Sunday, January 31, 2010
Sunday Salon: A fight where we're the ones who lose
MacMillan Publishing and Amazon are in a bitch fight.
As far as I understand it, MacMillan wants Amazon to raise the kindle book price from $10 to $15 and Amazon doesn't want to. As the debate has heated up, Amazon has now pulled ALL of Macmillan's books from the site, so you can now only get them from 3rd party seller (or anyone who isn't Amazon.)
I think publishers should be able to set a base price and sellers either mark it up or discount it to make their money. I know this has changed with digital media. I'm sure record companies want to sell single tracks for more or less than $.99. So, I see MacMillan's point, but I don't think ebooks should get much more expensive. Ebooks should be cheaper than print books. I know that part of a book's price covers the paper, the ink, the printing process, the shipping and distribution to stores etc. There's a reason a hardcover is more expensive than a paperback, why a beautifully bound version with full color illustrations is more expensive than a basic edition. Ebooks don't have those associated costs. Sure, ebooks should still cost something. Authors and editors deserve to get paid for the work they did. But, they should be cheaper than regular books.
I don't have all the answers. I'm sure I don't understand all the facets of the debate and if I knew how to fix it, well, I'm sure I'd have a different job than I currently do.
But, I'm with MacMillan on this one. While I think their position is wrong, Amazon's being a brat and MacMillan is allowed to price their books how they want. But, of course, Cory Doctrow says it much better than me. Being Cory Doctrow, he also ventures into the issues surrounding ebooks and digital rights management (DRM). DRM is one of the main reasons I don't own an ereader. Yes, digital music comes with DRM, but I can still burn a mix CD and give it to my friend or burn off an album to listen to in my car. Also, it's pretty easy to burn a CD and rerip it and strip most of the DRM that way. We haven't found a way around that yet with ebooks. Once I buy an ebook, I can't lend it to a friend, I can't resell it if I want to get rid of it, I can't donate it to a school or library or hospital or anything. If I were going to buy an ereader today, it would be a Sony, because the Sony platform is compatible with Overdrive, which is the company my (and 9,000 other) libraries use to lend ebooks. I read 269 books last year. I spend a lot of money on books, but I can't afford to spend over $2000 a year on them. Librarians don't make *that* much money. I use my library. Until we come up with a way to lend ebooks and share them and make them available cross-platform, I'm staying out of the market.
The music business has finally started to figure this out. On iTunes, for an extra $.30, you can buy your tracks DRM free. I'd pay more for DRM-free ebooks I could lend to my friends or donate or resell. Or, if you're not going to let me fully own the book, charge me a lot less as the rental fee it essentially is. But, here's where the huge irony of the situation comes in-- the reason I started buying all of my digital music on Amazon? Because they lowered the price when buying a full album and even better, insisted that the record companies allowed them to sell all of it DRM free.
Meanwhile, here are just a few of the children's and teen books you can't get on Amazon right now:
The Adoration of Jenna Fox
American Born Chinese
Annie on my Mind
A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts
The Black Cauldron (and the rest of the Prydain Chronicles)
The Cat Royal Adventures
Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith
Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice
The Cricket in Times Square
Emil and Karl
In the Name of God
King George What Was His Problem?
Letters from Rifka
The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
The Mozart Season
Pay the Piper
The Poison Apples
The Possibilities of Sainthood
The President's Daughter
Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You
Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium
The Swan Maiden
Tasting the Sky
A Wrinkle in Time (and almost every other Madeline L'Engle book)