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eBooks Nearly Outsell Print Books At Amazon

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the if-only-we-could-operate-books-using-oil dept.

Books 154

destinyland writes "Thursday Amazon.com announced that they're selling more ebooks than paperback books — and three times as many ebooks as hardcovers. If you combine their statistics into a pie chart, it shows that 45% of all the books Amazon sells are now ebooks. And Amazon's statistic doesn't include all the free ebooks people are downloading to their Kindles, so if just one user downloads a free ebook for every nine paid ebook purchases — then Amazon is already delivering more digital ebooks than they are print editions." Another reader tips an interview with Brian Altounian, CEO of ebook marketplace WOWIO, in which he discusses an encroaching feature that ebook aficionados love to hate: ads.

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154 comments

Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (2)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039354)

This is same phenomenon that has made millionaires out of many a mobile app writer. Cheaper prices per item can lead to exponentially increased sales, which leads to more market visibility, which leads to more sales, and so on and so forth. This shouldn't surprise anyone, considering the popularity of the Kindle and the costs of physical books.

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (2)

hardtofindanick (1105361) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039454)

I believe your analogy is wrong. ebook prices are not as low as you make them to be. Used books are in fact cheaper than kindle versions (libraries are full of used books too, that doesn't seem to bother anyone). Go to Amazon and compare a few books. e.g., Change We Can Believe In: Kindle: 8.09, Paperback: 8.49, Used: 3.68. But you don't have to pay shipping and you don't have to wait, it is very convenient. Combined with the curiosity factor, no wonder it ebooks caught up so fast.

This is an expected transition that was eventually going to happen.

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (3, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039562)

>>>Kindle: 8.09, Paperback: 8.49, Used: 3.68

And if you turn-around and sell the Used book to somebody else for ~$3.00, then you've really only paid 68 cents. That's why I prefer the real thing - it has resell value when I'm done with it.

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (2)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039608)

And if you turn-around and sell the Used book to somebody else for ~$3.00, then you've really only paid 68 cents.

Kindle - $8.09
Used - 0.68

Wow that is a bargain. Over 90% off the kindle price. If you read $1000 worth of books each year, you'll save over $900 buying used instead, and then selling it back via amazon's marketplace.

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (2)

xwizbt (513040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039900)

This is so true, but in practice I'm selling books on eBay for 0.99 and charging a postage rate of three times what the book is worth just to break even. That's because the postage rate for books is murder...

Why eBooks aren't priced to reflect the lack of paper, shipping and bulk is beyond me.

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (3, Informative)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040158)

You can ship books via media mail at $3.24 or if the book is light, first class for $2. Plus whatever delivery confirmation costs.

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039632)

OTOH, my wife can get 100's of romance for free.
It varies from book to book.

For example, Jim Butchers publishers are forcing the Dresdan books to be 10 bucks for the kindle version.
  That more expensive then the paperback. They are hurting the author and themselves.

Then their are other books I can get for 4.99. The industry hasn't settled down.

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (1)

fuliginous (1059354) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039662)

I've bought about 12 books for my Kindle so far and 11 of them have been priced at £0.00. So I'm with the suspicion that they are including those in the numbers for what sells the most.

And I'm disappointed with the one book I have paid for; it doesn't really fit well even in landscape so I think I'll be sticking to web pages, pdf and Gutenberg items after that one failed purchase.

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (1)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041216)

I've bought about 12 books for my Kindle so far and 11 of them have been priced at £0.00. So I'm with the suspicion that they are including those in the numbers for what sells the most.

They are explicitly not; maybe less suspicion and more fact checking next time?

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (2)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039996)

Besides the portability factor, I also like the fact that if I buy something on the kindle, I can access it from multiple devices, and if I lose the kindle I can just re-download everything.

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040132)

Hell, most new hardback books are cheaper than their ebook equivalents. It's utterly ridiculous, given the minimal amount of resources involved in producing an ebook. I own a Nook and am very happy with it. I've yet to be disappointed in the ebook prices from any of the major distributors however. It's a good thing that there are plenty of freely available public domain books out there to read through. My library selection in Calibre will keep me reading for a few years at least. ;)

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (2)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041248)

One thing to keep in mind: there aren't minimal resources required, because most of the cost of publishing a book isn't the physical manufacturing/shipping/etc; it's edition, author advances, advertising, and other processes that wouldn't disappear even if the book was exclusively digital. Granted, most books aren't - which means that these costs are spread across both physical and e-Book sales, not that e-Book copies somehow cost nothing to make. Additionally, depending on the publication process and eBook store, reformatting and edition may have to take place when converting from the files used to create the physical book and the eBook edition.

That being said, eBook prices are still unreasonable, and they ARE competing with a lot of compelling free material. Something has to give - and I think many people will be using their readers primarily for Gutenberg until (paperback-equivalent) prices drop into a saner, 4-6 dollar range.

Also, "LONG LIVE THE FIGHTERS!" - Paul Atreides, The Unfortunate Motion Picture Version of Dune's Trailer, But Not The Film Itself, Because Who Wants a Rallying Speech in an 80s SciFi Movie, AMIRITE?

