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Murdoch Says E-Book Prices Will Kill Paper Books 538

Posted by timothy
from the moving-companies-are-probably-unhappy-too dept.
hrimhari writes "The settlement between Amazon and Macmillian got the attention of a known dinosaur. Consistent to his views, Mr. Murdoch wants to defend his book editors by killing the cheaper solution. '"We don't like the Amazon model of selling everything at $9.99," Murdoch said. "They pay us the wholesale price of $14 or whatever we charge," he said. "But I think it really devalues books, and it hurts all the retailers of the hardcover books.'"
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Murdoch Says E-Book Prices Will Kill Paper Books

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  • This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jorgandar (450573) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:54PM (#31030776)

    another old wrinkly dinosaur doesn't like change! news at 11.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:12AM (#31030900)

      another old wrinkly dinosaur doesn't like change! news at 11 on FOX!.

      There, fixed that for you.

      • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by beh (4759) * on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:29AM (#31032126)

        Murdoch is not simply the old dinosaur; this is merely another case of one form of extremism (loads of cheap ebooks) begets another (kill ebooks).

        Both models have their place, or in the words of Thomas Edison

        "We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles."

        Personally, I can't wait to find a decent ebook reader - don't like what I have seen in the Sony ones available in Europe. Might go for the iPad instead. But on the other hand, I still want paper books - I find there is something very calming in holding and reading a paper book, on a medium where you neither have to worry about power (eventually) running out, nor do you have the temptation of quite as easily switching back and forth between different books, ... It's more effort to change the (physical) book, and hence I find it more likely to actually stick to it. For work-related/reference books I want the ebook reader, for novels etc. I don't.
        But unlike Murdoch (or people wishing the end of paper books), I won't go for eliminating either form, as I can see the advantages of both.

        Not mentioned that often in the context of ebooks - I remember reading a short story as part of my school English lessons, which seemed to predict 'ebooks' - and it was written in the 50s: Isaac Asimov's The Fun They Had ( http://users.aber.ac.uk/dgc/funtheyhad.html [aber.ac.uk] )

        • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Friday February 05, 2010 @08:28AM (#31033374) Journal

          Both models have their place, or in the words of Thomas Edison "We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles."

          You are mis-interpreting Edison - this statement does not at all represent the Murdoch model. If it did Edison would have said "We will make electricity so cheap that the candlemakers will have us banned". All Edison is saying is that if they can make electricity cheap enough then, given its inherent advantage over candles, why would anyone want to use them? He is not suggesting that anything be forced upon people like Murdoch is i.e. he is not saying that he wants to kill candles, just that most people will probably not want to use them in most cases because electricity will be so much cheaper.

          This is exactly what I think will happen with books: nobody wants to set out to deliberately kill paper books but in the future I would imagine that only very popular "classic" books will end up in physical, high quality bindings and that the cheap paperback novels of today will be replaced by electronic media simply because eBooks are cheaper to make and more convenient.

          • by beh (4759) * on Friday February 05, 2010 @10:47AM (#31034364)

            You got it the wrong way round -

            I did not mean that Murdoch represents the Edison model - it's closer to the ebook model (ebooks cheaper, therefore only 'rich' will buy them on paper), i.e. the printed book is becoming the 'niche' product to read (just as candles are now almost a 'niche' product to provide lighting).

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by srmalloy (263556)

            This is exactly what I think will happen with books: nobody wants to set out to deliberately kill paper books but in the future I would imagine that only very popular "classic" books will end up in physical, high quality bindings and that the cheap paperback novels of today will be replaced by electronic media simply because eBooks are cheaper to make and more convenient.

            And it will revitalize the market for fiction by eliminating the compression of the midlist -- authors whose books sell consistently but not rapidly. Because e-books don't have to compete for physical rack space in stores against 'blockbusters' and have no inventory costs, e-books by authors can remain "in print" from their publication date until their copyright expires.

            The same also applies for scholarly works, which generally have low print runs because of their slow sales and high inventory costs; e-book

      • Re:This just in... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by the_womble (580291) on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:02AM (#31032766) Homepage Journal

        For once Murdoch has a point.

        Amazon wants to kill paper books and gain a monopoly on ebooks.

        The low prices are are designed to kill off the competition - much like MS offering better deals to OEMs who did not sell BeOS.

        I agree ebooks should be cheaper than paper books, but how long do you think they will stay cheaper once Amazon has us all locked into Kindle? How long will you be able to buy books once you only read on a device that has DRM - pay per read or rent by the week is quite possible.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lumpy (12016)

          I'd be all over ebooks IF I can do the following...

          move the ebooks to my new reader from a DIFFERENT COMPANY without contacting someone.

          Share an ebook with my wife on HER READER.

          Sell my used ebooks at a used ebook store.

          The first two they can do, they choose not to. The last, they want used book stores to die, they hate the idea of anyone buying their "precious" second hand.

    • Re:This just in... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Interoperable (1651953) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:28AM (#31031030)

      To make it worse, he has no excuse. The music industry does, they were the first to miss the boat on digital content. The movie industry should have caught on, but somehow didn't. The publishers should really have been able to figure it out; they had fair warning and opportunity and, seemingly, just couldn't connect the dots.

      Big Content screwed up and is on the way out no matter how much they complain. Books are absolutely here to stay, but the profit model is shifting. Hopefully the huge economies of scale afforded by e-Books will allow the authors to profit more than under the current model. In any case, Amazon is sure to come out on top for the near future.

      • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:52AM (#31031214)

        His assertion that Amazon was losing 4 bucks on every ebook sold is utter nonsense. You can't sell that many kindles to make up for that kind of losses.

