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E-book piracy accelerates
February 21, 2011 10:26 PM   Subscribe

With the success of the Kindle and iPad e-book piracy accelerates.
posted by stbalbach (178 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Authors should view this as an opportunity to reach a wider audience. The real money is in touring and t-shirt sales.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:37 PM on February 21, 2011 [79 favorites]


This is pretty much the reason why I bought a nook in the first place.

Otherwise I either borrow from the public library or buy dusty old copies from used book stores. I don't think I've purchased a book from Barnes & Noble in years.
posted by adso at 10:43 PM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Breaking: As a new technology becomes more popular, so do the uses of that technology.
posted by zippy at 10:48 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The rise of the e-book lending library (and the death of e-book pirating)
posted by stbalbach at 10:50 PM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a *large* collection of downloaded ebooks (~32G), but at the same time have bought over a hundred books from Amazon for my Kindle and the Kindle PC/Mac readers, and try to make all of my book purchases as ebooks if available. More than once I've read the first book in a series after pirating it, and gone out and bought the rest off Amazon.
posted by mrbill at 10:52 PM on February 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have a *large* collection of downloaded ebooks (~32G)

You'll live long enough to read all that??
posted by orthogonality at 10:58 PM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


For years now there has been a 30GB file(s) floating through the tubez with compressed .rtfs of a *ridonkulous* amount of ebooks. More words than you could ever read in your life. Pretty much anything of (mainstream canonical) note prior to about 2003. Every popular author you've ever heard of. All the classics. Thousands of non-fiction works. You can download it in a few hours. Hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, already have. Accounting for standard IP-violation punitive damages, those people collectively owe publishers more money than has ever existed in the history of money.

Even before the ebook industry really began to take off I recall thinking: the only way this business model will last is through plus-alpha. The texts alone aren't enough. Consumers will need to want to pay for something more than a string of ones and zeros.
posted by jet_manifesto at 10:58 PM on February 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


I suspect a big driver there is the large price increases that the publishers forced on Amazon. At $10, new releases are appealing. At $16, they're just not.

I think what book publishers haven't yet figured out is that an e-book is like software... it's expensive to make, but so cheap to duplicate that it's hard to differentiate from zero. They should be going for volume, because once their e-book is finished, every copy is money good, no matter what the price is. They need to be ramping up the number of books they're selling dramatically, and that's absolutely not going to happen at $16.... particularly when they're competing with the exact same product for $0.

I'll happily pay for digital goods, and do it all the time. But I won't overpay, and if they're really assholes, I'm perfectly willing to pirate it instead. One tactic that really, really pisses me off is when the e-book costs more than the paperback. I'll pirate those titles out of freaking spite.

Price it reasonably, and I'll cheerfully pay for it. I would rather pay for it, in fact. But, fundamentally, a publisher is just sending me maybe a megabyte of data. (and that would be a BIG book). Books have hard physical costs in every copy sold, but e-books just don't.

Further, an e-book is substantially worse if I play by their rules; I can't borrow or lend the title, and I can't resell it. I'm getting a noticeably inferior product to what I was buying five years ago, and I expect the price to reflect that. If it doesn't, well, no sale... and I may end up reading it anyway.

I thought $10 for new releases, and $5 after it came out in softcover, accurately captured the fact that the e-book was a lesser product. I might be willing to pay $16 for new releases if they came without DRM, but I am absolutely unwilling to pay the same price when I'm just a renter.
posted by Malor at 10:59 PM on February 21, 2011 [62 favorites]


Let's see - if you buy from Amazon, it'll be saddled with DRM, and Amazon may very well take the file away from you (and has in the past); if you torrent it, you'll get it in the format of your choice, without DRM, and nobody is in a position to take it back from you. Which to choose? Decisions, decisions.
posted by VikingSword at 11:00 PM on February 21, 2011 [30 favorites]


If only so many ebooks of older books weren't made by OCR scanning print volumes.

Stephen R. Donaldson had so much bad feedback from the ebook versions of his Gap novels that he ended up getting into a "thing" with his publisher, and has refused to allow any new volumes to be created unless they can guarantee him they won't be riddled with scanning errors.

Still, when it comes to hearing about increased piracy of ebooks? (I've downloaded a few, of volumes I already own, so I could do quick searches on the text...)

This is my shocked face.
posted by hippybear at 11:03 PM on February 21, 2011


I suspect a big driver there is the large price increases that the publishers forced on Amazon. At $10, new releases are appealing. At $16, they're just not.

The iTunes music store lesson was not to get greedy. The publishers raised prices and the market responded in turn. It's never too late to turn things around, but it's all causal.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:03 PM on February 21, 2011


One tactic that really, really pisses me off is when the e-book costs more than the paperback. I'll pirate those titles out of freaking spite.

I won't pirate, but I won't buy anything that makes me feel like I'm being a chump. Which includes ebooks more costly than the paperback (yes, I'll pay more than the paperback price to get it before the paperback is released, then I'm paying for earlier access). It's a sale the publisher has lost.

Because for me, books fall into three categories:
1. Authors and works I think I'll really enjoy, and will pay extra to get at hardcover release time.
2. Works that I'm willing to pay the paperback price or less for: Baen does this well, with a number of back-catalog books for $4.
3. A plethora of free, out of copyright Gutenberg books -- which are often classics, and better reading than recently published ephemera.
posted by orthogonality at 11:10 PM on February 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


> I have a *large* collection of downloaded ebooks (~32G)

You'll live long enough to read all that??

I was going to try to make some kind of audiophile joke but with fonts and kerning but I'm tired and lazy.
posted by device55 at 11:15 PM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why don't they make first 50% of all books available freely? Readers would find new authors they like and buy the rest of their books. The only reason not to do that is if they're counting on readers who are attracted by cover or reviews but get completely put off the book by the time they reach the middle of it -- oh, but it's too late, you've already paid!
posted by rainy at 11:18 PM on February 21, 2011


I was excited when work bought a sony e-book reader. I thought I'd love it and finally be able to go e-book only. No such luck! Like, orthogonality, I'm not pirating books, but it's been super frustrating trying to buy e-books. I've borrowed from the library and purchased used books because the books online have been either priced ridiculously, not available, or drm-laden.

I've been reading Stross and Scalzi lately, because of MeFi, and for them I've been making an effort buy retail for the most part instead of borrowing or buying used. How sad is it that waiting until I'm in a city with a Chapters is often more convenient than buying online?

How hard is it to sell a virtual book for $5? I guess they're still getting their licensing figured out (ie: how to ensure a worse deal for authors).
posted by ODiV at 11:18 PM on February 21, 2011


In the age of e-books, will book signings disappear? Will the authors be forced to sign our e-book readers?
posted by gyc at 11:18 PM on February 21, 2011


gyc: maybe they'll sign limited edition illustration or cover prints?
posted by rainy at 11:19 PM on February 21, 2011


They could sign my SD card. They'd have to make sure to leave plenty of room for the other authors though.
posted by ODiV at 11:21 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really can't wrap my head around how people think that borrowing books from the library is ok, but downloading them from torrent sites isn't. Conceptually it seems identical to me.

Also, pirating digital media just doesn't seem well accounted-for to me. You can create and destroy thousands of copies of e-books or music or movies at will (copy, paste, paste, paste...). What even would count as a "copy" is ambiguous. What you're selling is the right to read a book, or listen to a song, or watch a movie, not an actual copy of that thing. Because what you're selling is the ability to read these things, downloading 2,500 of them is completely irrelevant if you only wanted to read one of them, but it was only available in a big bundle. How many books did you pirate if you downloaded 2,500 but only read one?

And still, why is that different than borrowing that book from the library?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:24 PM on February 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


In the age of e-books, will book signings disappear?

Naw, they'll just do it with GPG on a laptop. :-)
posted by Malor at 11:25 PM on February 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Tip: put an installation of calibre server on your home machine and expose it to the internet. I use it to get news to my Kindle, but it would help with a lot of other use cases...
posted by costas at 11:25 PM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I said it a few months ago and I stand by it: "Yeah, I saw a torrent the other day with pretty much every sci-fi book in history. It was around 350MB. That DVD-quality version of Killer Klowns from Outer Space? 1.4GB........."
posted by lattiboy at 11:31 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the age of e-books, will book signings disappear? Will the authors be forced to sign our e-book readers?

David Sedaris' take on the matter...
posted by Hesychia at 11:35 PM on February 21, 2011


Why don't they make first 50% of all books available freely?

Baen gives sample chapters, generally about five chapters, about (?) 15-20%.

And if you buy, you can get *any* of variety of different formats, DRM free, including straight HTML in a nicely designed frame that serves as a reader/bookmarker.

Once you've purchased a book, you can download one format, or all. And they store a record of your purchases so you can re-download at any time, or just read online.

With prices as low as $4/book.

I'm shilling hard here, not because I have any connection to Baen (except as a customer) but because they really get it right. If you read sci-fi, check out Baen.
posted by orthogonality at 11:37 PM on February 21, 2011 [19 favorites]


I really can't wrap my head around how people think that borrowing books from the library is ok, but downloading them from torrent sites isn't. Conceptually it seems identical to me.

Libraries have to buy books which benefits authors, and if a particular book is in demand they would have to buy multiple copies which benefits authors even more.
posted by bobo123 at 11:46 PM on February 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I really can't wrap my head around how people think that borrowing books from the library is ok, but downloading them from torrent sites isn't. Conceptually it seems identical to me.

Libraries (and used book stores) deal with physical objects that can be sold, given away and lent out legally. Torrenting makes unauthorized copies of intellectual property.

It seems fairly different to me. But is kind of worrying considering where we're headed.

Those who sell the books would prefer to restrict any reselling, giving and lending. And once we switch to mostly digital, I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being much more restricted. When you buy an e-book online, you're not buying a copy of it, but a non-transferable license. You'd like to sell your books because you're in debt? Too bad. Oh, your husband wants to read it? He'll have to buy his own copy. What happened to that controversial book you bought? We removed it from your device.
posted by ODiV at 11:48 PM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


gyc: I saw William Gibson on his book tour for the release of 'Zero History', and he had a special diamond-tipped etcher he could use to sign the metal back of iPads.

I am unsurprised he had that. It seems it would make sense.
posted by mephron at 11:53 PM on February 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Surely iTunes has proved that you can sell legality, ease of use and convenience to the people who will pay for digital products, and make a pile of money doing so.
I appreciate the music and book publishers might be seeing their profits fall, and wish it were not so, but do we really have to revisit 1999 in music for books?
posted by bystander at 12:00 AM on February 22, 2011


orthogonality: almost right. 15-20% for me is where I can exclude books that I definitely won't like but not sure if it's a middling book or a very good one. (or, in rare cases when the book is truly amazing, that may be apparent from the first few pages). What are they afraid to lose by giving out half a book that they won't lose by giving 20%? I'll check them out, though, at least it might be easy to find some exceptional books. To be honest, I do have a couple of large torrents downloaded, and I've bought many paper books by authors I found through torrents already.
posted by rainy at 12:20 AM on February 22, 2011


I recently got a nook and I do buy ebooks from barnes and noble that I could get online for free. The main reason being that pirated .pdfs tend to have horrible formatting when compared to professionally digitized ebooks.

I'm willing to pay $2-5 for decent, eye-pleasing typeface and formatting. But not much more than that. Take note, BN.
posted by Avenger at 12:22 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Neil Gaiman had something to say on the topic a week or so ago.

Well, or whenever he made that video. I first saw it a week or so ago.
posted by rifflesby at 12:31 AM on February 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't pirate books I don't own. I do pirate books that I have a physical copy of. I feel that is somewhat ethical. But I'm starting to lose my nerve....here's why.

I'm a Nook owner, living overseas, and have recently been frustrated by the inability to buy books from Barnes & Noble, using my computer and a US-based credit card. Can't be done, since B&N is limited to selling their books from their website to customers physically inside the US. I realize that this is not B&N fault (the publishers hold the upper hand), but it doesn't make it any less ridiculous.

I really want to give them money for new eBook purchases too (cause that nifty Nook coverflow thing only work with books purchased from B&N, not books you've bought elsewhere and loaded onto the Nook by way of USB), but because of their policy I have to buy my books from Borders or Amazon (stripping the DRM and then converting the .azw to an .epub using Calibre) or Baen (love that site, great customer service, and a decent selection).

