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Thursday, October 7, 2010

The value of ebooks

I read an interesting article online yesterday about all kinds of stuff regarding changes in the publishing industry, but some of the points about ebooks really stuck. (And I suck because I'm not going digging for the link to that article. You'll just have to trust me)

The author was discussing whether or not bestselling ebooks would eventually come with a higher price tag than their hardcover editions, and whether readers would "buy it"--sorry, pun intentional. From where we stand right now, it sounds outlandish, crazy, to pay more for the intangible digital edition of a book than for the holdable, "real" (did I mention destroyable?) paper edition. But he made a good parallel:

Remember when digital music first came out, how it felt better to have that real CD in your hand... but as the formats improved, well, obviously more music is sold via download now, than on CD. Because you can do so much, easily, with a digital file--namely for use with those handy mobile music players.

So back to our parallel. Say you wanted to take 1500 songs along with you on a plane trip. Are you gonna load up your carryon with, say, 150 CDs? Or put the music on you iPod? Now say you wanta take along 50, or 100, or 1000 books....(or even 10. Even 10 books is cumbersome, especially hardcover ones). Load up your entire carryon with 10 books, or load 10 books onto a mobile reading device?

It's a different way of thinking for us "old people". But for the newer generations, I can see how they'd feel there was more value in the digital format. Plus, if they spill a soda on their hardback book, it's a mess forever. But if (in the unlikely event it can't be wiped off) that same soda messes up their ereader, yeah, it's a pain to replace... however, all their books are still on their computer, and also on their vendor account where purchased.

I visited a number of ebook vendor sites yesterday while writing some reader reviews, and one thing they all had in common: they pushed value. Good deals. Save money, membership discounts... so do I think readers at this point buy into certain publishers' attempt at pricing those bestsellers so high? Nope. Not sure it'll fly now. But maybe, if they make the change gradually, one day it might. I still have a hard time swallowing it, because the pubs are saving the print costs, and online vendors aren't taking a bigger cut than the discount treebook wholesalers get. So we'll see.

Would I pay $4 or $5 for an ebook version of a cheaper mass-market paperback (you know, the kind that fall apart after 1 reading) the same price I'd pay for it at Walmart? Probably. If it was from an author I like. At least I know the pages aren't going to fall out! Would I rather check out an ebook from the library, than its hardback or paperback edition? Certainly. At least I know if the last patron was doing something gross while reading it, they didn't leave any traces of it behind on the file...and the file isn't going to smell like... well, a number of things, but especially an ashtray. So yeah. There's definitely some value in a digital file.

Oh, and the author of that article made one more very valid point: How many music stores do you see around town these days?

Ouch. (this is where we old folks cringe, and the young folks shrug, which is what makes this post part You Know You're Getting Old When)

Piper Denna
Romance is sexy!

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