What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Seriously? Four dollars LESS for the paperback than the Kindle edition? It’s almost like… publishers don’t WANT electronic versions to succeed, so they’re pricing them out of the market.

And they wonder why people torrent.

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[BOOKS] Here’s the Problem, Well Illustrated.

I’m currently reading a fantastic zombie compilation. It’s fine. This post isn’t about zombies. Totally safe. Trust me.

So, Yeah, I’m reading The Living Dead 2 ed. John Joseph Adams. Highly recommend it so far, and, it’s $6.99 at Chapters.ca in store, in the bargain bins, and you just can’t beat that for summer reading.

However.

I just came across a particular story, Reluctance by Cherie Priest. Now, obviously, these are all shortstories, which means even if I don’t like it, I’ll finish it. Short stories, at the very, very least, are a great way to find new authors. And in this case, how could I resist? An alternate history world where the Civil War has dragged on for twenty years, and led to massive steampunk innovation? And Zombies?

Seriously.

So, read the story, and I gotta say, I love it. Which means the first thing I did was jump on Kindle, and go looking for some of the other stuff in that world. Specifically, BoneShaker

Which is where my irritation with the industry raised its head again.

Paperback: $11.97
Kindle: $12.56

Wait, WHAT?

Keep in mind, this is a four-year old book now, too. But, it shouldn’t be cheaper for me to order physical, dead-tree editions (I can get the first three in the series, Boneshaker, Clementine, and Dreadnaught for $38, with free shipping) cheaper than the electronic, make-a-copy-and-sell-it-with-no-additional-overhead versions.

That’s fucking dumb.

I’ll probably eventually acquire this series. I dig it a lot. But if the ebook pricing was more realistic, that’d already be a sale. or possibly several sales.

And this isn’t an abnormal situation. I ran into the same thing a little while back with a book review on MotherJones. I thought it looked neat, so I hopped on amazon to check the pricing.

Hardcover: $16.43
Kindle: $17.95

Oh. Heh. I tagged that link about six weeks ago. In that time, the hardcover price has dropped to $15.45. WHICH MAKES THE DISPARITY EVEN WORSE.

Shiver Me Kindle (AKA “Please Don’t Pirate My Book” Day)

I talked, at length, because of Chuck Wendig’s post on e-book pricing last year. The sonofabitch never commented on it. I’m not really suprised. unless I’m waxing about how I’m being stalked by a denizen of an 60-year abandoned tuberculosis hospital, my readership is in the low-dozens. Which is fine.

But, here, Chuck brings up the issue of e-book piracy. And, quite honestly, he hits it pretty much on the button, and how I feel about it. Some of his points? Well, I’ve addressed e-book pricing in that other post, and I ranted pretty good on it. But the piracy itself?

Well, like he said. If he’s going to make February 6th “Please don’t pirate my book” day, and all he asks is that you talk about the idea of piracy, and your views on it? How can I say no? I mean, I LIKE to talk.

First though, go back to that link, and read his “25 thoughts”. Hell, I’ll make it easy, and just put it right here, again, for you: 25 thoughts on book piracy. I actually want to thank Chuck Wendig, a creator, for writing a well-nuanced, honest, both-sides-of-the-coin piece. More discussion like this, instead of one side or the other jumping up and down screaming the same shit that has been accomplishing nothing for fifteen years, is what we need.

Of course, it’s possible he’s just looking for people to admit that they pirate shit. But I don’t think so.

So, he did twenty-five points on the subject. I want to address a few of them, that I think are most important. In fact, they’re central to my argument about why and how people pirate.

First, this is how well he gets the internet, and the various industries (music, film, literary) need to pay attention to this one:

4. Except It’s Kinda Not Theft, Exactly
It’s easy to call this stealing, but it’s not. Stealing is the act of taking something that does not belong to you — and here, “taking” implies that the other person does not get to keep it. This isn’t stealing. This is getting water on Gremlins. This is doppelgangering. This is motherfucking multiplication. That’s not to say it’s right or fair or legal, but you cloud the issue every time you call it “stealing.” Yes, it feels like stealing. But this is copying. Illegal duplication.

This. Exactly. it definitely goes hand in hand with his point 18. Our Primary Source Of Revenue Is Our Books And, Oh, By The Way, We’re Fond Of Not Starving And We Also Like Paying Our Mortgages And Feeding Our Kids And Sweet Jeebus This Header Really Got Away From Me Didn’t It?.