Really, though, I say "I'm starting to lose my nerve" but I won't pirate books I don't own. Instead I'll end up just not buying eBooks. Hopefully B&N will stand up to the publishers, but I doubt it'll be anytime soon.
posted by snwod at 12:39 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm probably like a lot of people, not much disposable income to blow on devices and material that restrict what I can do with it. I would like to have a Kindle or something like it but the more I hear about them the happier I am just going to the library or used book store. I will continue to do this until the Randians and the publishing companies get together to burn down all libraries and murder all used book proprietors. Alas, this may be sooner, rather than later.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:57 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everyone has had something to say about this. Cory Doctorow is one of the most well known. I appreciate this method—it makes me a fan. Of course, you can also plunder the public domain. I'd start here with Mr. Lovecraft.
posted by willhopkins at 1:23 AM on February 22, 2011


I really can't wrap my head around how people think that borrowing books from the library is ok, but downloading them from torrent sites isn't. Conceptually it seems identical to me.

Well, it's a question of scale. If you're an author, and 15% of people check out your book from a library, that's lovely. And you get warm fuzzies because you grew up with libraries.

But if 60% of people, instead, pirate your ebook, that's a worry. Especially if you want to ... pay rent or something.

It's not at 60% yet, of course. But who knows what the world will be like tomorrow?
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:53 AM on February 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd love for more authors to go public and complain about their publishers, rather than the downloaders. It's the publishers that let shoddily-scanned ebooks into the stores. It's the publishers that demand baffling pricing models that turn off consumers. And it's publishers that shut authors out of some markets completely by restricting sales by geographic location.
posted by Ritchie at 2:07 AM on February 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


The last year and the next year seem to have the potential to be the real make-or-break for e-books. The readership is rising quickly, and starting to include many people who had not previously considered e-books. The experience as a whole is not too bad. You can get most books, often at a reasonable-ish price. The problem for immediate consumption is that there are too many cases where the particular book you are looking for is not available due to geographic/format/licensing issues or is available at a ridiculous price, even in excess of the hard copy price.
After you run in to this problem a few times, it's inevitable that you are going to look for other ways to get the book you want. If you have to find it in a torrent, it's almost inevitably going to be bundled with at least a bunch of the author's other works, or works by other genre artists. This has the doubly undesirable effect of making the impact of the piracy worse (you are likely to read at least some of the stuff you downloaded for free), whilst also making the problem appear even worse than it is (you are unlikely to read all of the stuff you downloaded for free). Of course, it may also have the beneficial effect of introducing you to authors that you subsequently support by purchasing, as Doctorow and Gaiman have pointed out, but this point is often missed.
Having tempted the masses into e-books, the various companies involved need to avoid pushing their customers into developing a habit of acquiring their books for free. The format-and-DRM wars designed to carve out a larger market share for the various companies are likely to have the effect of shrinking the paying-customer pie to such an extent that any market-share victory will be pyrrhic. If you make it easy and cheap to get the specific book that people want, they will probably buy it. If you make it difficult, expensive, or attach strings, people will look elsewhere. It's not too late for ebooks, but I think it soon will be.
posted by Jakey at 2:08 AM on February 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not to derail this thread, but does anyone here who knows some basic economic theory have anything to say about equilibrium pricing when marginal cost is near zero, as is the case with e-books? Complaining about e-book pricing based on some concept of fairness seems kind of pointless to me, but I do find it hard to believe that the prices being charged for e-books right now aren't higher than optimal even when profit-maximization is the only goal.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 2:16 AM on February 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Related article by MEFIs own Adrian Hon on the lack of black market for Ipad apps.
posted by numberstation at 2:24 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I disagree that scale comes into the picture, surely we've had times when libraries were heavily used.

You merely access the contents of a book when you borrow it from the library, but owning the book was always reserved for people who wanted more, like easy access, display for social status, encouraging their children to read it, etc.

We've had book online piracy since before the first ebook readers. Authors & publishers were not threatened since computer screens don't feel like books, meaning people still wanted to posses physical books for all the old reasons.

Instead, it's the ebook readers themselves that're threatening authors & publishers by making people feel like their reading a book. In fact, the publishers are temporarily happy about people questioning their old reasons for buying books since the ebooks lowers their marginal cost to zero.

Yet, the publishers will eventually learn that their only reason for existing was that non-zero marginal cost, and anyone can sell an ebook on Apple, Amazon, etc. An author needs little more than their own time plus the copy editors fees, which Apple, Amazon, etc. might simply eventually too.

Ironically, there are many reasons for possessing the physical book that'll aren't impacted by ebooks, meaning the print market shall remain. I'd hope the publishers will die here too though once more & more authors make it into print only after seeing ebook royalties.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:27 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Physical books are way overpriced. CDN$35 for a hardcover seems pretty typical these days. That is bananas.

(That said, when one considers the amount of time spent entertained by a $35 book, one might begin to understand why movie pirating is also extremely popular.)

E-books are priced right around the reasonable price for a physical book, I think. It's a bit steep for just the electrons, though.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:33 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


orthogonality, out of curiosity, do you know how successful Baen's business model is? Are they making money on e-books?
posted by tavegyl at 2:37 AM on February 22, 2011


Books have hard physical costs in every copy sold, but e-books just don't.

You're grossly overestimating how much of the cost of a physical book is in materials and printing costs. It is only a fraction of the total cost, on the order of 15%. A publisher selling an ebook for a third the price of a physical book loses money on every sale.

You can't lose money on every sale and make it up in volume. It just doesn't work.
posted by Justinian at 2:56 AM on February 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well, okay, if you sold five times as many books the amortized cost per ebook would probably be less than 1/3 the price of a physical book so you would be making money on sales at that point, but nobody has ever seriously suggested you can sell that many ebooks at any price. You could price ebooks at $1 and you wouldn't make that many sales. Hell, you could probably give them away for free and most books wouldn't ship that many units.
posted by Justinian at 2:59 AM on February 22, 2011


I brought a Kindle with me on my honeymoon (which I'm on right now) and talk about "not ready for prime time". Admittedly, most of the books I have are weird internet thingies or papers people have prepared but I've had endless crashes, and I curse the extremely poor functionality on PDFs.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:07 AM on February 22, 2011


I bought my wife a Kindle. Whenever she wants a book we go to Amazon to buy it with credit card in hand ready to buy. The price issue of publishers forcing e-books to be the same price as paperbacks isn't an issue for us.

Now because we live outside the US some publishers arbitrarily decide we are not allowed to read the book in e-format (but will allow us to buy the physical copy). And that's when I head off to the torrents...
posted by PenDevil at 3:22 AM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I when remember PDFs of tabletop RPGs were floating around Naptser...
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:29 AM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


That still happens, although obviously not on Napster. Whenever I buy a new RPG book I download the PDF as a matter of course (saves lugging it around).
posted by Ritchie at 3:32 AM on February 22, 2011


Basically the publishers might be able to hold out for $2.50 but otherwise they'll end up at a dollar a book, with epics that span fifty books so micro-focused on selling to a specific demographic that they're impenetrable to anyone outside that demo.

I know it will never happen but I wish they'd just release trades at the same time they do the hardcovers. You want to see a nation start reading again make it cheap and topical, something people can actually afford as recreation. Hardcovers are insanely priced.
posted by Peztopiary at 3:47 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


My mum recently got a Kindle for Christmas and was marvelling over how well it worked. A couple of hours later, when I was showing her how to buy books on Amazon, she immediately remarked how expensive the books seemed - not simply that they were more than the paperbacks, but more than, say, £2 or £3 (i.e. $5). She just didn't think it seemed right, and I suspect that the same will be the case for millions of other readers.

Now, I don't think it's likely that she's going to head off to The Pirate Bay to torrent thousands of books, but she'll be a lot more price sensitive - after all, there's a reason why, out of the top 10 Amazon UK Kindle titles, none are above £3. Unfortunately I suspect it's quite tricky for publishers to make the same kind of margins they're used to at £2 or £3, which explains why they're reluctant to go that low, which opens the door for newer publishers with lower margins (and less plush offices), or some kind of self-publishing.

Piracy comes into the equation to the extent that avid readers often can't buy the newest, or more niche, books. Sometimes it's because it's not been released in their territory, sometimes it's because it's in the wrong format, etc; it's usually not because of the price (or at least, that's what they say on file sharing sites).

What's really interesting is how a lot of file sharers go to extraordinary lengths to scan, OCR, and format eBooks; it's a lot of work to do right, but these guys do it and they get the kudos. Some of the best do it far better, and with more care, than the publishers themselves. I even saw a collection of Ted Chiang's short stories with typos corrected and new stories added.

People keep acting as if piracy will make authors penniless. I don't think so; I think that eBooks and the internet allows authors to establish a fantastic relationship with their readers. It doesn't mean that authors need to start blogging and tweeting all the time, it just means that they theoretically have a way of knowing who their readers are, and keeping in touch with them (even if Amazon doesn't do this yet). It also gets rid of the problem of trying to figure out large print runs should be.

And what will be the equivalent of concerts and T-shirts for authors? Physical books, duh!
posted by adrianhon at 4:08 AM on February 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


...riddled with scanning errors...

Yeah, what the hell is that about? I bought a legit e-book recently which was full of obvious scanning artefacts. How can it possibly make sense for publishers (who surely to God possess the text in some electronic format) to scan a hard copy?
posted by Segundus at 4:30 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


> publishers (who surely to God possess the text in some electronic format)

You'd be surprised. I suspect any book more than a decade old exists only on paper, or on a (potentially unreadable) CD-R in a format that may be almost as much hassle to convert to an ebook as scanning.

Just as I left the industry around 2003, it was only becoming routine that publishers would require PDF copies of the final print version of a book. Before then, external typesetting houses might archive them in their own obscure typesetting codes. I still shudder at the memories of trying to convert Autologic and Penta codes to semantic databases ...
posted by scruss at 4:53 AM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was wondering about this. Ebook piracy has always puzzled me. You can't get ANYTHING on the Times Best Sellers list but you can get books like SUBMARINES FOR DUMMIES or THE BEST LATVIAN EROTICA 1976. It's such a weird mishmash.

Anyway, I hope piracy helps level out Ebook pricing. I recently paid more for a Kindle book than I would have for the hardcover edition. Ugh.
posted by GilloD at 4:53 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


GilloD: Actually, there are more than a few file sharing sites that offer the entire Times Best Sellers list packaged up into a torrent just a day or two after the list is published.
posted by adrianhon at 4:59 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It appears the problem is that I am not l33t enough. Alas!
posted by GilloD at 5:15 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you have a Kindle or a Nook, you will use Amazon or B&N to buy ebooks, as it's convenient. People pay for convenience - it's why ketchup is $5/bottle at 7-11, and $2/gallon at CostCo.

Some people will go through the steps to find, download, convert to format of choice and upload to their e-reader novels for "free." Most people have this thing called a "life," and will pay the $10 per title, because the store interface is easy to use and they don't have to put any effort into buying a book. Your time is worth something.

This is why Apple is raking it in with iTunes - it's easier to buy than pirate, and purchases aren't out of whack with what the average listener is willing to pay.

There are pirates, but they will never represent the bulk of users, mostly because Amazon and B&N went out of their way to really, really get it right - they took the lessons of the MP3 revolution and the iPod to heart.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:17 AM on February 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Slap- I think you're right. When it comes to e-media, I pay for convenience, not for the media itself. But I think music, where there wasn't necessarily a value scale for a single song, is a slightly different proposition from a book.

I know how much a book costs and even on Amazon I can see the discrepancy involved- It's $16 for the Kindle edition, but just $5 or $6 for a paperback copy? It's hard to swallow.
posted by GilloD at 5:21 AM on February 22, 2011


it's usually not because of the price
That's probably the case for scientific books though. They are usually much more expensive than regular books, and of course totally unaffordable in countries where researchers are paid $200/month or more, i.e. less than the price of a single book. There are entire blogs dedicated to sharing the latest books about specific scientific domains. Recently I stumbled upon a complete encyclopedia stored on the servers of the university of a Middle-Eastern country. Official price of the book: $2200.

Is that a good or a bad thing? For publishers, it's certainly bad. For authors, I guess it depends: some researchers may actually need the extra cash to supplement their meagre salary, others may consider the dissemination of scientific ideas to be more important than revenue. For science, it's definitely a good thing if impoverish students and researchers can access scientific information for free, though it raises the question of the relevance of commercial science publishing and how its potential demise will affect science itself in the long term.

