Monday, February 15, 2010

The E-Book Price Dilemma

I am sure we have all heard about the Amazon and McMillan blowout. Authors, readers, fans, and trolls are all coming out with an opinion on one side or another. Many people have sworn to never buy from Amazon again. Others have sworn to never buy McMillan books again. Some have tried to reach a peaceful truce by supporting authors through other venues.

Where do I stand? Well, I own a Kindle DX. My wife owns one. We both shop from Amazon on occasion. And we both love to read books (regardless of who their publisher is).

And none of that is going to change.

You see, the one extreme is to boycott Amazon. Which to me is like trying to boycott Walmart. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of Walmart, but both are powerful companies that can control their clients to some degree. After all, if Walmart can require their suppliers to use RFID tags, why can't Amazon require their supplier to use a set price?

The other extreme is, well, stupid. There is no way I am going to boycott an author just because of something his employer does. If the author makes an ass of himself, then I might boycott him, but just because his employer decides to use purple paint instead of green doesn't mean I'm going to stop reading his books.

And what about those trying to seek that peaceful middle-ground where we support authors and not Amazon? Malarkey. You see, I have a budget. In an effort for me to stay inside that budget, I buy books on my Kindle instead of in the store. So if an author asks me to pay more money to buy their book somewhere else, then it damn well better be autographed to me personally and have some sort of golden ticket inside for a prize.

What's the solution? I don't know that there is one. Amazon and McMillan are only doing what's best for them. Amazon wants to corner the market on e-books, so it wants to offer cheaper books. McMillan wants more money for itself (and their authors) so it wants to charge more. In the end, the reader and the author suffers. So I am still going to recommend people buy a Kindle DX. I am still going to shop at Amazon. And I am still going to buy those books that entertain me, regardless of who publishes them.

Will I pay more for e-books? A little more, maybe. But the book would need to have better formatting. When I pay $9.99 for an e-book, I expect it to be formatted quite well. A $14.99 e-book better be even better than that. But why can't we buy books that are in some sort of locked PDF format? Think about Audbile. You have to synch your Audible account with your Kindle in order to listen to your Audible files. No biggy. Took me two minutes tops. Why not something similar for e-books? You sync your device, and presto, you can open all those PDF files that are encrypted. This would prevent sharing the files across devices. And the formatting would be just as good as if not exactly the same as a printed version of the book.


John Zeleznik said...

One thing that I think got overlooked by the general populace, and I want to say I got this from Jay Lake or John Scalzi, is that Amazon failed to mention the 14.99 price point was primarily for new release hardcovers. There are lower prices on older titles...titles Amazon still wants to charge you 9.99 for as opposed to 5.99.

All this was is that Amazon blinked in the forthcoming iPad-Kindle War. I liked the Kindle...until the iPad came out.

(Plus, there's a chance that MacMillan might become my publisher!)

(And you won't have to worry about buying my book, your going to get it for free!)

Just sayin'.

TK42ONE said...

True, Amazon didn't mention the various price points. And they made people mad when they discovered this. But it was a business decision to "spin" it this way (not necessarily the best decision, but money makes you do funny things).

I'm not sure if Amazon "blinked" when the iPad came out. Based on what I've seen, the iPad isn't holding up to the reviews like the Kindle is (same goes for the Nook too). In the end, I'm sure we'll get it all boiled to one or two major suppliers of e-readers. I think Amazon and Apple will be in the mix since they both have such a huge market presence. Just not sure who else will be there.