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January 09, 2006

Comments

paul

MJ, you wrote: "If not for audio I would be even less well read than I am."

I understand the spirit in which you wrote this, but it still reads funny. At some point, writers may consider skipping the writing and rewriting part of their fiction, and all that editing stuff, and trying to sell their stuff to a dead tree publisher, and just dictate their stories, never putting a word on paper or screen.

A return to the aural tradition of storytelling.

JDRhoades

Tell it, sistah! There is no reason on God's green earth that a downloaded audiobook should cost as much as they do. They're cutting their own throats and ours as well.

Lisa

I'm not sure I totally agree with this post. Here's why: there is a big difference between a limited number of books being offered for the price of a library membership and offering all books in an electronic format for free to all audiences. Big Difference.

I cannot help but go back to a question regarding the impact of songs being offered online to the bottom line. How has this changed profits on songs? Remember, in terms of reproduction of a song, before online songs were offered at 99 cents per unit, there were CD and tape singles also offered from 1.99 to 99 cents per unit so the stretch to 99 cents per song wasn't that great. Also, because so many studios are now digitized, creating that online format was relatively simplistic (not that I could do it but for someone knowledgeable, it's not labor intensive). For audio books, I could see distributing the media within a few months of the original hard back or soft cover book being released, potentially generating more hype but let's think about this as well. There are additional costs for hiring someone to read the book, record it, and so forth (and lets face it - not everyone can read well. I've heard some audio books that were atrocious and turned me off from the novelist).

I can definitely see the argument for reducing prices for audio books but I'm not sure I fully back the complete comparison to songs without seeing long-term numbers (first year versus fifth year) that speak to the profit margins.

Scott

OK, I know most of you are approaching this from the writer / publisher, but I'll give you a different take on it. I work in the technical field, and computers specifically. Have you ever noticed the size of an MP3 file? For your typical 3 minute song you are looking at a minimum of 2 to 3 MB in size. Extrapolate that number out to a book that reads in about, what, 5 or 6 hours or more. Even with high speed internet, that's not a trivial download. Now, look at it from the seller's perspective. They're not getting by with their typical internet connection anymore. Normal web servers are set up to feed users webpages that are under 1 MB, and that would be for pretty graphically intensive web pages. They'd have to *BUY* the servers for this, and the bandwidth to support it, and I can tell you, when you get into higher bandwidth numbers (which must be sized for peak usage), you are talking about a great deal of money to support that medium.

It's great to live in a society where these things are possible, but to provide these services, it sure isn't free. If a normal book sells, lets say 10,000 copies and just 10% of those people would prefer it on audiobook format, you're looking at 1000 downloads in the 250 - 400 MB range, and chances are, 90% of those downloads would be happening within the first day or two of the release (assuming these people are fans and *REALLY* want to read what the author has written (or spoken)).

With all of this in mind, do you understand why you can't charge just $.99 or give it away for free? The companies would loose money on it, and you know as well as I know, it'd be the author who would suffer, because the publishing company isn't gonna loose money on the deal, that's for sure.

M.J.

Bandwith doesn't cost what printing, returns, shipping etc cost. So this arguement isn't making it for me.

Plus - there is always a way to defend high prices and get nowhere fast.

We have to be creative and come up with a way to use new technoloy to entice readers not keep the status quo at its impasse.

This was the ebook argument in 2000. There are high costs everyone screamed and yet here we are five years later and the books cost what paperpacks cost.

Lisa

But didn't Stephen King do what you suggest? He published an eBook, chapter by chapter at a much lower cost than his standard book and it didn't make the numbers he had via the standard printing method. The book didn't sell well until he printed it via the standard method.

I agree that the publishing industry as a whole needs to be creative in getting readership but we need to be realistic in terms of the feasibility of what's proposed and look at what has already been attempted and if the current environment can support the proposed changes.

My understanding is that most publishing houses (and please correct me if I am wrong) have not changed their printing methods to digital technology. In the short term that change could be pricey but the long term benefits would be astounding. Books with faster turn around times from draft to final run; less overhead costs; less printing costs. If this occurred then the environment would be ripe due to lesser overall costs. Who knows where else it could lead? Lower prices for hardback, paperback, more money for publicity or just in the pockets of the houses and hopefully in the writer's pockets.

If the majority of publishing houses have converted to a digital format for printing then how has the industry been impacted? What gains have they experienced and why such a lag in the turn around time (again from what I've read). I ask these questions out of curiosity.

In terms of the digital limitations, that can be overcome by offering the audio book in a MDI format at the bookstores, so that they can be easily downloaded (instead of downloading via the internet). Possibly have a kiosk where a reader pays 10.00 before downloading it onto his/her iPod or other digital media.

I don't question the ideas, I question some of the feasibility of what's proposed, keeping in mind that in the end the publishing industry will always be a business, like any other.

Scott

Actually, bandwidth pricing is not negligible.

From http://www.wtaonline.com/t3home.htm

T3 costs...

- Average cost burstable starts at $2,000/mo. at 5Mb, each additional Mb adds approximately $180.00
- Average cost fractional starts at $3,500 for 10Mb, $6,500 for 23Mb.
- Average cost Full T3 (all data) ranges from $4,000 to $9,000/Mo.