Really, these questions are no longer a matter of copyright and lawfulness. It's about the choices our societies have to make. Technology is now able to provide 2 billion internet users, 1/3 of mankind, with nearly-free art, knowledge and science. This is beautiful, unprecedented. This should be a matter for celebration, not recrimination. There's no turning back. Now, in order to keep the creative juices flowing, our societies have to find ways to reward authors and producers, but if we think about it as a question of social policy (how many people are concerned, how much money and incentives does the creative community need to make a decent living and produce good content) rather than as a purely market-driven issue, there's no reason it can't be solved.
posted by elgilito at 5:34 AM on February 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Looking at the amount I have spent on dead-tree books and ebooks for my Kindle over the past two months I can see that it's pretty much even at about £58 and £51. All of those dead tree titles, and there's only six that make up that figure compared to nine for the ebooks, were purchased 2nd hand through a reseller. In each case the author has received nothing for my purchase. If those publishers had made the titles available (or if I even suspected that they might in the future) I'd have bought them as ebooks without hesitation. I absolutely 100% want to make sure that writers get paid for providing me with entertainment and education but somewhere along the line we got ahead of ourselves with technology again and nobody was ready for the transition.

So now we get dozens of shitty NYT bestsellers available at stupid prices in ebook format and people like me, who just really want to find that slightly more obscure text, cannot provide the author with reimbursement. Just like when the digital revolution occured in the music industry and not a single company had even 10% of their back catalogue ready to go in digital format. I so want to put money in the pockets of artists but their distributors just don't appear to be up to the game and that's just a terrible state of affairs. When they sell the books I'd like then I'll spend an absolute fortune. £109 in less than two months on books for fuck's sake. This doesn't include my roleplaying game purchases from e23 - another £50 or thereabouts. I am a spendthrift idiot, I really am. Publishers should love me.
posted by longbaugh at 5:35 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is anyone releasing ebooks in an independent way? Like, in a pay-what-you-will way?
posted by fuq at 5:40 AM on February 22, 2011


I love my Kindle - the convenience of being able to download a book is worth the price. Heck, I tend to use bookstore to browse and then end up buying the book on Kindle. I'm not that concerned with the physical object for most of my reading, which is mostly genrephemera. I don't need a hard copy of the latest in a long line of Books About Wizards Who Are Also Private Investigators. I still buy hard copies of books, though, usually nonfiction or stuff that I think I might want to share at some point.

I have pirated exactly one book for my Kindle - one of the Wizardly PI books mentioned above. This was during the time when Amazon and the book's publisher were going through a huff over pricing. Amazon put the physical book up on their site for the same price the Kindle book should have been, but the ebook was not forthcoming. So I put in an ILL order for the book at my library as an ethical salve and when I received the notice it had arrived, I downloaded the book. The publisher/author was out no money, it was as if I borrowed the book for the library and read it. When I was finished, I erased the book from my Kindle. I would have happily paid 10 bucks (heck, maybe even 16 or whatever it is they're charging for Big Name New Releases now) for the book, had it been available for the Kindle like it was for other eReaders (and even British Kindle users, which was also pretty galling).

I never would have pirated but for that sturm und drang on the part of the publisher/Amazon. But now that I know I can, I have to wonder. If I keep to my ILL-then-download ethical contortions, should I have to wait until the physical book is on hold for me at my library to download? If I place the ILL, it'll certainly be there eventually, so why wait? Heck, I know that my library system can, given time, get me pretty much any book I like, so why even place the ILL request? I could just pretend that I did and download away.

And so I start to slip down a slope. The only thing that really keeps me back on the hilltop is the ease and convenience of downloading a book through the Kindle's 3G collection and the hassle of searching out pirated materials - I have zero experience with torrenting and would not know where to look for a shared file (the Wizard Detective book was linked to by other fans upset about the Kindle delay). But, given the amount I read, rising prices are becoming more and more of a consideration. Hearing that I can simply seek out big ole folders stuffed full of fantasy ebooks that can be read on my Kindle does awaken some sort of lingering greed within me.

Can my inherent laziness keep it at bay?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:45 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're grossly overestimating how much of the cost of a physical book is in materials and printing costs. It is only a fraction of the total cost, on the order of 15%. A publisher selling an ebook for a third the price of a physical book loses money on every sale.

This always comes up, but I do wonder where the money goes then, especially since authors are endlessly complaining about how small their cut is. A $28 list price has a lot of money to go around if it's only costing $4 to print, bind, and distribute.

I think one of the unmentioned costs is the subsidy for all the failed books. Some of the money you are paying for that Twilight book is covering that well-reviewed new fiction book that no one actually bought.
posted by smackfu at 6:04 AM on February 22, 2011


For years now there has been a 30GB file(s) floating through the tubez with compressed .rtfs of a *ridonkulous* amount of ebooks. More words than you could ever read in your life.

Hah, I recall pirating a few books in RTF/Text format way back when but now it's like, you see a text file and you're like 'what'? It's kind of like MIDI to music's MP3. Obviously text is OK for just fiction novels and stuff, but those books also tend to be the cheapest and probably the best dollar / entertainment hour value (like $7 for 6 hours of entertainment)

Nowadays it's all about PDFs and .djvu files. Getting a scan of the source material is so much better. Especially for anything with diagrams -- like textbooks. Textbook piracy makes the most sense. The books are ridiculously expensive, they're not something you want to buy and all the people who use them are college students.

Here's the question though, how many of these pirated books are from things like the kindle? Most of the books I've ever seen online seem to be scans of physical copies. Has anyone broken Kindle DRM?

Authors who have a web presence should sell e-books in PDF form on the websites. Instead of DRM they should make the copies personalized. That will dissuade people from sharing the files since everyone will be able to see who leaked it to the world :P
posted by delmoi at 6:04 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've spent a lot of time thinking about pirating books lately, not in any small part because I often see blog posts by writers angry at book pirates. Not that I don't understand -- I can't begin to imagine how obnoxious it would be to get daily google alerts with a new link to their book online, for free. It would be like playing Whack-a-Mole.

But here's the thing. With digital products, there are always going to be people who download books without paying for them, just like there are people who download movies and music without paying. Those people were never going to pay anyway. They are not customers. There are people who will download a specific book, then later buy the rest of an author's catalogue. (This, of course, will be tough on people who don't yet HAVE a back catalogue, and who, by dint of low sales numbers, won't get to have a back catalogue.) There are people who just like to have the option of ten thousand books and might only ever read a fraction. And there are people who think they should get their entertainment for free. But I don't think that it's easy to change any of those people's minds.

What writers and publishers need to do is find a way to make buying books more attractive than downloading them for freee. I wish I knew how to do this! But I think of people who pay to see a movie in a theatre (experience,) or someone who buys the DVD/Blu-Ray to be able to listen to the commentary (information.) I think of people who will pay the $300 or whatever it was for the special edition of the new Decemberists record, versus someone like me who bought it for $5 off amazon the day it came out.

The next couple of years are going to be tough for the publishing companies, though I really don't think that the margins are as huge as some people in this thread think. They are not rolling around in Scrooge McDuck-esque piles of money over there.

I think that eventually one format will come out ahead as the winner (like mp3 did) and that all ebook readers will use that format. That will help with competitive pricing. And I get as annoyed as anyone when I see ebooks priced above the cost of the physical book, and when I can't buy a book that hasn't been released in the US, only overseas. But I also remember -- the writers had nothing to do with that. I buy books, the same way I buy music and movies, because even if it were easier to do otherwise, I support artists.
posted by sugarfish at 6:27 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're grossly overestimating how much of the cost of a physical book is in materials and printing costs. It is only a fraction of the total cost, on the order of 15%. A publisher selling an ebook for a third the price of a physical book loses money on every sale.

You can't lose money on every sale and make it up in volume. It just doesn't work.


Are we talking about the same thing? If a publisher wanted to, they could accept an electronic file from authors, edit it, and publish it on the web. Selling each copy for ten cents they'd make more than enough to cover the electricity costs to deliver the electronic copy.

It's not a question of whether ebook prices are able to cover all the other costs associated with the publishing industry, it's a question of the cost of an individual transaction. A few dollars at least are required for each physical book sale to cover materials cost. There is a very insignificant transactional cost per ebook sale, in comparison.
posted by odinsdream at 6:35 AM on February 22, 2011


I have a first gen Kindle. Almost every book on it, and there are thousands, are public domain, generally classics. While I have all of those books in hard form on shelves, I love being able to search the volumes, and make annotations. That, for me, is the only real advantage of e-readers vs books. I would no more write on my 200 year old copy of Cervantes than I would tattoo my child.

But for actual *reading*? I don't much care for e-readers. I read so fast that I'm constantly waiting for the page to load, I hate that my Kindle needs a external light if I want to read in anything other than broad daylight, and I only made the mistake of paying for a new release on Kindle once.

Then I realized I couldn't loan it to any of the people that I generally loan books. D'oh! Even if they have Kindles, I can't loan them the book. That's just stupid. So, I stopped buying ebooks years ago.

Look, I'm a writer. Most of my friends are writers and artists. I absolutely, without equivocation, want to pay living artists/writers for their work. And if more writers/publishers would put DRM-free content out there, I would be absolutely willing to pay for it. I understand that publishers have a lot of investment in a book to get it to market; it's not cheap...but don't expect me to pay library edition hardback prices for a digital copy that may not even be readable in 10 years.
posted by dejah420 at 6:39 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I either borrow from the public library or buy dusty old copies from used book stores. I don't think I've purchased a book from Barnes & Noble in years.

It's like street musicians. You have to throw money in the hat at least sometime. Otherwise you're just a leech.

But, fundamentally, a publisher is just sending me maybe a megabyte of data.


No, they are sending you the blood toil tears and sweat of authors and editors who would like to get paid. Never forget that.

What's really interesting is how a lot of file sharers go to extraordinary lengths to scan, OCR, and format eBooks; it's a lot of work to do right, but these guys do it and they get the kudos.

A lot of work goes into a bank heist, but that doesn't make it praise worthy. Are these worker bees making sure that the author some benefit out of this?

I do wonder where the money goes

Here you go.

Those people were never going to pay anyway. They are not customers.


I have to question that. Judging from some of the comments here, there are plenty of folk who at least claim they would pay, just not as much as the creators want. If the pirate option were not available, I imagine a lot of them would grumble, but eventually pony up. Or enter into the equation when publishers price things.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:42 AM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, delmoi, Amazon DRM has been cracked.
posted by snwod at 6:44 AM on February 22, 2011


Amazon does have a pretty good system set up as an alternative to piracy. Even though the Kindle supports possibly pirated versions through RTF support and sideloading, you really do get a lot of bonuses by using properly purchased books. Syncing last-read position among devices (like Kindle vs iPhone), cloud storage, shared annotations available on the web. It's pretty compelling.
posted by smackfu at 6:56 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


> publishers (who surely to God possess the text in some electronic format)

>You'd be surprised. I suspect any book more than a decade old exists only on paper, or on a (potentially unreadable) CD-R in a format that may be almost as much hassle to convert to an ebook as scanning.


That would be Pagemaker.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:03 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seems like ebooks are going to force a rethink of the current publishing business model. The first company to significantly cut publishing costs (streamline the process of push a book to the market) will be the winner. This has happened in everyother industry that has had any kind of technical improvement; books have been protected for quite a few centuries by lack of technical innovation.

Maybe we will see a "novel" business model arise out of this? Authors become more entrerpeneurial and finance their own works to market, a little like inventors....?
posted by SueDenim at 7:03 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


IndigoJones: A lot of work goes into a bank heist, but that doesn't make it praise worthy. Are these worker bees making sure that the author some benefit out of this?

Did I say they were? No. However, a large number of these guys make eBook editions simply because they can't find them anywhere - they probably bought and own the books themselves and want to share them to save the hassle of other people transcribing them (particularly for academic books). Can they guarantee that the people downloaded the OCRed copies also own the book? Of course not. But a lot of them at least make the effort to suggest that people buy the authors' other books.

Judging from some of the comments here, there are plenty of folk who at least claim they would pay, just not as much as the creators want. If the pirate option were not available, I imagine a lot of them would grumble, but eventually pony up. Or enter into the equation when publishers price things.

You have no idea what other commenters would do if pirated books were not available.

