So, as seems to be customary this time of year, I’ll go back to one of my favorite topics — ebooks.
I think the new Kindles are cool, I think the ones before them were good as well and to be honest, there’s really nothing to complain about my – now aging – Kindle either.
I still like all the things I used to like about ebooks and I still dislike all the things I used to dislike. But there’s something that really bugs me more and more: pricing and release dates.
Let’s pick for example, the last book in The Wheel of Time series, probably my favorite fantasy series of all time.
Finally available for pre-order, you can find it on the Amazon webstore in Hardcover and Kindle format.
Notice first of all, the pricing. The hardcover is £13.10 and the ebook is £10.99.
This is wrong in my mind for two reasons, both related to how cost should get calculated.
1. Production process
I have not been involved in the book publishing process of either paper or digital books, but here’s what I guess is a reasonable high-level description of the process.
- Trees are cut
- Paper is made from said trees
- Books are printed on pages of said paper
- Pages are tied together
- Big heavy books are hauled all over the world
- Books are placed in bookstores which require physical space and all the pains and costs of a physical storefront
- Some conversion is done from the original digital format the book is in from author/editor to the ebook format it will be released under
- The ebook is placed on the publisher’s servers for download
Now I’m no expert in any of these, but it seems like the ebook version is a whole lot easier and more cost effective. Not to mention greener.
2. What you pay for
A physical hardcover book can be used for the following:
- Reading the content inside
- Lending said book and content to a friend
- Door stop
- Ammo against annoying mosquitos
- Last-resort flammable fuel in case of a zombie outbreak
- Many more things that I can’t think of right now
An ebook can be used for the following:
- Reading the content inside… unless you decide do move to a different ebook provider
So… does the small discount justify the reduced production cost of ebooks and the reduced benefits that come from buying an ebook instead of a physical book? I don’t feel it does. I really really don’t. I think they should be a lot cheaper than they are. I find numerous examples where the ebook is more expensive than the paperback and that’s just wrong.
But what I find it even more annoying is the release date. If you look back to my previous example, you may notice a detail so small that I nearly missed it when I was preordering. The ebook comes out three MONTHS after the hardcover.
Before I noticed that I was debating between the hardcover and the ebook. I was debating whether I want to own this wonderful series in physical form, out of fandom more than anything else, or whether I want to go for the more practical approach of getting it all on my Kindle and not taking up an entire rack of my bookcase with the WoT books. I would’ve maybe blogged about that internal debate and what it means to a book fan like me, who also happens to be a practical geek.
But I won’t blog about that. I won’t blog about that because I want to own A Memory of Light as early as humanly possible and I will not wait for nearly an extra quarter of a year for the ebook version. I won’t blog about it because if I want to get the previous books, I can pick between getting them at about £0.60 each in paperback (and I mean new) or £4.99 in Kindle format. I won’t blog about that because that debate is pointless in a world where ebooks are second-class citizens for publishers, so instead I’ll have to stick with this mild rant for this year.
But there is hope though… So, until next year, happy reading, no matter how you like it.