An Interesting Truth at the Ebook Online Store

They answer to http://www.ebook-mega-store.com/ or the syntactically challenged: The Ebook Online Store – download ebooks for $10 and less.

This is their reason for being: “More eBooks — more DISCOUNTS! Every eBook costs $10.00. The more you buy, the more discounts you earn. 2 Ebooks cost $19, 3 Ebooks cost $28, 4 Ebooks – $36, 5 Ebooks – $44, 6 – $51, 7 – $58, 8 – $65… 30 eBooks – $199…These are updated every few weeks.” They offer fiction, comic books and technical manuals.

Does anybody buy eBooks that way? Uh, I just wanted one maybe two eBooks because I’ve come all the way down here, I might buy three; but I see that if I buy 30 titles for $199.00, then I’ll drop the individual price to $6.63 per book.  Excellent deal, yah? Now, what 30 titles do I need…

It’s a twist on an old sales model. You pay less because you want more. (That usually applies to multiples of the same item, doesn’t it?) I’m not sure how they justify the discount.

There might be some incentive from the consumer side if it took more than the click of a mouse to visit the online store, if there was some bother to get there, fight through crowds and if getting home required putting the kids in the van and driving through traffic.

And from the store’s point of view individual eBooks take up very little space on a server which flies in the face of the traditional idea behind discounted merchandise that was usually linked to a store being “overstocked” or it was time to move old merchandise to make room for the new. You can’t overstock a single file from which multiple copies can be downloaded, can you?  Whuh, am I missing something?

The truth is: if they can offer the book for $6.63 when you buy 30, there’s no reason they can’t offer the same price for one. Is there some kind of voodoo they’re working to influence these prices? There isn’t some virtual clerk walking around there, packing stuff, stocking shelves… Strange…

Unless they and other eBook sellers, are forced into no-win sales scenarios with the traditional publishing houses, and have to sell high for the right to offer the books… hmmm. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. So what kind of margin are they making that they can offer these items for ten or six dollars?

That’s something someone could please clear up for me. Anyone out there know what kind of deals these sellers have to work with?

So, my test items, all of them from New Moon to Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth would cost you the same $10 for the one item, or $6.63 if you’ve got 28 other books you’d like to read. When they get them. I see they don’t list those particular books as of Jan. 14/09. They do offer many of Stephen King’s books (again King…), and you know what, that might be one author you could name 30 titles for. But would you want to pay $199 for his publisher’s backlist as digital files?

Not to sound too negative, but if you look around you’ll see the site’s a little drab. Could it hurt them to post a few book covers? But I do like the way they acknowledge an interesting truth about eBooks.

There is no fundamental difference book to book to book that warrants a difference in price. They’re digital files right? Other than maybe slapping a premium on new releases (which will unfortunately encourage piracy) eBooks really should be available at affordable and relative prices. That way you can enjoy the author you know and love on your Kindle or Sony, or take a chance and try a new author… at the same low, low price. I think $5.00 and under is the direction this should be taking.

We should keep an eye on this site. It’s delivery may be somewhat austere and two-dimensional, and $10 is still too much to charge for eBooks and avoid piracy, but the one price for all is my kind of thinking.


Is the ISBN an irrelevant cash grab?

Ok, some publishers are arguing the new technologies are making the ISBN irrelevant. As the eBook revolution is making it affordable for publishers to dust off their backlists, those publishers are now looking at the old ISBN rules and crying foul. ISBN rules say you’ve got to have individual ISBN for all issues and re-issues of a book, as well as eBook or CD versions of the same product. (Let’s say a minimum of 2 ISBN per book and it adds up.)

A bit of checking around showed that  ISBN prefixes cost as much as $250 for a block of ten pre-numbered ISBN purchased from any of the 160 authorized ISBN agencies worldwide.  When publishers reissue products in multiple formats from a backlist of several thousand titles, they say it’s an extra cost that is unjustified because of modern technical advances in web search, store search engines and computer databases.

Read the full lowdown on ISBN from ISBN.ORG

What is the purpose of an ISBN?
The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

What do I do when I receive the ISBN and where is it printed?
An ISBN should be assigned to each title or product, including any backlist or forthcoming titles. Each format or binding must have a separate ISBN (i.e. hardcover, paperbound, VHS video, laserdisc, e-book format, etc). A new ISBN is required for a revised edition. Once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused. An ISBN is printed on the lower portion of the back cover of a book above the bar code and on the copyright page.