Also, from your link about 'where the money goes' I note that a Teleread analysis suggests that if you eliminate the printing costs and bring retail and wholesaling costs down, preserving the publisher's cut, you would still expect eBooks to be 30-50% cheaper - which they certainly are not right now.
posted by adrianhon at 7:04 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a kindle, I adore it, I also sometimes get books through unofficial channels. I would hazard to guess that at least 90% of my books that I haven't paid for are books that already own in print. I have a really hard time paying for a digital copy of a book I own (especially when I've gotten it in hardback), just so I can read it anywhere on my device. The other books I've gotten without paying for are unavailable through legitimate channels and surprisingly most of those I are books I would use for research. The major issue I'm running into that makes the Kindle less useful is that many of the books I need for my dissertation and research are either not available in ebook format or are over $60 for the kindle version. I'm sorry, I don't care how desperately I need the book, if the physical book will cost me $70 and the ebook costs $69, there's no freaking reason to buy the ebook. Sure it may be easier to manage my research on the kindle and I have to lug the big ole print book around, but I don't need to spend that much money for the privilege.

I'm an avid reader and I will never stop, but the Kindle has made what I read and how I read so much easier I'm not sure I can go back solely to print. I will pay authors for that privilege but I refuse to hardback prices for ephemeral objects.
posted by teleri025 at 7:05 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


SueDenim: There are a number of authors starting to make quite a bit of money by self-publishing straight to Amazon; Joe Konrath's blog, while being rather boosterish, has some interesting information about this.
posted by adrianhon at 7:07 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


My friend just came back from TOCCon. Her takeaway was, this is a great time to be a reader, and a great time to be a writer if you don't want to be a professional writer. It's a crummy time to work in publishing.

The reason is that digital books are preferred by readers, but they're also worth less to readers. Strange but true. Once you get used to reading on a Kindle or a computer, being able to buy books instantly and carry your entire library with you and loan books to people across the country is a definite win. Digital books are more useful to most readers most of the time, and they're going to take over.

Unfortunately, while digital books are more useful, they are also less valuable, in the sense that readers are apparently willing to pay less for them. Much, much less. It turns out that while an ebook only costs about $4 less to make and sell than a hardcover, it's worth, oh, $13 to $20 less, depending who you ask.

That means each time someone buys an ebook in place of a hard cover--and soon that's going to be almost everyone, almost all the time--$9 to $16 just disappears from the market. Which you could make back if you were selling two or three times as many ebooks as you used to sell physical books, right? But if you think there's two or three times as many people out there dying to buy books if they just cost a little less, you're kidding yourself.

So even without piracy, the most likely scenario is that publishers simply invest less in books, because there's less money in publishing--less proofreading and copyediting, less work on design, cheaper materials for the remaining print books, less marketing, fewer gambles on unpopular titles that people actually got into publishing to work on. Things will still be OK for readers, because most of us don't notice all that stuff anyway, and there's more to read already than we can ever get through. Things will still be OK for writers, because the ones who happen to be good at doing their own copyediting and design and marketing will rise to the top.

But let's pour one out along the way for the people like my friend who got into publishing to help authors make great books. And cross our fingers that someone out there right now is thinking up the business model that's about to prove me wrong.
posted by jhc at 7:08 AM on February 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd love for more authors to go public and complain about their publishers

Been there, done that. Started my own damn publishing company and am making more money now than I did off 12 major-publisher books. The ereader versions we publish (in addition to print, PDF, etc) are DRM-free, and in fact we give you both the .epub and the .mobi/.azw so you'll be somewhat future-proofed when the format wars finally get settled.

My customers are perfectly happy to pay what we ask for our product because they know the money is going to me (and the authors I publish), not some idiot.

Speaking of idiots, see also. (self-link full o' rage about the near-deliberate cluelessness of the big houses)

This is why I have steadfastly refused to grant additional digital rights to these publishers when they've asked. And OH HAVE THEY ASKED. The best was one who let my book go out of print and then asked to put it on Kindle -- at which point I reminded said editor she had yawned in my face at a tradeshow when I showed her my first Kindle and suggested we get the book onto it...4 years ago. I'm waiting to get the rights back on everything and just republish them myself.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:08 AM on February 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


I've never paid for a piece of software other than console games, never paid for mp3s but as of yet I haven't pirated an EBook. Seems like I hear about a book, pay 8 bucks to download it, read half and hear about another book and never finish the first. If I had thousands of books I'd probably just read a couple pages of each.

I read so fast that I'm constantly waiting for the page to loa

I read on an Ipad and I think pages load faster than I could physically turn a page.

That would be Pagemaker.

Really? Seems ill suited. Don't most places use a CMS like documentum and a commercial typesetting system like arbortext or xyvision, you can just run it through xslt to get various formats.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:10 AM on February 22, 2011


Really? Seems ill suited.
My point about Pagemaker was in response to the comment "...any book more than a decade old exists only on paper, or on a (potentially unreadable) CD-R in a format that may be almost as much hassle to convert..."

A decade ago, the standard app for book layout would still have been Pagemaker in many publishing houses. It's a dinosaur today, of course, but a lot of older books probably only exist in that ancient file format.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:20 AM on February 22, 2011


Based on that breakdown above if a book retails at £5 and the author is making 8% royalties then if I pay him that £5 direct I've given them 12.5 times the amount they would have made from that copy being purchased through a publisher. That's absolutely crazy. I'd love to be able to pay an author that sort of money. They'd be able to make a living if that were the case.

From that breakdown I'd say the problem part artistic product is the marketing. I dislike marketing and advertising in all it's nefarious forms thanks to my Hicksian belief system but I know that it serves a purpose. I might be willing to give that author £5 directly for the product but if I've never heard of them then they aren't going to make any money from me.

That's a big problem we need to get around. Word of mouth works up to a point (and probably better for authors than for music or movies) but "test-driving" the first chapter a-la Amazon works great as well. I'll pay top-sterling for artistic products but I need to know it exists before I can buy. When Gibson, Stephenson or Banks release a book I know there's a good chance I'll be buying it - perhaps when I buy that Gibson book I can maybe get a trailer for a similar author? I bought "The Windup Girl" based on a comparison to old-school Gibson so Amazon is doing something right with it's recommendations.
posted by longbaugh at 7:26 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a *large* collection of downloaded ebooks (~32G)

orthogonality: You'll live long enough to read all that??

People hoard things all the time. The best part about the shift to digital is that I can hoard more data in smaller spaces. The problem is I sometimes lose my old data amongst the masses of stuff, so I download it again. Problem solved! (Plus, I then know the "lost sales" data is skewed by at least 1 download.)
posted by filthy light thief at 7:27 AM on February 22, 2011


Joe Konrath's blog, while being rather boosterish, has some interesting information about this.

Joe Konrath is an edge case -- he had a long publishing career (and a big audience) before self-publishing. A more interesting case, to me, is Amanda Hocking, who came out of nowhere and sold, reportedly, 450,000 copies of her books last month.

But I also think self-publishing is not the best choice for everyone. I would be awful at it. This is a radical shift for me, though -- even a few months ago I was still scoffing at self-publishing except in cases like bitter-girl.com's; niche publishing seems suited for self-publishing, whereas general fiction did not. I am rethinking that.
posted by sugarfish at 7:28 AM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


e-book piracy accelerates.

Well duh. My own personal piracy has decelerated as my collection has gotten bigger (77GB). I now find myself being more selective in what I pirate. That being said I also spend around $100-150 a month on paper books. About 50% of those are books that I've read the pirated version and really want to add a copy to my physical library.

People trying to paint piracy as bad are short sighted. Piracy encourages people to spend money. The people who pirate books and don't buy a physical copy or pay for an ebook would most probably not be buying anything anyway. What ebook piracy does is let readers know what they are paying for before they pay for it. I have pirated several shitty books that I was thinking of getting because they were the first of a series. I read the first book and realized the author was shit. I can now spend the money, which I would have otherwise spent on the shitty author, on a book series which I know that I will want to a part of my physical collection. Piracy focuses my spending on books and authors that I know are good.

All piracy does, in my opinion, is help the consumer to weed out the shit. Granted there is some money lost to piracy but no more than is lost to people checking the book out from their local library.

In conclusion: YARRRRR!!!!
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:34 AM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


You'll live long enough to read all that??

My plan is to read as much as I can now, and hopefully when the singularity comes I will be able to finish the rest in a few hours. I can then devote the rest of eternity to doing whatever disembodied/cyborg/neo-human brains do.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:36 AM on February 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't want someone to pirate my book and give me $5. I want someone to buy my book (from which I'll eventually see $1.50 or so, if I earn out my advance) and give the publisher a cut so that my editor and cover designer and PR person can get paid... so that the book I put out there will actually have a coherent plot, and narrative logic, and a pretty cover.

You may not care about the pretty cover but I hope you care about narrative logic.

I don't think I'm atypical here -- a novel is a big enough thing that it requires excellent editing, and the other writers I've talked to mostly agree with that. All the other people at the publishing house aren't useless overhead. They do necessary work and deserve to get paid for it.
posted by Jeanne at 7:39 AM on February 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


(There are some people who can self-publish really well, I hasten to add. There are probably people out there who can self-publish novels really well. I am not one of them.)
posted by Jeanne at 7:41 AM on February 22, 2011


With digital products, there are always going to be people who download books without paying for them, just like there are people who download movies and music without paying. Those people were never going to pay anyway. They are not customers.

I don't know, it's rather hard to believe this when you see (numeous) requests for your next release popping up in pirate forums weeks before it actually is published -- even more so when the requests include details that suggest the requester has been reading various interviews you've given.

It's comforting to think that the people who pirate would not be paying customers if that was the only option available to them. But if somebody's thinking hard enough about my book to be asking for it in advance of publication, I have a hard time believing that.
posted by artemisia at 7:43 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It turns out that while an ebook only costs about $4 less to make and sell than a hardcover, it's worth, oh, $13 to $20 less, depending who you ask.

What are retail margins like in publishing? If Amazon is selling NYT bestsellers for 40% off, are they losing money? And isn't that as much to blame for lessening the value of books as anything?
posted by smackfu at 7:49 AM on February 22, 2011


But if somebody's thinking hard enough about my book to be asking for it in advance of publication, I have a hard time believing that.

I don't see what's so unbelievable. Pirates being pirates. Just because pirates are requesting your book doesn't really speak to what percentage will or will not end up paying for your book. In fact that percentage probably will depend on how good your book is.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:50 AM on February 22, 2011


I think that the publishing industry is going to have to adjust to the ebook thing and it is going to be bumpy for them, but I don't see publishers as being RIAA/MPAA-level user-hostile and greedy. Which means that I am not averse to paying for books. I don't pirate movies, won't do it actually, and feel the same about books. There are so many books out there for free (gratis, public domain, etc.) or for near-free (see any local used book store) that I don't mind buying books, and I am more than happy to buy a nice edition of a book I will truly cherish and keep, whether it be new or used. I love the Kindle and I love that it works so well for traveling - the typical junk-food reading I do on trips is exactly the kind of thing I want to buy digitally, and the ease of handing off page location between the Kindle and my iPhone is superb and worth the minor cost of the book.

Music, meh. I have a lot of music that was obtained by trading with friends. But I'm really bad when it comes to sharing books. I get them from other people but I never return them. I have more than a few books with inscriptions to my dad on the inside cover, because he loaned them to me after he read them. Funny thing, those are the same kinds of books I put on my Kindle - not high literature, just fun reads - and ever since he got his Kindle those books aren't coming my way any more, because he reads them the same way I do. So, for me at least, the ebooks are returning more of my money to the publishers than when I used to get all my pleasure reading second-hand.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:51 AM on February 22, 2011


I'm curious as to how any of this affects non-mass market publications; obscure technical works, etc.
posted by aramaic at 7:53 AM on February 22, 2011


What are retail margins like in publishing? If Amazon is selling NYT bestsellers for 40% off, are they losing money? And isn't that as much to blame for lessening the value of books as anything?

Amazon does what any large retailer with a grip on the marketplace does: squeeze the providers.

See here, although I find the article to be a bit pessimistic.
posted by zabuni at 7:59 AM on February 22, 2011


I don't see what's so unbelievable. Pirates being pirates. Just because pirates are requesting your book doesn't really speak to what percentage will or will not end up paying for your book.

True. But it does suggest that if piracy were not an option, at least some of them -- particularly those who identify themselves as fans -- would be curious enough to buy the book.

Don't get me wrong; I don't waste my time issuing DMCAs. I understand that piracy is here to stay and the only way to address the problems raised by piracy is to learn to use the technology in a way that makes it more attractive for readers to purchase than pirate.

