Macmillan and Amazon, pt 2

(Responses on the Macmillan/Amazon business: from Macmillan and Amazon.)

Thanks all for your comments on ebooks over here, which, along with some of the comments in the blogosphere at large, have helped clarify my own thinking on the subject. Which right now come down to:

– I still think $15 is more than I’m willing to pay for an ebook — because if for the same price I can have an ephemeral, rights-protected, can-go-away-anytime book via a still somewhat awkward reading device, or a hardcopy book I get to keep forever via a very comfortable reading device, I want the latter, though I do feel a slight twinge at the environmental cost. (ETA: It’s worth understanding that Macmillan is only proposing that $15 as a starting price, sliding over time–something I’ve known, but not been making clear in my posts–much like paperbacks being cheaper than hardcovers, their proposed pricing model includes ebooks getting cheaper over time.)

– But I’ve come to understand that a higher-than-I-want-to-pay price just might be what’s required to make an ebook profitable for the publisher, because–as I knew if I’d thought about it–paper and ink are a small part of the cost of producing a book.

– Which clarifies the fundamental challenge of producing ebooks: for many books at some points in the process, it costs more to make and distribute a ebook than that ebook is worth to most readers. And that’s the fundamental challenge we’re going to have to somehow crack to make ebooks viable. It may be by lowering the price, or by adding features, or by going to a book rental model of some sort, or something else we haven’t figured out yet (this last seems likely)–but it comes down to tackling that.

None of which changes the fact that removing all of a publisher’s books, paper and electronic because you want to pressure them into a pricing model for their electronic books in particular is not cool, and isn’t looking any less like bullying from here now than it did this weekend.

It’s a little like saying that I don’t like the price of Oreos, and so won’t carry any Nabisco products in my story until it changes. I might choose not to buy Oreos until the price comes down, but I’m not going to be happy when my squirt cheese disappears from the shelves as well, especially if the whole reason Oreos were expensive in the first place was because the chocolate harvesters wanted to be paid for their work.

All of which means I’ll keep listening, but my Amazon links probably aren’t coming back anytime soon.

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