of one product (halve fixed costs, large improvement of nett profit) 2)More gross, and as the handling shouldn't cost $2.50 a book, a better nett profit on that too. 3)A feeling of delight from the reader who thinks they have a bargain - that will sweeten their attitude to me (and publishers outside of Baen don't HAVE brand loyalty - barely any reader knows who they are), and to the book.

Synova said...

So far I agree with everyone. ;-)

If a an e-copy is part of the deal for a new hard cover, then it's the deal. If it's not, it's not.

If it's some old book you wouldn't expect to get a new copy for nothing just because you bought it once.

I'm really glad that I'm allowed to get to all of the e-books I've bought at Baen because if I had to keep track of them myself I'd be so SOL.

The idea Dave has of selling the e-book with a discount included for the hard cover is probably a good one. The e-book, if priced reasonably, could work as a gateway for new authors. I have bought paperbacks of books I already had bought in e-book form but I think there is something about hard cover sales, no? So that it's desirable from an author/publisher point of view to sell as many hard covers as you can?

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, Baen has done it right with the CDs. They give you the option of reading the e-books on ANY e-book reader or computer you want. The CDs are where I have gotten many of my e-books. Of course, I wouldn't mind Baen putting out CDs from authors other than those they have already [VBG]

Nor do I have any problem with buying an e-book, copying it, saving it to CD, external HD, etc., as a backup. What I do have a problem with are those retailers and publishers who say that we buy only a license for the e-book and not the e-books themselves. But then, my stance on DRM is well-known on this blog -- I hate it.

Those who want a free e-book of a book they've bought in the past, or who want a free hard copy of a book they've bought electronically, leave me shaking my head. Do they really think that is viable for authors, publishers and retailers? And yes, I agree, when prices become reasonable for e-books, the whining will lessen. It probably won't go away, but it should lessen

Of course, after the email I received from Penguin this weekend, I don't expect it to happen any time soon. Not if the "insight" exhibited in the email is indicative of what is running the publishing house. I had emailed them asking when they anticipated having Sarah's No Will But His on the Kindle. My response was that Kathyrn Howard's book, No Will But His is available for download on the Nook, Sony reader, etc. Pardon me? Kathryn Howard is the lead character in the book, not the author...oh well, just another indication of what we face.

Amanda Green said...

Kate, have you been tromping around in my head again? I keep telling you to quit that. You never know what strange things you might catch there ;-p

All I can say is, "well said," and I hope you're right about the sense of entitlement disappearing. I don't think it will. At least not completely. But, with the right price points and tie-ins, it will decline to manageable levels.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, the only way the weather I'm under will improve is for the pollen in the air to go away. But soon. It gets better with summer. Then all I can complain about is the heat :-)

I like your idea of what ought to be done. The only problem I see is that it makes sense and, as we all know, right now that isn't what a lot of publishers are doing. Actually, to be fair, I'm not sure they anticipated change happening as quickly as it has. My hope is that they come around. In the meantime, there are a number of very good small publishing houses and e-presses that do understand the change in demand.

Amanda Green said...

Synova, the issue according to the Agency Plan publishing houses is that they are afraid e-book sales are cannibalizing hard cover sales. So their solution to prop up the hard cover sales is to either delay the release of e-books or to sell them at prices that are near to or the same as hard cover prices. Of course, they then promise to lower the price of the e-book the longer it is on the market. All of which sounds reasonable until you look at other e-books they have out that cost more than the paperback versions of the same book. That is what is really ticking off a number of e-book purchasers.

The truth of the matter is, if someone isn't going to pay $25 for a hard cover, they sure aren't going to pay it for an electronic version of the same book. Now, if the publishers were smart, they'd adopt a plan similar to the one Dave proposed above. Not that I'm holding my breath....

Amanda Green said...

Kate, oops, I missed your second comment. When it comes to trying a new author for me, I have to say word of mouth and then how quickly the book grabs me. That's why I love previews or sample chapters for e-books. I know if the first few pages don't hold my interest, the book probably won't. Of course, whether it's a dead tree book or an e-book, it needs to have a cover that captures my attention. The cover is the first impression and what will, more often than not, cause me to pick the book up to read the cover description, etc.

Dave Freer said...

Synova said "there is something about hard cover sales, no?"

It's largely financial (although HC does get reviewed and has less competition for getting onto the bestseller lists) Hardcovers in the buying public's mind cost far more to produce and therefore it fair that they should be priced at about 3-5 times the price of pb...

In truth the cost is not elevated very much at all - ergo the margin on Hardcovers is much larger. Many publishers claim to be kept afloat by Hardcover sales.

Chris McMahon said...

I usually find new authors either through personal recommedations or reviews (Locus).

Dave Freer said...