        He has a problem with loss leaders. Too bad. What he seeks to do is nothing more than to forcibly repeal the First Sale Doctrine [wikipedia.org] and Bobbs-Merrill vs Straus [wikipedia.org].

        I say fine. The sooner all the publishers band together and collude with Steve Jobs to raise book prices and dictate the Retail price the sooner the DOJ can step in and smack them down for price fixing.

        If the publishers want more money they could have just started rising price (regardless of the fact we are in the midst of a rather major depression). But to attempt to dictate retail prices by banding together is nothing but an assault on copyright law.

        I notice no crocodile tears are shed by Murdoch for the authors, who are still stuck at 5 to 10% of revenue.
         

        • Re:This just in... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by GaryPatterson (852699) on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:26AM (#31031476)

          I say fine. The sooner all the publishers band together and collude with Steve Jobs to raise book prices and dictate the Retail price the sooner the DOJ can step in and smack them down for price fixing.

          Where does Jobs fit into this? I mean, apart from conspiracy theories and what you reckon might happen.

          And while I'm at it, the history of Apple's music sales is that they kept the prices down. The music industry wanted variable pricing, with new songs around $2.50 instead of $0.99.

          Murdoch is way out on this, arguing against capitalism itself.

          • Jobs fits in because he is now selling eBooks to iPad users at a price agreed with the publishers. While this may smack of "cartel", Amazon's no better -- selling books at a knock-down price to encourage people to buy the expensive Kindle, with the single-minded goal of gaining a monopoly on the market. Looking at the case of MacMillan, Amazon were selling at 66% of the RRP for the eBook. As I understand it, if this became standard pricing, the publishers and authors would end up with less money than for

        • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Znork (31774) on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:59AM (#31031716)

          the DOJ can step in and smack them down for price fixing.

          It's hard to successfully nail IP industries for price fixing as copyright itself is price fixing and the products are not exactly fungible. Even when you nail them in the short term, monopoly pricing is set as a function of the consumers disposable income, not as a function of production cost and competition. Thus the prices will always tend to rise (in nominal terms, as reductions in disposable income will be hidden with inflation in the current economic system) and are unlikely to diverge far from each other (either lower or higher prices will result in lower revenue than the optimum monopoly pricing). You'll get the effect of price fixing whether they collude or not.

          Basically the only way to affect pricing is to encourage large scale private copying and distribution of the products in question, which is pretty much what passes for 'competition' in that segment of the economy.

          • Moderation (Score:5, Funny)

            by siloko (1133863) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:24AM (#31032114)
            where's +1 'Used fungible in a sentence' when you need it?
        • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Informative)

          by shmlco (594907) on Friday February 05, 2010 @02:27AM (#31031862) Homepage

          The following book price breakdown from Kindle Review (http://ireaderreview.com/2009/05/03/book-cost-analysis-cost-of-physical-book-publishing/) is instructional:

          Book Retail Price: $27.95.
          Retailer (discount, staffing, rent, etc.) - $12.58. That's 45%.
          Author Royalties - $4.19. Exactly 15%.
          Wholesaler - $2.80. Exactly 10%.
          Pre-production (Publisher) - $3.55. That's 12.7%.
          Printing (Publisher) - $2.83. Translates to 10.125%.
          Marketing (Publisher) - $2. That's approximately 7.15%.

          Basically the numbers of interest are the retailer (45%), printing (just 10%), and the wholesaler (10%). So it's fairly easy to see that online books can dump wholesaling and printing costs... but that's just 20%, or $6. Retailer costs can drop, but most retailers still need to make a profit, even selling ebooks (servers cost money).

          Given the breakdown, I can see how a publisher might charge Amazon $15 for a first-run book, and how Amazon might decide to eat the $5 (for first run books) if it means gaining ebook market share and if it also encourages people to buy older books on which they DO make money. And sells the occasional Kindle.

          And if you think Amazon would not decide to lose some money now in order to build up market share, then you're completely forgetting how Amazon became Amazon in the first place.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            There's a small flaw in your logic here. Your getting confused by the percentage that each entity gets from each book and and the absolute money receive. The fallacy is that you sell the same number of books no matter what the price. Assume that you reduce the cost of the book by 50% and sell twice as much. Now we're talking ebook rather than physical book the printing and wholesaler costs don't cost double when you 'produce' two books (as they're zero in your model.) So now we sell twice as many book
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        To make it worse, he has no excuse. The music industry does, they were the first to miss the boat on digital content. The movie industry should have caught on, but somehow didn't. The publishers should really have been able to figure it out; they had fair warning and opportunity and, seemingly, just couldn't connect the dots.

        Big Content screwed up and is on the way out no matter how much they complain. Books are absolutely here to stay, but the profit model is shifting. Hopefully the huge economies of scale afforded by e-Books will allow the authors to profit more than under the current model. In any case, Amazon is sure to come out on top for the near future.

        I don't quite agree with the analogy with music. People were downloading music files en masse and the recording industry was still refusing to budge their business model from the good ol' CD days. We had ipods in Australia before we had any real ability to buy music online (legally). With books, the situation is different - how many people download books compared with how many people buy them? This is not consumer-driven - it is a reaction of the publishers who can see the writing on the wall with the ever-

      • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:37AM (#31032150) Homepage

        Absolutely. Books are here to stay.

        His real problem is a different one. With ebooks, many of the people living in the ecosystem BETWEEN the author and the reader are superfluous with ebooks.

        If I like Neil Gaiman, and I read his blog. And he makes a new book, which is a pdf.

        What do the two of us need anyone else for ? I can send him some cash, he can send me the book, end of story.

