Digital publishing should be leading a revolution in publishing bringing great books to the masses – but this is stalling due to price.

Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin, introduced paperback novels in 1935 with the intention that books should cost no more than a packet of cigarettes.

I don’t buy cigarettes, but my friend Google tells me in the UK they cost a bit less than £6.50 for a pack of 20.

Second on the Amazon best selling book as I write is by Bradley Wiggins, the paperback costs £7.19 from Amazon (RRP £7.99)  while the Kindle edition costs £6.29 (and the reason I have selected 2nd on the best seller list is because first doesnt appear to have a Kindle edition thanks Jamie Oliver)

So the paperback costs more than the cigarettes, while the digital edition costs marginally less than they do.

Let’s think about this for a minute – the difference between a paperback and the Kindle edition is 90p.

That 90p must account for the cost of printing, the cost of paper, the cost of shipping, the cost of storage and possibly other costs I am not factoring in. And bearing in mind publishers sell to retailers at least 50% discount for paper books, then we should be looking at 45p as being the cost of each of those things.

While the Kindle edition is some data uploaded to Amazon who then download it after the customer purchases. Quite often the data is a couple of megabits which if it costs anything at all to store and transmit, cannot be more than a few pence.

So why does a couple of MBs of data cost not much less than a paperback (with all the costs of printing, transporting and storing) ????

I don’t know what is going on in the offices of big publishing houses across the planet, so I hesitate to say this is all about profiteering – they may have a legitimate reason – which I would really like to hear (feel free to comment to explain yourself if you work at a big publishing house).

However, what I do know is I have four books available on Amazon* – three are almost out of print as paperbacks (and the publisher doesn’t plan to print anymore as they will be available forever on Kindle) – but all are available in Kindle.

The paperback prices are in the range you would expect as compared to books from other publishing houses. But, the Kindle editions all retail at £1.92 (which is based on the US price of $2.99 which I understand is the minimum price you can put on a Kindle book). 

I mention the prices of my books primarily to make the point I am practicing what I am preaching (and if Amazon removes their minimum price I think they would go down again – publishing to a literate world should be about volume of sales not price per unit – the industry values best sellers (not highest priced sellers) after all.

Market forces will win out and the big publishing houses will flourish or not in the digital era. But keeping prices more or less the same for paper objects compared to couple of MBs downloads is probably not sustainable – look at what Apple has done to CDs with iTunes at 79p a track. Look at what Netflix and others are doing to movie and box set DVD sales.

The digital revolution is here and if the old publishers cannot change the price then new ones who will change the cost and the business model to compete will rise up and take their place – it is how the market works.

 

*My books available on Kindle:

The Joy of Ex

Fragments

UHF Shadow

The Great Wide Open

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The digital era brings problems for those who produce copyrighted material.

Ever since the era the tape recorder the copyright producing industry has fought against pirating. CDs, PC and especially MP3s made the situation worse. Napster screwed the whole music industry (and ensured I would never buy another Metallica album).

More or less the iStore and various other legal download sites have now made the situation less bad (as well as the Spotify model)

The one-time super star DJ Carl Cox has come up with a different approach (possibly because of the terms of business with the legal download sites / Spotify -esque models, but I donot know for sure), his latest album All Roads Lead to the Dance Floor is being released as a USB stick. The stick will update with new tracks and other multi media goodies over time. Sounds like a good idea?

I am not convinced. Why doI have to buy a piece of external media to own an album? I stopped doing that when I ceased purchasing CDs. Why would I replace one form of external media which came with nice paper packaging for a USB stick, which has  the artists name written on, but really, isn’t that special.Can I transfer the Carl Cox tracks from the USB onto a portable MP3 player? Can I only listen to the tracks when i plug the stick into a device? Why can’t it just live on the cloud like everything else is starting to?

Apologies Carl, I think this idea is not going to take off for the general consumer (loyal fans may find it tolerable).

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