Books written by Ray Sullivan

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Cheaper Books coming?

Some of you may have been following the lawsuit in the US - it's an anti-trust suit against the alleged fixing of eBook prices.  Possibly somebody over there has passed the decongestants around because it looks like the aroma of coffee is being smelled.  Which is better than smelling the lawyer testosterone aroma.

I've ranted on about eBook prices on several occasions before - I don't understand why books that have never needed to have a tree grown, felled, logged, sliced, pulped, bleached, transported and stored let alone printed, bound and distributed cost as much if not more than books that have.

Amazon shared the same viewpoint, probably not quite on the same page as me but certainly more so than say Apple.  They tried to discount digital versions of books but found themselves thwarted by the big book publishers, companies that apparently had Apple's tacit support.  The US government also thought eBooks should cost less than the paper based versions, so they launched a lawsuit that has ground on for quite a while now.  Three of the companies involved have rolled over in preference to engaging in lengthy litigation and are providing a fund that will be used to recompense people who have paid more than they should have done through Amazon.  Apparently refunds may be forthcoming from Barnes & Noble too.

I'm not getting too excited about the refunds - they're based around books on the New York Times bestseller lists since 2010 that have been sold at an artificially high price.  I don't know whether I've inadvertently bought one or more of these books but generally I only buy bestsellers at bargain prices.  If I did buy one, it would have been on the Kindle Deal of the Day, so probably wouldn't qualify for any refund. Plus, I'm not convinced this applies outside of the US anyway.

But this should help with eBooks finding their own natural market value.  I fully understand the concerns of traditional publishers regarding, say, piracy.  Take a look at eBay and you'll find no end of CDs being offered for sale crammed full of eBook titles from  mainstream authors, CDs the sellers insist don't breach eBay's strict piracy rules. Perhaps through some misguided belief that obtaining eBooks by some means, even God forbid through payment, confers the right to sell multiple copies through eBay.  The rest are just crooks, of course, as are the people who buy the discs.  But loading the price of eBooks to compensate for these pirate copies by overcharging law abiding eBook readers isn't fair.

I also suspect that the traditional booksellers have worked out that selling eBooks for the same price as the printed version means that there's a lot more money per book left over for sharing with authors.  Sorry, I mistyped 'fat, greedy, non-value adding pariahs' as 'author' by mistake.  Perhaps 'marketer' or 'middleman' would be a better word.  I suspect your favourite authors don't get much of the added cost, they only write the books after all.

So, with book publishers aware that price fixing is an offence they should be less likely to commit it.  Which means mainstream books should become more affordable in eBook form, which will help deter potential pirates as long as the price is reasonable.  It should also compel less well known authors to smell that coffee aroma that's floating around and make them, including myself, ensure that our prices are even more reasonable.  Which means you can afford more books, stimulating the eBook market even more.

For once, I quite like the lawyers hanging around.  Even the smell isn't too bad.


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