        That's not an ending that Mr. Murdoch likes though, because it makes him irrelevant.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by msimm (580077)
        What's to figure out? Either they completely re-invent themselves as digital media publishers and let every other old-school media company fight to bury/sue/discredit or otherwise marginalize them/their business (naturally, while picking their bones and pulling off anything remaining of value) or they themselves join in the frenzy to bury/sue/discredit or otherwise marginalize anyone else who dares to embrace the only actually viable media publishing option available to big business.

        We once had to cut dow
  • "Murdoch Wants" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plover (150551) * on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:56PM (#31030784) Homepage Journal

    Well hell, there's reason enough for me to oppose whatever else is in the paragraph below, never mind TFA.

    However, upon reading TFA I learned that he owns HarperCollins. So there's another publisher I don't need to feel bad about ignoring.

    • Re:"Murdoch Wants" (Score:5, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:12AM (#31030898) Homepage Journal

      To those who modded this Flamebait: Ten media conglomerates control over 75% of the media in the U.S.A., and over 50% of the media in the world. But Fox "News" viewers are some of the worst-informed Americans. [people-press.org] Who do we blame but the CEO? And why would we believe different standards would apply to any other media under his control?

      As an aside, I was asked to download comment.pl the first time I clicked reply. Then I got a reset connection. Finally, I got a reply form. Coincidence? :)

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:48AM (#31031172) Homepage
        The Fox News claim is commonly repeated and is misleading in a broader context. The same study showed that by its measure people who get their news from blogs are statistically indistinguishable from Fox News viewers at how informed they are. Indeed, both Fox viewers and blog readers are very close to the average level for people in the US. If you look at the data what is actually really bringing the average down seems to be the people who either have no regular news source or who are getting their news primarily from local TV news. There are other details about that study that make the claim about Fox News not nearly as bad when you look at in context. And now the plug:For a more detailed analysis see my blog entry on this subject: http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/2009/06/bloggers-fox-news-and-informed-audience.html [blogspot.com]. Fox News is wretched and is damaging America in many ways. But it is very hard to see this study as evidence for that fact.
        • by DrJimbo (594231) on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:37AM (#31031578)
          The study shows that people who get most of their news from Fox News are about as poorly informed as people who get their news from blogs and you don't see that as devastating indictment of Fox New?

          Blogs are almost by definition sources of opinion, not news. There is a big difference between the two. If they called it "Fox Televised Blogs" or "Fox Biased Opinions" then I would feel that they were being fair (in their title) but unbalanced. What is most irksome is that they are calling it news when it is actually opinions and propaganda.

          I don't see how the context you provide makes it "not nearly as bad". The bottom of the pile is people who get no (non-local) news at all. The next rung up is people who get one-sided versions from blogs and Fox News and then above that is people who get their news from quasi-legitimate news sources.

          At least Fox is rather blatant about being totally corporate controlled. The other so-called news sources, NYT, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, etc. are also corporate controlled but they are just a bit more subtle about it. I haven't looked at the study but I don't consider anyone who gets their news solely from American mainstream media to be well informed.
      • Re:"Murdoch Wants" (Score:5, Interesting)

        by zippthorne (748122) on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:41AM (#31031612) Journal

        I don't know if you want to keep putting that out there. Because a little further down you get to:

        Men, on average, knew more than women, all other factors being equal

        And it's apparently dramatically more than women. 45% vs. 25% "knowledge level high." That's inconvenient.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by zmollusc (763634)

          I think I may be able to explain the discrepancy between the sexes; the government is beaming propaganda about world events via the mind control beams. Men will, of course, raise their tinfoil hats when meeting a lady.

      • Re:"Murdoch Wants" (Score:5, Interesting)

        by demonlapin (527802) on Friday February 05, 2010 @02:31AM (#31031878) Homepage Journal
        And yet, those who watched the O'Reilly Factor were broadly comparable (51% vs 54% max of any show) in percent of viewers who scored "high", and did better than NPR listeners (mid vs low categories). The show with the greatest percentage of "low" scorers was... the Jim Lehrer NewsHour. The lowest scorer among "high knowledge" was... network news. In fact, O'Reilly's viewers had the smallest percentage with a "low" knowledge of any source whatsoever.

        In other words, news junkies are better informed about various political hot topics (because that's what the survey measured) than people who don't give a damn, and the show that they watch is pretty much irrelevant. If you don't like Fox's opinionists, watch CNN. And vice versa. Odds are, you'll be just as well informed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by VShael (62735)

          Sorry, but accuracy is important here, especially when so many people don't read the article.

          The lowest scorer among "high knowledge" was... network news.

          Wrong. The lowest scorer among high knowledge was Network Morning Shows. And if you've ever seen one, that should come as no surprise.

  • by fake_name (245088) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:56PM (#31030786)

    If a new product comes along that is cheaper and more desired by consumers the old product becomes a dead market? What fascinating insight! How can I pay money to see more news from this "Murdoch" guy?

    • Given that Murdoch is a conservative, you would have to believe the "consistent with his views" is a sarcasm. Why would he think his products are exempt from market demand? Live by the free market, die by the free market. Or at least adapt to the market.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        I think he's a conservative in the older, pre-Reagan/Thatcher sense, which is more about maintaining the business status quo than promoting the "creative destruction" of free markets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FatdogHaiku (978357)
      Well, you can patronize one of these fine content providers!
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assets_owned_by_News_Corporation [wikipedia.org]
      Hurry, he's almost 80, the clock ticks on, and he can't spin that no matter what.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pcolaman (1208838)

        Surprised they own Gamespy and Hulu. Then again, Gamespy is garbage now since they changed up their site (as if they were somehow awesome before though) so I wouldn't care one way or another but Hulu is actually a pretty good site IMO.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by XanC (644172)

        You realize his 101-year-old mother is still around and apparently doing quite well?

