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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old October 5 2012, 09:07 PM   #1
Flogiston
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Venting about ebooks

I just sent the following to Simon and Schuster. I thought I'd share it here.


I was an early adopter of e-ink technology, having purchased the first Sony e-ink device released in the United States, and moved on to the Amazon Kindle series a couple of years ago. I was initially very reluctant when it came to purchasing ebooks, opting to purchase paper books and use my reader for public domain texts. I've recently taken the plunge, and am in the process of culling my paperback collection and replacing them with ebooks.

I enjoy reading Star Trek novels, and these seemed a prime candidate for creating shelf space and a digital collection. However, pricing and policies have kept me from doing this to the extent that I otherwise would. I thought I'd provide the following example, which has kept me from selling my paperbacks (many of which I purchased used or as remainders) and replacing them with ebooks.

I have become a big fan of the Corps of Engineers series of Star Trek stories. These were originally released as ebook shorts of around 100 pages for a couple of dollars. I started reading them in paperback omnibus format and collected the entire series in this form. I would very much like to sell these off and replace them with ebooks, but I find that the individual eshorts are now priced as if they are full-length novels. This is prohibitively expensive for me, and I (along with many others, judging by comments on amazon and around the internet) find the pricing unreasonable.

The situation is somewhat mitigated by the fact that most of the paperback collections are also available in ebook format, however the last two of the paperback collections have been out for more than two years (I purchased both of them as remainders), and it seems that the decision was made not to offer these omnibi in ebook format! If I can't get _all_ of the series in omnibus format, I would rather have the individual ebooks. But the individual ebooks are something like four times as expensive as buying the collections! If the last two collections made it to ebooks I would buy all of them. If the individual stories were two or maybe three dollars apiece, I would buy all of them. But neither of these is the case, so instead I stick with the bargain priced paperbacks on my shelf, and Simon and Schuster doesn't get my money.

I am sure that I am not the only one in a similar situation, so I thought I'd share my story in hopes that Simon and Schuster might rethink their ebook pricing and/or policy.
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Old October 5 2012, 09:52 PM   #2
ryan123450
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Re: Venting about ebooks

Pricing is my issue as well. I still want to read Slings and Arrows, but I wont pay 30 or 40 dollars to do so. They shouldn't be priced as full length books.
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Old October 5 2012, 10:01 PM   #3
shanejayell
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Re: Venting about ebooks

Or even seeing a print version of Slings and Arrows. Put it out for the DS9 anniversary!
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Old October 5 2012, 10:10 PM   #4
OmahaStar
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Re: Venting about ebooks

This, I think, is what leads so many people to pirate the ebooks. Many years ago, people downloaded songs illegally through Napster. It was free and convenient. Flash forward a few years, and iTunes takes over the world. Suddenly, you can download the individual song you want (instead of buying a whole album for one or two songs you want) for a reasonable price - just 99 cents.

I read a statistic from one of those recording industry lawyers, who said in an interview that thanks to iTunes (and other, similar sites such as bandcamp.com and Amazon), music piracy had dropped by 75%, and their profits were through the roof.

If companies offer a decent product at a reasonable price, people will buy it. I know it's bad to assume, but still, I would assume that the majority of people would prefer to acquire their entertainment legally. They would be willing to pay a few dollars to download their copy of whatever the item is.

Unfortunately, most publishers are stuck in the mindset that says they have to maximize their profits and to hell with the customers. Guys, at the end of the day, it's an electronic file. A few weeks ago, a poster here talked about Trek titles he (she?) had purchased from an eBook seller. That site had discontinued selling the titles. As he'd not yet downloaded them, he was then stuck with vaporware. Paying for a product he would never get, and the files had been deleted from the store's servers.

Who is to say it won't happen again? Sure, Amazon is a big deal in the book world these days. So was Borders. What happens if they go out of business, or Pocket decides to flip the switch and not offer Trek books on their site? Or Amazon decides to reach into peoples' devices and delete the files, as they did not long ago with 1984, of all titles.

Since ebooks are not physical books, and they can be taken away at any time, they should not be priced the same - or, in some cases with Trek books - even higher than the physical book. The publisher has already paid the writer. It's already been edited, it's already in a digital form. It goes through a conversion with Calibre or something similar, and bingo, we have an ebook to sell.

