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DRM Lawsuit Filed By Independent Bookstores Against Amazon, "Big Six" Publishers

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the do-not-read-list dept.

Google 155

concealment writes "Three independent bookstores are taking Amazon and the so-called Big Six publishers (Random House, Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan) to court in an attempt to level the playing field for book retailers. If successful, the lawsuit could completely change how ebooks are sold. The class-action complaint, filed in New York on Feb 15., claims that by entering into confidential agreements with the Big Six publishers, who control approximately 60 percent of print book revenue in the U.S., Amazon has created a monopoly in the marketplace that is designed to control prices and destroy independent booksellers."

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155 comments

Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42974325)

Prices for most ebooks from amazon are priced correctly. best sellers being 15$ where a hardcover is 32.... raise that 15 and watch piracy skyrocket.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42974381)

I hope you're joking. $15 for any fiction ebook is not a sound business model. I'd buy a good ebook for $5, but not $15.

I can only accept prices like that for certain kinds of non-fiction works where the market is smaller and the production/compilation effort is way higher.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (5, Insightful)

pwizard2 (920421) | about a year ago | (#42974461)

Even $5 is too much for a ebook unless it's brand new. I can buy a dead-tree version of a paperback novel for less than that if I wait until it's on the clearance rack or get it secondhand. A dead tree book has to be printed, bound, and shipped someplace and there are inherent production costs. A file can be replicated an infinite number of times so there's no cost involved in production after the publisher has paid someone to convert the original text to pdf, epub, or mobi format (unless you count the cost of bandwidth, which is negligible). Everything they make on ebook sales is pure profit.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (3, Interesting)

pwizard2 (920421) | about a year ago | (#42974593)

Addendum: The only way I'd agree to pay $5 for an ebook is if most of it is going to the author (not the publisher). The author did the work so they deserve to get paid more than the middle man does. If the publisher is going to take all the profit, then piss on 'em. Otherwise, 99 cents for a DRM-free ebook in the format of my choice sounds fair to me.

Re: Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42974719)

I disagree. You obviously need to spend more time with pre-edited books- most novels before editing are barely readable. The editors work for the publisher, who also promotes the book and acquires the copyright in most cases.

As long as the author was getting at least a third I'd be ok.

Re: Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (3, Insightful)

Meski (774546) | about a year ago | (#42975409)

I disagree. You obviously need to spend more time with pre-edited books- most novels before editing are barely readable.

Sadly true. Authors that are capable of self editing are a tiny minority. Five dollars would be a good price for the conditions attached to eBooks, that are not attached to dead-tree books. (not able to gift/sell the ebook when you're done with it, and with device specific DRM attached to it (I know, DRM is trivial to remove, but it's there))

Re: Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2)

peterhudson (2843243) | about a year ago | (#42977975)

The idea of the conditions attached to ebooks over dead tree books is what lead to the idea for (full disclosure: this is my company) eYourBooks [eyourbooks.com]. The idea of bundling an ebook (for convenience) with a paper book (for countless other important reasons e.g. first sale doctrine), isn't new. But ebook bundling so far has only been at the point of sale. We're hoping to allow somebody to buy (or get for free) an ebook by proving they own the real book using their smart phone *after* the point of sale. So in theory, you could buy a real book from a used book store bargain bin, get the ebook for free (or well below "new" ebook price) and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Re: Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

halltk1983 (855209) | about a year ago | (#42978907)

My ebook library will be the size of my local library's collection! Mwahahahahaha!

Re: Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#42975761)

> the publisher, who also promotes the book

You're funny.

A publisher actually doing promotion. That's hilarious.

Now editors are useful, just not nearly as valuable in terms of $$$ as publishers want you to think they are.

Re: Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | about a year ago | (#42977181)

I wonder if Microsoft would try and get their cut based on the spelling and grammar correction in Word.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#42974721)

Except that it's much, much easier to prepare a book for print than it is to prepare an eBook. Preparing a book for electronic publishing is a bit like designing a web page in the mid-1990s, except that there are a lot more eBook reader vendors than there were browser vendors. Each one has its own set of quirks, some of which are... shall we say rather sizable sets. A single copy of your content has to look at least acceptable when used with all of those readers.

As much as I swear about the amount of time it took to create several thousand lines of custom LaTeX macros when designing the print edition of my novels, it pales compared with the amount of time I've spent on EPUB, MOBI, and KF8 versions. It has taken at least an order of magnitude more work, and that's a conservative estimate.

In addition to working around all the reader bugs, you'll also find yourself swearing at the lack of good fonts that can legally be distributed in such an easily opened format, particularly if you are distributing your books DRM-free. A big chunk of my time has been spent taking existing SIL-licensed fonts and redesigning parts of them so that they actually look acceptable. That's a lot harder than it looks.

Finally, the tools out there for doing electronic publishing leave much to be desired, particularly when it comes to working around all the aforementioned reader bugs. The folks working with major commercial design packages are having just as much trouble as those of us who are writing our own tools from scratch—maybe even more so, given that they don't have an easy way to fix bugs in their tools.

If my time has any value, I can't foresee a future in which the electronic versions of my trilogy of novels ever break even. I'd have to clear at least a couple hundred grand. That's a heck of a lot of books at ten bucks apiece (of which the publisher gets a lot less than ten bucks). Perhaps in ten years, when the technology has improved dramatically, eBook sales will be pure profit. Today, however, except for very, very basic transfers that eschew formatting altogether, I'd imagine that most eBooks are loss leaders.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42975173)

Sounds like there is a ripe market for good e-book production tools.

Tangentially, cooperation is more effective than individual effort, and competing means defeating. Because of this, every business in the world is directly incited to form cartels with its peers and destroy any businesses that threaten their gravy train. That is simply how humans work, and hence how businesses work.