And the answer is that I WANT to pay the guys I like, be they bands, artists, authors, film makers, the works. I also need to eat. And there’s an awful lot of well-marketed shit out there. In fact, that was, for years, the music industry’s business model. Market a song, sell an album of shit. You’ll all have to pardon my if I’m now pretty fucking cynical after paying eighteen bucks for album after album, and finding out the single was the ONLY good track. I’d refer you to 8. Theoretically lost revenue rather than actually lost revenue on this one. I definitely download music. Regularly. If I like it, I then GO AND BUY IT. If I don’t, I delete it. That’s pretty simple, eh? But the industry seems to treat that as ACTUAL lost revenue. Because that was their model: sell shit packaged with a modicum of sugar. But, if i’d have heard the album to start with, I WOULDN’T HAVE BOUGHT IT, BECAUSE IT WAS SHIT. We know damn well the music industry (and the rest, I’ll spread the blame around) most likely consider that “theft”. I don’t. I consider “try before you buy” just fucking desserts after twenty years of not having the ability to do so. I do the same with books. I did it with The Magicians. I also got six chapters in, decided I loved it, went and bought the hard cover. I also bought it for my dad (additional sale) who like me, bought the sequel (two additional sales). I also know a large number of my friends group bought the same books (at least ten additional sales) because one or two of us pirated the book in the first place. Try before you buy is great. So are libraries, and so is lending of the physical product. You know. Two things that the (music and video) industry would desperately like to go away. Because almighty dollar.

And I think Chuck gets this, as it’s the heart of his points 15. Downloader as potential fan, 10. Piracy helps some authors

Chuck, if you’re reading this? I’ll be honest. I stole pirated your book. I’ll even tell you which one.

It was Blackbirds. I missed the discounted (or free: I can’t remember which) by a really short period of time. But, I was interested. So, I went and torrented it (Because of COURSE it’s out there).

Then, I got half way through it, and much like Lev Grossman’s book, I went and bought it (on kindle, this time). I also bought both ShotGun Gravy, and BaitDog, and then Mockingbird when it was released, and DoubleDead in paperback/trade. Oh, and the kindle version of Irregular Creatures.

So, as you can see, and a lot of other people have talked about, i … buy… things… because.. i… try them… first. I don’t see the artist losing an awful lot in this equation. Unless, of course, what they’re producting is unmemorable crap. Which, obviously, you want to sell before people realize that it is crap.

6. It’s The Internet’s Fault & 9. DRM Probably Creates More Piracy Then It Deters & 13. Sometimes It’s About The Cost

Look, it’s EASY, as Wendig notes, to make a duplicate of a file. REALLY easy. That’s not a bad thing. Oh, it’s a bad thing if you only give a shit about every single nickel you can wring out of a product. But it’s an awesome thing if you want to make your money on volume, rather than individual sales. If you want to sell a brand, and create a following, rather than a unit. It’s why I continually commend a ton of authors for occasionally just.. giving their shit away. I’ve already given a few examples. And, I stand by ’em. I’ve talked about DRM only hurting the ‘legitimate’ consumer before: I had to “steal” a copy of an album I’d bought, because the site (HMV) kept aborting the download. But still counting the download as one of five I was ‘allowed’. Two weeks of tech support, and I finally had legitimate access to the music I’d bought. Of course, by then, I’d torrented it, so I could listen to it. DRM is fucking balls, ok? In fact, if most of these organizations were to drop their DRM budgets, they’d be fucking rolling in cash. And what do they get out of it now? it takes someone four minutes to copy a file, instead of thirty seconds. Unless, of course, you’re a ‘legitimate’ consumer, in which case, the DRM stops you using your thing (reading a book, in thise case) where and when you want to, and ever, if the company the file ‘checks in with’ goes out of business.

Also, if I buy a hardcover? I very often go and download the ebook. For free. From ze torrentz. Again, I don’t feel I’m STEALING anything. I’ve paid for the book. The format is irrelevant. It’s just me using it. But, this is something that needs to happen five years ago.

I’ll go one further. How many times have I got to buy the same thing, so I can watch/listen/read it on the new “standard” technology? I realize it applies differently for books, but DAMN.

I mean, how often did I buy the fucking Ghostbusters franchise?

Yes, I said Ghostbusters.