Some of the prices are bizarre. When I checked a month or so ago, Jean Lorrah's Trek books were mostly 8 dollars. Except for Survivors, which was 11.99. And that's a 20 year old Trek book which has never been out of print.

I'm a poor college student. I have 4 bucks to my name. I want to read the new Trek book. Do I pay a reasonable price for it and be done with it? Or do I go to google and do a five-second search to download title X for free?

Since they tend to think of their customers as the enemy, they will continue to overprice their ebooks.
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Old October 5 2012, 10:13 PM   #5
BritishSeaPower
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Re: Venting about ebooks

Yeah, the Slings and Arrows books have gone drastically up in price since I bought them and they were overpriced when I got them. A few of the reviews for the Slings and Arrows books are mine.

I have an odd question, and I'm not sure where to ask this, but...

I noticed that in my E-Book Copy of Mirror Universe: Glass Empires, the title page for "The Worst of Both Worlds" is printed as "fo tsroW ehT htoB sdlroW." Now at first I thought this was a coy little joke, but considering that it isn't a mirrored sentence, I have to assume it's a mistake in the e-Book. Can anyone clarify this for me?
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Old October 5 2012, 10:33 PM   #6
Christopher
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Re: Venting about ebooks

It's kind of a mistake, but not the kind you might think. The title in the print edition is written as:

Fo Tsrow Eht
Sdlrow Htob


So the e-book appears to have taken two consecutive lines and run them together the wrong way, as well as changing the capitalization and inverting the order of the last two words, apparently.
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Old October 6 2012, 01:22 AM   #7
JD
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Re: Venting about ebooks

The individual SCE/CoE ebooks are $5.99 on the B&N website. That doesn't seem that unreasonable to me.
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Old October 6 2012, 01:47 AM   #8
Flogiston
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Re: Venting about ebooks

I suppose it's a matter of perspective. The latest MMPB releases in ebook format are 7.99. In the MMPB collections of SCE there are four ebooks. So we're talking about 1/4 the content for 3/4 the price.

Or to put it another way, purchasing the equivalent contents of 'Have Tech Will Travel' will cost 24 dollars. Even the latest hardback releases tend to be twenty dollars or less in ebook form.

So I don't think it's miserly of me to find the price point a little steep.
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Old October 6 2012, 01:55 AM   #9
JD
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Re: Venting about ebooks

I can see that. I honestly never really thought about the actual math there. I just figured "hey, they're cheaper than full length books, that's good enough for me." But when you put it that way, it does seem like a bit of a rip off. But, the authors on here have pointed out that the final publication of the book itself makes up a very small percentage of the actually cost to make it. Maybe that is just the cheapest they can go and still make a profit?
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Old October 6 2012, 02:29 AM   #10
Jimi_James
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Re: Venting about ebooks

It's sort of the wild west out there right now, in terms of ebook pricing and unfortunately it's going to take some time before the market and publishers work out a standard across the board.

Valeyard had it right I think when comparing the situation to the music industry and iTunes and it will be interesting to see what role self published authors play in the final standard. I know that when I set my book up on Amazon, (see that segue I made there?), pricing was an important factor to consider because I knew that some authors and published had seen a backlash because of high ebook prices. The last thing I wanted to do was alienate any potential readers by setting a high starting price, so after some research I decided on 3.99, which to me seems like a fair price. I could charge more, and I could charge less, but 3-5 dollars seems like a good middle ground.

Needless to say, until someone with enough clout like Amazon or itunes can work with publishers to set some sort of standard, the consumer will be at the mercy of individual publishers and whatever price they want to set.
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Old October 6 2012, 02:41 AM   #11
BritishSeaPower
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Re: Venting about ebooks

Chris, as ever, you are the One Who Knows! Yeah, the capitalization is retained as if the words were written Left to Right. And they flipped Both and Worlds, which is a very odd mistake. I think I may have realized it was a formatting "joke" or "reference" if they had retained the two-line formatting. It displays as one line across all my Kindle/Kindle App devices.