We espouse capitalism as fundamentally noble and correct, and then use such acrimonious language when the winners do exactly what it takes to win. I am not saying the alternatives are any better, nor am I saying we should just let the wealthy do as they please. I just can't help but be amused at these direct contradictions in the foundations of our most advanced societies.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42975243)

We espouse capitalism as fundamentally noble and correct

Capitalism.. noble.. yes, I can see it. A small privileged elite with all the money and power that leave the rest to slave away for them. Sounds like capitalism to me.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42975591)

That is more of a consequence of capitalism than a definition.

Private ownership of businesses, a free market, open competition for goods, services, and employment. These are the elements of capitalism.

These elements, when applied, lead directly to monopolism, anti-competitive behavior, market abuse, and a small elite rich class that exploits a large poor class that finds itself surrounded by unattainable symbols of wealth and an in-theory-but-not-in-practice chance to earn great wealth.

Of course, you get this consequence with any system that involves humans having power over other humans, with the possible exception that some systems don't provide even a theoretical means of upward social mobility to the masses.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

RocketRabbit (830691) | about a year ago | (#42975211)

No, no it's not easier to prepare an eBook than a paper book. That's patently ridiculous.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42975959)

I am pretty impressed by your adroit reading comprehension.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (3, Interesting)

RocketRabbit (830691) | about a year ago | (#42976111)

It was sarcasm. How anybody could actually think that making an electronic book is more complicated or difficult than bringing a real book to press is beyond me. Logic alone will inform you of the correctness of this.

Ebooks go through absolutely no more preparation, at the worst case, than a normal paper book goes through before the press even gets the file.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42975223)

I personally use calibre's built in conversion tools to produce fairly decent readable .epub files from anything I want - it seems to work really well and gives me basically no hassle with anything I've fed it so far.

Re: Creating a program (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42975403)

One would figure, someone would have created a program to scan existing printed books and then convert them to into e-reader formats. The only problem or issues with such a program is, quality of the pages, some pages are not (obviously) as clear as the white background on your computer monitor, nor would the lettering be very crisp. So a program would have to solve these problems automatically, or it would still need done by hand but the process to convert to e-readers would become much faster. But the program would have options to change to fonts, and clear/smooth over the background, or just simple replace it.

I am not good at programming, and maybe you have already tried to find or tried to get a programmer to do this, but if not you and other authors should try to find some programmer(s). Even some to program up a better way to write e-books. I am not sure how the writing of an e-book happens or how easy/hard it is, just a really lame suggestion on my part.

Re: Creating a program (1)

bitingduck (810730) | about a year ago | (#42977269)

There are many such devices. If you want low error rates and pages that don't get torn, they're not cheap.

Re: Creating a program (1)

DKlineburg (1074921) | about a year ago | (#42977727)

We are not talking about old works, we are talking new works. I fail to see how it is hard to "export to pdf". That is cheap, easy, prints well, and only uses adobe software. I think you can get ones that export word, excel, probably open office too. It is cheap enough for me as an individual who doesn't do it for his job to own a legal copy. Just because the companies made a giant DRM machine that is hard to use isn't our fault.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year ago | (#42975467)

Except that it's much, much easier to prepare a book for print than it is to prepare an eBook. ... Perhaps in ten years, when the technology has improved dramatically, eBook sales will be pure profit.

Paper books also require storage (particularly if you are dealing with large amounts) can be damaged in transit at any point (to/from retailer)... and a book that ultimately fails to sell is a total loss

Seems like eBooks should be much cheaper than paper books and often they are not. Your argument about the preparation-to-print expense makes sense for a relatively small release, but not for anyone operating in bulk, since that cost is completely independent of how many books you end up selling.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42975469)

I'm writing a book myself and I'm not expecting to make money off it. However I'd love to do so. I think the point everybody is trying to make is the technology is broken. It shouldn't cost so much. There shouldn't be DRM content, there should be a standard, sales of such books should be going directly to the authors minus a tiny share to somebody for marketing/design/editing. The book stores which are profitable should be those that take a stake in the books they carry. If you carry everything then it'll be difficult for users to navigate. If you carry a select set of *good* books you'll be able to make a bit of profit (maybe even just pennies off each click/sale). The point is that should add up for the stores. Then the hardware should run standards complaint software. If it doesn't comply then let those readers suffer. They made the choice to purchase a crappy ereader.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2)

LaughingRadish (2694765) | about a year ago | (#42975603)

If you like LaTeX and want to produce EPUBs, I suggest you take a look at Pandoc ( http://johnmacfarlane.net/pandoc/ [johnmacfarlane.net] and http://github.com/jgm/pandoc.git [github.com] ). It's a sort of swiss-army-knife of document conversion. It'll convert LaTeX to EPUB with a decent degree of accuracy. Lately it has been getting a lot of LaTeX-related enhancements, but it's still missing some staples like honoring \newpage and centered text. There's another package called tex4ebook ( http://github.com/michal-h21/tex4ebook.git [github.com]) that's more LaTeX-specific. It could potentially be better than Pandoc, but is quite a bit behind in maturity.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year ago | (#42975671)

If my time has any value, I can't foresee a future in which the electronic versions of my trilogy of novels ever break even.

For future books, may be you should consider releasing your ebooks under some kind of creative commons/donation-ware license on github, and then let volunteers handle all the porting issues. That's what Cory Doctorow does for many of his books I believe.

If those books get well received, then there is always the bonus that it gets translated into a number of languages, and adapted into comic books and other mediums (depending on how liberal your licensing terms are).