However, I think those who say "Don't worry about pirates; they wouldn't have bought your book anyway" need to acknowledge there's a rather...tautological quality to their argument, insofar as the reason eager readers would have pirated is *because* piracy is so easy right now. It's not like there are people out there who, by virtue of their innate constitutions, would refuse to pay. They are refusing to pay *because* of the options available for piracy.

I think I would agree with the argument when phrased this way, then: "Some of the people who pirate your books would never pay for them. Some will not pay so long as it's just as easy to get the book for free."*


*(I think people are uncomfortable with phrasing it this way, though, because they don't want to open the door to discussions of how to make ebooks harder to pirate. And I'm sympathetic to that hesitation because 1) so far, it has resulted only in ineffective and truly annoying measures like DRM; 2) I'm just not sure it's a worthwhile endeavor -- or even possible -- to make digital files pirate-proof.)
posted by artemisia at 8:00 AM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyone in here advancing the argument that because Book X costs Y dollars to produce and distribute (whether in paper or ebook format) it is therefore ethical or okay to pirate said Book is advancing a stupid and dumb argument. Since when are you entitled to steal intellectual property because you think the pricing is wrong or the technology is prohibitive? That's selfish reasoning. Don't fucking buy it or go to the library and borrow it. I regularly use books in my legal practice that costs $500 or more dollars for a SINGLE 600 page book. Do you think it costs more than $20 to print that? Does it therefore make it okay to steal that book? Pirating books, music and tv shows is illegal and it's illegal for a reason. It's not to enrich a bunch of publishing fat cats. It's to encourage the creation of literature and art. Some of it sucks, sure. Please do not pirate copyrighted material, music, books or movies... any of it. You're hurting all of us.
posted by gagglezoomer at 8:06 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hardcovers are insanely priced.

And a crap product. They're an inconvenient size, and the covers warp and fray easily. I hate hardcovers as they are made today.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:13 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Some of the people who pirate your books would never pay for them. Some will not pay so long as it's just as easy to get the book for free."

Yes I agree with this. There will always be a certain percentage who will not pay if they can get it for free. But there is no stopping this. The only thing publishers can do at this point is try to create a business model that makes downloading and sharing books easier and in some way more convenient than pirating. Models that they can look to for inspiration: Steam and itunes store.

Since when are you entitled to steal intellectual property because you think the pricing is wrong or the technology is prohibitive?


Oh boy. There is no theft taking place. There is copying taking place. Big difference.

Does it therefore make it okay to steal that book?

No, but an argument can be made that it makes it okay to make a copy of that book and use it. What if one of the lawyers in a law firm buys the $500.00 book. It is his book he paid for it. Is it then not okay for him to let other lawyers he works with use the book? Or does every lawyer in the firm have to drop the $500.00 for their own copy?

Please do not pirate copyrighted material, music, books or movies... any of it. You're hurting all of us.

1999 called and it wants it's narrow worldview back. Piracy is here to stay and will continue to "hurt us all" for the foreseeable future. As I said above there are ways to minimize the harms done by piracy but that includes creating convenience and value within a certain distribution framework. Most current models of distribution do not do this.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:17 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


As someone who regularly travels to China and has spent weeks wandering through the endless halls of YARRRR, what do people think about the possibility that perhaps the majority of IP pirating (including film, music, and, increasingly, 'freelance'-translated ebooks) is not in fact done by Western consumers, but by people in other nations who couldn't possibly afford to buy said media at its original price anyway?
posted by jet_manifesto at 8:19 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is buying used the equal of torrenting a book?
posted by Keith Talent at 8:21 AM on February 22, 2011


I don't know, it's rather hard to believe this when you see (numeous) requests for your next release popping up in pirate forums weeks before it actually is published -- even more so when the requests include details that suggest the requester has been reading various interviews you've given.

And if they really wanted to pay for it, they'd pre-order it like the rest of us do, so that it's delivered by the magical ebook elves sometime during the night. (I do so love those magical ebook elves.)

I just think engaging people who are pirating books, trying to shame them -- not that I'm saying you're doing this, but I keep seeing it in the YA/romance blogosphere -- isn't going to work. We have to find a way to make people want to pay, and not spend too much mental energy worrying about the people who never were going to in the first place.
posted by sugarfish at 8:21 AM on February 22, 2011


Here's my regrettable, and probably totally indefensible, position:

I'm 50, and I've tried to live a reasonably legal life. Ten years ago, I'd come down easily on the "don't pirate" side. That viewpoint has changed.

Corporations have proven beyond doubt that they don't give two shits about us: Add fees for any fucking thing we want? Sure. Change our agreement with you unilaterally? Absolutely. Take away your legal rights to dispute unilaterally? Of course. Add DRM and then declare that your legal right to make copies is now illegal? Why not.

So now I say pirate away. Not only pirate, announce it. Let them know it's war. Will this hurt the good guys, too? Unfortunately, yes. But that "incentivizes" them to push for change and fairness. Things don't really work when only one side plays by the rules.

Sorry. I know my opinion sucks. But it's really the way I feel any more.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:23 AM on February 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


Is buying used the equal of torrenting a book?

No. One is acquiring a physical object through resale and the other is copying and distributing a work over the Internet.

Was that a trick question? Or did you mean solely in terms of impact?
posted by ODiV at 8:25 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pirating books, music and tv shows is illegal and it's illegal for a reason. It's not to enrich a bunch of publishing fat cats. It's to encourage the creation of literature and art.

If piracy is so bad and illegal, why are libaries so good?
posted by smackfu at 8:36 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


By which I mean, any argument against piracy on theoretical grounds that the author must be paid have a hard time agreeing with our system of free libraries.
posted by smackfu at 8:37 AM on February 22, 2011


What are retail margins like in publishing? If Amazon is selling NYT bestsellers for 40% off, are they losing money? And isn't that as much to blame for lessening the value of books as anything?

This is a fair point -- half the cost of a hardcover goes to the retailer. If cost for retailing and distribution goes down to, say, $3, then it does seem like there should be room for the same spending on publishing at an ebook price of $13. And if sales go up, that price could go lower.

(In this world there are no physical bookstores, of course. But there might be coffee shops with on-demand Espresso book printers, and that's pretty cool, right?)

But rather than maintaining the existing industry at a price of $13, it seems like the more likely scenario is readers demand prices less than $13, and publishers cut quality to meet that demand in a race to the bottom. At least that seems to be what's happening at the moment--most publishing houses already don't provide copy editing for their authors (if I'm getting that right; it sounds crazy to me). And don't get me wrong--in a lot of ways that will be great for readers. Own more books, spend less money. I just want to represent the people I know who liked working in an industry where they could make quality books, and see the pressure on book prices putting them out of business.
posted by jhc at 8:39 AM on February 22, 2011


Was that a trick question? Or did you mean solely in terms of impact?
posted by ODiV


Not a trick question, just curious how the publishing community views second hand sales, which in terms of net effect are *exactly* the same as pirating, maybe worse as there is no chance to "flip" a reader from pirate to consumer. The video-game console community is currently gnashing it's teeth with the sales of used games being equal to spit roasting babies.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:41 AM on February 22, 2011


The library I work for regularly buys (or bought; our budget for book acquisitions is more or less zero right now) 300 or 400 copies of new bestsellers. And they buy hardcovers; hardcovers last longer. A book might get checked out 10 or 20 times before it gets sufficiently battered to be discarded. You can justify a system where each book gets 20 readers when it's for the public good; it's harder to justify a system where a single copy of a book can have thousands of readers.
posted by Jeanne at 8:44 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry. I know my opinion sucks. But it's really the way I feel any more.

Eh not really. IDK how well it's going to fly here, but I've always tended to agree with you. I've been downloading books since I was 11 years old. In 1999, I had no intention of paying 20-30 dollars because I'd never be able to afford the books I wanted to read. Since then, I've paid full price for a few of the ones I really really liked, and picked up a few more at second-hand stores and whatnot. It's not like I still have any of those copies, and I rarely re-read books unless I really love them.

Since the e-readers have come out, the torrents have gotten so much better. I'm no longer stuck reading shitty OCR .rtf scans with constant misinterpretations. People are distributing high-quality, re-flowable .epub files that contain, on average, perhaps 3-4 errors per 500 pages. Truly, we are living in a golden-age.

Oh and they're bundling them. I had to download a 3 gb torrent containing thousands of books to get American Gods the other day.

I read it first, and I bought the hardcover yesterday.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:46 AM on February 22, 2011


Does anyone here not understand the difference between "fair use" of copyrighted material, ie, copying a few pages for your students or friends and "piracy"?

Let me make it real simple for you. Imagine you spent a year writing a book about wizards and elves or some shit. It was for full time job for a year. Then you wanted to publish it so you could get some money to pay all your credit card bills. "Fair use" is something people would do with your book that would not piss you off, such drawing a picture of one your characters and putting on Flickr. Piracy is the opposite and would fill you with murderous rage, for example, making your book into a ebook file and uploading it to Pirate Bay.
posted by gagglezoomer at 8:51 AM on February 22, 2011


That doctorow column linked up-thread is really great btw.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:56 AM on February 22, 2011


Does anyone here not understand the difference between "fair use" of copyrighted material, ie, copying a few pages for your students or friends and "piracy"?

I think everybody here, whether they'll admit it or not, understands the difference.

The rise of the e-book lending library (and the death of e-book pirating)


Now, see, that's a great idea. Until you read the legalese: Your Kindle book has to have DRM with lending "enabled", and then you can only lend it once. So Amazon wants to look beneficent, but they still want to "sell" you a "book" at real world prices that you still don't really own or control. I say they aren't entitled to have it both ways.

(I own a Kindle and I do buy ebooks from Amazon, btw.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:05 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are we talking about the same thing? If a publisher wanted to, they could accept an electronic file from authors, edit it, and publish it on the web. Selling each copy for ten cents they'd make more than enough to cover the electricity costs to deliver the electronic copy.

And the cost to pay the guy to find and acquire the books they want to publish? The cost to edit it, which you've even mentioned above? The costs of delivery are the smallest part of the cost to produce the book.

A few dollars at least are required for each physical book sale to cover materials cost. There is a very insignificant transactional cost per ebook sale, in comparison.

Yes, the cost for an ebook is a dollar or two (depending on hardcover or paperback) than a physical book. Which is why the publishers want to charge a couple bucks less for them. But people in the thread are talking about wanting to pay something like 1/3 the price of a physical book, which won't come close to covering costs.
posted by Justinian at 9:09 AM on February 22, 2011


I've never paid for a piece of software other than console games, never paid for mp3s

Something has got to be wrong with your moral compass if you aren't even a little bit ashamed to admit this. Stuff doesn't have to be as bad as stealing a car for it to still be morally suspect.

This thread reinforces my belief that copyright infringement is nothing but a reflection of people's "WE LUV FREE SHIT!!!!!1!!!1!!11" impulse.
posted by Justinian at 9:10 AM on February 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


I love my eReader. I was just up till 5 am with it last night, reading an amazing review copy of a book I got from Netgalley. That's been my largest source of free books. I've only ever pirated one--a book that's long-since gone out of print. I decided that, since the author won't get a cut either way, I'd prefer to have it in the format of my choosing.

But despite the review copies, I still spend a ton of money on ebooks. Since I've gotten it, I've probably forked over a hundred of my own dollars, plus almost completely spent a $200 gift card I got for Christmas. A lot of these are B&N's free or cheaper titles, sure (I've even bought a few books by the aforementioned Amanda Hocking. They're . . . not good. However, I've read mainstream, published paranormal romance YA that was just as badly written. At least I only spent $3 a book on Hocking's stuff), but plenty of them were purchased at the full prices.

Nothing bothers me more than when I can't get a book through their bookstore and I really want to--when it's available on Amazon, or Sony's website, but not on Barnes and Noble's. I've converted my own MSes into ebooks and it's really easy and takes no time at all. When publishers aren't willing to do the same, and still want a huge cut of the profits off ebook sales, it feels like an insult. But I have it relatively easy. One of my crit group members lives in Ireland, and has a Sony ereader, and he frequently tries to purchase books from various ebook sites and finds that they're not available in the UK, or are, but aren't licensed to Ireland. I know that a few times, he's paypaled American friends money to buy the books off Amazon, then had them break the DRM to send them to him so he can read them. This is illegal, sure. But he's still paying for the books--he still wants authors to get money.

I don't know--this is rambling (up way to late, you know). I realize that these sort of things put authors and readers in difficult positions. It seems to me that the publishers are in the wrong here, because they're not doing their job in facilitating the author/reader relationship.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:17 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


By which I mean, any argument against piracy on theoretical grounds that the author must be paid have a hard time agreeing with our system of free libraries.