Sounds like a nice little racket. I was okay until I read you have to assign a new ISBN for each revised edition. With today’s printing technology, e.g. Print-On-Demand and the adoption of the eBook (where, frankly, editions can be revised continuously) one’s options are considerably restrained by this necessity for reclassification. Having to acquire a new ISBN for each revised edition unnecessarily complicates a process that the ISBN should streamline, one would think and it seriously restricts the flexibilty that the new publishing technology offers. Yah!

What happened to the Dewey Decimal System?


The Plastic Logic Reader – Very Cool!

The Plastic Logic Reader and its revolutionary Plastic Electronics Display is on the road to stardom. Have a look at the product specifics here and you’ll see what I mean.  Fantastic machine!

It’s got an 8.5×11 inch display surface, which answers a lot of questions about PDF documents for business, law firms and governments, etc., and looks perfectly suited to newspaper and magazine display too. It’s a given that eBooks will play on it, and with that display surface will allow for original formatting, etc. It’s a sharp little gizmo.

Sweet Ride

This Looks like One Sweet Ride

While the site says that their list of playable document formats  is forthcoming, and that the device loads wirelessly, the video mentions a Plastic Logic Library, which sounds a bit like that system other eReader designers are setting up to control where you get your content, and how much it will cost you. It would be quite nice if they’d offer such a libary, just please don’t make it mandatory. Let us Google for best prices, yah?

It will undoubtedly have growing pains, as have all other aspects of the new eReading technology, but one look at this thing tells me that it (or a clone) is going to be a big player in the field.

I am amazed that CNN’s story on the device says that newspapers in the future “might” be read on these things. Come on! Might? Pretty much every newspaper out there has an online version. Some have shifted entirely to that format.

I can imagine such publishers are champing at the bit to get ahold of these things. No printing or delivery costs, just pay your contract reporters and designers and collect subscription and ad revenues. Ya-hoo!

Not to mention the video crossover that is coming close on its heels… Wow.
Have a look at their web site, and check out the video here.

I’m going to harp on it. If they can keep the price of these devices affordable we will see another revolution in publishing, simple as that, yah? I mention that because the Yahoo News video says the Plastic Logic Reader will be pre-released later this year to product partners and while its price will not be known until 2010, it will be priced comparable to other eReaders on the market. Well, that’s still averaging just under $300 bucks today, I’m pretty sure that will have dropped a lot by 2010. I can’t wait!


Free eBooks at Project Gutenberg

Ok, this is my version of a public service announcement. You’ve really got to dig around over at Project Gutenberg. Amazing work they’re doing. It’s like strolling through a museum or a really old library… check it out. Yah!

Project Gutenberg – Their mission statement: to encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.

“Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or eBooks.” Read the full scoop at the above link. Tons of reading there…pour a cup of coffee, you could browse all day. The collection consists of classics and public domain material for obvious reasons but here’s their explanation. They offer many formats but prefer “open” and “editable” varieties.

CyberRead.com

I visited CyberRead.com to do a bit of pricing. Is it just me or is whole “cyber” thing getting old. When’s the last time you told someone you’d look for them in cyberspace. If you ever did.

Anyway, not to get picky (I just don’t want to imagine cyberbooks!) but I strolled through the cyberstore looking for cyberprices (Couldn’t resist) and ran my now familiar test products first and found them pricier than I expected.

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer $12.99
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman $17.99

Their “Best Sellers” run from

1491 by Charles C. Mann at $9.99

To Stephen King’s Duma Key at $16.99

to $20.95 for the gag inducing A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity by Bill O’Reilly
and Bob Woodward’s Thriller, The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 for just $24.99. (Ambien’s cheaper…)

CyberRead offers eBooks in four formats: Mobipocket Reader, a universal eBook Reader for Windows computers, SmartPhones and most PDA’s; Microsoft Reader, for Windows-based desktop and laptop; Adobe Reader, the global standard for electronic document sharing; and Office Word 2007.


What do you want in an eBook reader?

1. I want an eBook reader that is smart enough to crack any eBook, digital magazine or document format they’ve got going. Oh, and open the file in a way that doesn’t result in a page of text that looks like sloppy html coding. That way I can purchase and download any eBook or document I want to read, anywhere I find it.

Any suggestions?