  • I saw the movie, in the theatre ($5), in 1985.
  • I bought the soundtrack, on vinyl($13), in 1985.
  • I bought the soundtrack, on tape ($14), in 1987.
  • I bought the movie, on VHS ($20), in 1991.
  • I bought the soundtrack, on CD ($20), in 2001.
  • I bought the movie, on DVD ($20), and the sequel on DVD ($20) in 2002
  • I replaced both DVD’s because they disappeared in a move ($40) in 2009

    So, that’s what, a total of … $152 actual dollars, of mine, on two movies, and a soundtrack. Fuck an industry that says I need to pay for that AGAIN on bluray, or pinkdisc, or ULTRAFUCKWEWANTTHEMONEYDISC. I’ve paid my god damn dues to the Ghostbusters. I may even have had the coloring book at some point. I’ll never tell.

    Point is, I do this a lot. And now, I don’t have to. If I spend $25-40 on a hardcover, yeah, I’m gonna go download the ebook. At the very least, it’s way easier to read an ebook on the shitter, but I want the damn hardcover on the bookshelf. Fingerprint-free. You know what I’m sayin’. Which leads us to…

    23. Combat Piracy By Adding Value

    This. THIS. FUCKING THIS. A THOUSAND TIMES FUCKING THIS: “Buy a physical copy, also get a digital copy.” (More publishers need to be doing this, stat.) . I LOVE that when I pre-order something from Scott Sigler, the day the hard cover ships, everyone gets an email saying “your dead tree version will be with you shortly: we understand you don’t want to wait, so please download a digital copy here”. This is how shit should work. And the grand thing is? It keeps the customers and fans happy, and BARELY COSTS A FUCKING THING.

    So, Ok, point 25. the whole point of this post, technically, it’s about why you’d like people to pay for your book instead of, say, just taking it.. And I know, this is from the point of the consumer. But it’s important to keep stating, much to the chagrin of the industry wonks, that the consumer isn’t a greedy fuckknob, who doens’t want to pay for anything. We’re just tired of getting ripped off, tired of being taken advantage of, tired of being a product to the industry, in general. I know there are performers, artists, writers, who get it. There is a happy medium, and it doesn’t include the assumption that all consumers are thieves.

    At the end of the day, and I say this everytime I get ranty on this subject, I want to give my money to the guys who are worth it. I want to pay them. It’s totally selfish. I mean, I don’t REALLY care if Chuck Wendig eats, or can feed his children. I don’t know him, I’m just a fan. But I do care that, knowing he’s going to make a conscious decision to make money so he can feed himself and his children, he might as well do that doing something that benefits ME. Which means, if I give him money, he doesn’t have to work at BurgerMac’s flipping tacos, and he can spend his time providing me with entertainment. Which is the important part.

    Seriously, I’m not kidding.

    I’m REALLY selfish like that.

  • On eBooks, eBook Pricing, and eBook Culture.

    I wrote most of this waaaaaaay back in May, never posted it, and then got into another twitter debate with a friend and author, Nathan, so, a few tweaks to inclue that conversation, and.. finally.

    It’s a long one. Dig in, kids.

    I love this discussion at TerribleMinds.com.

    This is hitting the nail on the head for me. There’s a lot more to it than “durrrr, ebooks should be cheapur!” The discussion above was sparked by twitter musings by the always-brilliant Chuck Wendig. He’s an author, and I own several of his books. In e-format, no less!!

    I got involved in the discussion on twitter.

    So, when the discussion moved to TerribleMinds, and grew, I kept thinking about it.

    My issue is one that doesn’t appear to have come up. And I’m surprised. A lot of people talk about how there’s a lot involved in what it costs and doesn’t cost, and what the consumer gets and doesn’t get, in the production and sale of an ebook. There’s a lot of discussion of what pricing should be, and shouldn’t be.

    There’s a surprising amount of discussion around ‘perceived value’, which I think is pretty intuitive, but not necessarily the issue.

    One of the comments that really sticks out for me, though, is that, when it comes to this discussion “The readers? they don’t give a fuck. they are not joining in the discussion.”

    I disagree. I’m a reader, not an author, and not only do I give a fuck: I’m in the discussion. And I give a fuck for very specific reasons.

    There’s a mountain of solid arguments made, on both sides of the argument, and even a lot straddling the centre of it. They’re all valid. There is no official answer, I don’t think. But at the end of the day, I can’t help seeing the music and movie industry being played out all over again.

    First, downloading.

    Do people download books for free. Yes. Without a doubt they do. I’ve done it.

    Wanna know why?

    Because the publishers make it difficult to buy the thing (music, movie, book, whatever) difficult to buy legally. I’ve talked about this before. Sometimes, the only way you can get the thing you want is to ‘steal’ it. Between DRM, international and regional sales agreements, and just plain, old-business-model idiocy, they simply don’t make the thing I want available for purchase.