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (5, Informative)

mattmarlowe (694498) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039884)

Unfortunately, amazon caved into the demands of the large publishers and is now allowing publishers to set prices. Naturally, the publishers have started to test having ebook prices of popular new releases actually be $1-2 higher than the equivalent hardcover and after the release has been out awhile reduce the ebook price to be just the same as paperback. So, in effect we move from the situation a year ago where kindle readers were receiving a discount on books and publishers could complain that the future of publishing was in peril - we now have a situation where kindle readers are being pushed as an extra money maker - kindle readers are paying a premium for fast access to books above and beyond the cost of the kindle itself. Somewhat of an interesting situation where if a kindle owner has an amazon prime account, he is actually paying amazon extra not to kill a tree and burn additional energy to send him the physical copy.

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040526)

I think it's unfortunate that they're starting out more than hardcover books, but before, were ebooks dropping in price at all?

Just like with video games (wait for Greatest Hits editions, general price lowering, or buying on eBay), movies (wait for netflix), generally I don't care that I 'had' to wait since there was plenty of other media to consume in the meantime. (The only exceptions to 'generally' I can think of are a few books I specifically buy hardcover, and those are sometimes remaindered books.)

Re:Same phenomenon as the mobile app market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35040790)

This is same phenomenon that has made millionaires out of many a mobile app writer.

[citation needed - and not the Trism guy; he doesn't count because he didn't make that money off of Trism]

Cheaper prices? (1)

withears (881576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041042)

Right now, ebooks are price fixed. You can EASILY (as in 100% of the time) find new paperbacks for much cheaper at Barnes and Nobel and Borders (as well as Amazon) and cheaper even still at Wal-Mart. Couple that with the outlay of the reader and ebooks just really don't make much sense from a purely cost perspective. Now, ereaders are pretty great and they do a lot of cool things. If those reasons compel you to buy an ereader and ebooks, then by all means jump right in. But sticking with paperback books in cheaper in EVERY case. (except for the free ereader books, of course.)

Re:Cheaper prices? (1)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041210)

  1. No, they're not price-fixed; they're priced out of the market. Being too expensive is not price-fixing.
  2. No, it's not 100%; the Kindle edition of Haruki Murakami's After the Quake is about two dollars cheaper, to pick the most recent example that I've purchased. Also, if you're into space opera or military sci-fi, Baen's e-Book store is MUCH cheaper than printed copies ($4-$6, generally - higher for brand new or pre-release stuff).
  3. I do agree that eReaders are unlikely to bring large cost savings if you don't count the vast amount of free material out there. But, well, it's kind of Vast. I mean, I've saved somewhere between $90 and $140 on out of copyright stuff that I would have bought, and I've had my Kindle for a year. Now, I might not have bought all of those, but the ones I wouldn't have bought, it's because I couldn't have FOUND copies, at least not easily. And if I was back in college, doing a Literature degree? The Kindle would have saved me money by the end of the first semester. So there are use-cases that make an eReader economical. I don't quite meet them, but four or five years ago, I would have.

Kindle owner (2)

MTTECHYBOY (799778) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039374)

I have a Kindle - love it - wish the ebook prices were lower, but who doesn't. I doubt I will ever purchase a 'old style' book again...

Re:Kindle owner (4, Insightful)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039440)

As long as the Kindle has the ability to remotely delete books, they can go fuck themself.

I will accept ads (3, Insightful)

denshao2 (1515775) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039376)

if the books are free.

Re:I will accept ads (4, Insightful)

Obyron (615547) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039492)

And I'll never buy another eBook the first time I see an ad in one. We balance out. Books are about immersion, and having ads will ruin it for me.

Re:I will accept ads (4, Funny)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040196)

The answer is of course, product placement in-line with the text. They could do this pretty easily on the back end of many books automatically.

"... all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as he opened forth his Pepsi-Cola, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it."

Re:I will accept ads (3, Insightful)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040372)

And I'll never buy another eBook the first time I see an ad in one. We balance out. Books are about immersion, and having ads will ruin it for me.

It seems like it depends critically on the presentation and content of the ads.

Many (physical) paperbacks I buy have little fall-out inserts advertising other releases by the same publisher, book clubs, etc. I don't mind these -- I glance them, sometimes read them, usually toss them out (though the mini-catalogues of other books are actually useful enough to keep in some cases). They're easily ignored, not in my face, often informative, and topical.

Ebook adverts with these same properties wouldn't be too objectionable I think.

OTOH, I imagine the likelihood of ebook publishers not screwing it up is very low -- there's this weird idea amongst publishing entities (not just books but movies, music, etc) that any change of medium means that all the rules change, that any and all conventions and lessons learned from the old medium should be tossed out, and that the new medium is carte blanche to viciously ream the consumer while bleeding him dry.

One would hope that consumers (and regulators, where appropriate) would disabuse publishers of this notion...

