Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Penguin and eBooks (one step forward and one step back)

Penguin Publishers is in the news this week. For all of us eBook readers it basically amounts to one step forward and one step back.

Step Forward

Back in June I complained about Publisher’s and eBook pricing. One of the publishers I sited as having eBook pricing that made no sense was Penguin. At that time Angel Falls by Nora Roberts was selling in hardback for $25.95 and in paperback for $ 7.99. But the real disconnect came from the fact that the publishers suggested retail price for the eBook is $25.95!

I mean, really!! eBooks essentially cost the publisher nothing to produce – no paper, binding, printing or returns. Admittedly there as costs associated with distribution and marketing but the distribution costs are far less and the marketing costs generally fall to the eBook sellers.

Evidently, Penguin got at least part of the message. They put out an announcement to booksellers last week that they are planning to discount eBooks by 20% from the printed editions. Of course, they did not bother to specify which kind of printed editions – hardback or trade paper. If they follow through, however, you will see the eBook edition of Angel Falls retailing at $6.39. BTW there is not sign (yet) of them lowering our cost for the eBook.

Step Back

Penguin Audio, one of the five original publishers participating in eMusic's audiobook downloading program, begun last month, has withdrawn its 150 available titles, according to the New York Times. The reason: "concerns about digital piracy."

Evidently, even though Random House says they have not seen any piracy, Penguin executives are too nervous to even give non-DRMed books a chance.

You would think that the Publishing industry could look at the Music industry and see the future. Digital downloads, ultimately, change everything! Mega publishers should realize that they probably won't thier clout from piracy. The real danger is that best selling authors will do what Madonna has done to Warner and go directly to a promoter for a better deal. They can artifically inflate the price of a digital file, but for how long?

Last time I checked, one step forward and one step back, pretty much leaves you in the same old place. But I am trying to stay positive (making lemonade and all that).

Perhaps it is more like two steps forward and one back. DRM is a nuisance but one I have learned to live with. A cut in price has a much more immediate and practical benefit to me as a reader; one I am eager to take advantage of.

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