    “Here. I have ten dollars. I would like this thing that you have.”
    “Sorry. We don’t sell that in the country or region you live in.”
    “what? But I want it, and you sell it, and you’re the exclusive sales front. Where can I get it?”
    “You can’t.”
    “But look. I have TEN DOLLARS RIGHT HERE. EXCHANGE IT FOR THE THING I WANT. THIS IS WHAT YOU DO, YOU’RE A BUSINESS, SELLING THE THING I WANT.”
    “Sorry, no can do. You’ll have to keep your ten dollars.”

    And that’s when I go to a torrent site.

    Ridiculously, this then goes hand-in-hand with the “consumers only want it for free, so they steal it on line, if it’s available, rather than purchasing it”.

    That is, in a word, bullshit.

    Are there people who only download music, or movies, or books? Sure there are. But they are a minority, not a majority. And the liklihood of them having paid for the item even if they couldn’t get it for free? Generally pretty low. Most of us don’t mind paying a fair price (and that’s a term that comes up regularly in the discussion at TerribleMinds) for a thing, whatever that thing is. We also, and this is important, want it to be OURS when we buy it.

    And we won’t even get started on the idea that a lot of downloaders spend more money legitimately than ‘normal’ consumers.

    That doesn’t happen a huge amount, but it happens. Why else would I ‘download for free’?

    Well, how about simply there’s so much stuff out there, I just can’t afford to buy it all just to try it out?

    So, yes, I download music, TV, books, the works. I watch/listen/read. And if I like it? The chances are very high I’m going to go buy it. I’ll get into the ‘why’ later on, but it’s not, and I want to reiterate this, not about getting it for free. More, it’s about spending my money wisely. Because there is a downside to self-publishing in any of the above media formats. That downside is that anyone can do it. It means you get assholes and the incompetent along with the very, very good up-and-comer-who-can’t-get-a-deal. And I don’t want to support the first two with random purchases just to find out they’re crap. Hell, forget ‘want’. I can’t afford to support the garbage. I only have a finite amount I can spend on media. I want it to count.

    To continue the comparison to music:

    I have, in the past, emailed bands directly, to ask them where I can send them money, because their recording company doesn’t sell their album where I live, and can I then go download it from a torrent. I’ve never received a real answer. But I think this illustrates the issue, and the issue isn’t that all consumers want something for free.

    But it goes beyond that. I now, habitually, download something after I’ve just bought it. Because I want it to be mine. And DRM is an ugly, hateful motherfucker who won’t keep its goddamn hands to itself. Between Sony’s rootkits, regional coding on DVD’s, and music, video, and book purchase systems that are a] locked to a proprietary device and b] can be deleted by the publisher on a whim or c] might simply disappear if they go out of business and don’t maintain the DRM server anymore, well… fuck that.

    I’ve paid purchase price for it. I’ve pressed the “buy” button, not the “i’ll pay you to let me have it until you deign to not let me have it anymore” button.

    I’m not renting it. I’m buying it. And there’s a difference. the difference is, it’s mine.

    What I see is the print industry making exactly the same mistakes that the music and movie industries have made, with regards to their treatment of artists, and consumers. You know, the guys who make the product they sell, and the guys who buy the product they sell. And yes, I’m inferring that the industry is a convenience, not a necessity, now. They’re defending a model that is first and foremost, no longer valid. They are NOT necessary.

    I know I’m going waaaay off on tangents here. But bear with me, because it all leads to the same place, I think. It leads to a place with a new model, where everyone, consumer, publisher, and artist, are all fairly treated parts of the same process, rather than enemies tolerating each other’s presence as a necessary evil.

    Look, I don’t mind paying a reasonable price for the thing that I want. Hell, I expect to. I WANT to. Because if I do, the person who makes it can afford to keep making more things like it, that I will probably also want to buy. They can do it without having to spend forty hours a week working in a job that makes them miserable, and slows down their ability to make the thing I want to buy. Selfish of me, I know, but it makes the point.

    But here’s the deal.

    A hypothetical print book costs $9.99. To get that print book from the mind of the author, to me, you have to pay the author, format the book, edit the book, buy the paper to print it on, buy the ink to print it with, pay for the machinery to print it, the rent on the building the machinery is in, the operator who prints it, and the labourer who moves the materials on, and the product off, the machinery, the building the printed book is stored in, the truck that moves it there, and then moves it to my house, the labourers who move it from the storage to truck, and the delivery guy who brings it to my door for me. If I buy it in a store, then the store has to have its rent paid, power paid, employees paid, cleaners paid, etc, you get the idea.

