Another ill-informed rant about e-books

12 November 2008 in Future of Publishing

I have no desire to become a publisher, not even a self-publisher, though of course I might be driven to it one day, either because no one will publish me anymore (hasn’t happened yet, fingers crossed) or because I figure out a way to do it while retaining some kind of foothold in the market.  Though I am very very weary of the whole ‘future of publishing/future of books/end of books/end of reading as we know it’ discussion, it still annoys me to hear publishers complaining about the cost of converting their business to the digital.  I understand that the costs of creating fully digital content accessible across multiple platforms is substantial, but the truth is that all digital formats, when delivered electronically, dramatically cut the costs of publishing, once you take warehouses and shipping out of the equation.

So why are ebooks so ridiculously expensive?

In the past year I’ve been to a couple of events to discuss the future of publishing at large mainstream UK publishers and each time I look around at the gorgeous, high-tech, central London, HUGE buildings we are in and I think, oh, oh yes, this is what they call ‘overheads’.

Surely someone is about to start up a light-weight, streamlined new type of publisher in their kitchen, with a brand new economic model:  offer books in as many digital formats as feasible, including print-on-demand, broker deals with the retailers who are pushing ereaders and print-on-demand technology, offer writers a risk/profit share in the takings, undercut all the mainstream publishers on the price of ebooks - and bingo, bob’s your uncle.  I know, I know, it isn’t easy - but why not try it?  When is a publisher going to stand up
and suggest that charging the same price for an ebook as a print book, and in many instances, MORE, is just plain highway robbery?  Readers and writers revolt!

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