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (5, Insightful)

3Cats (113616) | about a year ago | (#42976037)

Two things never discussed in the ebook / paper costs debate are the costs of warehousing and taxes on unsold inventory and availability of "out of print" books. One of the reasons it's nearly impossible to get older works is they are purposefully allowed to go out of print. No publisher wants to do another run of 40,000 copies of "Pride of Chanur" and then hold onto them as they trickle out to bookstores and buyers. Publishers want the latest flavor of Teen Paranormal Romance which is selling NOW. They want to print 10,000 copies and then move on to the next latest Zombie Teen Paranormal Werewolf Romance. There's thousands of excellent books no longer available even used at a reasonable price. Ebooks allow publishers to warehouse zero copies, saving the tax on inventory and space requirements. Ebooks allow YOU as a writer ( assuming you've been at it a while ) to sell your backlist to new readers. Some of the great SF authors of the 60's and 70's have dozens of titles that are impossible to find. For the cost of converting or creating an ebook, you will continue to have a copy available to sell, in theory, forever as it will never go out of print.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2)

bitingduck (810730) | about a year ago | (#42977297)

Print on Demand

It's getting significantly better and cheaper, and even some large publishers are using it, particularly for backlist. If you print 10,000 copies of "this month's copycat paranormal romance" at $1 each and sell 1/3 of them (pulping the rest), you're paying the same per copy sold as if you printed 3333 copies on demand at $3 each (you can probably get a better price if you're doing that kind of volume) and they were only printed when someone said "I want a copy".

Doesn't help if it's lost. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42979243)

And "lost" here can merely mean "Cannot get a response from someone who has proof they are the copyright owner". Such small print runs will not return much profit because the number sold is small. Therefore a single court case contesting the right to print that book will wipe out any profit, making the entire system unusable and the book, even if existing still in the physical world somewhere, lost to publishing forever.

Keeping a copy is being forbidden by copyright trolls (cartel corps) because they want complete control and if anyone MAY make money off "their" work, this is a CATASTROPHE OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS!!!!

So you still have to get a digital copy made to make Print On Demand, and that, currently, because of the arseholes who clamour for extension and draconian enforcement of copy rights (even where the rights do not exist, except as a legal argument to start a court case to bully another) will ONLY allow EXPLICIT AND PROVEN opt in.

Since ALL COPYRIGHTED WORKS will fall to public domain, the system should be OPT OUT.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#42978945)

No publisher wants to do another run of 40,000 copies of "Pride of Chanur" and then hold onto them as they trickle out to bookstores and buyers.

Your example is too mainstream; almost every bookstore I go into has at least some of the Chanur books, new. Try Vinge :)

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2)

bitingduck (810730) | about a year ago | (#42977265)

Except that it's much, much easier to prepare a book for print than it is to prepare an eBook. Preparing a book for electronic publishing is a bit like designing a web page in the mid-1990s, except that there are a lot more eBook reader vendors than there were browser vendors. Each one has its own set of quirks, some of which are... shall we say rather sizable sets.

For something that's pretty much straight words that's not true-- you can generate an ebook that's the equivalent of a mass-market paperbook pretty easily. Substantially more easily than generating a nice looking paper book. If you want to add a lot of features (images, in particular) that can add some time and energy, but even cross references aren't hard to do with a little grep action.

There are some tools that are missing-- Indesign is just finally getting to where it can export a decent epub once you do the paper layout. Up until Indesign 6 it was easier to just fork into paper and ebook versions and format independently. It would also be nice if git supported epub-- all it needs is zip and unzip in the right place and it could work well. It's probably possible to put a wrapper on it, but I haven't had time to sort that out yet.

Oh pelase cry me a river (2)

aepervius (535155) | about a year ago | (#42977493)

You do it once that preparation, and it is still much cheaper than buy tons of paper, print it, distribute it, get back unsold or even the breakage rate, and that does not even count shipping over sea. Ebook you can distribute internationally forever. There is no way in hell preparing a book would be cheaper than preparing an ebook even if there is more than 1 vendor.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

dufachi (973647) | about a year ago | (#42975305)

I'm not really willing to pay more than $10 for an ebook. If these independents want to cry because people aren't buying dead-tree editions, perhaps it's time they started their own ebook farms. I doubt their suit will get any real attention by the courts. It'd be like record stores angrily suing iTunes because people like their music in digital format. Come to this century.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978565)

I'm not really willing to pay more than $10 for an ebook. If these independents want to cry because people aren't buying dead-tree editions, perhaps it's time they started their own ebook farms.

Bwahaha. Thanks to their anti-competetive practices, nobody has a chance against Amazon in the ebook market.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

trout007 (975317) | about a year ago | (#42975765)

If you have a Kindle and Prime you can bowwor ebooks. I don't have a kindle so I don't know how well it works.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (5, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42974471)

I hope you're joking. $15 for any fiction ebook is not a sound business model. I'd buy a good ebook for $5, but not $15.

I can only accept prices like that for certain kinds of non-fiction works where the market is smaller and the production/compilation effort is way higher.

I agree - if I'm going to pay for an eReader that takes away nearly all of the printing and distribution costs of a book along with most of the marketing costs, then I expect a significant discount on a $30 hardcover that's routinely discounted to $17 which is later sold as a $12 paperback discounted to $8.

$5 - $7 sounds more reasonable. Many Kindle books are priced higher than the discounted paper edition - even though I find reading the Kindle to be more convenient, I usually end up buying a used paperback (or even hardcover) because they are usually less than half the price of an eBook. I could even sell the used book after I'm done for a few dollars, making it even cheaper (though I usually just donate them to Goodwill)

So instead of getting $5 from me (minus the bookseller's profit), the publisher gets $0 from me for most of the books I read.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | about a year ago | (#42974713)

Seriously, how much do do think materials and production add to the cost of a book? Look, you can get a good laser printer that will do a double sided page for $.05 and one double sided 8.5x11 is roughly equal to 4 pages of a hard cover book. So with consumer equipment you can print the equivalent of a 400 page book for about $5.