I'm not suggesting that it's not reasonable, but just to pay for a month;s worth of a full T-3 (which may not be enough for what you're suggesting) you'd have to be selling 9000 books a month (at you're suggested $.99 / book), and that's not covering the cost of the servers and administrators that keep them running.

I'm not suggesting that it's not possible, I am however suggesting that while it may be great from a marketting standpoint, it is a tougher sell from a business standpoint.

There's also one other idea to focus on as well. Companies are never going to sell something for a dollar that they can get $10. I fthe market is bearing 10 or 20 dollars for a book now, and the companies are surviving and growing, it'll be a hard sell to tell them to make 90% less on it. I do like your idea of bundling authors, a model which has been proved out by Amazon and others, but I wouldn't expect to pay for 1 and get the others for free any more than I would expect to have to pay double for a bundle (of two). I would expect to pay maybe half again as much for the 2nd book.

Just remember, the idea has to be a "win" for everyone involved. Napster wasn't a win for the recording industry, so they shut it down until it reinvented itself as a charging service. Take your idea and run with it, but find a way to make it profitable for publishing houses and I bet they'd go for it. Ignore the publishing houses interests in it and it will go nowhere.

"Plus - there is always a way to defend high prices and get nowhere fast."

One could just as easily replace "defend high prices" with "demand lower prices" in that statement.

M.J.

First - Lisa - I am not suggesting ebooks and audio books are the same but King's experiment was hugely successful for as long as he kept it up. He had over 100,000 people reading with him - meaning he was making over 100,000 a chapter. He quit doing it - lost interest - when the readers lost interest because he wasn't being consistent when he released the chapters. Once a week, then once every three weeks, then he skipped a whole month. It's stopped being a valid experiment at that point.

But more important you can't comare ebooks and audio books. Reading ebooks is not a great experience to date.

What I'm saying is that even with ebooks being a less than perfect expereince, they sell when they are priced right.

So audio books which are a perfect syetem have huge potential.

As well - my point on bringing up music etc was to show that the market is out there who are listening to something now - and used to paying lower prices for it.

And to both Lisa and Scott.

My point is not all books at 99c. My point is books that are in the public domain should be cheap. new releases should be cheapaer than they currently are.

My point is that digital downloads cannot cost what hardcover costs.

And yes some people are paying those prices but a tiny tiny number of people.

My main point is with 30 mill people owning devices the publishing industry and audio book sellers should get off the tried and true treadmill and start getting creative.

I've just posted a tiny handful of ieas in my original post - the point of this is to get the converstaion started.

Publishers can lower digital prices. There is no excuse for a $28 digital book no matter what bandwith costs. And Audio bookstores can make more money overall if they sell more books rather than making more per book and selling less books.

And lastly.

It is always easier to shoot down an idea than try to overcome its problems. I'm sure many if not most of my ideas are difficult to implement.

That's not the point.

The poing is lets start talking, innovating, inventing, trying things.

I am saying there is not nearly enough creativity in this area of the market. That it is huge opportunity. That the book business is tired. Doesn't try new things. Should look at this as a world of possibility.

Lisa

And, I'm agreeing with you in principle, the industry needs to be more creative in its approach. I'm just questioning the feasibility of some of the ideas presented. As you said, this is a discussion and with discussions come points and counterpoints.

The reason I suggested kiosks to be used at bookstores to sell audiobooks or eBooks previously, was to help continue the conversation - another variation on the ideas originally provided.

You are right, it is much easier to shoot an idea down but it is also just as easy not to stretch it and see how far it goes and if it breaks.


Kathie

Great discussion. I often wonder what reading will "look like," fifty years from now. I wonder if it's my inability to wrap my mind around technology that doesn't exist or function as it should, or my stubborness with the idea of giving up the paper bundles in my hands. Change is scary. It must be unthinkable for people on the cusp of losing so much unless they figure out how to profit from the new stuff.

Douglas Clegg

M.J. -

Thirty million Ipod users?

And you can download audio books?

And audio books can cost as much as a hardcover for a digital download?

And the book industry always bemoans poor sales?

There's only one solution:

Make a larger audio-book case/cover and charge more.

(A joke. This seems to be how publishers often approach this problem.)


Why not this:

Sure, let the NY Bestsellers who are in every Target, Walmart, Costco, CVS, bookstore, and airport have $28 audio book prices.

But let midlist writers' books come out in audio with introductory price tags. Hell, BUNDLE THEM for a good price for audio download -- $18 for three books that come out in mass market paperback.

Then, the audio market may help build those writers' audiences, money will be made where none was being made previously.

And maybe, just maybe, audio publishers can start tapping into those 30 million -- and growing -- iPod users who might want to listen to a book while jogging or working out at the gym or out for a walk or doing any number of other things.

Hey, I have audio rights on most of my books -- and if a good audio company is following this thread, contact me, and let's create something:

DClegg@DouglasClegg.com

It's insane not to tap this potential market for novels.

Lyndon the Adult eBook Webmaster

Certainly, at the moment, most of our customers are US based. But England tends to adopt American ideas over time so I can see that changing eventually.

Hell, the Engish public only started using email five or six years ago!

Lawrence

Excellent comment about over 50% of the country (USA) has high speed internet.
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