Amanda, this is a mindset change that publishers have been unwilling to embrace: Basically in the near future e-retailers, (Amazon, and Apple, and Google have all fired preliminary shots in this, and B&N I will bet are next) are going to attempt to improve profits by usurping the role of publishers - letting the author go direct to the retailer, thereby taking his real return from say 10% (about what he/she will be lucky to get from publishers) to potentially 70% (which under the agency model is what publishers get). While it is still in the interest of authors who rely heavily on their publihsers to get big laydowns and do publicity to stick with their publisher (therefore you can probably brand anyone viruelently and loudly shouting about how EEEVUL Amazon is and how GOOD publishers are as insecure at best and a loser at worst), Authors with personal faithful following will desert publishers. Sorry, unless being with a publisher is worth more than seven times as much, they have no reason to stay (and Amazon will be just the first. I suspect Apple will betray publishers with a shrug when it is in their interests. They'll cut better deals with authors, because authors are weaker.)

The answer, of course, is for publishing to leverage off what they have instead of trying preserve the status quo. The reality is it is easier for publishers to e-retail their goods and use their authors names as a draw, their relationship with authors and experience with publishing to make a quality product, than it is for retailers to learn to be publshers.

Either retailers eat publishers, or publishers become retailers. That's the choice.

It's worth noting that webscriptons operating directly out of Baen's web-presence is successful.

T.M. Lunsford said...

On the subject of e-books for hardcovers you already own, it would be pretty simple to develop a disk or code or something similar to how they now include digital copies with DVDs and Blu-Rays. For older books, there could be some system where there is some kiosk or center at bookstores where you could go to prove purchase.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, thanks for the insight on the hardcover v. softcover breakdown. So the question becomes, if the publishers wind up destroying their e-book sales, building up a lot of ill-will with their customers, can they continue to exist in their current form or will they finally realize that hardcover sales were declining long before e-books began reaching the tipping point.

Amanda Green said...

Chris, I don't know whether to envy you or find someone to perform an exorcism on you for getting your reading recommendations from Locus (tongue firmly planted in cheek here, really). I have found a few new favorites there but mostly have felt those I've looked at because of Locus are to "literary" for my taste. But then, I have low tastes ;-p

Amanda Green said...

Taylor, the only problem with that is making sure there is only one download and not multiple ones as the book is resold, given away, etc. Even then, the digital download needs to be included as part of the "package" in pricing. Otherwise, the author is getting the short end of the stick, ie not getting royalties for the electronic version. Still, it is something the publishers should look at. After all, Baen has been successful in the use of not only its "Free Library" but the bound-in-book CDs.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, publishers unwilling to embrace a new mindset? Surely you jest!

Actually, B&N has announced a new way to publish electronically for them in much the same way Amazon has. Amazon has also announced a new venture that will bring foreign books to the US to be translated and offered as e-books. Not that I can blame any of these companies. If the publishers want to implement the Agency Model, Amazon et al have no way to compete against other e-book retailers. The answer is to go into the publishing business for themselves. If the traditional publishers aren't growing worried by this, and by the number of authors taking their backlists as well as new books straight to Amazon, they should be.

I guess this whole kerfluffle bothers me (and I'm being nice here) because of the unrest it has caused throughout the industry. Their inability to adjust to the new technology and customer demands is not only hurting the publishing houses, but it is killing the mid-list writer and making it neigh impossible for a new writer to break in -- at least when it comes to traditional houses.

How ironic that small press is now the respectable part of the business and e-press often the best paying.

Dave Freer said...

Amanda, they've been standing on a shrinking island in a rushing river for 20 years. The response has been to dig away at the soft sand on the water's edge to pile higher in the middle, which has meant the river eats into the island even faster. Large publishing is inherintly very conservative (not in the the political sense). They're at the top of the pyramid right now and thus they want to try and keep things the way they are. Smaller publishers have less to lose and thus are more willing to experiment.

Dave Freer said...

Amanda, the part that upsets me is that they have LOST so many readers. And once lost, it is as hard to get them back as it is to re-establish trust any relationship, where one party feels it has been deserted, betrayed and ignored - because that is exactly what NY publishing has done in the minds of many ex-readers.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, you'd think the publishers would figure out they are about to be dancing on the head of a very unstable pin. Especially when you look at the sales figures for March of this year. Overall sales for the month were up 16.6%, an increase of 8% for the year. The Huffington Post, quoting figures from the Association of American Publishers noted: "E-book sales jumped up 184.8 percent for the month ($28.5 million), reflecting an increase of 251.9 percent for the year." (Emphasis is mine.) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/24/publishing-sales-are-up-f_n_587203.html

Since the publishers don't seem to understand the fact that e-books now seem to be at the tipping point, it is up to us as authors to figure out how best to keep our readers without cutting completely our financial ties to traditional publishing. I'm not sure I know the answer -- but I am looking, and hoping someone smarter and with more experience than me finds it soon and then shares it with the rest of us.