I'm not a publisher, but I've got to believe that they can do it cheaper than I can with a printer from Staples.

So ever with a nice hard cover and shipping and handling and everything the entire physical costs of a book are under $10. Probably under $5. And that's roughly in line with how much cheaper e-books are than new hardcovers.

The rest is profit, aka how the writer and publisher feed themselves. And publishing is an industry that is famous for how much money everyone doesn't make on average, so don't whine about them ripping you off.

The publishers need to do a better job of lowering prices as time passes and on older books. But this "digital should be basically free" meme is bullshit.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (4, Insightful)

fish waffle (179067) | about a year ago | (#42974837)

The publishers need to do a better job of lowering prices as time passes and on older books. But this "digital should be basically free" meme is bullshit.

No, it's not. People accepted physical book prices because they had no way to print them as nicely (yes, that does include the hard/soft-cover, dust-jacket, as well as actual binding, however shitty the glue-binding of current books), and they were willing to attribute some costs to transportation, shelf-stocking/presence, staff in the stores, and so forth. That was made books of value to your average consumer. E-books take that *all* away. The only thing left is a piddly bandwidth cost, and hard to quantify-or-appreciate, mysterious marketing/administration/editing costs. Whether that was actually the bulk of the cost or not doesn't matter---the price of actually printing a book is not the important part here, it's the perception of the price of a printed book. A physical object still seems inherently more valuable than a license to read a book on a device you have to buy separately.

Publishers can whine all they want about how little the physical book costs and how much of the publication cost is really all the other things, but all that does is inform consumers that publishers have been ripping them off for years.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2)

Telvin_3d (855514) | about a year ago | (#42974973)

Publishers can whine all they want about how little the physical book costs and how much of the publication cost is really all the other things, but all that does is inform consumers that publishers have been ripping them off for years.

Ripping them off? By not working for free? Or by paying authors? Basically no one gets rich in the publishing industry. The JK rowlings and Steven Kings are such statistical anomalies that it makes 'Hollywood star' look like a practical career path.

And things like editing are not particularly hard to quantify. A manuscript of a particular length will require a general amount of hours put into it. Those costs need to be accounted for in the final sale price. If they are not editors (and everone else that make books) will stop working for the excelent reason of not being paid. At which point you will complain that there are no good quality books being made anymore.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | about a year ago | (#42975217)

And things like editing are not particularly hard to quantify. A manuscript of a particular length will require a general amount of hours put into it.

You'd think so, but it probably doesn't happen, based on the recent release fiction that I read.

A book from a major author that is going to sell close to a million units in hardcover shouldn't have spelling errors, repeated sentences, or text that runs off the bottom of the page. To see these sorts of errors, you'd think that I must read a lot of books, yet I've seen all that in just the last 5 books I've read.

That just covers the errors that are absolutely mistakes. Things like repeated use of the same modifying adjective outside of dialog could be intentional, but I sometimes feel like I'm back in grade school and listening to somebody stretch their paper to 500 words. At least the modifier of choice of the author/editor isn't "really". The sad part is that these are books that are generally pretty good, but obviously weren't edited as well as they could be.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | about a year ago | (#42977157)

Just for kicks, I was reading a Halo book and I felt like I was being talked down to. In the space of probably 20-30 pages I was reminded 3 times that "they had standing orders to recover any Covenant weapons." The first time I read the statement, I thought "Hey, that's a good idea." The second time "Yeah, I know. " The third time, -_- "Do you think I'm stupid?"

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about a year ago | (#42977907)

I'm not a fan of the Halo games (never played them), but I picked up the Forerunner series from my local library - I never finished the first novel, for the very reasons you mention. It didn't feel like a story, it felt like a dictation.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#42978961)

Virtually all books-based-on-some-other-franchise series are garbage. Like, for example, Star Trek. OMFGWTFBBQ.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42979097)

If you're reading a Halo book, you deserve to be patronized. And possibly euthanized.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#42974861)

Worse than that. Depending on the sales model, publishers may get less money from an electronic book than from a print book, even after printing costs are taken into account.

For example, with Amazon's KDP program, you either get 70% of Amazon's current price (which is not your cover price) or 35% of your cover price, at your option. If you set the price at a fairly typical $10, you get $3.50.

By contrast, with print publishing, you get anywhere from 45–80% of the cover price, depending on how you set the discount (which affects how broadly you get distributed, but it is your choice). If you assume that a typical hardcover book costs under five bucks apiece, and you set the cover price at a fairly typical $25, even at a 55% discount (you get 45%), you get $6.24.

And at a more typical small-press hardcover discount of 30%, even if you set the premium at your actual manufacturing cost plus the eBook cost ($15), you get $5.50—significantly more than you get for the electronic edition at the fixed 35% royalty rate.

So there's really no guarantee that people are making more money off of electronic versions of their book, even ignoring the much, much higher cost of designing the electronic edition in the first place. Once you factor that in, you should be glad it doesn't cost several times what the physical edition costs. :-)

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42975507)

It is too bad authors didn't simply ignore these companies whom are putting out shit product. People would stop buying the ereaders if there were no books. I somehow doubt people will stop buying the print books if the books are unavailable through ereaders.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2)

Fierlo (842860) | about a year ago | (#42975537)

I'm really curious as to how/why there is a much, much higher cost of designing the electronic edition.

I guess I just can't see why it is (or should be) complex. Especially given that you should be leaving all the presentation aspects to the devices themselves.

