Publishing Math Games (Roundtable: 3/4/10)
The Roundtable is a live, interactive webcast gathering some of the most outspoken industry professionals to debate the hottest publishing issues of the week, as being discussed in traditional media, the blogiverse and on Twitter. From celebrity book deals to eBook rights and pricing to [insert YOUR pet topic here] — if it’s related to books, it’s on the agenda.
Topic: Publishing Math Games
This episode of The Roundtable was webcast live at 1pm EST on March 4, 2010.
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Dir. of Programming & Business Development, Digital Book World
At a glance, it appears the e-book is more profitable. But publishers point out that e-books still represent a small sliver of total sales, from 3 to 5 percent. If e-book sales start to replace some hardcover sales, the publishers say, they will still have many of the fixed costs associated with print editions, like warehouse space, but they will be spread among fewer print copies.
Moreover, in the current print model, publishers can recoup many of their costs, and start to make higher profits, on paperback editions. If publishers start a new e-book’s life at a price similar to that of a paperback book, and reduce the price later, it may be more difficult to cover costs and support new authors.
As ebooks reach a tipping point where they can actually offset the calculations that a big publisher must make in sizing a 6-to-7-figure print run for a prospective bestseller, they can provide a powerful hedge for the publisher against the kind of huge losses, from unamortized front-end production outlays, that are symbolized so vividly on hundreds of bookstore remainder tables all over the country each year. Regardless of whether it’s price at $12.99 or $9.99, you’ll never see an ebook on a remainder table.
Remember the Christmastime price war on best-selling hardcovers? Combined with the mass merchandisers, this 37 percent of the book market represents the heart of the business and the focus of much effort on the part of publishers.
For the big six conglomerates, this represents their future much more than e-books do. It’s a high-volume business that responds well to what the big publishers are good at, acquiring titles for large sums and moving books rapidly through the distribution channel.
Dear book industry, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but your books really aren’t worth $25. Just like newspapers weren’t really worth what people were paying for them and magazines, either. And CDs, and DVDs. These were all worthy of a high price when analog economics were the only economics. When people understood that they paid $25 to get some paper, ink, and a binding, all of which had to be warehoused, shipped, and slotted on shelves in warm stores with muzak and imported coffee odors wafting through the environment.
A digital book suffers from none of those impediments. Therefore: it should be cheaper. Stop glorying in historical prices and accept the fact that a digital book should not cost $25 unless it comes with some awesome, exclusive premium that makes it worthy of such a price. Otherwise, $9.99 is darn awesome a price to pay, given how cheap it is to deliver an eBook (which has fewer bytes in it than a TV episode sold for $1.99 on iTunes).
The inability to easily share content, not just with friends but even amongst one’s own devices (current and future), is one of the primary limitations of eBooks and has nothing to do with the quality (or lack thereof) of the eBook format. As more incompatible devices are sold, become obsolete and need to be replaced, it will likely become an even bigger issue than it currently is among the small but extremely vocal group of early adopters.
What happens when Kindle owners decide they want an iPad? Or disappointed Nook owners decide to buy a Kindle? Or one of the slew of new eReaders introduced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show gains traction?
What can publishers do to change the value perception of their “content”, regardless of the “container,” or is that battle already lost?
On the face of it, $59.99 per game (recently MW2 was lowered to $45), it seems expensive right? I mean one game for over sixty dollars after taxes? Seems absurd until you start comparing it with forms of entertainment.
Here are some forms of entertainment to compare it with:
- Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol: $31.50 for 17 hours, 51 minutes, $1.76 an hour.
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2: $45, at 72 hours so far, $0.63 an hour (and lowering).
- Cable Television – $60 a month, 161.5 hours a month (according to NielsenWire), $0.37 an hour.
- Movie – 2 hours for $10, $5 an hour
- Disney Theme Park – $79 per day, ~10 hours a day, $7.90 an hour
Notice a theme? You’re either buying or renting entertainment.
Twitter (As RTd by @DigiBookWorld):
RT @katerados: need to talk about danger of pub industry positioned as ‘the man’ therefore inspiring consumers 2 complain re: price. #dbw
RT @jimhanas: When you start trying to ‘educate’ your customers, it’s the beginning of the end for any industry. #dbw
RT @kellymcclymer: Authors just don’t feel valued by publishers (because the rules have changed — education will fix that #dbw
RT @jane_l: some authors are not very good at marketing and shouldn’t be out there marketing, just my opinion #dbw
RT @katerados: re: digital marketing – It Takes a Village to mkt every book #dbw
RT @jennybullough: #dbw I have to ask, though, why tens of millions of women worldwide are considered “niche”.
RT @FictionMatters: Isn’t the problem that publishers need to dual brand – once for author and once for the publisher? #dbw 15 minutes ago via web
RT @jennybullough” #dbw Most pubs’ strength is marketing book not author. Authors strength is building long-term relationship w readers. 14 minutes ago via web
RT @QOfTheDayBook: “Social Media is free, except for the time you spend on it.” @bsandusky #dbw 13 minutes ago via web
RT @bakersmark: It behooves publisher’s to create an experience with ebooks that gives the consumer a feeling of real value. #dbw yes! 12 minutes ago via web
RT @crych: Librarians want to be included in the conversation about ebooks, marketing, and pricing. -@hmccormack #dbw
Roundtable thanks to @katerados @jane_l @bsandusky @hmccormack @pablod and attendees. Check #DBW for great commentary! -@glecharles