Re:I will accept ads (2)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041342)

You'd be surprised at how much it takes to break you out of inmersion. Try reading a short story online sometime, 99% of them have ads left and right but one is easily able to follow the narrative without ever taking a second look at them.

Kinda like the rest of the web, actually.

Keep in mind (4, Insightful)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039436)

That Amazon does not represent the entire book market - they sell to a subset of customers that don't mind getting their books online. The fact that a significant portion of those customers are equally happy with ebooks isn't exactly a revelation. There are still a lot of people out there who prefer to buy real books, whether or not the big bookstores are catering to them.

Re:Keep in mind (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039462)

um, Amazon caters to all story lovers, whether it's print or electronic. It sells a huge base of books in a wide swath if genres.

Like it or not, it's a strong market indicator

Yes, there will always be book lovers. People who think the value in reading is the number books on their shelves.

I pity them.

Re:Keep in mind (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039734)

Well, when Amazon decides to delete a book you aren't supposed to have, the people with the physical copy will still have it.

They've done it before, I have no doubt they'll do it again at some point.

Re:Keep in mind (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039878)

Well, when Amazon decides to delete a book you aren't supposed to have, the people with the physical copy will still have it.

They've done it before, I have no doubt they'll do it again at some point.

Unless you have stolen the book, there is no such thing as "a book you aren't supposed to have".

Re:Keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35040126)

Yes, there will always be book lovers.

Certainly, but "book lovers" is not defined as:

People who think the value in reading is the number books on their shelves.

Re:Keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35041034)

For those of us who do a lot of reading in mathematics (among other subjects), being able to refer to 3 or 4 esoteric books on the subject at the same time is very useful.

Then there are those people who think the value in reading is the number of electronic gadgets they can use for the purpose. I pity them.

Re:Keep in mind (1)

Troll-Under-D'Bridge (1782952) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041088)

Semantic nazi here. You used the word "book" in two different senses in your post: (1) books as something you read whatever the medium (e.g. when Amazon "sells a huge base of books" whether "print or electronic) and (2) books as something you treasure as an artifact, whether you read it or not (e.g. coffee-table books).

As for me, I belong to the first category. People who bewail the demise of the individually bound physical book should remember that the "book" was itself a replacement for older forms of reading media, which included the scroll and the clay tablet.

I draw the line however at multimedia apps that resemble a newspaper from the Harry Potter universe. We should differentiate between the act of largely decoding symbols and that of viewing moving images. The first I would call reading, the latter pornography.

Re:Keep in mind (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039568)

is that why i see tons of kindles everywhere i go?

Re:Keep in mind (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039598)

They should purchase the newest version of the kindle, it's lighter.

Re:Keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35039890)

HAHA - wish I had mod points

Honestly though, I was shocked how much more I like the new kindle. Got the old one for a birthday present (the white 3g one). I got my mom the new one (with just wifi) - she liked the old 3g one more, so I let her have that one and I kept the new one. ANYWAY... the new one has incremental improvements on everything (contrast, screen refresh speed, size, weight, battery, and I prefer the wifi), and it all adds up to a much more impressive improvement than I ever thought it'd be. I wasn't expecting to like it any more than the old one, but I do... lot's more!

Re:Keep in mind (1)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041262)

I love my second gen, but looking at the third gen, I have to say - getting rid of the goddamned stick has to be almost worth the price of admission all on its own. Seriously, I can't count the number of accidental deletions that thing has caused.

Re:Keep in mind (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039702)

There are still a lot of people out there who prefer to buy real books, whether or not the big bookstores are catering to them.

But you have totally hand waived the story away!?!

Similar results are shown by Barnes and Noble [itworld.com], which actually has more titles than Amazon.

Ebooks are already nearly outselling Dead Tree Books, and the trend is only getting started. Ereader penetration is far from being mainstream. Yet the most avid readers seem to be adopting the devices at an astounding rate.

Borders and Books-a-Million have also added eReaders. Its not a trend you can dismiss lightly. Just as the family photos have disappeared from the shoebox in the closet into digital storage that may die at any given instant, the family library acquired over generations is headed for extinction as well.

Re:Keep in mind (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040194)

Not to mention that they are the primary source for Kindle books. My mom gave my dad a kindle last year, so he started using Amazon to buy all his e-books instead of getting print books from the local Barnes & Noble.

Re:Keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35040496)

Not to mention that they are the primary source for Kindle books. My mom gave my dad a kindle last year, so he started using Amazon to buy all his e-books instead of getting print books from the local Barnes & Noble.

We did the opposite. Got B&N Nook readers because it was more supportive of open formats. We read a lot of Gutenberg books around here. Considering Amazon's "1984 Moment" and their recent WikiLeaks actions, that was a good move. I've changed my book and media purchase ratio from 66% Amazon/33% B&N to 99% B&N and 1% Amazon.

I read a LOT of open-source documents, both fiction and tech manuals, so the only real objection I have to the way the Nook handles it is the fact that you can't pull them directly the way you can stuff from the B&N store.