It just seems like spending a lot of time typesetting a document for viewing on an e-reader that may have a different height/width, and can be enlarged on that same screen, would be a losing battle that should not be dealt with by an author, but rather by the device manufacturer/format specification.

Again... not saying that you're wrong about it, just that there must be something that I'm missing.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | about a year ago | (#42976467)

There can be a significant amount of markup work involved. Also many books include pictures or diagrams or chapter headers if some sort that need to be displayed properly. And many devices don't render quite the same.

Basically, it is significantly more work than just typesetting for print because it also has to be widely checked and modified for cross compatibility.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

bitingduck (810730) | about a year ago | (#42977341)

It takes a little time, but if you're even minimally competent with html and grep it's generally not that bad. And it takes less to make a decent looking ebook than a decent looking paper book. I see a lot of badly laid out print from small publishers.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42977405)

And yet there are tool for this, no?

Epub is largely just packaged html. You can download free word processors (Atlantis) that will take what ever format you write in directly to Epub. I'm sure there are far more sophisticated tools as well.

And you really don't have to format for each device. It's the device's job to handle standard formats, and most of them do it rather well. Don't kid yourself into thinking they test on a wide variety of devices. Doesn't happen.

The truth is, once the book is through editing it can get to ebook format ready to ship much much quicker than it can be printed. Sometimes from editor to ebook in less than an hour.

I read you costing, and it makes no sense. (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year ago | (#42975709)

Worse than that. Depending on the sales model, publishers may get less money from an electronic book

To put your figures in some kind of perspective as to who out of step they are. Authors used to get between 10-15% royalty through tradition means. They now expect 50%...but are generally offered 25% *forever*. It looks pretty awful for authors.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jul/12/ebooks-publishing-deals-fair [guardian.co.uk]

Is seems the authors seem to think the what publishers arn't worth 75% of their book anymore.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#42975793)

> Seriously, how much do do think materials and production add to the cost of a book?

No more than the wholesale price of a paperback.

If you are trying to increase prices on me, then you are just smoking some really bad weed that's causing you to lose your grip with reality.

When book prices rose in the 80's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42979303)

When the book prices rose dramatically in the 80's, the "defence" from the publishers was that the cost of printing was increasing dramatically.

This "defence" was kept up for the 90's too.

Because of this, my book buying pretty much dried up so I'm not sure if they STILL do this, or whether it's just that everyone has gotten used to rip-off prices of books and don't complain any more.

But now when the price of books isn't depending on the cost of production and distribution, suddenly they're a tiny part of the cost????

A flexible attitude to reality must be a necessary part of publishing for far more than the fiction section of the library...

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42975329)

I hope you're joking. $15 for any fiction ebook is not a sound business model. I'd buy a good ebook for $5, but not $15.

I can only accept prices like that for certain kinds of non-fiction works where the market is smaller and the production/compilation effort is way higher.

Paying $15 is paying to have it NOW.

If you wait to read it in a couple years, it will be much cheaper. Given the huge amount of written material available since the invention of the printing press, there is no real reason to read any fiction NOW, when reading it later will be just as entertaining.

Waiting a couple years or three e-books start costing closer to the amount of the author's royalties (if he was smart). I'm fine with paying a few bucks to the author. Maybe a few cents to the distribution chain.

Generally 3 to 4 bucks is what I like to pay. But Free is a good price a well.

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (2)

letherial (1302031) | about a year ago | (#42975331)

any advertisement for 'hardcover' on a e-book gets pirated on principle

Re:Raise the price of books and see a mass exodus (1)

Blue23 (197186) | about a year ago | (#42978349)

I'd spend say 80% of paperback price to buy an ebook - there's still editing, marketing, and other costs, not just printing and distribution.

But for most popular authors, I *can't* BUY an ebook. I can LICENSE an ebook.

When it's mine, I can move it to other devices, give it away, lend it out, and otherwise have it completely unavailable to change/removal by the publisher or distributor, then I've bought it.

When comparing the value I get from purchasing a paperback (my preferred size, easy to hold and stick in a pocket) vs. licensing an ebook, ebook licensing is worth $2 for me. Which is a crime because a well written, well edited book should return more then that to the author and publisher, but the licensing baggage so greatly reduces the value.

I've been a long time kindle owner, but except for gifts I rarely buy books from amazon. There are other places other there that are DRM free. And I'll support Baen publishing because they supported me with the Baen Free Library for older books in series.

DRM Free (1)

bl968 (190792) | about a year ago | (#42974353)

Nothing stops a publisher from selling a DRM free ebook, if they choose to do so. Nothing stops a user from buying a DRM free ebook and using it on their reader. Check out the Calibre program. What these publishers want is to force publishers to sell all ebooks in a drm free format. Not gonna happen.

Re:DRM Free (1)

Luthair (847766) | about a year ago | (#42974563)

Exactly, Tor books are all available DRM free through Amazon, presumably other publishers could also do this if they desired.

I'm all for DRM free but it seems like they're barking up the wrong tree with Amazon.

Re:DRM Free (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42974581)

Nothing stops a publisher from selling a DRM free ebook, if they choose to do so. Nothing stops a user from buying a DRM free ebook and using it on their reader. Check out the Calibre program. What these publishers want is to force publishers to sell all ebooks in a drm free format. Not gonna happen.

It will happen - it took the music industry a while to come to terms with selling DRM free music, and the book industry will follow, especially since books are even smaller and easier to share than music - I've seen 20GB Blu-ray rips available online, a file that size could hold 20,000 eBooks.

Re:DRM Free (4, Interesting)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#42974747)

Nothing stops a user from buying a DRM free ebook and using it on their reader.