My problem with something like Slings and Arrows, is that the story lengths vary incredibly with no reduction in cost. The initial story is something like 1/3 the length of a novel, but you get ones that are 1/6 or even 1/8 the length of an average Trek novel and paying full price just feels unfair. That, and quite a few of them were badly formatted for the Kindle. No chapter markers, I think #5 there were no paragraph breaks so scenes ran together, and it wasn't always obvious where one ended. I understand all the issues with "archiving" Books to e-Books for companies, but this was an E-book exclusive!
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Old October 6 2012, 07:23 AM   #12
rafterman1701
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Re: Venting about ebooks

When I bought the SCE books through MS's ebook system years ago, they were all 2-3 bucks a pop. Now those same ones are much higher on Kindle. I want to finish the series but it's just so pricey now.
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Old October 6 2012, 04:29 PM   #13
Warp Coil
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Re: Venting about ebooks

One of the reasons I am reluctant to switch to eBook is pricing. I've often seen titles that are priced exactly the same for eBook or paperback. With a paperback, I can actually hold this tangible object in my hand and do with it as I please. I can read it, store it on my shelf, loan it to a friend, re-sell it later. Whatever I want. It's mine. With an eBook, I have surprisingly few options. I can read it. That's about it. It's digital and something could go wrong, in which case I lose the file and cannot retrieve it. I know that a friend of mine is able to share eBooks with her sisters (they all use a Nook) but I am not sure that this is something that everyone can do. So if I am going to have all of these limitations imposed on me for buying an electronic copy, why should I still pay the same price? If a paperback cost $7.99 but the same title in eBook was available for, say, $3.99, I think it would help sway me. But often times that is not the case.
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Old October 6 2012, 05:02 PM   #14
Christopher
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Re: Venting about ebooks

Warp Coil wrote: View Post
It's digital and something could go wrong, in which case I lose the file and cannot retrieve it.
In my experience, once you've bought an e-book from a given provider, you can download it from them again at no extra charge. Also, some offer the option to store it in the "cloud," i.e. the data is stored online and you purchase the right to download and read it on any electronic device you own.

Or, you could just make a backup copy or two, which is a good idea with any electronic file. I've been able to copy my e-books onto different computers and have simply needed to enter the number of the credit card I bought them with to unlock them. And Tor's e-books (including my upcoming Only Superhuman) are now DRM-free, so I don't think there'd be any impediment to making a backup copy (strictly for personal use, of course, since piracy is bad).
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Old October 6 2012, 05:48 PM   #15
Allyn Gibson
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Re: Venting about ebooks

The Valeyard wrote: View Post
Since ebooks are not physical books, and they can be taken away at any time, they should not be priced the same - or, in some cases with Trek books - even higher than the physical book. The publisher has already paid the writer. It's already been edited, it's already in a digital form. It goes through a conversion with Calibre or something similar, and bingo, we have an ebook to sell.

Some of the prices are bizarre. When I checked a month or so ago, Jean Lorrah's Trek books were mostly 8 dollars. Except for Survivors, which was 11.99. And that's a 20 year old Trek book which has never been out of print.
There are two drivers of eBook costs on the publisher side -- one psychological, the other intrinsic.

The psychological driver -- publishers like eBook sales, but not at the expense of print sales. They want to complement their print sales, not gut their print sales.

The intrinsic driver -- there are additional developmental costs in producing an eBook. It's not just a case of taking a digital file and running it through Calibre. For one's personal use, that's fine. For something you want people to pay for, not so much. Creating an eBook has more in common with developing a software application than it does with physical publishing. A poorly formatted eBook is not a victimless crime.

At the same time, it's not unreasonable for consumers to question why eBooks are priced they way they are. They're not buying a physical good, and yet they're being asked to pay something close to the same good's physical price. And unlike the physical good, the digital good cannot be resold. (A physical book has a value. A digital good does not.) Both of these factors, in my opinion, argue for lower eBook prices. Even though the eBook is more convenient than its print equivalent (portability, no need for storage space), the publisher is charging a premium price from the consumer for a less valuable format.

Personally, I think the "sweet spot" price for an eBook would be between fifty and sixty percent of the mass market price.
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