Do American authors not see anything extra from their books that are lent from libraries? In Canada we have the Public Lending Right Commission, which pays authors based on the circulation of their works.

I don't know how effectively this shakes out into cash for authors and I'm sure there are problems with it, as there are problems with any undertaking of this size, but it seems like it's an effort to make the library system into more of a trade-off.

Not a trick question, just curious how the publishing community views second hand sales, which in terms of net effect are *exactly* the same as pirating, maybe worse as there is no chance to "flip" a reader from pirate to consumer. The video-game console community is currently gnashing it's teeth with the sales of used games being equal to spit roasting babies.

Ah, I think the two are still very different as viewed from a publisher's perspective. Library loans and used sales of physical books are problematic for them, as they view them as lost sales and also impossible to really prevent. In addition, loaning and selling of used copies are seen by the public as inexorably legal and moral. There's no way for them to oppose this anymore; it's a settled argument. The positive side of this type of "distribution" for them is that in order for it to happen on a large scale many purchases must be made, so they still profit (just not as much as they think they would have otherwise).

Digital copying, on the other hand, is not widely considered legal or moral. The publishers can generally do what they like to try to prevent it without being seen as "the bad guys". As we move into this new type of distribution, publishers have a chance to redefine their business, moving from the selling of goods to the licensing of intellectual property. Of course, they also see it as hugely threatening because there is no physical component to throttle the distribution.

The video game industry is starting to get the hang of it. More frequently now, you're not buying a video game, you're buying a license to the service. Even if you pick up a physical copy, they are starting to be either contain less content on resale (DLC codes) or completely useless to a third party (systems like Battle.net or Steamworks).
posted by ODiV at 9:30 AM on February 22, 2011


Something has got to be wrong with your moral compass if you aren't even a little bit ashamed to admit this

Probably. Thats why it is amazing that I have paid for all my EBooks.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:31 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not a trick question, just curious how the publishing community views second hand sales, which in terms of net effect are *exactly* the same as pirating,

The net effect is not the same. First, a used book might be resold perhaps a dozen times or so at most and probably only once or twice, realistically. Once made available online, however, one copy may be duplicated many hundreds or thousands of times.

Second, the existence of the used book market allows publishers to charge more in the first place. The second sale acts as a kind of delayed rebate for the buyer. Contrast that with piracy, where the copier sees nothing from the additional copies and so has no incentive to pay more.

Third, when someone sells a book they have to surrender the physical copy. If they later want a copy, they'll have to buy one. If they buy new, then the publisher makes money. If they buy used, the above two benefits still accrue. But with piracy the copier gets to keep te original.
posted by jedicus at 9:42 AM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]



It appears the problem is that I am not l33t enough. Alas!
posted by GilloD


I feel out of the loop as well. I see plenty of classics and random books on torrent sites, but never see the current best-sellers and such.
posted by Windigo at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2011


I totally had forgotten about pirating for my Kindle! I was sooooo annoyed at how many I tried to buy, but they were locked out for Canadian customers. I will be severely tempted to circumvent and download in those cases...
posted by Theta States at 10:19 AM on February 22, 2011


Your time is worth something.

Tell it to the TV.

Obviously text is OK for just fiction novels...

Just fiction novels, lol.

Nowadays it's all about PDFs and .djvu files.

Speaking of which, is there a good Android book reader for PDF and HTML? All the ones I've tried suck.

Then I realized I couldn't loan it to any of the people that I generally loan books. D'oh! Even if they have Kindles, I can't loan them the book.

A lot of people in here have said that. But what about the Kindle Lending Club stbalbach mentioned? Does that not apply to all Kindle users?

Since when are you entitled to steal intellectual property because you think the pricing is wrong or the technology is prohibitive?

Fair use, specifically "scholarship." I needs to learn!
posted by mrgrimm at 10:21 AM on February 22, 2011


Surely ebook swapping should be an acceptable practice, no? Give one, get one. It's done with real books all the time.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:22 AM on February 22, 2011


I see plenty of classics and random books on torrent sites, but never see the current best-sellers and such.

NYT Best Sellers

I tried "unbroken + hillenbrand + site:mediafire.com" on google and got a result for Combined Non-Fiction #1. I also got results for "Dead or Alive" by Tom Clancy. You'd have to pay me to read either one.

I think we're only getting started with books, music, and film. Things are gonna explode soon.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:26 AM on February 22, 2011


As someone who regularly travels to China and has spent weeks wandering through the endless halls of YARRRR, what do people think about the possibility that perhaps the majority of IP pirating (including film, music, and, increasingly, 'freelance'-translated ebooks) is not in fact done by Western consumers, but by people in other nations who couldn't possibly afford to buy said media at its original price anyway?

A-hem. *shifty eyed look around*

Around here in Argentina, we pirate anything that isn't nailed to the bottom of the ocean, pretty much. This goes wayyy beyond the net and all, mind you. When I was a teen, even in my boring lost-in-the-desert small city we had a thriving underground of microcomputer games, photocopied books, and duplicated cassettes. This was in part due to cost, of course (our living standard being what it is even at the best of times), but mainly due to lack of legal access. Nobody was selling us the damn things, it was as simple as that, they had no interest. When I got into university, it was just the same (even though it was now a big city with connections), textbooks were just too expensive, so much so that even the uni's library had at best a couple of copies of each title for courses that had perhaps 200 students. So we photocopied everything that didn't move out of sight in time.

The internet and CD/DVD revolutions hit us more or less at the same time, in the pre- and meltdown years (2000-2003 or so). Needless to say, nobody had the means to buy anything, so it all grew into a gigantic, shameless, black market that operated in plain sight. Today, you can see an occasional token operation here and there by the government and police, but the black market is pretty much just as shameless and plain sight as it was since then. Besides the cost (which only the very small higher classes can really afford), we still suffer from lack of access (including idiotic customs regulations that can double or worse the original cost from abroad, not to mention the shipping cost, another racket here - and did I mention when they make you travel to the capital customs office 500 kms away or more, since they will not release the shipmento to you if you don't go in person?), and ridiculous region restrictions combined with at most a couple of local vendors that offer legal digital media at stupidly high prices.

So the e-books are just a minor smudge in the old pie, it's only a different kind of file format to pirate the hell out of if it doesn't move fast enough. There are now for the first time e-readers to buy in local stores, and while a couple of adventurous editors here are offerint legal content for a reasonable fee, those e-readers are being filed with mountains of pirated content. In universities, he e-book file has supplemented nicely the old and still prevalent photocopying. Most courses operate under the untold shared knowledge that if you want the bibilography, it's probably not even in the library (ours, for instance, hasn't bought a programming language textbook in years, just to give an example) so winkwink you know where to get them: in the same place as the photocopied versions, if you just pay 2 more pesos for the CD with the files. And let's not talk about what happens with researchers that can't afford even to change their desktop PCs in ten years, and need to slowly read volumes that certain abusive publishers mark at 200 euros each.
posted by Iosephus at 10:27 AM on February 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


But what about the Kindle Lending Club stbalbach mentioned? Does that not apply to all Kindle users?

Main problem is that the publishers need to enable lending, and they don't tend to. None of the books I've bought on my Kindle have it enabled, and they range the gamut from bestsellers to sci-fi to nonfiction. Also, each book can only be lent once ever, so you need a large pool of lenders like in the lending club. If you are just one person lending, you would need to keep buying new copies to keep lending.

(Incidentally, the far easier way to "lend" on the Kindle is to use a shared Amazon account, and just add all the Kindles / iPhones / etc. to it. Amazon certainly can't tell my iPhone from my friend's.)
posted by smackfu at 10:31 AM on February 22, 2011


Gotcha. Thanks for the clarification. (Yeah, I always wondered why/if numerous people could share one "all-you-can-eat" account.)

As for finding new fiction, it just took me about 30 seconds to find downloadable versions (epub) of the latest (2010) novels from Rick Moody, David Mitchell, and Margaret Atwood.

Just searching for title + author + epub will get you a download for most new commercial fiction.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:38 AM on February 22, 2011


PSSST: if you have a kindle, download calibre to convert .epub files to .mobi files.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:43 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Iosephus, it's much the same in Pakistan. Aside from a flourishing trade in illegally copied DVDs and CDs (including, for some reason the entire Criterion Collection; happy days), new books get cheaply printed on glossy onion-skin-thin paper and sold at the best rate the market can bear. A friend of mine thought she'd scored a massive coup when she snapped up a copy of the last Harry Potter a week before its official release, only to find it was a 700 page fanfic copied off the internet and passed on to gullible sorts such as her. The day the actual book was released, it was available in the same cheap print at the same bookshop and the fanfic disappeared from the shelves.
posted by tavegyl at 10:46 AM on February 22, 2011


Everyone keeps saying that there is no cost to the publisher to distribute electronic copies of their book. That could be true if they were distributed differently but it is not true as things stand. There is a significant cost to the publisher to deliver a book or magazine (especially one with pictures) to a Kindle over a 3G connection:

The true cost of publishing on the Amazon Kindle : why newspapers and magazines published on the Amazon Kindle rarely contain photos
posted by straight at 10:54 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really, that only applies to stuff with lots of photos. My largest Kindle book is 1072 KB for 960 pages and according to that article would cost the publisher a whopping 10 cents to distribute.
posted by smackfu at 11:11 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


They could be distributed differently though, couldn't they? The publishers aren't being forced to go through Amazon, are they? Presumably they're publishing through Amazon's periodical service because think it's worthwhile. They could just as easily release a pay-to-download PDF on their website. I think a periodical could do very well with this model.

Hopefully as the number and penetration of ebook reading devices increases the ability to gouge like this will decrease.

Oh, is my optimism showing?
posted by ODiV at 11:11 AM on February 22, 2011


What can't be measured in these discussions is how much of it is simply due to digital hoarding.

I know a lot of people who have downloaded SO MUCH stuff from the torrent networks - be it porn, movies, eBooks, or MP3s - who will never actually watch/read/listen to any of it. People want these files just to have them, and for the bragging rights of being able to say how many TB of eBooks they have.

These are people who would never ever buy those things, no matter how cheap they were. The entire point is how much they were able to glean from the internet for free.

But if you want to read a book, you need to either buy that book or check it out from the library. Otherwise, the author won't write the next one. Simple as that.
posted by ErikaB at 11:21 AM on February 22, 2011


But people in the thread are talking about wanting to pay something like 1/3 the price of a physical book, which won't come close to covering costs.

Well, then they need to sell me a fucking product that's as good as a paper book. I absolutely refuse to pay the same amount for a crippled product that I can't resell, lend, or use wherever I want.

Take DRM off those files, and I'd be willing to buy them at the same price as a hardcover and/or softcover, depending on which is out at the time. Put DRM on them, and if the price isn't much lower, then if I don't want to wait for a paper book, I'll pirate it instead.

I don't care what their cost basis is. I just don't. What I care about is the product I'm buying, as opposed to other products I can buy. I will not pay the same price for a rental, which is what DRM books are.

Whether this is popular with anyone or not, these are my options:

1. Buy a hardcover or a softcover;
2. Buy a DRM-infested electronic file that's worse than a hardcover or softcover, but costs more;
3. Buy a DRM-infested file that costs a lot less than a real book;
4. Buy a DRM-free file that costs the same as the cheapest current flavor of paper book;
5. Illegally download a DRM-free electronic file for $0.

Strangely enough, option 4, which is what I would go for, isn't available from most sources, Baen being a delightful exception. And Amazon was offering option 3 for awhile, but the publishers took that away, substituting option 2 instead.
posted by Malor at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I see plenty of classics and random books on torrent sites, but never see the current best-sellers and such.

ebook pirates don't use torrents. The files, even the mega collections, don't have a size to justify having to 'expose' yourself by seeing them. It's all posted to rapidshare and friends, with semi-private message boards to share the links.

All this noise is really just increasing awareness of something that's been going on since the photocopier. When I moved to Singapore as a kid in the 80s, the expensive private school for American expat children was rather proud of how they only bought one copy of each text book, and made photocopies for all the kids. (they also used Alpo in the chili, I suspect. I can think of no other reason for having a pallet of the stuff in your kitchen). Almost every high-rise shopping center had a basement full of photocopiers and people paid to copy entire books by hand.
posted by nomisxid at 11:44 AM on February 22, 2011


6. Don't read the book.
posted by brain_drain at 11:44 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


7. Read the book over someone's shoulder on the subway.
8. Break into the author's house and steal the final draft.
9. Have a nap.