My house is ready to explode from books. And I almost always bought paperbacks because they're smaller (and, of course cheaper). But I figured I'd try the actual B&N eBook store just to see how it worked. One less physical book. After I bought it, I realized that I can't pass it around the house the way we do "real" books. And, while B&N does have a "lend an eBook" program, this book isn't one of the relatively few that are in it. So the book is inherently less valuable than a physical book.

I can at least console myself with this: the book is a PDF, hence has a known document format. PDF's can be cracked if B&N stops supporting them. So insofar as any DRM object can be considered "mine", this book is.

Re:Keep in mind (1)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041294)

If you're reading primarily Gutenberg and other open documents, there's not really a practical difference there (a principle difference is fine, of course). Their 1984 moment (which was forced by the publisher, legally the correct action, and reversed basically immediately) wouldn't have affected your Gutenberg books, because you don't buy them through Amazon, and their recall only applies to books with their DRM.

Again, if it's just "Amazon were dicks, yo," 100% with you there. Although, given that e-Book sales are largely handled under licensing law, rather than sales, it's hard to come up with something else Amazon could do, really.

I've got a similar problem with exploding house syndrome - although I haven't had your problems with passing the book around. Me and my wife (and my roommate, come to think of it) have Kindles, and so out-of-copyright stuff is actually more convenient - we don't have to wait for the first person to finish the book.

I feel like I'm coming off as if I'm way more critical of your points here than I actually mean to be - I mostly agree with your conclusions, just not all of your premises. One thing I do disagree with strongle is that an eBook is "inherently" less valuable than a physical book. It's value is different - it's higher convenience in some ways, lower in others. You can't lend it (if it has DRM), but you can also re-download it if the file gets lost. You don't have the physical object (item fetish), but you also don't have the physical object (space clogger). It's an apples/oranges comparison. I think the industry is complicit with making it LOOK like an Apples/Apples comparison, though - lending, attachment to physical stores, and other features are meant to make eBooks seem like an exact analogue to physical books; but they aren't. Even with DRM free books, the qualities of and rights attached to what you're buying are radically different than the rights and qualities attached to a physical book. You're not buying, you're licensing, and it has to be that way, to a certain extent.

By the way, if "cracked" is your "mine" criteria, the DRM on both Kindle and Nook are quite thoroughly broken, and reasonably easy tools for doing so are freely available. And seriously, no part of this is meant to be offensive or mean - I think you make a lot of good points, and I'm trying to talk coherently with you. Which I probably shouldn't be trying to do at 2 in the morning after a 12 hour work/school day.

Re:Keep in mind (1)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041050)

Actually, I recently bought a Kindle, but up to now have purchased most books at bookstores (excluding textbooks & obscure stuff). I've been planning on switching to an eReader for a while, but was waiting for the price to drop (which it finally has). Anyways, eBooks are real books. The book is the content, not the delivery mechanism. You lose some things (loaning the book out), but gain quite a bit (try reading a novel w/ thick gloves on while waiting for a train in the freezing cold).

Sure, This Month... (1)

severoon (536737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039482)

...but when they finally ship all those backordered copies of Knuth's 4th volume, ebooks may never recover. Wait, is TAoCP available on e-book? Hang on, brb...

No ads (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039502)

Putting ads in ebooks would totally kill my interest in buying ebooks - and I'm a Kindle owner. If they start putting ads in there, I will sell my Kindle on eBay. I suspect inserting ads would kill the nascent ebook market.

It's not like eBooks are a new product - they're just a repackaged offering of a product that's been sold for years and years. I've got lots of paper books, and they don't contain ads... with the exception of occasionally hawking another title by the same author.

Re:No ads (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039574)

If the books I want to read for free, and the included a small ad at the beginning of every chapter, I wouldn't mind.

Hell, it could be an ad holder page that gets update with adds every 6 months.

Re:No ads (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039706)

I am going to guess that it will be a long time / rare event if you ever see a ad in a novel.

A magazine on the other hand.

And yes, I know the argument that people will pay for ad free content – except they don’t. The number of add free magazine is rare [Consumer Report – anything else?] because so few people are willing to shell out the extra dollars that advertisers will.

Re:No ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35040684)

If the books I want to read for free, and the included a small ad at the beginning of every chapter, I wouldn't mind.

You won't get good ad-supported e-books for "free". Not for long. If you put up with ads now, the model will evolve to "pay us a lot of money for the product, and we'll spam you mercilessly anyway" - just as it has at the movie theaters, and with cable TV.

Re:No ads (1)

grking (965233) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039844)

I suspect inserting ads would kill the nascent ebook market.

We did jailbreak our Kindle's for some other reason than to replace the screensavers didn't we? AdBlock FTW!

How things have changed (1)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039504)

In the days of Kenneth Starr [wikimedia.org] and the Monika Lewinski "The Skank Kept The Nasty Dress" Investigation, people were livid and up-in-arms when Lewinsky's book-purchasing records were sought [wikimedia.org].

