Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 12 March 2012

eBook Pricing - DoJ Apparently Agrees With Me

If you've been following this blog for a while, you will realise that I have a particular bee in my bonnet over eBook pricing. As my recent journey into self publishing paperbacks revealed (still languishing in Germany, by the way), paper based books have an inherently expensive element that is quite independent of the costs associated with producing the core product (food, beer, single malt whisky - not necessarily in that order - with a few grains thrown to the editors, cover designers etc). 

My issue is that eBooks shouldn't attract the same price as print books because of the production costs that don't exist, however if you look on Amazon, for example, you will often find that the eBook is the same price or even more expensive than many print versions.  If I believed the author or any of the other talented people involved in the generation of the book took a proportionately larger payment for the eBook then I might not object so much, but I suspect that they don't. 

My abiding belief is that the people who lend the least to the book take the majority of the additional cash.  In my warped mindset, these are the publishing equivalent of the oil price speculators that are pushing up the cost of motoring (just to polarise all blog readers against mainstream publishers except those who also speculate on oil prices, who are probably scratching their expensively coiffured heads wondering what the problem is).

I've ranted on about this many times, adding that I believe the prices of eBooks are simply too high.  I don't have an issue about premium authors commanding higher prices for their books - I accept that it  is reasonable that someone would pay more for a popular and established author than they would for someone like myself, an aspiring author hoping to bridge the gap to become popular and established.  But paying the same or more for the eBook version?

Well it seems I'm in good company, depending on you view of the Department of Justice, for they also believe that eBook prices are too high.  The  Department has challenged some of the main book publishers and distributers, including the eponymous Amazon, on their pricing strategy.  Amazon are probably feeling a little peeved to be included in the list of potential offenders because seemingly - I have to resort to third hand reports here because my involvement in eBooks doesn't go back far enough for this - when Amazon first started offering eBook versions of mainstream books some years ago they did try to keep the eBook prices low.  However it seems the publishers of these books objected and Amazon let the prices rise.  What the DoJ seems to be concerned about is price fixing, which would be anti-competitive.

At the moment, the DoJ's approach appears to be a little informal; a kind of warning shot across the bows to give the industry a chance to disprove any wrongdoing or to put its house in order if it is fixing the prices.  The next step becomes a lot more formal, and DoJ have faced down mega industries such a microsoft in the past, so they're good for a scrap.  Whatever happens, the hope is that more realistic eBook prices will result.


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