Diesel eBooks Visit

Diesel eBooks – Sounds like they’re selling truck manuals, but not so. They’ve got quite a collection over there: how-to, literature, mainstream and new releases. Google around a bit and you’ll see that the number of online eBook retailers is growing daily. Diesel’s just one of them.

I did a price check. Now you’ll notice I keep going back to Stephen King, and there’s a reason. He’s familiar to everybody on the planet, and he’s got books that range from almost ancient to new releases. The thought is, we can work out some decent prices there by comparing old to new, yah?

Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot is available in all formats. They’ve got that listed from $16.48 in Mobi format up to $26.75 as an M-soft document.

Okay, let’s do the math. 30 year old book… very good book, but those prices are just crazy for an eBook of that antiquity.

It’s in the same list with his Dreamcatcher (okay, not as good a book…) which sells for $7.33. Come on. We’re not stupid. We know how digital books work. Once the file is created, it’s clear sailing. There’s no storage or shipping required at that point. And with these old books, lord they’re still cruising on decades-old press and advertising. TOO MUCH!

Let’s have a look at our test eBooks at diesel-ebooks.com:

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
They’ve got it for sale from $9.11 to $10.10 depending on the format.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is selling at $15.33 to $16.53 also depending on the format.

And of course, we’ll check in on Ken Follet’s work:
World Without End by Follett, Ken  is on ‘sale’ as an eBook for $21.23.

The Pillars of the Earth by Follett, Ken  is going for $7.71.

Shopping visits like this have brought me to the conclusion that these guys either have no idea how intelligent their consumers are, or they actually believe that people do not shop around, or ‘google’ for the best or better prices.

It’s madness. Digital files priced the same as actual paperback or hardcover books when married to expensive eBook Readers completely negates any sensible reason for going digital. The hell with that. And to have comparable prices for older titles that would otherwise be sitting on a publisher’s backlist makes even less sense.

Do they not know how many of us are out here or how gigantic this bookshop is?

Of course, having said that Diesel eBooks also offers some of the cheapest eBooks I’ve seen yet. For example:  Darkness Calls by Caridad Pineiro for $3.57, Touch of the Wolf by Karen Whiddon for $3.63 and The Blue Nowhere by Jeffrey Deaver for $5.51. Granted, some of these are old pulps or romance, but these at least reflect the reality of eBook publishing. It costs nothing to store them or ship them… and other than new releases the majority have not been advertised in years… there’s no justification for high prices.


A Word or Two about eBook Rumors…

As in the case of most relatively new technologies, I’ve found those people who’ve made the leap and purchased an eReader now either love or hate the device.

And like most new tech, the companies developing them are trying to corner their part of the marketplace with dreams of capturing the entire world. And from that avarice comes the detestable fact that eBooks and eBook Readers are too expensive and they do not operate very smoothly cross platform.

Yet.

From my research I’ve found that people are generally ready for eBooks. Even died-in-the-wool, cardigan-wrapped readers and writers are starting to think they might use such a device. (Can you imagine?) But one thing is clear: the eBook revolution is underway.

No stranger to revolutions, horror master Stephen King describes some of the finer points of his Kindle in a recent article. To paraphrase he acknowledged it was all about the story. The rest is just a delivery system.

But people are holding back, waiting for that perfect mix of price and product. And we’re all much more tech savvy. We know that prices today will be lower tomorrow, just as a software obstacle on Monday becomes an asset by Sunday. We know that the driving force of technology is change. And something as revolutionary as changing the way we enjoy books, newspapers and magazines will draw vast sums of money while it changes cultural paradigms. But it will be adopted, and that will provoke competition. Competition will improve the devices, eBooks and selection while driving the prices lower.

And when people climb aboard, everyone’s going to develop a different relationship with the machines and software they buy, yah? (That will likely provoke a literary version of the PC/Mac or is it Mac/PC wars…god help us.)

That being the case, I’m hoping that eBook Rumors and contributors can focus on getting the features on these devices and software (product) straightened out, listed and compared. 

In the end these machines are going to change the way we do some very basic things, and will revolutionize one of the oldest and most approachable technologies–books. Such a process deserves our attention, yah?


Fictionwise eBooks: Free eBooks, eBooks for Palm, PocketPC, PC, & Mac

Fictionwise is on the money here offering various formats. Older titles at very affordable prices.