Now all you need to do is give Amazon a few pennies and call yourself an "advertiser".

How times have changed.

This is a tragedy. (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039538)

The money spent on ebooks should be donated to libraries to buy those exact same ebooks. The books could then be shared.

It is a tragedy that this is not happening.

Re:This is a tragedy. (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039746)

The money spent on ebooks should be donated to libraries to buy those exact same ebooks. The books could then be shared.

It is a tragedy that this is not happening.

What possible justification could there be for depriving an author of their money in order to donate to libraries? Even fewer sales over all because you insist they stock the libraries with their sales revenue?

Re:This is a tragedy. (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039886)

It's a common place for people to learn. It's needed for a literate society. It's a great place for young readers to find new authors. And it enhance sales overall.

And it'd not 'depriving' anyone of anything.

Re:This is a tragedy. (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039976)

Every single thing you said is false in the digital world.

Its not a common place for people to learn. Library patronage is falling fast.

Its no longer needed for a literate society. We have thousands of book stores, the Internet, and millions of totally free ebooks.

Finding new authors? ---> Google.

Enhances sales? Suppresses sales you mean.

And libraries deprive authors of thousands of royalties.

So wrong on 100% of your points. A case can be made that libraries in the digital age serve precisely one purpose, and that is to assure continued availability of works unpopular with the State or the Church or the general times.

Its an unpopular view, but never the less, libraries have largely outlived their general usefulness.

Re:This is a tragedy. (1)

Michael Wardle (50363) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040408)

If I can borrow a book for free from a library, why would I buy it?

If nobody buys the books, what is the incentive for someone to write one?

Re:This is a tragedy. (1)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040962)

This is hardly a tragedy. Considering how many books range from cheap to free on the Kindle, it makes libraries redundant.

Close the libraries and use the money to subsidize the purchase of readers for a town's residents and school children. The next itteration of basic eBooks will most likely drop below $100. Once that happens print sales will be decimated.

Re:This is a tragedy. (2)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041314)

So, how does this argument not apply to paper books? In fact, it's actually a better argument for paper books, because most libraries have long practice in being very convenient to borrow paper books from, whereas most eBook lending programs aren't very convenient at all; usually they're so rights-encumbered that they give up most of the advantages of being digital copies.

I'm a grad student for Library and Information Science, in my last semester. While it's great when people contribute to libraries, it's not a tragedy when they buy books for themselves.

the ebook ripoff (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35039586)

Am i the only one who finds ebooks to be a complete ripoff? I received a kindle for christmas and was completely floored by the fact that most amazon ebooks are $10+! I can go to a half price books and get the book in paperback and sometimes hard back for the same cost or less in most cases. The fact that I'm expected to pay the same for a product with zero manufacuturing costs as a physical "it's mine" copy is outlandish.

Re:the ebook ripoff (5, Informative)

QCompson (675963) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039816)

As I understand it, soon after the ipad was introduced, most book publishers renegotiated their contract with amazon and B&N. The retail chains had acted previously like a normal brick and mortar store and could set their own prices for ebooks, but after the renegotiation they switched to the "agency model" which lets the publisher set the price. Amazon and B&N have no control over ebook prices now, they only receive a certain percentage of the profits.

As a result, prices skyrocketed nearly overnight. The last 4 or 5 books I have been interested in buying have been more expensive as ebooks than in hardover or paperback form. So yes, it is a complete ripoff. Especially since you don't really own the ebooks you purchase and cannot lend them easily or sell them.

Re:the ebook ripoff (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039880)

Well the argument is (I don't totally believe it myself) that the actual printing and distribution of paper books is so cheap these days that it makes up only a small percentage of the costs.

The cost of editing, ebook creation, and Author's Royalties account for the price of an Ebook. The difference in price between a hard cover (or paperback) and an ebook is the printing and distributional costs.

Take any popular book such as Steven Kings "Under the Dome" [barnesandnoble.com] and compare prices. Ebook 10, Paperback 12, Hardcover 20).

If you wait a year or more the price diverges even more in favor of the ebook. Sometimes the prices are upside down, with ebooks being higher than print. Usually this does not last beyond 9 months after release.

Now what you pay for a second hand book is entirely another matter. The author gets none of that money, and neither does the publisher. You have arguably arrived at the social value of the underlying literary work as all profit has been paid previously and stripped off.

The reason one buys older books in ebook format is for convenience, and not having to line ones walls with shelves against the day you may want to re-read the work, or to avoid having to carry around a mountain of paperbacks.

For those who want to read once, and not retain anything, used paperbacks are the way to go. For those who think an author's work is worth paying for, paperbacks or ebooks make the most sense. For collectors: hard covers.

But in no case can you make the claim that an ebook has zero manufacturing costs.

Re:the ebook ripoff (1)

QCompson (675963) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039952)

Take any popular book such as Steven Kings "Under the Dome" [barnesandnoble.com] and compare prices. Ebook 10, Paperback 12, Hardcover 20).

