distractions: It's a pink rose. (Default)
2010-08-26 12:10 pm
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Agency E-Book Pricing

Remember when the agency ebook pricing started, publishers like Macmillan said that prices would "be dynamic over time?"  Presumably, for anyone daring to apply logic to the situation, this meant that while prices for e-books might start out at $12.99 or even higher when the hardcovers were initially released, they would drop when the mass market paperback for that title came out.

Well, here were are, more than six months later.  Here are a few examples of books with in print mass-market or other paperbacks with substantially higher priced Kindle versions -- some of them are backlist titles, some of them are recent hardcovers with fairly new MMP releases, some are fiction, some nonfiction.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (Penguin) - Kindle edition, $12.99, MMP, $7.99
Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey (Hachette) - Kindle edition, $12.99, MMP, $7.99
The Lion's Game by Nelson Demille (Hachette) - Kindle edition, $12.99, MMP, $7.99
The Lovers: A Thriller by John Connolly (Simon & Schuster) - Kindle edition, $17.99, MMP, $10.20
Failure is Not An Option by Gene Kranz (Simon & Schuster) - Kindle edition, $12.99, trade paperback, $10.88
Time and Chance by Sharon Penman (Penguin) - Kindle edition, $19.99, MMP, $10.88
Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb (Harper Collins) - Kindle edition, $14.99, MMP, $7.99
On Writing by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster) - Kindle Edition, $12.99, MMP, $7.99
The Other Queen by Phillipa Gregory (Simon & Schuster) - Kindle Edition, $12.99, MMP, $7.99
Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer (Hachette) - Kindle Edition, $9.99, MMP, $8.99
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (Simon & Schuster) - Kindle Edition, $12.99, MMP, $7.99
The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks (Hachette) - Kindle Edition, $9.99, MMP, $7.99
The Constant Gardener by John le Carre  (Simon & Schuster) - Kindle Edition, $12.99, MMP, $7.99 

In some of these cases the e-book price is 40% or more than the MMP price.  This list is hardly exhaustive, and I didn't include a large list of books which have a $7.99 MMP available for pre-order with a $9.99 or higher Kindle price.  I guess I'm hoping that when the MMP is actually released, the Kindle price will drop.  But as the above list shows, that is not always the case.

At the risk of repeating myself: e-books should never cost more than the least expensive paper version.  To keep the e-book at $12.99 while offering a $7 or $8 paperback is nothing but price-gouging and punishing those who choose to read e-books rather than paper.

Get on the ball and keep your promises, publishers.  Your problems will not be solved by trying to destroy e-books through ridiculous pricing policies.  Instead, you will find your readers turning more and more to independent authors and small press publishers who believe that e-books should be priced fairly.
distractions: It's a pink rose. (Default)
2009-09-15 06:41 pm
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Review of the M-Edge Leisure Jacket for the Kindle 2

I was a big fan of the M-Edge Leisure Jacket for the K1, which went to the pool with me last summer quite a bit, and on a beach vacation.  I have been anxiously awaiting the Kindle 2 version, and I'm glad to say that it's even better than the K1 version.

The major rap on the K1 version was a hole over the wheel, so the device wasn't fully covered.  This has been resolved in the K2 version by placing some stretchy fabric over the 5 way that still allows full use of the 5 way and the nearby buttons.  The plastic over the face is the same, and it is far superior to reading through ziploc-type plastic.

The back of the case (which comes in several colors) also has a nifty zipped pocket, perfect for anything flat, like some cash, ID, or a hotel room key. 

It's important to note that the jacket is NOT waterproof.  It will NOT protect your Kindle if you fully immerse it in water.  But if you're at the pool or beach and worried about sand or incidental water drops, this cover should be more than adequate.  I look forward to taking it to the pool and beach.  Another A+ Kindle cover from M-Edge.
distractions: It's a pink rose. (Default)
2009-06-01 08:52 am
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Wow, really?

From the NYT report on this year's Book Expo:

At a panel of authors speaking mainly to independent booksellers, Sherman Alexie, the National Book Award-winning author of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” said he refused to allow his novels to be made available in digital form. He called the expensive reading devices “elitist” and declared that when he saw a woman sitting on the plane with a Kindle on his flight to New York, “I wanted to hit her.”

Authors have every right to allow or withhold permission for their works to be offered in digital form. I may think the decision to withhold permission is deeply stupid and leads to a widespread market for illegal versions (I'm looking at you, J.K. Rowling) but I certainly acknowledge their right to make that stupid decision.

What I don't acknowledge, however, is the right to judge others for their choices about how they read. I don't see anyone lining up to "hit" the user of an expensive cell phone or laptop (both of which, incidentally, can be used to read ebooks) but a Kindle is somehow automatically "elitist."  (Tell that to the 80-year old woman with a vision problem,  or the 7-year-old girl who loves to read but has asthma, aggravated by book dust and mold).