  • by Dracos (107777) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:57PM (#31030790)

    He thinks everything exists for the sole purpose of carrying a price tag.

  • Price??!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blugu64 (633729) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:57PM (#31030794) Homepage

    First they have to be cheaper then paper books.

    • Re:Price??!? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:27AM (#31031016)

      Amazon's pricing is kind of weird. If I were the kind of person that HAD to have books when they first came out I might be tempted to buy a $9.99-$14.99 ebook rather than a $25.00-$30.00 hardcover. On the other hand, I'm quite likely to pick up the hardcover anyway - those things only sell because they're basically collectors editions.

      The older books priced at around $2.50 look great. Those seem to be priced just right, although the public domain classics really should be $0.99.

      Then there's the weird class of Kindle books that Amazon seems to be pricing around $8.39 (CAN). In most cases they seemed to be more expensive than the equivalent paperback, as Amazon's helpful price comparison pointed out.

      There's no way I'm paying more than 50% of the price of a paperback for an e-book, and that fraction goes down the older that book gets.

  • by jaymz666 (34050) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:58PM (#31030800)

    You don't own the book, you can't sell it, you can't loan it and you can't donate it to a library. The paperback edition will eventually cost less than the 9.99 to 14.99 that Macmillan wants to charge. They need to enter the real world where you can go to a used bookstore a couple of months after a book is published and get it for less than their ebook prices.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Their new 'real world' is the one they seek to promote. One where there is no second sale, because there's nothing physical to sell.

      Book publishers really dislike second sales of their work. They'd rather consumers threw them away.

      The e-book market is tailor made for their strategy.

    • by raddan (519638) * on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:00AM (#31031280)
      Publishers have a firm grasp on the real world*. What they're hoping is that you won't be bothered to go to the used bookstore to get that book. Or even when it is convenient (like Amazon Marketplace), you are too impatient to wait. So far, the sales figures seem to bear this out. Convenience wins.

      In music, of course, this revolution has come and gone, but-- I don't like downloading MP3s. I buy CDs, a good chunk of those used, either online or at the place down the street. I think of this as an 'automatic backup' of sorts. My friends, particularly the ones still in their 20's, think I am insane. "But dood, yo can get itoonz in like one click!" they say. Those are the people who will probably buy an e-book. They can buy it while they're on a bus or something. Very convenient.

      * In publishing, not only do the big publishers know exactly how their stuff is selling (like what is sold, what is returned, what is stolen, what enters the second-hand market...), but they buy information they don't have so they know what their competitors are doing, too (e.g., a company called Monument Information Resource sells this). But not just that... publishers also occasionally sample bookstores to get a third view of that data. And, of course, there's lots of fraternizing between companies because employees switch jobs all the time. Anyway... they know what's going on, even at the piracy end. They are very clued into this by now.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:06AM (#31031336)

      The paperback edition will eventually cost less than the 9.99 to 14.99 that Macmillan wants to charge.

      Yes, and you'll quite likely find that the price Macmillan wants to charge will drop as the paperbacks come out.

      It's simple economics. Those who want it the day it comes out are generally prepared to pay a price premium for the privilege. Over time, the price drops, and others come in (trade paperback, mass market paperback.) Me? I only buy Terry Pratchett in hardcover; everybody else has to wait until mass market paperback, for various reasons.

      Remember that publishers don't just print the books. They also edit them, lay them out, and market them. There are costs involved in those. Yes, the marginal costs of an ebook are so close to zero as to be almost indistinguishable. But if you have $20,000 in sunk costs, you're losing money unless you can make that back - so if there's a market for (say) 10,000 copies of the book, you need to charge, on average, over $2 a copy just to break even (yes, over two dollars - because there's an opportunity cost in sinking the money into books; if it takes ten years to make back the $20,000, you've lost money, even though on paper you've broken even, because of that opportunity cost - typically charged by banks as interest.)

      So I expect to see the publishers of books take full advantage of the inherent price flexibility of electronic books by pushing the prices up high to start, and gradually dropping them until they're selling for maybe a couple of bucks a pop ... because that way, they'll make more money, which means they can publish more books for us to read.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      ....now take a book to the beach

      and watch the guy with the kindle squint to read the same as a ebook, then bet on if his batteries will fail before the kindle dies due to overheating in the sun, or becomes unusable due to salt or sand damage?

      ebooks are now at least usable, but the readers are still too expensive and fragile to replace books (so far ...)

      When the readers are much less fragile, and come down in price, then perhaps the book printing industry will contract, but if the publishers are smart they

  • Devalues books... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Firehed (942385) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:59PM (#31030802) Homepage

    Yes, eBooks DO devalue books - as they should. Books are just a very (very!) old medium.

    What eBooks don't devalue is content, or at least they shouldn't. Up until now, the content has been tied to the medium in the publishing world. We've seen what happened when the two became decoupled with music and movies (and even video games, to some extent - at least for PC gaming), and it's about damn time that the same thing happens with the written word.

    As for companies that sell hardcovers... well, sucks to be them. That's what happens when your business model is tied to a single medium.

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      The part about hardcovers really confuses me.

      Aren't they already hurting? Doesn't everyone just buy the paperback because they're so much cheaper? Does anyone actually buy a hardcover who doesn't specifically value a durable physical copy of a book for collection purposes? If I'm going to buy a hardcover over a paperback, I'm going to buy a hardcover over an eBook for my Kindle.

