Monday, March 1, 2010

Pass a Fork

...because I need to eat my words.

Long time readers will know that I not only have had an opinion on ebooks, but I've not been shy about sharing that opinion.

I said--well, lemme just quote myself:'s what I think the future really holds for e-books to be profitable and a success:
  • e-readers must be versatile and affordable (such as iTouch)
  • e-books should never cost more than $5
  • free e-book downloads should be included with the purchase price of a book (after all, I can rip music into my mp3 player after I buy a CD)


That was my opinion.

Note the past tense.

Because...I'm ready to eat my words.

World, take note. I'm admitting it here.

I was wrong.

I was basing my opinion on two things: the effect of electronic media on the music industry and my own assumptions about the cost of ebooks. Which means, basically, that I was basing my opinion on two fallacies. First: books aren't songs. And while I knew that (obviously), it didn't really register with me that marketing the electronic versions of books and songs would necessarily be different. And regardless of that, I was also ignoring the underlying costs of ebooks.

Books are more than paper. I know that. I know that. But when I thought of what the cost of ebooks should be--I only factored in the cost of paper.

I've been thinking a lot about ebooks lately, in part because, for the first time, I am considering purchasing an ebook reader. I might have mentioned it before. A little device that I kind of sort of want...  Before, I honestly dismissed ebooks easier beacuse they were not really a part of my immediate readership. Which meant--I didn't really want an ebook, because it was an inconvenience to me. So, at that time, for me personally, an ebook would have to be cheap or free for me to consider purchasing it, in order to compensate for the personal inconvenience to me. 
Now, I am looking at purchasing an ebook. And suddenly, they've come up on my radar in a much more personal way. Now I'm thinking of how convenient it will be to have immediate purchases. Now I'm thinking of just how much a new release is worth to me.

And now my previous self assertions on the topic seem rather foolish.

As the NY Times pointed out:
But publishers also say consumers exaggerate the savings and have developed unrealistic expectations about how low the prices of e-books can go. Yes, they say, printing costs may vanish, but a raft of expenses that apply to all books, like overhead, marketing and royalties, are still in effect.
Yeah. That was me. One of those consumers that exaggerated the savings.

Now my perspective is different--which, I think, is a good sign. It is true that consumers tend to exaggerate the savings on electronic versions of products, be they music or videos or games or books. That is something I don't think will change--people want to feel like they own a thing when they buy it, and a physical hard copy is part of the value there. 

But it is also true that there are significant costs in the production of an ebook, and it is necessary for the consumer concept of value in terms of electronic media to shift. And it is. 

Just look at me, eating my words.
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