While ebook readers are pricey now, it's the acceptance of the format by those "elitist" early adopters that will make cheaper devices available down the road.  Not to mention that many digital formats don't require a reader any more "elitist" than a phone or computer, but Mr. Alexie makes no distinction here at all.

Whether it is for health reasons or simple convenience, what's important about books isn't the format, it's the content.  There is nothing "elitist" about making that content available to as many people as possible in as many formats as possible.  But Mr. Alexie doesn't agree, and he certainly has the right not to permit any of his work to be offered in digital format.  Just as I have the choice not to read any of it. 

distractions: some pretty flowers (white flowers)
2009-05-14 12:15 pm
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Amazon: It's time to address the quality problems in Kindle books

It's unfortunate that the Kindle garners media attention for something as silly as how the text-to-speech module pronounces "Barack Obama," (News flash! computer voices sound weird!) while more serious issues are ignored.

Almost since the Kindle's inception, there have been significant issues with the formatting of some titles. Problems have included large amounts of blank space between lines, backward indentation, missing first letters in each chapter, random words or lines missing with no apparent pattern, and similar errors. When Kindle users notify customer service of these problems, they are sometimes offered a refund (sometimes not) and the assurance that Amazon will "notify the publisher."

The titles with problems are hardly obscure or trivial, and this issue recently came to a head with the long-awaited release of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.  The omnibus edition was riddled with errors.  In addition to dropping characters after words with an acute accent (of which, as any Tolkien reader will know, there are many), entire phrases were dropped from random sentences.  Because these errors did not appear in the individual editions of the books, it is highly unlikely these were scanning errors, but rather conversion errors related to the omnibus edition only (which, unsurprisingly, is less expensive than buying all three volumes separately: currently the omnibus is $14.04 and the individual editions are $7.99 each).  While Amazon was notified of this problem almost immediately upon the book's release, and has continued to offer assurances that it would investigate the problems, it remains unfixed, and perhaps more disturbingly, Amazon continues to sell the flawed edition.

The formatting problems (and by formatting I include substantive errors such as omitting phrases, etc.) present a two-fold problem.  The first is alerting Amazon to these errors.  At the moment, there is no way to do this other than to send Amazon an email with as many specifics as possible -- it's probably self-evident that not every reader is willing to do this, and a more elegant method of flagging errors should be on the top of Amazon's development agenda.  

As Mobileread member Alisa recently suggested, one solution would be for Amazon to include a feature to flag an error, which would then be uploaded to Amazon (and auto-forwarded to the publisher) the next time the user connected to Amazon via Whispernet.  This type of method would harness the collective power of Amazon's readership to make improvements to the quality of its product -- an outcome which could only benefit Amazon and publishers in the long run.

Amazon, of course, can only do so much. The quality of ebooks themselves is ultimately up to the publishers, and they need to do a much better job.  No Kindle book should be released without human proofreading, and without examining how the book actually looks on a Kindle.  Yes, this costs money -- but publishers expect to charge prices for ebooks that are at least comparable to paperback prices, and readers have the right to expect the same level of quality.  

Publishers should also allow customers to directly contact them regarding errors (it's amazing how many publishers have no feedback mechanism at all for ebooks via their own web sites) and perhaps even recruit readers as proofreaders in exchange for free ebooks.  In short, it's time for publishers to get creative and find new ways to make ebooks both excellent and profitable, because if they aren't excellent, ultimately, they won't be profitable.

The second element of the problem, with respect to Amazon, relates to what happens after the publisher (hopefully) corrects errors.  Amazon tells customers that they can download updated versions of their purchased books.  Whether or not this is actually possible is unclear -- some small publishers claim it is not, but this may be a difference between big publishers and those who use Amazon's digital text publisher.  But let's assume it is possible to download an updated version.  

At the moment, there is no mechanism to allow customers, either those who have kept a problematic version of a book, those who obtained a refund, or those who heard about the problems and held off buying, that a new version has been provided by the publisher.  Amazon's product web pages for Kindle books do not include version numbers, "last updated" dates, or anything else that would alert a consumer that a new version has been released.  Amazon should also remedy this oversight, preferably by including such information on the product's page, but also by emailing purchasers of the older version to let them know that a new version is available for download.

Quality counts -- it doesn't matter if Amazon sells the best e-reader in the history of the universe if its customers become so disillusioned with the quality of the product that they give up on ebooks altogether.   I love my Kindle -- I truly do, and I do not want to open each new ebook with trepidation, knowing that it might include easily fixable problems that make reading at least less pleasurable, if not impossible.