      Otherwise, if ebooks are the more convenient and cheaper format, then yeah, they win. What's the big surprise? Oh noes, the sa

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Firehed (942385)

        If hardcovers and paperbacks were released simultaneously, I expect many more people would flock to paperbacks. Take Harry Potter for example - if both versions had been available at one of those midnight releases, don't you think many people would have taken the cheaper route? They wanted it that night, and hardcover was the only option, so that's what they paid for.

        I agree - if I'm going to buy a hardcover over a paperback, then I'd probably also get a hardcover over an ebook. But usually if I'm buying a

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wiredlogic (135348)

        The problem with hardcovers in the US is the extortionist pricing (it's just paper and cardboard FFS) and the sometimes multi-year wait until softcover editions come out. Hop over to Canada and you will see much saner retail pricing in their bookstores. Books are much cheaper in Japan too and the paper, printing, and binding is WAY higher quality than what you can get in North American mass market publications. If hard cover book sales suffer in the US it's because we're tired of being raped and finally hav

  • Competition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blugu64 (633729) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:00AM (#31030806) Homepage

    "But I think it really devalues books, and it hurts all the retailers of the hardcover books.'"

    No kidding. Competition is funny that way.

  • I buy most books that I own, used, discounted or remaindered. I was thinking about kindle, but you have to be a better overall solution than the one that I am used to.

  • by blugu64 (633729) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:03AM (#31030834) Homepage

    If they're getting paid $14 and the retailer is selling it at a loss, well, he already got $14 for it!

  • What about the power part? real books don't need them!

  • Books (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Lawrence (1733598) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:04AM (#31030840) Homepage

    Paper books will always live. One the one hand, there are still a billion people in the world without access to regular electricity. On the other, we might have limited resources in the future to make new electronic devices, due to peak oil and climate change. Yet, we can always make paper on a small, local scale if necessary. But electronic devices require a large industrial infrastructure.

    After all, we have thousands of years of written human history, but only a tiny moment of digital history. It would be presumptuous of us to assume the latter will last longer than the former.

    http://www.selfdestructivebastards.com/2009/10/ebooks-versus-paper.html [selfdestru...stards.com]

    • Uh we have thousands of years of bits and pieces of history -translated and adulterated as the editors saw fit. Thera nothing wrong with the written word but I would say we've recorded a million more times the history in the last decade than was recorded in all of history due to the digital revolution.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by masmullin (1479239)

      Disagree... paper's days are limited as a mass media medium. Sure we'll still have limited paper runs for certain "classics" and for official documents. But your general "Michael Crichton" book will no longer come in paper format. This is of course once we've figured out how to do the ebook properly.

  • by mykos (1627575) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:05AM (#31030850)

    Information has artificially inflated in value. The prices coming down are a natural result of people realizing this.

    We have been paying too much for books, films, and music for years. Party's over. They still get to make profit, just not obscene profit.

    • It really depends though. Some information has a large cost associated with its creation.

    • by bschorr (1316501) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:59AM (#31031268) Homepage
      Except the reality is that only a very few actually make an "obscene profit". The vast majority of books, films and music wither and die with very little revenue. For every Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling there are a thousand other writers who will never make even a part-time wage for their works.

      Book publishing is an expensive business and e-books level the playing field considerably. The three biggest costs in book production are (not necessarily in this order):

      1. Printing
      2. Marketing
      3. Distribution

      A publisher needs to have confidence that a book will sell X copies at Y price in order to know that they will at least break even on publishing it. And I guarantee you that every publisher has a warehouse full of books they guessed wrong on and nobody bought. But those costs are sunk. They pay get pennies on the dollar at the paper recycler but otherwise they've blown a lot of cash printing books they never sold.

      As on-demand, and now e-book, publishing has become more and more viable the break-even point has come WAY down and books that would never have seen the light of day are getting their chance.

      And publishers should LOVE eBooks - it takes printing and distribution largely out of the equation and means far greater profits off a much lower price. I wouldn't mind if my publisher did Kindle versions of my books, that's just one more medium and a much higher net profit from the books.
  • Books vs. E-books (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xerio (1001881) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:09AM (#31030882)
    I love books. I much prefer to read a dead-tree book than an e-book. There's just something I love about sitting on a couch with a book in my hands turning the pages as I read. It doesn't matter if it's a technical book, fiction, nonfiction, or a textbook of some sort. I prefer the actual thing. Looking at a screen trying to read an e-book just sucks in my opinion(admittedly I have yet to use the Nook or other such devices).

    That said. I can't afford the dead-tree versions of alot of the books I want. So I have to resort to e-books. The people like Murdoch need to catch up with the times. Amazon makes it to where I can afford to read the books I love. As far as I'm concerned, they get my business because they tend to do things for the customers from what I've seen, not their wallets.
    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      I have been in IT now for just on 20 years, I do everything electronically and my house is fully wired. But give me a paper based book over an e-book any day. I have tried a few of the e-book readers now and I can honestly say I hate them all utterly and completely. I read on average a novel every 2-3 weeks and I will happily pay more for dead-tree books simply for the better experience they provide.
    • by Zerth (26112)

      As much as I like having shelves and shelves of books, I'm really paying for the data, not the storage. If an ebook is the cheapest, I buy it unless it is on a very short list of authors I like in hardback.

      If, for some idiotic reason, the ebook costs more than cutting down a tree, pulping it, and printing words on the dried remains, then I buy the paperback and warez the ebook(or drop it in the hopper of the industrial scanner at work).

      And I imagine the publisher doesn't make as much the second way.

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Looking at a screen trying to read an e-book just sucks in my opinion(admittedly I have yet to use the Nook or other such devices).