Wait, what were we listing?
posted by ODiV at 11:51 AM on February 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


10. Download the movie adaptation.
posted by Pendragon at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like paper books. E-readers don't really do it for me; they're just not there yet for large format textbooks, magazines and so forth. They do offer a huge advantage in terms of reduced storage space, and the extra labor and expense required to shift all my physical books if I move house.

On the other hand, used book prices are so low right now as to be laughable. Some kinds of books are so bulky people are giving them away - law books for example, which just happen to be the very things I need for study now. My local law library sells outdated books for $3 each, which is why I have an entire shelf of jury instruction manuals and civil forms, only a tiny fraction of which have changed in the last year but are reissued every 6 months anyway.

This is not to say that all such expensive books are necessarily overpriced; the reason the second-hand copies are so cheap is that a mistake resulting from the use of outdated information is likely to be far more expensive than the cost of staying up to date with each new edition. Not a major concern for the student, but of critical importance for the practitioner, and not something that can be reliably (or legally) replaced with pirated editions. It's true that a lot of material is published in digital form for free by governments or courts themselves nowadays. But staying on top of all that takes time, and in many areas its more efficient to let a specialist trade publisher do that and purchase the updated industry-standard reference work than it is to spend several hours every week looking for revised versions of forms and rules on 20 different websites.

And there are two other benefits to the dead-tree versions that you e-book consumers will never enjoy: exercise from carrying the things about, and more usefully, the signalling value of other people being able to see what you're reading. I consider it a definite plus to have people walk up and say 'I see you're into that writer,' having had a number of valuable friendships which got started that way.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2011


the signalling value of other people being able to see what you're reading.

Amazon could slap a little marquee-style display on the back of the Kindle that (optionally) announces what you're reading. If it's eInk it wouldn't use much battery life since what it displays would change pretty infrequently. And it wouldn't even have to be very high resolution, so it would be a cheap addition.
posted by jedicus at 1:05 PM on February 22, 2011


I suppose, but given that it won't be visible much of the time I'm not sure it makes economic sense. Plus you know people would complain about being outed for reading porn on the subway or suchlike. And people like me would wax smug about inability of the e-reader to show who had actually made it all the way to the end...although given my ever-lengthening reading list, perhaps that may not be such a disadvantage after all...
posted by anigbrowl at 1:23 PM on February 22, 2011


Well, like I said the display would be under user control. And for
smug folk it could display a progress bar, page number, chapter, etc. That would have the added value of letting others know if it's okay to mention possible spoilers.
posted by jedicus at 1:30 PM on February 22, 2011


under user control for select titles!
posted by ODiV at 1:39 PM on February 22, 2011


Did I say...

You're answering a question with a question? My point is that these folk are taking what should be a negotiation between buyer and seller and eliminating the rights of the seller. Put it this way - would you pirate a book if the author were standing right next to you and asked you not to?

You have no idea what other commenters would do if pirated books were not available.


Did I say I did? I used the verb "imagine" intentionally. To get us into the realm of the unknown but guessable. But again, realistically, and based on what a good portion of commentors say they would do or already do, I think mine was a fair assumption.

1999 called and it wants it's narrow worldview back. Piracy is here to stay and will continue to "hurt us all" for the foreseeable future.


I think it was almost as much a plea for good manners as much as anything else. After all, just because something can be done does not mean it should be done, or that it is rightly done. Mind you, if tracking gets as good as it might get, who can say that every cheat download is not traceable? In which case, these current wild west days may be numbered.

Or do think that that narrow world view is a bad thing?

any argument against piracy on theoretical grounds that the author must be paid have a hard time agreeing with our system of free libraries.

Not really. Libraries pay for their books. The author gets a cut. Pirates do not pay for their down loads. The author does not get a cut.

Moreover, in countries more civilized than America, authors get a residual every time a book is checked out of those country's libraries. Not much, but it is at least a nod of the head to the good folks who made the books possible. Would that we did the same.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:06 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


would you pirate a book if the author were standing right next to you and asked you not to?

In another recent discussion about e-book piracy, someone asked this question responded with "I don't care what they think". I didn't get to that statement till well after the thread was dead, but wondered at the cognitive dissonance of really wanting to read something by someone whose opinions you don't care for. If you really do want to read the book, then you do care what they say, you just don't care about what they say in regards to copyright. Elves and corporate espionage, sure you'll listen, but nothing else.
posted by nomisxid at 2:52 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


IndigoJones: Put it this way - would you pirate a book if the author were standing right next to you and asked you not to?

If you're asking me, then I would say to the author something like, "I already bought your hardback book, would you rather me scan in every single page so I can read it without lugging the thing around?" or perhaps, "It hasn't been released in the UK yet, so I'm downloading it first before I buy it."

Or are you talking about the person who never buys any books but just pirates everything? In that case, I agree with you, I think it's wrong they aren't paying anything, and perhaps they might buy a book or two if there was no piracy. But this seems to be an entirely theoretical point given that you can't prevent piracy. What I'm suggesting is that if books were priced lower, released globally, and unencumbered by DRM, then authors and readers would be far better off. Readers would read more, authors would have more money. It wouldn't kill piracy but it'd deal it a massive blow.

And yes, I have said more or less the same thing to authors and publishers, to their face. I do a lot of work with them, they know my opinions, and they also know that I buy a crapload of books. We still get on perfectly well, mostly because they understand the problem.
posted by adrianhon at 3:20 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most people have this thing called a "life," and will pay the $10 per title, because the store interface is easy to use and they don't have to put any effort into buying a book. Your time is worth something.

Yup. That's the reason I refuse to go down the road of acquiring DRM-ed products, because of the inevitable nightmare I'll eventually have trying to make use of them with what will be modern devices.

I'm probably like a lot of people, not much disposable income to blow on devices and material that restrict what I can do with it.

As I say frequently in e-book threads, e-book readers are pretty darn neat and handy for reading public domain (or other freely distributed) on-line material, and for making a large stack of books portable when travelling. You can just ignore DRM-ed content, and not connect to their respective motherships (though it turns out the Nook really sucks at keeping accurate time if you're not syncing with B&N.)
posted by Zed at 3:30 PM on February 22, 2011


Put it this way - would you pirate a book if the author were standing right next to you and asked you not to?

If he/she insists on selling me a DRM-infested file at the same price or more than a real book, I consider him or her an asshole. Treat me like a customer, and I'll be a customer. Treat me like a thief, and I'll fulfill your expectations. Sell me a DRM-free file, and I'll treat it more or less like a real book, and I'm willing to pay somewhere around the same price.... I do think it should be at least a little cheaper, but as I've learned in other threads on this topic, the paper and shipping aren't the big cost centers, so I'm willing to flex there. But I'm not going to accept an inferior product for more money, and if he/she insists that I can't be trusted with a DRM-free file, then I insist that he or she can't be trusted with my money.

And, yes, if we had that negotiation, and he/she was unwilling to flex, I'd download the file right there in front of them, and then politely ask again if they'd like to sell me what I just downloaded. If not, I would walk away with a bemused grin, entirely guilt-free.

This is why I try to buy games on Impulse over Steam whenever reasonably possible (sometimes the Steam sales are just too good to resist)...Stardock has always treated me very well indeed. I'm starting to get a little impatient with their goofs over the last year or two, but for the moment, I'm still a customer of theirs because they treat me like one. I'd never, EVER pirate a Stardock game, where I'd cheerfully copy anything with UBISoft DRM. I've never actually done that, but if there's any company I'd like to thumb my nose at, it's that one.
posted by Malor at 3:39 PM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


One thing I rarely see brought up in the piracy discussions is the idea of a curator. I am often overwhelmed by the amount of media I (legally) own and have access to. I was a member of emusic back when you could download as much as you wanted as long as you kept paying the monthly fee, and I went hog wild. I've also been given gigabytes of music and movies on hard drives, and have had my LP and cd collections digitized. And then there's the insane amount of media that I can stream legally, or download illegally.

I don't like having crappy metadata, and I don't like not knowing where to begin when I want to entertain myself. I would happily pay for a well-curated, impeccably tagged, and completely portable (to all my devices) monthly bunch of media which I could add to my collection seamlessly (because I've already specified what tagging system I'm using) and explore. People are always working on taste algorithms, but there's also something to be said for the model where I trust a certain taste-arbiter (a magazine, a person, a gallery, whatever), and I choose to spend my leisure time consuming according to its recommendations.

The horse has already left the barn, let's think about new ways to make money running the farm.
posted by tractorfeed at 3:52 PM on February 22, 2011


If he/she insists on selling me a DRM-infested file at the same price or more than a real book

I don't know if even James Patterson or J.K. Rowling could swing getting a major publisher to sell an e-book un-DRMed today. I intend to be a published author at some point. But I don't imagine I'd ever be one (with a major publisher) if I tried to take a stand on DRM. (I'll just continue to recommend no one buys it. Doh.)
posted by Zed at 3:54 PM on February 22, 2011


Would you check out a library book if the author were standing right next to you? Of course you would. Duh.

The library is nothing more than a free content delivery system, just like the internet is. A library is very much a grandfathered-in institution, too; if it were a new idea, content creators would do everything to quash it immediately.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:55 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


A hardcover book arrived for me today (A biography of Neil Armstrong). I paid 20¢ for it and 4 dollars for the shipping.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:27 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


if tracking gets as good as it might get, who can say that every cheat download is not traceable? In which case, these current wild west days may be numbered.

Well they were saying that back in 1999 also. That doesn't mean it won't happen, but even then piracy will still occur it will just be driven underground. Think usenet. Usenet, serving all your piracy needs since 1980.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:49 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


>Is anyone releasing ebooks in an independent way? Like, in a pay-what-you-will way?<

A few authors have tried it, I have not seen any publishers behind this approach. I go out of my way to support these folks, regardless of them being an author I knew I would like or not, I buy a copy. The idea merits support.
posted by twidget at 5:00 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


A decade ago, the standard app for book layout would still have been Pagemaker in many publishing houses

A decade was 2001, at point when it was clear Pagemaker had lost to Quark. Where publishing houses clinging to Pagebreaker that much?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:04 PM on February 22, 2011


Mind you, if tracking gets as good as it might get, who can say that every cheat download is not traceable? In which case, these current wild west days may be numbered.

"That would be sweet indeed" is my gut reaction, but what I'd prefer is a total revolution in format.

It will still be a lot to ask of this generation, though, it seems. "Okay, everyone. I know your life of stealing began with the Mozart that your mothers pirated for their iPods for use in the delivery room, but you have to stop now, be happy about it, and pay for intellectual property from now on."

It is ingrained in the DNA of 2 generations of people now. The sense of entitlement that people have over looting all of the intellectual property they can set a cursor on is preposterous.

I agree with a lot of the finer points made on both sides of the debate in this thread, I just wish there was a good way to implement them all in one format. That is what I'm waiting for.

Why didn't that apply in record stores 20 years ago? Why didn't EVERY KID IN THE WORLD think it was their God-given right

to lift every unit off the shelves? Was it simply a matter of physical barriers that were deterrent? Was it the merely

more of (gasp) paying for something that still had a fortnight or so left to its dicrepit winter? Or is it just the fact that something digital permits a disconnect that was previously more elusive when our five fingers had to actually enforce
the telltale discount themselves?

It's a little like the "when does a fetus become a person" debate.
That's why I never speak up about this shit anymore. There's no agreeing on it.

Why didn't that apply in record stores 20 years ago? Why didn't everyone think it was their God-given right to lift every unit off the shelves? Was it simply a matter of the physical barriers translating straight to a psychological deterrent, whereas a digital copy permits a disconnect that was previously more elusive, when our five fingers had to actually enforce the telltale discount themselves? Was it just the arbitrary
moré of paying for something, gasping and hacking out the final fortnight or so left to its dicrepit winter?

It's a little like the "when does a fetus become a person" debate.
That's why I never speak up about this shit anymore. There's no agreeing on it.
But I do enjoy thinking about it from a sociological perspective (and, certainly, waiting for that "new business model," sufficient to pour wax in our ears as the sirensong of the eternal shoplift rages in our very pulseblood, far beyond our will, if only so that all true artists don't have to starve to death, leaving us only with a world full of Jonas Brothers songs and Ashton Kutcher movies.)

I don't have any more time to chop out the troll'y parts-- hope I got them all.
posted by herbplarfegan at 5:07 PM on February 22, 2011


This thread reinforces my belief that copyright infringement is nothing but a reflection of people's "WE LUV FREE SHIT!!!!!1!!!1!!11" impulse.

