What’s Wrong with Publishing? #10: Wrapping Up Digital

The usual disclaimer: The opinions and ideas expressed in WWwP? entries are ruminations, not rants. I’m thinking out loud here. Even if it seems like I’m demonizing some quarter of the industry, I’m really not — I want publishing (every aspect of it) to be stronger and better. Everyone has a role to play. I welcome your thoughts in the comments. I adore just about everyone I’ve met and worked with in publishing; nothing I say here should be construed as denigrating any sector of the industry.

OK, I’m going to spend one more (brief) blog talking about e-books and then, next week, I’m going to move on to some new topics.

If you checked in earlier this week, you saw a spirited discussion in the comments about DRM and similar restrictions on digital content. Commenter Tom Franklin pointed to an entry on his own blog on the topic of e-book pricing, which I promised to read.

Read it I have, and I suggest you all do so as well. Here’s the link: http://tommfranklin.blogspot.com/2010/07/problems-with-pricing-digital-book.html. It’s a nicely-done overview of some of the problems of e-books with regard to pricing, and Tom comes at it as someone with hands-on experience (albeit, as he’s the first to admit, experience with a specific publisher in a specific segment of the market).

Still, it has some hard facts that I’ve been craving. And I’ll say this: If the assumption that 90% of a publisher’s expenses come BEFORE the actual physical production is not only true, but also even close to universal throughout the industry, then the battle over e-book publishing is going to get very, very ugly very, very quickly. Because the average consumer (to say nothing of the early adopter) thinks that the figure should probably be more like 50% and is expecting a commensurate drop in e-book pricing. But if a publisher spends 90% of a books price before ever running off a single copy…then that means there’s only 10% to play around with in terms of discounting.

With regard to the DRM/piracy discussion: I think we’ve hammered that poor dead horse quite a bit, but I do want to point out that Mark Evanier (as usual) says it better than I ever could, and more succinctly, to boot: It’s about respect.


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