      I'm with you, and still generally prefer dead trees, but e-ink has really changed the experience of reading digital documents. You're not staring at a screen. You're staring at a print-out. You can sit on the couch and read it. It's still doesn't have the charm of a real book, but everything that sucks about e-books is gone and the nice things (like digital bookmarks and ta

    • by bkpark (1253468) on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:35AM (#31031568) Homepage

      I love books. I much prefer to read a dead-tree book than an e-book. There's just something I love about sitting on a couch with a book in my hands turning the pages as I read.

      That's funny. I prefer my Kindle for the exact same reason. There's just something I love about sitting on a recliner with my Kindle in my hands, turning the pages as I read, without having to worry about holding down the pages so that the pages don't close on me or damaging the spines of the books permanently by opening up the pages too much.

      I'd rather very much focus on the book and its content, as I can with Kindle (or any ebook reader with reflective screen, really), not how I am struggling with its physical manifestation.

    • by demonlapin (527802) on Friday February 05, 2010 @02:55AM (#31031998) Homepage Journal

      admittedly I have yet to use the Nook or other such devices

      Try an e-Ink screen. It's great. You have to read a lot to make it worth your while to buy an e-Ink reader, but unless you're one of the few who can read LCD all day and all night without eyestrain, it's a real pleasure to use.

  • Tough Choice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dangitman (862676) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:14AM (#31030914)
    I sided with Macmillan in this little argument, because I think the way Amazon acted was really shitty and totally lacking in class. But when Rupert fucking Murdoch starts speaking out against Amazon, it almost makes me want to side with Amazon. Almost. I guess I can always just hate them both.
  • this is what happens when you let a handful of individuals own huge economic resources. they become like feudal lords, asserting their own will to majority of the people. here, behold, technology has improved, there is a possibility of cheaper goods being available to public. but, the feudal corporate structure doesnt want to let it happen. so much for 'free market', so much for 'invisible hand'. this is just in line with another observation i posted in a similar thread before :

    http://slashdot.org/comments. [slashdot.org]

  • by crotherm (160925) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:19AM (#31030952) Journal

    e-readers have their place. I'd say it would be for viewing more dynamic docs or quick reference over a networked feed for tech docs. Paper books, for me, are not replaceable. You don't have to worry so much about a paperback. I can smack my son (allegedly) with it when he acts like a kook. I can throw it off a twenty story building and it still works. I can treat my book like the $6.00 price it cost.

    I know this is an old argument. I am an old dude, (allegedly), but I see what my son reads. And how he reads, and he decidedly did not want an e-reader for his reading needs.

    I just wish I could buy books printed on hemp like God intended.!

  • by headkase (533448)
    He forgets the golden rule of capitalism! I don't give a shit about the retailers. I want competitively priced goods. If I can get them from Amazon for cheap and in a format I'm happy with, well, bu-bye Murdock-with-your-head-up-your-ass. Good riddance. You are not entitled to a living, change.
  • Prices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Telvin_3d (855514) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:32AM (#31031060)

    This is a preemptive reply to the ten million people who are about to post variations on the following theme
    "e-books should only cost a few dollars because they don't have the cost of printing/shipping/storing a book"

    This is wrong.

    This is wrong because actually printing a book is the smallest cost involved in making one. When you look at the price of, say, a $35 hardcover book perhaps $4 is physical costs. Almost all of the cost of a book is the cost of paying the author/editor/proofreader plus the retail markup. These costs remain the same regardless of format.

    And you will note that I have not mentioned publisher's profit. That's because there basically isn't one. Publishing is notorious for having no profit margin. Always has been. It was famous for not making money a century ago, famous for it fifty years ago and still a great way to get well known while losing money today. Publishing is not the music industry and it is not the movie industry. Almost all the profit is spent in up-front costs before the product even hits the streets.

    Because of this, publishing has always had a very sane pricing policy. First they publish the hardcover for a high price point. Everyone who can't wait to read it buys it. Then if it is popular enough to pay off the costs six months or a year later they produce a softcover for $10 to pick up everyone who didn't want it enough to pay the hardcover costs.

    Now, this doesn't mesh very well with the electronic music or video markets which is why Amazon tries to run with a fixed price point. But that's a nuts way of doing things when you are talking about books. Doesn't work because it doesn't pay off the fixed costs involved in paying the people who produce the books.

    So, really, a fair e-book price is about $5 less than whatever it is selling for on the shelf. When a book first comes out that means $30-$40. A year or so later $6 is pretty likely. If you can't stand waiting don't bitch about the higher price.

    For a real understanding, check out this post from John Scalzi (author) that is really fantastic
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/01/30/a-quick-note-on-ebook-pricing/ [scalzi.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zippthorne (748122)

      MSRP may be $30-$40, but I've never seen an actual hardcover that was actually selling for that that wasn't giant book o' stunning pictures. Most of the time you get them for "40% off!!!" which brings new hardcovers into the 17-24 range.

      Publishing is not the music industry and it is not the movie industry. Almost all the profit is spent in up-front costs before the product even hits the streets.

      Got it, it's the movie industry. Unless those "up-front" costs are actually printing and storage costs. But that wouldn't jive well with your assertion that printing is a tiny fraction of the cost of bringing a book to market.

