No contest between indie booksellers and Amazon

From Publisher’s Weekly, the dispute over Kindle DRM ends quickly:

Federal Judge Jed Rakoff has dismissed a lawsuit filed by independent booksellers against Amazon and the big six publishers that alleged a murky conspiracy to restrain trade via Amazon’s use of proprietary DRM in its Kindle e-reading platform. In his 18-page decision tossing the suit, Rakoff found that the booksellers’ core claim—that the publishers had engaged in a conspiracy with Amazon to keep rivals from selling e-books on the Kindle—had no supporting evidence, and no plausible motive.

The bottom line here … publishers choose whether to add digital rights management to their books, for sale via Amazon and most other venues. Further, plenty of tools exist enabling eBook buyers to manage their purchases across almost all reading reading devices that exist today. Nothing against the plaintiffs – I am a fan of independent booksellers – but they missed the boat here. And the judge didn’t.

MG signing off (to do some reading on multiple platforms)

Pulp Fly now available on Kobo

KoboIn the never ending quest to make reading Pulp Fly publications as easy to do on the couch, around bedtime, or even immediately after your post-morning coffee*, Pulp Fly is pleased to announce that the entire catalog of fine outdoor sports eBooks (the number of which will double in December, and may well double again by late next spring) is now available at Kobo. Here is a link to previously released Pulp Fly volumes -> http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/Search?Query=pulp+fly.

Haven’t heard of Kobo? Well you just did. Kobo is a unique electronic bookseller that provides support for most all portable devices. Their promise is that you can Read Freely, meaning whether the device is Android, iOS, Windows, OS X, or even Blackberry, the reading material you just purchased is good to go.

Even if you must go now right now.**

MG signing off (as this announcement has been cross-posted at Pulp Fly)

* Editor’s note: Did he just say that?
** Editor’s note: He did it again, goddamnit!

A new game for publishers, portability plus price

“Ezines”, those nifty flip-the-page websites, are sprouting up like weeds, particularly in the fly-fishing world. Some are vying for easy distribution, while others hang on the green bandwagon while manipulating InDesign files from treehouses. Regardless of intent, various pundits have called it the death of print, while publishers declare the insanity of such thoughts. Further, if you keep a close eye on new media chatter, you might also find that some traditional publishers have simply regurgitated their print editions in mobile applications. Such investments far exceed that of ezines, hence the problems publishers may be having finding a price that both suits consumers and provides for a recovery of their investment. Whether it be Flash-based open source scripts or flashy looking tablets, however, it’s the general availability of new technology that is the genesis of the efforts.

You could argue the relative merits of these channels until the cows come home, and frankly I enjoy observing all the banter for and against. Nevertheless, I think it comes down to just two factors, portability and price. The first is all about convenience – whether you can consume it anywhere you want, whenever you want. Then there’s how much you want to pay for it. The problem for publishers is individual preference, and adapting to changes in those preferences.

For example, I’ve always been a disposable content fan. I bought and read a lot of magazines, but did so mostly when I was doing a lot of business travel. Periodicals alleviated in-transit boredom, and the investment was always small enough that I didn’t mind tossing them in the trash before heading home. Same goes for books – unless they were reference materials I bought paperbacks whenever possible. When rich websites arrived, I found myself consuming more timely content via that channel – pulp took a back seat.

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eBooks provide benefit across the publishing value chain

It’s out of print, a familiar moniker for those seeking titles long since published, particularly when the author put their best foot forward on the first attempt and nobody has been able to match it since. The publisher has a choice to make: do a small run and risk sitting on 999 copies, or forgo the cost along with the potential revenue. In either scenario, the author has little to gain. Meanwhile, by the time the house has distributed the second printing, the original purchaser has already made their decision – picking up a used copy in the secondary marketplace.

They could have bought the eBook.

Authors are fretting that the pricing strategies employed with eBooks are putting the pinch on their ability to make a living. What was once a $75,000 advance has turned into a $15,000 upfront slug, and some are now questioning whether their creativity must now be supplemented by a W2 plus dental insurance. The price gap between the tangible and intangible delivery is supposedly the cause, but in economic terms the responsibility for success is being spread further across participants in the system.

Dollars and sensee-books

Based on Wall Street Journal estimates, a large publishing house takes 50% of the retail price of a debut literary fiction. After paying the author their cut, the publisher still has to cover costs for editing, design, marketing, and the printing itself.

Under the eBook scenario, the price drops by 54%, but the publisher and author are now taking a bigger piece of the pie. The publisher’s share is down five dollars per book, but printing costs are no longer in the picture. We’ll assume that other publication costs fall too, but it’s likely the lion’s share of it was absorbed during the first printing. The publisher and author reap more of the rewards, but all players must work harder for success. At the writing level, selling 10,000 print editions is roughly equivalent to 18,500 eBooks1, as far as feeding the family goes. The retailer’s gross margin, however, is cut in half2, so you have to think they (i.e. Amazon) are in it for the volume.

Moving to small publishers, the outlook changes. Retail prices are lower across the board, but smaller print runs means higher distribution costs, hence a smaller percentage for the publisher and author. Call that a cost for being discovered, particularly where access to major publishing firms doesn’t exist. When you move to eBooks, however, you are now dealing with an organization bearing less overhead – it stands to reason more of the retail price of the book could be passed on to authors. If you (again) assume that editing, layout, and other fixed costs of production are absorbed during a first printing, it’s a slam dunk – with 20% of the retail price going to authors, 10,000 now equates to only 12,500 in digital form3.

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