Hey Publishers

October 20, 2010

Hey publishers,

I would like to think of us as friends. I read lots of books, and most of them I purchase so I can mark them up and revisit them. Several of you have been kind enough to send me free books to review. That’s neat, especially when they are books that interest me. Maybe it’s not quite a friendship, but there is some kind of positive relationship based on mutual reciprocity. You can agree we have something here, right?

So can we figure out something reasonable for this whole ebook pricing thing?

I think you provide a valuable service, finding authors who have voices and ideas that need to be heard, and distributing those words to the likes of me. I don’t mind putting money in your pocket for this.

And I certainly don’t mind putting meals on the table for those who are crafting those words. I have several friends who make a living by creating content. I’m thankful for their words, and thankful that they can make a living from forming those words into meaning and wisdom.

But can we figure out something reasonable for this whole ebook pricing thing?

I know I was spoiled in those first few years when Amazon charged $9.99 for most ebooks. I’m still a little resistant to paying more than $9.99, but I’ll own that as my issue, not yours.

I can see how an ebook has added value. Being able to read the book on different devices, or read a book at the same time as my daughter for her book club, or not have to find more space for it on a shelf, or to be able to carry an entire library with me, or to easily search and reference all my notes — all of this adds value to an ebook for me.

But what I’m having trouble with is that I can go on Amazon and buy a brand new physical copy of some of your books, and have it shipped, for less than the ebook version.

Why do I have to pay less for a product that includes the expense of gathering and moving limited natural resources, consuming forests and fossil fuels to put the book in my hands? (And adding to landfills later on.) I understand that in most cases, it’s because Amazon has the freedom to discount the physical book, and you won’t allow them to do the same with the ebook. But this is just silly, and were this a rant, I would even say it’s stupid. (But I’m not the ranting type.)

You should talk to some record companies. They had a crisis around all this digital stuff a few years ago, and they appear to have worked some things out. The movie and TV types might have some valuable input too. They are doing some nifty things with digital delivery.

I suppose what I’m really trying to say is, can we figure out something reasonable for this whole ebook pricing thing?

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