    • Re:Prices (Score:4, Informative)

      by blitziod (591194) on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:06AM (#31031344)
      ok first off you are viewing publishing in the context of print books. The switch to eformats( it will happen) will change the upfront costs. secondly much of the cost of selling books retail involves shipping( huge costs) and markup for the retailer. Retailers have limited shelf space and high costs for labor, etc.They have to recoup those or fold. Ebooks will eventually be sold with a tiny markup by the retailer OR direct from the publisher. The new market will eliminate shipping, retail space costs, most retail markup. More importantly it will eliminate printing books that do not sell. Many books do not sell. Printing a book may cost 5 bucks but if you print 3 for every one you sell WHOA thats 15 per book. Also the move to ebooks eliminates the vast amounts of capital publishing requires. This will allow publishers to publish many more books. Also by spending former production costs on marketing sell they can sell more copies also, to a point. The question is WHY book publishers have not moved faster to ditch paper and trucks in favor of electrons and cables? I predict more books will come out ONLY on ebook soon and not just junkie fan fiction or how to manuals. Universities( and students) should be the first to insist on ebooks to curtail the insane price of text books. A sensible ebook lending policy could cause libraries to buy thousands more books( no need for a bigger building, or a library visit, or even to live in the same city) thus improving sales of some titles. Imagine a national lending library for ebooks funded by a small donation made at the point of purchase( click here to donate 1 dollar to put a copy of this book in the national library). The amount of good for the people(including the industry) that can come from this is HUGE. But it will hurt some existing profit models..so what. For now I just pirate books on to my kindle at a ratio of around 10:1 to compensate for the gouging done by ebook retailers. For murdoch's company i guess i will raise that ratio to 15:1( or higher) now..no big deal...please join me in this act of revolution and make ebooks more common.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by argStyopa (232550)

      "....blah blah blah about why ebooks should be almost as expensive as real ones..."

      Bullshit.

      Double Bullshit, in fact.

      See, the point you're overlooking is that the costs you mention are FLAT.
      What the author is paid for his intellectual and (very hard) work is a flat amount. Note, I of course recognize that this isn't true in the real world, most authors are paid a floating number - this make sense, as they are 'sharing' the profit over time, mainly so that the publishers can pay them less to start. They're

  • Okay (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Auckerman (223266) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:40AM (#31031120)

    How is this NOT price fixing? They use licensing semantics to do an end run around the idea, but in the end it's price fixing. Last I heard, anti competitive practices like that are illegal in the United States.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dangitman (862676)

      How is this NOT price fixing?

      How is what not price-fixing? Murdoch's desire to sell goods for a higher price, or Amazon's desire to sell them for $9.99 or less?

      In both cases, the answer is no. Price fixing is when an oligarchy of industry players collude to set prices. A single player desiring certain prices is not price fixing.

    • Price fixing is when multiple producers of a similar product collude to fix the price at which all of them will sell.

      That's essentially what Amazon is trying to do.

      It's not price fixing to sell to your wholesale customers in a contractual arrangement that includes a retail price floor.

      This is called business.

  • Let's do the math. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by argent (18001) <peterNO@SPAMslashdot.2006.taronga.com> on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:06AM (#31031346) Homepage Journal

    eBook: $10.00
    # times you can loan: 0
    # years you can own: probably 10
    Resale value: $0.00

    Paperback: $7.00
    # times you can loan: personal best, oh, about 10
    # years you can own: personal best, 34
    Resale value: personal best, $27.00

    Yeh, I can see how eBooks are undercutting paperbacks.

    Hardcovers? Who buys hardcovers?

  • eBooks (Score:3, Informative)

    by mseeger (40923) on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:35AM (#31031566)

    Hi,

    First of all i have to mention that i am addicted to reading.

    This was already a problem as a kid: Once i was ill my aunt gave me five books as a gift. The next morning i called her and asked for more. In a hindsight, this was really embarrassing.

    But once i started earning good money, this problem has multiplied. I am running out of shelf space. With my marriage i gave away about 1.000 books to friends just to have a little space for my wifes books.

    So started with ebooks as a measure of self defence. I started with the Iliad Irex about 3-4 years ago. Since then i purchased several hundred ebooks. The good thing is: i drive on vacation without any fear of running out of input.

    Therefor i am very interested in everything that concerns costs of books.

    I totally hate any kind of DRM. Since i started i went through several different reader. Any restriction to move a book with me feels like theft. This one reason my favorite publisher is Baen. They have the most honest approach towards the reader. I think Eric Flints Introducing the Baen Free Library [baen.com] gives the best summary on that topic ever written.

    I also worked as author, editor and publisher for books (on a very small scale). Therefor i know how much money is in the production (very little) and distribution (a lot) process and how little ends up with the authors. So i think that ebooks will greatly improve the percentage an author will get from the book sales (but not the overall revenue).

    Current contracts give authors a certain percentage of all revenue. So it is in the interest of publishers and authors to get the prices as high as possible. But while the publishers still get the same share, they do a lot less for the sale of an ebook than for one of a paperback.

    So at this point customers are on the side of Amazon, that an ebook should cost significantly less than a paper based book.

    Currently the frontlines run between Amazon and the customers on one side and publishers and authors on the other. But the authors are not on that side due to their own interest but due to the current publishing system. I don't think that this situation will remain static. The publishers are bound to loose the authors as allies and then the fight next.

    A typical question is: It's the same book, why shpould the reader pay less for an eboook?

    It is the same book but it is not the same service. With a paper based book, they have to print it, ship it through the world, provide shelf space in the bookstore, pay the cashier guy,...

    The transport of an ebook is by a factor 1.000 cheaper than a paper book, the cashier is fully automated, it does not take shelf space,....

    If the producer has less costs, the product should become cheaper.

    Where i agree: The author provides the same service, so he/she should get the same amount as before.

    Who works less is the publisher and the bookstore. They should get less for an ebook.

    The problem is the typical contract between author and publisher. Usually there is a certain fix percentage of the revenue (no matter wether ebook or paper book) designated for the author. While the percantage of an author at a book is around 10-15%, it should be higher (e.g. 30%) for ebooks. Of course the publishers are not in favor....