As long as someone is selling that book in DRM-free format, that is. I'm going through this issue now with the publisher of three magazines I read on a regular basis, one of which I've been a print subscriber for thirty years or more. The only DRM-free (and multi-format, to boot) vendor (Fictionwise) stopped selling. Every other source has DRM (or the equivalent, being tied to a proprietary reader program).

I complained loudly to the publisher and got ignored at first, and then I was told that this issue was being examined and they wanted to move away from the retailers they were using. The confusing part was that she said that "we won't do that DRM again". I don't know if she meant "we will be DRM-free when we arrange future retailers", or if she was referring to the DRM-free versions they used to provide to Fictionwise not happening again.

Either way, Calibre and epub is your friend, except when the publishers start mangling the formats so you get black and white cover images and say essentially "read these articles in this order".

High or Low? (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | about a year ago | (#42974359)

So wait....they're complaining that this "monopoly" is keeping the prices high or low? If it's keeping the high, I don't see how other retailers can be driven out of business. If it's keeping prices low...then it's good for the customer!

I thought anti monopoly laws were meant to protect consumers and not competition as the recent dropping of the probe against Google showed.

Re:High or Low? (1)

Threni (635302) | about a year ago | (#42974417)

Sounds like whining to me. Everyone sat back and lazily let Amazon get where it is, and now they start whining because they're losing. All companies make decisions designed to destroy the competition. That's the point of competition! That's why it's good - so you get inspired to survive by adapting and fighting back! They're just selling books, so...sell books better!

Re:High or Low? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42974439)

Sounds like whining to me. Everyone sat back and lazily let Amazon get where it is, and now they start whining because they're losing. All companies make decisions designed to destroy the competition. That's the point of competition! That's why it's good - so you get inspired to survive by adapting and fighting back! They're just selling books, so...sell books better!

Easy to say hard to do. If it really was that easy you'd be making a fortune doing it since you have obviously given it some thought.

Re:High or Low? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42975969)

If the lawsuit is to get publishers to offer the same price to other retailers as they do to Amazon, then there is merit to this battle. Sort of forced FRAND publishing.

Re:High or Low? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42974459)

Sounds like whining to me. Everyone sat back and lazily let Amazon get where it is, and now they start whining because they're losing. All companies make decisions designed to destroy the competition. That's the point of competition! That's why it's good - so you get inspired to survive by adapting and fighting back! They're just selling books, so...sell books better!

You sound like a neotard that actually believes what you have been brainwashed to believe: that competition > cooperation.

Humanity didn't survive this long by competing against itself. Moron.

Thats capitalism for you (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year ago | (#42974687)

You sound like a neotard that actually believes what you have been brainwashed to believe: that competition > cooperation.

Humanity didn't survive this long by competing against itself. Moron.

No this is simply capitalism, Amazon became the dominant player in the book market, by being early and cheap. That said I agree with the lawsuit that late to market should not be a barrier entry...especially when we are talking about glorified; infinity reproducible text files, and using *standards* to prevent lock-in is an excellent way, as Monopolies are really bad for capitalism.

Re:High or Low? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42974503)

So wait....they're complaining that this "monopoly" is keeping the prices high or low? If it's keeping the high, I don't see how other retailers can be driven out of business. If it's keeping prices low...then it's good for the customer!

I thought anti monopoly laws were meant to protect consumers and not competition as the recent dropping of the probe against Google showed.

The problem with a monopoly keeping prices artificially low is that once competitors are driven out of the market, then the monopoly is free to raise prices. They can always keep out new competition by lowering prices wherever a competitor arises.

So even if a (non-regulated) monopoly is pushing down prices, that's not always a good thing in the long run.

Re:High or Low? (2)

bhagwad (1426855) | about a year ago | (#42974737)

Except that for ebooks, there is no "artificially" low price. You can sell it for a few cents and it'll still be enough to cover the marginal costs of producing a new one.

No one can predict the future. You can't automatically assume that Amazon will raise prices later on...that's like punishing someone for a crime they haven't even committed yet.

Re:High or Low? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42974839)

Except that for ebooks, there is no "artificially" low price. You can sell it for a few cents and it'll still be enough to cover the marginal costs of producing a new one.

No one can predict the future. You can't automatically assume that Amazon will raise prices later on...that's like punishing someone for a crime they haven't even committed yet.

How would you know if they are inflating prices? If Amazon did become a true monopoly over eBooks, any price they set would be the "market price" no matter how high or low.

Re:High or Low? (1)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year ago | (#42975631)

How would you know if they are inflating prices?

I think a book with the price that is higher than the paper copy of the same is one good indication.

Re:High or Low? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42975729)

How would you know if they are inflating prices?

I think a book with the price that is higher than the paper copy of the same is one good indication.

That is the state the market is in now, there is no monopoly, and Amazon wants to lower prices. So that is certainly not an indication that a monopoly exists.

Re:High or Low? (1)

wallsg (58203) | about a year ago | (#42974605)

So wait....they're complaining that this "monopoly" is keeping the prices high or low? If it's keeping the high, I don't see how other retailers can be driven out of business. If it's keeping prices low...then it's good for the customer!

I thought anti monopoly laws were meant to protect consumers and not competition as the recent dropping of the probe against Google showed.

I guess you're too young to remember how Microsoft "abused its monopoly" by bundling Internet Explorer with the OS for free. This eventually helped lead to the demise of Netscape Navigator.

Theoretically, a company large enough to eat the losses can price a product below a competitor's costs until the competitor leaves the business and then raise prices to make up the loses. It rarely works that well.

Re:High or Low? (2)

bhagwad (1426855) | about a year ago | (#42974757)

So you're assuming that Amazon will raise prices later on? And you're willing to punish a company on the basis of what it might do in the future? Also, the pricing of an ebook can be just above zero and still cover marginal production costs.

