I usually talk about the craft of writing on Mondays, but today I’m going to talk about different forms of books, such as audio books and digital books. Which, I think, have excellent uses. So, forgive me as I ramble on here...
I recenly drove to my mom’s house and back, and listened to the audio version of THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN while the kids watched WALL-E in the back seat. I loved the entire experience, and it made the drive so much better. Time passed quickly, and I was actually sad when we reached our destination because it meant I had to turn the story off. Then, after the kids were in bed, I finished listening to it while I folded laundry – a chore I absolutely hate, but was made palatable by this great story playing in the background. That right there makes audio books worth it for me.
As for digital books, I also think this has excellent uses. You can carry 100 books in a paperback-sized device, which makes traveling much lighter. You could read a book on your computer, if you’re so inclined, or even on your iPhone. ePublishing makes it easy to carry around your books and read whenever you like, rather than when it’s convenient to have the book with you. I tend to carry a book wherever I go, just in case I get a spare minute to read. For now, it works fine because I have to carry a huge bag for kid stuff as well as my own. But when I no longer need to carry kid stuff, I really want to go back to an actual handbag. And not all books will fit in that. So it would be nice to have a small device that fit nicely inside.
I’m technically savvy. I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in Math and Computer Science, and worked in the computer field for nearly ten years. I like gadgets and internet and wireless connections and all that fun stuff. But, I don’t read ebooks. Even if I didn't have to carry around a huge bag, I still wouldn't have an electronic reader. It obviously has nothing to do with the technology, since I like it. So, what's my problem? Quite plainly, it’s the price.
For those of you who don’t like math, I apologize right now because there’s plenty below. : )
I looked up the list prices of several editions of THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, which contains 336 pages:
Hardback list price: $23.95
Paperback list price: $14.99
Audio CDs: $34.95
These prices are all fine and dandy, since there’s production and print costs for each. Plus, the publishing house needs to make money, and the author needs to make money, so I’m willing to pay for these things (or get them from the library).
Next, I looked at the cost of the digital edition. According to both Amazon and Sony, the suggested retail price is $18.95. Um, that costs more than the paperback version, yet there’s no print cost. *scratching head*
Granted, $18.95 isn’t what either Amazon or Sony charge. They offer a discount:
Sony eReader price: $13.26
Amazon’s Kindle price: $9.99
These prices are less than the list price of the paperback edition, but by how much? For Sony, it’s $1.73. For Amazon, it’s $5.00. So Amazon is the better deal, right? Nope. Amazon offers pretty deep discounts on its printed books, and their price for the paperback edition is $10.19. Which means the real savings between the Kindle and paperback is $1.18.
So, you’re saving either $1.18 or $1.73, depending on which eReader you own. But for what? A digital book is not tangible, and people like to see what they’ve just bought (especially when they’ve just paid nearly the same as the tangible edition). In fact, your digital book is at higher risk because it could be lost if your computer decides it’s done with life, or if your device is damaged or stolen. Sure, you could lose all your books if your house catches fire, but, let’s face it, it’s far more likely for an electronic device to quit on you than for your house to go up in flames. :)
In my research, there was only one digital version that I thought was fairly priced: the audio download on Amazon, which is $18.35. It costs money to make the audio edition of a book because you have to hire a reader, record him/her in a studio, and edit the recording. Then, you can either put it on CDs, or sell it as a download. The CDs cost $34.95, but the download is nearly half that. Which makes sense, since there was still some cost in creating the audio version.
But for digital books, converting files is easy. You don’t need to create anything new, you’re just taking the existing text and making it available for different digital readers. There are computer programs that do this conversion for you, so you don’t even need to hire someone. The only cost is to make it available for download in a secure environment. But there is certainly not $18.95 worth of work involved. If there is, I'm skeptical of the process being used.
For me to willingly purchase digital books (and I would love to do this), the price would need to be half the price of the print versions. Which ultimately means it would need to be half the price of the paperback edition – not the hardback edition. I think that if ebooks were priced this way, there would be a lot more people interested in digital. Not enough to make the printed book obsolete or anything, but enough to maybe bring down the price of the digital readers.
Anyway, I have gone on far too long, and all of this is just my opinion based on my limited view of the publishing world. But thanks for listening. :)