In an attempt to maintain some sense of order I priced New Moon at Fictionwise. Regular Price: $10.99  Your Price including Buywise Club and Micropay Rebate is $8.41.  The Kindle Store Beats that at $6.04, but both beat the Sony Store’s New Moon which sells for $9.89.

Of course the bulk of newish releases are still rather pricy, e.g. World Without End by Ken Follet released Oct./07 selling for $22.00 at regular price, that’s whittled down to $15.89 after club discount and Micropay Rebate. Still pricey, but at least you can see they’re trying to think their way through this stuff. At the same time it rather blatantly shows you how much inflated value can be added and subtracted from these products. WOW…

For older titles though, they’re getting into the ballpark as in Follet’s Pillars of the Earth offered at a regular price of $7.99 that’s sold at $6.45 with the membership discount and Micropay Rebate. So there’s a definite trend to bring these books down in price. Again, citing the price of the eReaders, we need affordable books to make it worth getting on board. And eBooks do not have all the same attendant costs as the ‘real world’ equivalent. But fictionwise is definitely aware of these realities, you can tell, offering some older titles like William Gibson’s Neuromancer for $5.64 after discount and rebates or Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None for as little as $5.09 after discounts, etc.

(WORD TO THE WISE: Take your time looking around. I don’t know if their store is on the blink or whether they’re repricing things, but I found the listed prices changed overnight. Jumped a buck or two. I can’t imagine eBook pricing is that volatile, yah? It will be  headache to do posts about them if they keep changing prices.)

So we’re headed in the right direction. Even at $5.09 considering that these older titles have enjoyed years of press, from their first publication on, we can assume that most of the costs were paid out long ago. And with new books, there will be formatting and promotion to be taken into account, but considering the larger marketplace and actively searching consumers, these should not amount to numbers that drive eBook prices near their ‘real world’ equivalents.

Ironically, pricing is driven up by the size of a writer’s fanbase. Ironic, because the longer the history and bigger the fanbase, the more likely that a writer’s readers are actively looking for his/her work and the word of mouth factor would underwrite any promotional costs. I’m still waiting for Stephen King or John Grisham to offer a new eBook title for $3.99 as direct download from their own web sites. I think they’d set some record sales and record profits.

The fictionwise Buywise Club. 36% discounts. The memberships are offered of various lengths starting at $29.95 for a year and climbing to $124.95 for five years. You’ll see by clicking the link that the Buywise Club offers considerable savings.

Fictionwise offers their books in the following MULTIFORMATS

eReader [-er.PDB]   Adobe [.PDF]Microsoft [.LIT]Palm Doc [.PDB] PalmOS

Rocket/REB1100 [.RB] Franklin [.FUB] Hiebook [.KML] Sony Reader [.LRF] Isilo [-IS.PDB] Mobipocket [.PRC] Kindle [.MOBI] OEBFF Full VGA [.IMP] OEBFF Half VGA [.IMP]

You can read Fictionwise.com’s full format explanation here.

You can check out their eReader here.

Sony eBook Store Pricing Expedition

The Sony Book Store

I wanted to have a look around, price things, yah? I really liked their eReader so was very interested to know how much they were charging for eBooks. Guess what: still a little high.

New Moon: The Twilight Saga, Book 2 by Stephenie Meyer
eBook Publish Date: August 07, 2007 Filesize: 2.28 MB
List Price: $10.99 Save 10.0%
You Pay: $9.89

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
eBook Publish Date: September 29, 2008 Filesize: 1.51 MB
List Price: $17.99 Save 33.0%
You Pay: $11.99

ALSO: BESTSELLERS pricing ranged from numbers like $7.19 up to $11.99.
For example: Ken Follet’s World Without End they list at $22.00 and after a 46% discount sell it to you for $11.99.

So, okay. I know, they’re trying. They’re making the attempt. But it’s still a lot of money per book, don’t you think? You always have to figure in the $400 for the machine to read it.

How the Sony eBook Store Works

Click the above link for the complete “how to.” It looks pretty straightforward. You’ve got to set up your account at the Sony eBook Store. Then you buy the eBooks you want and download them to your PC. You upload them to your Reader from there.

There’s special eBook Library software (a.k.a. “EBL”) you have to use to create and access your account information and to purchase, download, and transfer eBooks to your Reader with the same software.

It’s all there at the link–definitely a nice set up, but I’m going to harp about the prices again. We need cheaper eBooks!