    Publishers dislike ebooks not just due to the prices. If ebooks become too popular, the need for publishers is decreasing. An author could go just directly to Amazon without the help of publisher. Currently an ebook will not sell very well if there is no paper book to create demand. But this will change. The publishers (like the RIAA before them) wants to fight it. But they will have as much success as fighting entropy....

    Personally i am totally in favor of the development. The service i am interested in is someone like Pat writing fascinating novels. I am also willing to pay for the editor and the distribution. But i am not interested in trees getting chopped down and trucks blowing carbon dioxide into the air while carrying harcovers.

    CU, Martin

  • Not a New Concept (Score:4, Interesting)

    by coppro (1143801) on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:38AM (#31031590)
    This is not a new concept, and it's certainly not fatal to the book:
    • The Encyclopedia Britannica costs $70/a for an online subscription. It costs $1300 for a paper copy. People still buy the paper copy.
    • A hardcover book costs 2-4 times as much as the paperback. People still buy the hardcover.
    • Public libraries exist. People still buy books.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Animats (122034)

      The Encyclopedia Britannica costs $70/a for an online subscription. It costs $1300 for a paper copy. People still buy the paper copy.

      Not many. Britannica has been in trouble for years. When Microsoft did Encarta, they talked to Britannica about some kind of business arrangement. Britannica turned Microsoft down. Years later, with Britannica doing badly, they went to see Bill Gates, who told them that, because of their expensive sales force, their organization now had "negative value".

  • Value is based on the principal of scarcity. With print medium the publishers could control the scarcity, AND create the demand through marketing, thereby increasing the value i.e. the price. But when talking about profit margins, I will hazard a calculated guess and say that e-books are far more profitable even at the lower price point.
    The real issue here is that Murdoch and other redundant publishers no longer get to control the scarcity in the market, plus with the lowered cost barriers to market entry, a LOT more fish are now feeding in the same pond.
  • A solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by trawg (308495) on Friday February 05, 2010 @02:31AM (#31031882) Homepage

    1) If you want to charge me $15 for an ebook, I would like to get the ebook immediately, followed by the real printed book in snail mail. Don't care how long it takes to arrive, as long as it does.

    2) If you want to charge me $15 for a paperback, I would like to be able to register online somehow and also download the ebook.

    ie: the ebook costs practically fuck all to duplicate and distribute. Leverage that advantage and turn it into a bonus.

    I will not pay $15 for an ebook, ever. Especially if it's festooned with DRM. I will wait until the paperback is out (of course, I'm in Australia, where we get royally fucked because of bullshit book distribution laws, so it'll be more like $22 for the paperback, but still).

  • Well Yeh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:42AM (#31032164)

    Sure ebooks hurt the retail merchants but so what? Industries are not protected nor should they be. Buggy builders were slaughtered by the automobile. The telegraph industry was murdered by the telephone and computer industry. Telephone operators were blown out of work by electronic switchboards. Lawn workers were smacked down by gasoline mowers. The list is endless. So just why are we to be concerned about the loss of retail book sellers? Take a peek at movie theaters. In 1930 theaters were absolutely enormous. Today there is no such thing as a theater that seats 20,000. Soon even the small theaters that still exist will probably vanish as the television industry has better and better technology.

  • Uh, yeah.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hazydave (96747) on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:31AM (#31032356)

    ... it's that the basic point... eBooks are SUPPOSED to kill paper books. Or at least replace them, for those who use eBooks. Who will more every year, particularly once the proprietary formats fail and eBooks can be ready by every eBook reader.

    As for Hardcover prices... well, there's a difference between the quality and longevity of a hardcover versus the paperback. That's the only true value of the hardcover book. The rest is marketing... the early release... like seeing a film in the theater now, or waiting for the DVD or Blu-Ray later... or the HBO presentation later still.

    But that's not true of an eBook... there is virtually no cost of duplication, far cheaper to make than paperbacks. And more restricted, at least with DRM; you can't resell them, or lend them in any real way. You may not be able to annotate them, either. Thus, much less value than a paperback, in the same way that MP3 and AACs are of lower value -- the product itself, then a CD. Some value may be regained at the point-of-sale; they're sold in other ways: singles and impulse... I can buy a piece of a CD, and have it right now. That keeps the basic individual price relative high.. and yet, I've still managed to buy whole MP3 albums on Amazon for $2-$4 each. Which is about the right value, versus an $8-12 CD, or $15-$20 SACD or DVD-Audio Disc.

    It's understandable that the publishers don't like this, in general. For one, they understand hardcovers and paperbacks, but can't quite get their heads wrapped around an eBook as being something different. They want it to be a hardcover, Amazon wants it to be a paperback, but delivered at about the same time as a hardcover. I think, in reality, this is a different form, and needs to be treated as such. For one, there are lots of publisher's expenses associated with a hardcover: printing fees, distribution, in-store kiosks, maybe shelving fees, etc. All of these, at the very least, should be subtracted from the retail price and the publisher's piece of the book sale. Otherwise, they're going to be using this as a trick to increase revenues, even though they're performing significantly less of a service.

    And in fact, that's the real issue here. The book publishing industry has never been quite as abusive of "the talent" as the record industry, but they still want the bulk of profits if they can get it. If I buy a book, it still lists the author's copyright... most CDs will claim a copyright by the record company, despite their being just another kind of publisher. This has resulted in push-back by artists, some self-publishing, some going all digital or mostly digital. That works, particularly for established artists (Prince, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, etc). The rise of eBooks will enable this same route by writers. Maybe not for awhile.. the eBook reader is a relative new thing, but already at some level of acceptance due to the use of general purpose computers, just as the walkman and similar personal stereos laid the ground for an easy acceptance, then dominance, of the MP3 player/PMP.

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