Check out a current bestseller, "Fall of Giants" by Ken Follet. [barnesandnoble.com] It's more expensive as an ebook than in hardcover!

Re:the ebook ripoff (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039992)

I addressed this above.

This is strictly a temporal imbalance due to the way paper books are marketed when the the work is a new AND a best seller. Somebody has to pay for all that travel to book signings, the speaking engagements, etc.

After the hype wears down, the price straightens out.

Re:the ebook ripoff (1)

QCompson (675963) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040180)

It doesn't have to be new AND a best seller. Just one or the other is enough apparently.

Behold a $12.99 ebook of a novel written in 1968: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/True-Grit/Charles-Portis/e/9781590206508/?itm=4&USRI=true+grit [barnesandnoble.com]

Note the paperback is $7.93. No one has to pay for Charles Portis' book signings or speaking engangements. I fail to see why ebook prices should be above paper book prices any time they might be popular. Should that be the selling point of ebook readers? That you can buy older books which aren't popular for slightly cheaper than their paper versions?

Re:the ebook ripoff (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040248)

True enough, New is not always necessary.

In this case the movie is certainly driving the hype. This book was out of print for 20 years and this edition was released only because of the potential for movie driven sales. So in a way it is still New, as it was published on November 2010.

Re:the ebook ripoff (1)

QCompson (675963) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040380)

So they are essentially just driving up ebook prices to try and make a money grab. Otherwise the movie tie-in paperback would be just as expensive. Seems like a pretty clear rip-off.

Re:the ebook ripoff (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040500)

Welcome to America.

You will find it different here than the jungle hut you used to live in. Here people do things for money. Since you work for free, you might not notice this. But don't tell Charles Portis he is ripping you off by selling you a book. (Yes, he's still alive and collecting royalties).

One might ask why there was even a remake of True Grit. Must be just a clear rip off.

Re:the ebook ripoff (2)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039988)

Am i the only one who finds ebooks to be a complete ripoff? I received a kindle for christmas and was completely floored by the fact that most amazon ebooks are $10+! I can go to a half price books and get the book in paperback and sometimes hard back for the same cost or less in most cases. The fact that I'm expected to pay the same for a product with zero manufacuturing costs as a physical "it's mine" copy is outlandish.

Can you carry 1000 books in your pocket?

You're paying for other things when you buy a Kindle book - mostly, convenience. You can carry many books at once and access them from anywhere, even without the Kindle device present (they have a PC/Android/iOS app that syncs your library and last read page).

If the Kindle were cheaper, I may even be willing to pay *extra* for books. I've got several books I'm reading right now and I hate having them all over the place.

You also get books instantly. You can get books from a bookstore pretty much instantly too (depending on your proximity to a book store), but they cost more at a bookstore - because you're paying for convenience.

I recently paid almost 3 times the "shipped from online" Barnes and Noble price for a book to buy at a B&N store because I wanted to start reading it that night.

Its interesting actually:
The book (ReWork - though I don't exactly recommend it, turns out) is:
(all prices from B&N since they have a brick and mortar and online store)
$7.47 Paperback online (on sale from $9.00)
$9.02 Nook edition
$12.91 Hardcover online
$21 (approx, from memory) in store hardcover price

I paid $21 for the book because I wanted it that night. Compared to the digital version, I spent an extra $12, or 8.5% of a kindle (I'd rather have a Kindle than a Nook)

I'd miss the smell of a good book, that's for sure, but otherwise, as long as it can't be DRM'ed out of existence, I wouldn't mind paying the same or even more for a Kindle version.

-Taylor

Re:the ebook ripoff (1)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040016)

Err, I was looking at the wrong item - there is no paperback, that was an MP3 Audiobook price. Everything else is fine.

Re:the ebook ripoff (4, Interesting)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040546)

Welcome to capitalism.

Buy things you think are worth the price, don't buy things you don't. The market will respond.

As for me, I agree with you 100% and I've been a Kindle owner for years now. This has lead me down the path of trying new Authors who are trying to build a name for themselves. They do it by offering lower priced books, or even giving away the first book in a series.

It's been great!

Re:the ebook ripoff (3)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040598)

Also, let's correct this quote in the summary: "they're selling more ebook licenses than paperback books". Give me a real book I can lend/sell/give away.

Re:the ebook ripoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35041018)

Not to mention zero resale value, zero ability to give to a friend once you're done with it, essentially zero lending capability (2 weeks once in the lifetime of the book is a joke). I only use my Kindle for free (out-of-copyright) books.

Not believable (1)

Flector (1702640) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039610)

What does the average eBook sell for?

Re:Not believable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35039736)

over 9000

Re:Not believable (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039868)

It's all over the board, from free(a lot of romance) to 10 bucks like The Dresden Files.

It's hard to find a generic average that will have any meaning what so ever.

And yes, it's very believable. It turns out something I have been saying for years is true. Most readers don't use the books on their shelfs as some kind of score card. Kindle is a light weight reader that's extremely convenient and handy.