How about all the threads where people said they were happy to pay when they had a convenient channel? iTunes, Steam etc.

I spent the last 16 hours of my play-time on a game that I had had for 6 months on my hard drive and which I only started playing after buying it from Steam a couple of weeks ago. YMMV.
posted by ersatz at 5:07 PM on February 22, 2011


ah-- see.. told ya: I misspelled "decrepit."
(*insert tri-focal joke)
posted by herbplarfegan at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2011


I own and really love a Nook Color, and I will probably never buy an ebook. (Or, if I do, it'll be DRM-stripped immediately.)

I come from a long line of readers, and we share books. That's what we do. Most of my family have Nooks. And the 'lending features' of ebooks make utter mockery of the term. Two weeks? One person? Never again? I'm so glad that one of the main features of a purchased book is completely hobbled in the digital version! Thanks!
posted by graventy at 6:04 PM on February 22, 2011


Pricing is a bit more complex than it might seem at first, because the vast majority of customers instinctively equate higher price with higher value. Assuming a specialized, high-demand work with a motivated audience, you can expect to make much more profit by selling at $67 or $97 than by selling at $7 or $1.

For that matter, the price barrier between $0 and $1 is usually much bigger than that, for example, between $67 and $97; if customers are used to paying $67, a fair number of them will also pay $97. If they're used to paying $0, relatively few will pay $1. So it's not simply of a matter of self-publishing authors and publishers charging too much; it's very much a matter of people believing that if they know how to use a computer or e-reader to access something, then they are entitled to have it.

More to the point, if any instance of a digital work runs the risk of being offered as a torrent, such that a $1 sale leads to N number of non-buying readers, and a $97 or $297 sale leads to N number of non-buying readers, it would be absurd not to charge the maximal price the market can bear.

As far as DMCA takedowns go, yeah, they're a hassle-- but they actually can have an impact. When I'm not taking down pirated copies, sales drop; when I take down a well-publicized source for pirated copies of my work, sales go up.

The idea that piracy=marketing is laughable, if you're selling technical information, information whose value rests in its exclusivity. Network effects are only wonderful, if you're renting usage of a network; if you're selling specialized information that is meant to secure competitive advantage for its readers, than the wide-scale distribution of that information just reduces the market value of what you're selling.
posted by darth_tedious at 6:05 PM on February 22, 2011


"Okay, everyone. I know your life of stealing began with the Mozart that your mothers pirated for their iPods for use in the delivery room, but you have to stop now, be happy about it, and pay for intellectual property from now on."

Mozart's work is in the public domain, just so you know.
posted by odinsdream at 6:57 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mozart's work is in the public domain, just so you know.

Not performances of his music (at least the ones performed after the early 20th century).
posted by gyc at 7:00 PM on February 22, 2011



Mozart's work is in the public domain, just so you know.

Not individual recordings of his works though.
posted by clockworkjoe at 7:01 PM on February 22, 2011


Why didn't that apply in record stores 20 years ago?

Why do people constantly go back to this? If I stole a record when I was a kid, the record store was out the money; they'd paid for it, and no longer had a record to sell someone to recoup the loss. It was exactly the same as stealing $5 from their wallet (assuming that's what they paid for records; I don't know.)

That doesn't happen with digital goods. There is no loss when a copy is made. There's no scarcity of bits, and copying something doesn't deprive anyone of anything.

Business models need to change to reflect the fact that digital goods are hard to create (though much easier than they once were), but the marginal cost of producing one more copy is just barely distinguishable from zero. And if someone makes a second-generation copy, the cost to the creator is literally zero.

This isn't a simple issue, and the morality of physical things does not apply. Nobody is injured when piracy happens; there is no loss. The laws and customs need to change to reflect that. Trying to confuse the issue by painting it as theft is poor thinking.

Fundamentally, the business of curating (thanks, tractorfeed, for the good analogy) and distributing music, video, and print is changing. We have large old industries that are desperately clinging to the old way of doing things, which comes from a time when copies of things were hard to make.

Their value add is primarily in copying goods for you, and that's just not needed in a digital world. We can all make our own copies just fine, thank you very much. This means that these industries almost have to shrink a great deal; what's the sense in investing tens of millions of dollars in a CD plant, when you're competing with hundreds of millions of tiny CD factories?

All the squawking about "theft" is to protect the middlemen. Artists, by and large, that are jettisoning the middlemen seem to be doing pretty well, and it's still early in the digital transition.

Don't try to use the legal code to enforce obsolete business models. They don't work well anymore, they clearly haven't for quite awhile, and yet the middlemen are causing an enormous amount of pain and grief as they thrash around in their death throes.

They're on the losing side. Backing them just hurts ordinary people. The distributors have been in charge for decades, using their access to capital to yoke artists to the wheel and feast off the proceeds. But they're just middlemen, and it should never have been that way in the first place.

Now, don't get me wrong; I think book publishers, on the whole, are far more ethical than the RIAA/MPAA, and it bothers me that their model may fail too. I hope they find a way to survive and prosper. But emulating the recording industry, which is exactly what they're doing, is the surest path to doom I know.
posted by Malor at 7:03 PM on February 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


And the cost to pay the guy to find and acquire the books they want to publish? The cost to edit it, which you've even mentioned above? The costs of delivery are the smallest part of the cost to produce the book.

Yes, the cost for an ebook is a dollar or two (depending on hardcover or paperback) than a physical book. Which is why the publishers want to charge a couple bucks less for them. But people in the thread are talking about wanting to pay something like 1/3 the price of a physical book, which won't come close to covering costs.


I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. Let's group the costs separately so there's less confusion.

Cost group 1: All of the costs required to go from "Author's Idea" to "Finished Novel." This would include editing, proofreading, marketing, etc. These costs would be the same regardless of the type of format (ignoring for example cost savings on coverart if you're not going to need it for the ebook)

Cost group 2: Incremental cost per book sold. This is drastically different depending on the book format.

My comment was all about Group 2, not at all about Group 1. My position is that Group 2 is pennies per book if it's an e-book, but thousands of times higher if it's a paper book.

Of course, your book's total sales still have to cover Group 1 + Group 2, so I see your point that publishers can't really reduce their ebook prices very much below their paper book prices. Where I think we disagree is on the conclusion to draw from this fact.

I'd suggest that the current publishing model cannot successfully replace paper books with an inferior product (with respect to the rights people enjoy currently with paper products) without also significantly reducing price, and thus increasing volume.

It sounds like your position is to just hope consumers don't notice the sharp reduction in rights and continue to pay the same amount, at the same or increased volume. Is that correct?
posted by odinsdream at 7:36 PM on February 22, 2011


It sounds like your position is to just hope consumers don't notice the sharp reduction in rights and continue to pay the same amount, at the same or increased volume. Is that correct?

Well, no, my position is that ebooks are inherently shitty and that we should all use real books. But I realize that is likely to be a minority opinion going forward. Perhaps more usefully, in general I don't believe people will ever be willing to pay enough for an e-book to cover the costs of a publisher in preparing a book no matter what rights are preserved. It's not like cutting the price in half would result in sales going through the roof; there just aren't enough people who would read a book for pleasure even if it were free. Where that leaves us is not something I can predict.

Malor: Their value add is primarily in copying goods for you

That's not true at all of a traditional publisher. It's much closer to the truth for a print on demand self-publishing outfit, but that's not what we are talking about. The primary value of an actual publishing house is two-fold.

First, as a filter. For every novel worth reading there are hundreds or thousands which are utter shit. A publishing house finds the one worth reading so that we don't have to search for it in the piles of crap. Are they perfect? Of course not. But they're a damn sight better than the alternative.

Second, in preparing the manuscript for publication. Editing and so forth. Have you read a novel that was never edited? It's not usually very pretty.

You keep ignoring me when I point out that the cost of copying the goods (printing, materials, etc) for a publishing house is among the smallests costs incurred in preparing a novel. So here it is again. The cost of making the book is a relatively small fraction of the cost of a book, and the value of a publishing house has very little to do with "copying goods".
posted by Justinian at 8:54 PM on February 22, 2011


First, as a filter. [...]

Second, in preparing the manuscript for publication. Editing and so forth.


First, as a censor.

Second, as a censor.

Got it.

/facetious
posted by Sys Rq at 9:07 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would happily pay for a well-curated, impeccably tagged, and completely portable (to all my devices) monthly bunch of media which I could add to my collection seamlessly

But that bunch of media could easily be copied along with the tags and other metadata. That idea won't really work unless the target market for each 'bunch of media' is very small (i.e. the curation is extremely customized, perhaps to the point of being individualized). At that point the value of the recommendations to others would be limited, so copying would likewise be limited.

Even so, I'm not sure there's a significant market for it. Automated recommendation systems are a dime a dozen these days (Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes all have them), and a lot of people seem to think they work pretty well. I would be surprised if very many people were willing to pay a human or group of humans a significant amount of money to custom-recommend and deliver new media. Especially since social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Ping can provide some of the same benefits for free.
posted by jedicus at 9:59 PM on February 22, 2011


Yes, Sys Rq, The Man is preventing you from finding all that awesome My Little Pony slashfic you're dying for! He's keeping you down!
posted by Justinian at 11:33 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mozart's work is in the public domain, just so you know.

Not individual recordings of his works though.


Some of them certainly are. You can download (almost?) all of his works at the Mozart-Archiv Deutscheland. I just downloaded "La finta semplice" in MP3. Not too bad ... considering he was 12!
posted by mrgrimm at 11:54 AM on February 23, 2011


Yes, Sys Rq, The Man is preventing you from finding all that awesome My Little Pony slashfic you're dying for! He's keeping you down!

OH YEAH WELL TORRENTS
posted by Sys Rq at 8:41 PM on February 23, 2011


But people in the thread are talking about wanting to pay something like 1/3 the price of a physical book, which won't come close to covering costs.

Physical hardcovers now cost $28, and the regular Amazon Kindle book price is $10. So it's not just people in this thread.
posted by smackfu at 6:04 AM on February 24, 2011


Physical hardcovers now cost $28

The list price is a polite fiction. New hardcovers usually cost $17 or $18 dollars.
posted by Justinian at 10:15 AM on February 24, 2011


Deeply discounted bestsellers at big-box stores or Amazon, quite possibly covering the majority of all hardcover sales, maybe. But that's a very small minority of hardcover titles.
posted by Zed at 10:38 AM on February 24, 2011


Deeply discounted bestsellers at big-box stores or Amazon, quite possibly covering the majority of all hardcover sales, maybe.

Anecdata: my local bookstore sells all hardcover fiction for 25% always. It tends to be that way at most stores these days. I thank Amazon for that (unless it's killing local bookstores, but I don't think so).
posted by mrgrimm at 12:40 PM on February 24, 2011


Deeply discounted bestsellers at big-box stores or Amazon

No, virtually every single hardcover title. I just checked the last 25 hardcovers I bought and they were all $16.99-$18.99.
posted by Justinian at 5:13 PM on February 24, 2011


First, as a filter. ... Are they perfect? Of course not. But they're a damn sight better than the alternative.

Umm, you've surely noticed how all the filters with commercial interest eventually market primarily crap, like Justin Bieber and Harry Potter? We're seeing better results elsewhere.

Second, ... Editing

Yes, but that's often subcontracted. Ain't no reason for the middle man. And editors would fair better if their name replaced the publishers name.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:20 PM on February 24, 2011


The list price is a polite fiction.

It's a lie, you mean--a lie they hope to get away with as many times as possible.

My, how polite of them. Indeed.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:14 PM on February 24, 2011


Yes, but that's often subcontracted.

The editors of whom I am aware are mostly employees, not subcontractors.
posted by Justinian at 12:44 AM on February 25, 2011


Somehow I suspect this will contribute to the rise of ebook piracy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:26 PM on February 25, 2011


Gah. Eventually they're going to drop all pretense and just try to outlaw libraries.
posted by Zed at 2:58 PM on February 25, 2011


Somehow I suspect this will contribute to the rise of ebook piracy.

For the click-wary: "Today news has come out that HarperCollins will now institute library lending caps. A library is only allowed to lend a book 26 times for 2 weeks each before that license to access that book “expires” and then the library must purchase a new license. Essentially that is like making the library buy a NEW print copy of the book once a year."

Fun fact: HarperCollins is a subsidiary of News Corp.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:22 PM on February 25, 2011


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