Monday, March 8, 2010

A Tidbit on Ebooks

Not sure why this subject continues to fascinate me, but I think it goes beyond money. We're watching a new economy unfold, that's true, a new way in which people commit their resources, but... it's ebooks are representative of a new way of viewing that economy. Walmart reductionism in microcosm, a change in technology taking over another art form. But with all that said, here's something I came across in passing:

  1. Ebooks represent 3-4% of a publisher's total sales.
  2. Authors get 25% of the sale price. Publishers, to their credit, give them 10-15% more of the profit than with traditional books because the retail price is so much lower. Even so, the Bottom Line: Authors make 70 cents less per book, after the increase. (All those accusing authors of being greedy should take note.)
  3. Despite lower prices and increased author's percentages, Publishers make roughly $1.00 more per book. However, that is only because advertising, marketing, tech support, etc., are paid for by the hard copies. If that money were taken from ebook sales, publishers would make far less.

Another interesting fact -- a Princeton University study found that students who used e-readers retain less information than those using traditional textbooks. Guess you can't highlight a Kindle. No idea how that information will affect the textbook trade, which has been slow to embrace the new technology anyway.

Of course, ebooks are harder to share, swap, or borrow, meaning additional purchases could put more money in an author's pocket. For now, though, it's a losing proposition for authors. So, welcome, writers, to the world of musicians and filmmakers, who have suffered for years under advances in file swapping, illegal downloads, and electronic transfers. Frank Zappa said "Art is making something out of nothing and selling it." Or maybe making something for nothing. Of course, I think there's a good chance this won't be as rough a road for authors as for other artists, but even smooth roads go uphill sometimes.

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