Not yet for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35039618)

Ebooks (one would hope) are never out of print. Far less floorspace needs to be dedicated to bookshelves, and no books have to be stored in boxes in the garage for lack of space.

However, I don't want to lose my library when the reader breaks or the publisher flips the kill switch. I will keep my hardcopies until ebooks are sold in, say, an unobfuscated XML format. (In fact, ebooks might finally provide a justifiable reason for XML to exist!)

Re:Not yet for me (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039828)

However, I don't want to lose my library when the reader breaks or the publisher flips the kill switch. I will keep my hardcopies until ebooks are sold in, say, an unobfuscated XML format. (In fact, ebooks might finally provide a justifiable reason for XML to exist!)

A good reason to strip the DRM off your ebooks - as is recalling what happened to the music libraries of people when their preferred vendor (e.g. Walmart) decided to exit the digital music business.

When I purchase a Kindle book, the first thing I do is strip the DRM off, then copy the file over to the same hard drive my ripped (purchased!) DVDs are on. That drive gets backed up regularly, so I figure I'm covered. The only downside is certain formats - like the "Topaz" format Amazon uses for a minority of books - don't seem to be transparently "strippable".

Re:Not yet for me (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039926)

XML is overkill for books. Its a case of the only tool you have being a hammer causing you to look at every problem as if it were a nail.

A simple text file is all that you need. An epub is not much more than a packaged web page.

In any event none of these survive a hard drive crash. Hang on to your hard copy books.

Percentages do not exist without pie charts (2)

mauddib~ (126018) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039798)

Interesting, it seems that nowadays we suddenly first have to put numbers into a pie chart, before we can see what percentage it has. This seems like primary school knowledge to me.

Do you assume we're all idiots? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35039808)

Why do I need to put it into a pie chart to recognize the significance?

I don't care. (1)

RobbieThe1st (1977364) | more than 3 years ago | (#35039832)

Personally, I will buy books when I see them at the local used bookstore, or I can't find a gopd online version. As far as ebooks go, I will buy one when I find something I -really want-, cheap enough, in a drm free/strippable format; Something that's convertable to HTML/text/ePUB for viewing on my N900 via FBReader. The one eBook I've bought so far was in an Adobe PDF-based format... Never doing that again. It was DRMed, didn't allow printing/copying, and I couldn't find a stripper for that type, sadly. Recently, I've been simply looking at free "online novels", and I've found some excellent material - Sure, you may see occasional errors, but you don't have to worry about a book getting cut short by the publisher.

really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35039932)

i have a hard time believing this...i could probably count the number of times i've seen an e-reader in "the wild" on my hands

The whole idea about books (1)

Flector (1702640) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040058)

You write your initials and day you finished it on or near the title page. Long after you're gone, somebody will read it.

May be selling lots of ebooks, not lots of Kindles (2)

itwbennett (1594911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040198)

Amazon is quick to talk up exactly how many ebooks it has sold, but the company won't disclose how many Kindles it has sold [itworld.com] (it just says 'millions'). Ryan Faas thinks that 'one reason that Amazon may be enjoying this level of success and yet be unwilling to disclose how many actual devices it has sold is that many of those ebook sales may not be tied to actual Kindle devices.' By making the Kindle a platform that can be run on just about anything, Amazon has positioned itself to rake in ebook sales even if it can't move Kindle hardware in vast quantities, says Faas.

Replace those record albums with CDs! (2)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040242)

Is this real?

A manipulation from Amazon would be nothing new, and this one costs them nothing and has the potential to create a profitable trend. Those Jonses and their Kindles.

But whatever. Let's take it at face value. . .

All those people who got an iPad thingy for Christmas are eager to try it out and never ever get bored with their cool new Buzz Lightyear.

So yeah, they're going to buy media, because that's the whole premise of the device. You don't get a Buzz Lightyear and *not* click his wings open a bunch of times.

And the same way everybody had to replace their album collections with CDs, there is a market spike as new media is adopted.

The question is. . . Will it stick, or is this just another digital watch?

Well, let's consider. . , all those iPads were bought at around the same time. But their batteries will wear out according to usage, and when your digital book stops holding a charge for long enough. . , do you replace it? Was the experience good enough for you? Can you port all your purchased 'books' over to a new reader easily? Do you have to stay brand-loyal just to read your stuff? Will there be law-suits forcing personal library porting because Apple is the new anti-competitive demon? Will people even care? (Do you still have all the same crap you downloaded from Napster or have you moved on, secure in the knowledge that all that old music is basically free any time you want it? Or are you willing to pay a buck to play it on your iPod?)

Will owning an eReader of some sort be like owning a car? Or a phone? Considered a basic necessity just so you can access your stuff?

Maybe.

I think eReaders are probably here to stay, and they will probably be a viable income source for publishers, but I wouldn't let all that limelight blind you. Paper ain't going away. It's just going to have to share.

Remember: Theater never died. There's a half dozen full stages within a ten minute walk from my place, and they're all booked regularly.