Also, I'm 30 years old. But nice way to bring in an ad hominem.

Re:High or Low? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#42974795)

Also, the pricing of an ebook can be just above zero and still cover marginal production costs.

Unfortunately, "marginal production costs" are not the only costs being recovered by the sales price.

Re:High or Low? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42974907)

So you're assuming that Amazon will raise prices later on? And you're willing to punish a company on the basis of what it might do in the future? Also, the pricing of an ebook can be just above zero and still cover marginal production costs.

Also, I'm 30 years old. But nice way to bring in an ad hominem.

So what do you think Jeff Bezos meant when he said that Amazon is giving up short-term profits to trade for long-term growth. After they've grown as much as they can (i.e., they are a monopoly), do you think he'll tell shareholders "Thanks for your patience, we now dominate the book industry, but rather than raise prices to earn our hard won profits, we're going to continue to give up profit in order to keep prices low for consumers".

Somehow I don't believe that a billion dollar business is that altruistic, nor that shareholders would put up with it.

Re:High or Low? (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | about a year ago | (#42975181)

So when they actually do something, that is the time to catch them. Basic principle of justice - you can't punish someone for something they haven't done yet.

Re:High or Low? (3, Informative)

wallsg (58203) | about a year ago | (#42975903)

No ad hominem meant. It was supposed to be a light-hearted joke but everyone's so sensitive these days that everything's offensive to someone. And I'll be 50 this year so get off my lawn.

So when they actually do something, that is the time to catch them. Basic principle of justice - you can't punish someone for something they haven't done yet.

They are being accused of doing something now. It's called predatory pricing [wikipedia.org]. It's illegal for a business with a dominate position to routinely sell a product under cost in order to drive competitors out of the market (or keep them from entering).

Now, whether it should be is a topic for a different argument about economic systems.

In Europe, from what I understand, anti-trust laws are meant to protect competitors and here they're meant to protect consumers. As the linked page above says, since it's consumers that are supposed to be protected and not rivals, there's a high bar to winning these complaints.

Re:High or Low? (3, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#42974783)

I guess you're too young to remember how Microsoft "abused its monopoly" by bundling Internet Explorer with the OS for free.

Nobody seems to remember the even worse abuse, where they required vendors to sell EVERY computer with a copy of a Microsoft OS if they wanted to sell ANY system with a copy. I lost count of the number of new computers I bought where the first step was to format the disk and then install Linux. That wasted a lot of the taxpayer's money, since I was buying each one off of a federal research grant.

Re:High or Low? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977759)

No, they offered discounts for volume and paid for marketing it included Windows branding. Both perfectly fine as commercial incentives unless you have too big a marketshare (which you won't know until you get prosecuted for it retrospectively).

Re:High or Low? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#42978927)

No, they offered discounts for volume and paid for marketing it included Windows branding.

No, they explicitly told OEMs that if they sold any other systems with other operating systems that they would lose their pricing. That's why it was illegal, and that's [one reason] why the USDoJ found that Microsoft has abused its monopoly position. Then, under Bush, Ashcroft gave Microsoft a free pass. Then Bill Gates took his ill-gotten funds to a foundation to dodge taxes, and is now doing the IP dirty work of Big Pharma across the third world.

Actually BN is the target (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42974367)

Actually Amazon just wants to destroy BN; everyone else is just helpless by-standard.

Why sue Amazon? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42974387)

I don't understand why they are suing Amazon -- isn't it only the publishers that decide whether or not a book can be sold without DRM?

Amazon may very well have preferred pricing deals with some publishers (perhaps in part because they do support DRM), but it's still the publishers that are requiring DRM, not Amazon.

My Kindle reads non-DRM files in MOBI format just fine, so if the independents want to sell non-DRM files for Kindle customers, they can.

Re:Why sue Amazon? (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#42974437)

I think the point is that they would like to be able to sell the books as well, but the publishers have entered into a DRM related agreement with the vendors that lock other vendors out of the market. The publishers might be requiring the DRM, but if they are requiring Amazon DRM, then nobody else gets to play.

Re:Why sue Amazon? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42974541)

I think the point is that they would like to be able to sell the books as well, but the publishers have entered into a DRM related agreement with the vendors that lock other vendors out of the market. The publishers might be requiring the DRM, but if they are requiring Amazon DRM, then nobody else gets to play.

Sure, but why sue Amazon if it's the publishers that are setting DRM policy? That seems kind of like suing Exxon because the major car manufacturers require Exxon gas - Exxon may have paid GM a lot of money for that exclusive deal, but GM wasn't forced to accept the offer.

Amazon and Barnes and Noble seem to have a comparable book catalog, so it seems that publishers are happy to sell to anyone as long as they can enforce DRM.

So just like the music labels. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42979445)

Sony Music have on their list certain acts.

These acts do not sell any of their music to Vivendi.

This, however, is apparently fine.

So why is agreeing to sell solely to the "label" Amazon wrong?

Re:Why sue Amazon? (1)

bitingduck (810730) | about a year ago | (#42977389)

I don't understand why they are suing Amazon -- isn't it only the publishers that decide whether or not a book can be sold without DRM?

Amazon may very well have preferred pricing deals with some publishers (perhaps in part because they do support DRM), but it's still the publishers that are requiring DRM, not Amazon.

My Kindle reads non-DRM files in MOBI format just fine, so if the independents want to sell non-DRM files for Kindle customers, they can.