-FL

Amazon still sells physical stuff? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040280)

Last time I used Amazon (which I now avoid like the plague) I was unable to buy a product from them. I was able to find plenty of products sold by someone else ON Amazon, but not actually anything sold from Amazon themselves.

Seems too me they've been outsourcing all the physical items for years anyway and just taking a cut and the tax breaks. I don't really see how you can use this as a useful measurement.

Yes, Amazon, which is doing everything in its power to not ship physical items and move its core business to moving bits of data around is selling fewer physical books than ebooks.

Tesla Motors has sold more all electric cars than it has gasoline powered cars ... yet that has absolutely nothing in relation to the gasoline car market does it?

licensing, not buying (5, Informative)

seifried (12921) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040370)

You are licensing the eBook. Not buying it.

Amazon recalls (and embodies) Orwell's '1984' [cnet.com]

Re:licensing, not buying (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040510)

What kind of licence gives you your money back after you're done with it?

Re:licensing, not buying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35040640)

You are right and something is going to have to change. There is something wrong with "selling" these digital products when the rights that the purchasers have is more limited than in buying a tangible product. Placing an "e" in front of the product (e.g. "ebook") is insufficient (IMHO) from distinguishing these from the rights a consumer has when buying a book.

A book falls under the first sale doctrine and the consumer can give or sell that book to a third-party. Currently that's not allowed with an ebook. The license prohibits resale or giving the ebook away; DMCA further prohibits any technological work-around to give or sell that ebook to a third-party.

So... the question (I believe) is to see what is going to change: (1) publishers accurately advertising these as "life-time rental" instead of "buying" (a class action suit will eventually bring this about); (2) statutory clarification / modification to apply first sale doctrine to digital content that is "sold" (regardless of whether we're calling it a license or not); (3) case law to prohibit use of DMCA against consumers asserting rights in digital material that they've "bought"; or (4) a combination of these.

This is a clusterf*** of forces coming together in an interesting way and although consumers are currently getting screwed over the smart publisher will become the market leader by modifying their license agreements and DRM limitations to provide some type of pseudo-first sale doctrine capabilities ... they've already conceded the need to allow libraries to participate in digital content.

Re:licensing, not buying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35040756)

did you link the rest of that story? where they returned them all with apologies?

What I haven't seen (1)

Wansu (846) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040436)

... is someone coming out of a restroom stall with a kindle or an iPad. Over the decades, I've seen plenty of people taking hard copies of books to the toilet.

Re:What I haven't seen (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35040696)

Ever tried wiping with an iPad?

Re:What I haven't seen (1)

R4nneko (1194727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040972)

I don't know about you, but the kindle fits in my pocket (only just, but it does)...

ads without DRM? (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35040518)

The WOWIO interview left me with a lot of questions, and those weren't cleared up by the very brief info [wowio.com] on wowio's web site. As far as I can tell, they sell DRM-free books with ads in them, give 100% of the purchase price to the author, and keep 100% of the ad revenue for themselves. What I don't quite understand about this is what's stopping someone from writing software that simply strips the ads out of a WOWIO book. There's also the question of what WOWIO sees as the service they provide to authors and/or readers. As a reader, what service are they providing me that I couldn't get by buying a book directly from the author? Do they filter submissions at all? As an author, what are they doing for me that I couldn't do by selling directly to readers? I doubt that any significant nuber of readers browses WOWIO looking for books to read.

not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35040872)

I recently got a kindle, and i love it. This is even though i don't like the page turn button placement.

People harp on about there being 'something about paper books' like they couldn't possibly lower themselves to read e-ink... but with a kindle i can download any book almost instantly. Free books, "free" books, and $ebooks from amazon are available to me on the internet and I don't have to browse a store with a limited and overpriced range. I'm reading way way more with my kindle than i was without - and i don't have a big bunch of paper books to lug around when i move.

Paper books are nice, but the convenience of an ebook reader far far far outweighs them.
Also I'd obviously prefer a good open source alternative, but kindle has the best hardware and price from what i can see. I highly recommend e-ink readers to anyone considering, best purchase I've made in yonks. And i dunno what the cutoff point is before its environmentally better than paper books but im sure its realistic, anyone know it?

Ads in ebooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35041202)

It's really simple. Ads in and I am out.

Intersting Experience (1)

$0.02 (618911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35041234)

Back in September I went (from USA) to Bosnia for a two weeks and both a Kobo reader so I do not get bored in the plane and airport in a case of a flight delay. It came pre-populted with 100 public domain classics. Many of the I have not read before. I was reading every day for almost a month before I needed to recharge.

Howver, I have not bought a single eBook yet. Why? I'm reading History of the Fall of Roman Emprie. I have not finished it yet. There are a way more books on it that I wish I would read had I have more time. My wife and I carpool. So I keep the reader in the car and read when waiting for her to finish her work. So that is great. But there will pass a lot of time before I read a set of books from the reader that I intend to.

So, there is a big difference between an eBook and an mp3. An mp3 last for few minutes and probably you are bored with it after listening to it for one hundred or so time but it takes a long time before you finish a book.

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