While Amazon lets publishers publish without DRM, they have no reason to encourage it-- locking people into the Kindle format is great for them. Apple is an anomaly because they're a hardware company-- they use the books and music to sell devices, while Amazon, Kobo, and B&N use the devices to sell books. Yes, Apple would like to have you buy everything from iBooks because they'll make more, but you can get free Amazon, Kobo, and Nook apps for your Apple devices, allowing you to read everything on them. The down side is that the phones are too small, and the iPads are too big (really not handy for reading in bed, or on the train), and power hogs relative to an e-reader. I don't have an iPad mini, but it's a necessary device for them, even if they were reluctant to make it.

DRM? (2)

OhPlz (168413) | about a year ago | (#42974451)

I don't see what DRM has to do with this. I would think that file formats are the issue. Kindles can read raw .mobi files among other formats. I assume other e-readers can do the same. I don't know of a single reader that ONLY supports DRM content. It could be onerous for an independent to support a ton of different formats, but I don't see what barrier optional DRM creates.

Even if they somehow get to argue this in court, Amazon has an out. I've seen material lately on their site that is marked "At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software applied." Look up "Bowl of Heaven" as an example.

Re:DRM? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#42978877)

I don't see what DRM has to do with this. I would think that file formats are the issue. Kindles can read raw .mobi files among other formats.

How did you get this so very wrong? It's not about whether Kindles can read other publishers' formats, it's about whether other eBook readers can read Kindle titles. They fear Microsoft-esque lock-in. History tells us that this is a valid concern.

Hold on a second wern't these the same publishers. (3, Interesting)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year ago | (#42974499)

...that were in a cartel with these very same publishers who had sided with Apple against Amazon http://www.policymic.com/articles/6812/apple-founder-steve-jobs-leader-of-ebook-price-fixing-cartel [policymic.com] that Steve Jobs what a player. I love the quote from the article on this "a move that was widely seen as benefiting Amazon's dominant position among ebook retailers"..clearly not the best understanding that, the move would simply shift the scale to Apple, and making it impossible for independent vendors to compete on price.

I actually agree with the reality that books need to be transferable [and films, magazines...oh and Applications hell anything stored on a computer with a price tag attached.]...so that the better technology competes. In fact lets go further I see no reason at all why you can't have multiple store fronts on every device you own...like say Android :)

Re:Hold on a second wern't these the same publishe (0)

DRJlaw (946416) | about a year ago | (#42975529)

[Hold on a second wern't these the same publishers] ...that were in a cartel with these very same publishers who had sided with Apple against Amazon http://www.policymic.com/articles/6812/apple-founder-steve-jobs-leader-of-ebook-price-fixing-cartel [policymic.com] that Steve Jobs what a player.

Yes, however this complaint is headed for the rapid dismissal path to ruin. They merely plead that "a series of contracts and/or combinations" has violated sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.

They haven 't alleged any coordination (where all the parties communicate with each other privately, whether directly or through an intermediary, to set similar terms), and they haven't alleged any contractual term or private agreement which forbids the publishers from selling them eBooks. Apple is in the hot seat beacause it served as an intermediatry in private communications which established the 30% charge and MFN clause amongst all the publishers at essentially the same time.

These sellers are only complaining that the publishers have not entered into contracts with them. Tough. You cannot force an individual business to sell to you, and you cannot force a group of businesses who individually decide not to sell to you to sell to you. Coordination requires a private agreement -- antitrust coordination does not reach natural cartels, such as airlines or petroleum, so long as all the members independently react to the public actions of the others. Other laws regulate mergers tending to further concentrate an industry, but that's not relevant here.

They need to plausibly allege a coordinated and concerted refusal to deal with them (Google "Twombley" and "Iqbal" and "supreme court"). They haven't. Case dismissed with leave to refile.

Even when they refile, they're unlikely to pull it off since the government's Apple investigation grew out of an initial investigation into Amazon. Those contract terms would have stood out like flaming beacons of illegality. They're likely going to have to beg for permission to engage in a fishing expedition concerning unspecified private agreements to exclude them. The problem is, the courts don't look favorably on that sort of discovery. It's not going to happen. Second dismissal, with prejudice.

Welcome to ruin.

Re:Hold on a second wern't these the same publishe (0)

DRJlaw (946416) | about a year ago | (#42975563)

Replying to myself.

Google Twombly, not Twombley -- Google will catch it, but the fact that I screwed up the -y versus -ey is annoying.

Surprisingly I think the Wikipedia entries for Twombly [wikipedia.org] and Iqbal [wikipedia.org] (Rule 8 pleading standard) are decent summaries of what is required.

Carlin said we have gov't to protect us from this (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year ago | (#42974511)

It is every corporation's mission statement to influence enough of it's market to be considered monopolithic. It is every government's duty to responsibly regulate the market to protect their citizens from unjust corporate influence. I don't know what everyone's worried about... surely this'll get sorted right out.

Despicably cheap (1)

zodwallopp (1243130) | about a year ago | (#42978463)

Amazon and the big publishers have kept the price of books at where they are today, they take a chunk and give a laughable amount back to the author. You want to rail against a $15 ebook being published by one of those guys, I'm all for it, their cut should be considerably less. However if you want to complain about a $8 ebook put out by an author, on their own, who has to do ALL the marketing and ALL the legwork on top of spending a sizable portion of a year to create that book... go fly a kite. You pay $10 to Netflix to get dozens of ours of entertainment a month. You pay $18 to see a movie for 2 hours. You plunk down $20 to drink beer, have some wings and enjoy a 3 hour football game at the bar. $15 for an ebook, which gives you at least 10 hours of entertainment is not unreasonable.

Except.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978647)

independent booksellers don't sell ebooks, thus, aren't really affected by ebook agreements.

LOL Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978953)

LOL this is so funny. Let's see the faces of the techno hippies when all the books they already paid for suddenly stop working. That's the law of "virtual assets".

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