    A hypothetical ebook costs $9.99. To get that ebook (assuming the existence of the print book, which is still fair, I think) to me means that someone has to be paid to verify the formatting didn’t get screwed up in the conversion to epub, kindle, or other format. The server has to be maintained, and the internet connection has to be paid for. The website where the sale occurs has to have adequately secure and well-maintained purchasing software, and transmission software.

    Now, whether I’ve got everything in there or not, and whether or not I’ve described it properly, I KNOW the cost on the second scenario is, assuming cost sharing when it comes to the ideas/writing/author payments/initial editing etc are equal, dramatically lower than the first scenario. The physical structures, machinery, and labour cost more than the virtual. So, where is that ‘extra’ money in the price?

    Because my issue is not with the cost. But rather, where that extra profit (if you have a thing, and you have an identical thing with the same price, but lower production costs, that’s definitely profit) goes?

    If it goes, all of it, hell, ninety-percent of it, to the author? Sign me up. I’ll pay the $9.99 for the ebook, happily. And I’ll pay the author, happily, and I’ll keep doing it.

    If, as I suspect, that extra cost is going to the publishing company, who is, in most cases, paying the author the bare minimum they can get away with, then fuck them. You heard it. FUCK THEM. Why wouldn’t I steal it? they didn’t make it, and they’re not paying for it. And the author, who did make it, isn’t being paid for it. I’m not going to feel particularly bad about potentially preventing that extra three bucks a copy (or whatever hypothetical amount it is) from the (almost unnecessary) middleman.

    This is the perception. The perceived value of ebooks is in the things they don’t consume (paper, storefront, etc). And consumers are savvy enough to perceive that if those costs aren’t being paid by the publisher and distributor, then the consumer themselves shouldn’t pay for those costs.

    I’m not saying that the publishing houses don’t serve a purpose. They do. But they don’t get paid commensurate to it, I don’t believe. Same as I don’t believe that the authors are getting paid commensurate to the effort they put into the producing the profit-making thing for the publishing houses.

    At the end of the day, I don’t believe there’s one ‘right’ price for an ebook. It depends on the content (which is going to become a lot more than just words on an electronic page, you mark my words). It depends on what the author wants for it, fairly, what the consumer wants to pay for it fairly, and finally, making sure the publishing company (if there is one) gets paid fairly. But the publishing companies need to get their heads together, and figure this shit out.

    And, to be fair, I think authors need to train themselves to say “no” to the deals that publishing houses offer. I think self-publishing in e-only format is going to become very, very valid for savvy authors who build themselves a fan base and end up not really needing the big publishing houses.

    I know I already follow a ton of ’em. And I would recommend you check them all out. Want a list? There’s the previously mentioned Chuck Wendig, there’s Mur Lafferty, J.C. Hutchins, the FDO, Scott Sigler, Phil Rossi, Ed Kurtz, Richard Kadrey, and Matt Wallace. You can add Timothy Long and Jake Bible to the list now as well. I’ve found all of these guys and girls through non-standard means. Podcasts (you should check out EscapePod, PseudoPod, PodCastle and ClonePod just to name a few).

    Know what every single one of those authors up there have in common?

    I got works from every single one of them for free, either them giving it away, or me downloading it somewhere.

    Know what else every single one of those authors up there have in common?

    I’ve spent between three bucks and four hundred dollars on their books after downloading for free.

    Twitter: authors who talk to each other, and rave about the works of others? yeah, I buy stuff based on those ravings. Authors who do give-away downloads for a limited time? yeah. those guys get my money later on. For every ‘free’ download, a give-away book, by an author, for every book I see that I say “mmm, maaaybe… but I can’t afford it right now..” and then download it from THE INTERTUBES! THE BANE OF CREATIVITY! They’re generally going to get between six and forty bucks from me later on, assuming I dig what they’ve produced. And these are all things that, if they don’t directly frown upon, the big publishers don’t understand. A lot of individuals don’t understand this either. A very large number of consumers download in that grey area (I’m not going to call it illegally: that gives legitimacy to the argument, and I don’t believe the argument against downloading has legitimacy) and then go buy based on what they download. Hell, some of us download things we already own (format shift, if you want the current colloquial term) just so we don’t have to rip them ourselves or pay for the same thing twice.

    Those authors, up there? They have something else in common too.

    I wouldn’t have bought anything from any of them, ever, had I not gotten it for free, first. I didn’t know them. A number of them either don’t, or didn’t, have major deals and advertising. They had no way to get their product to me. Word of twitter, word of podcast got me interested. Downloading a few for free got me hooked. Then, I started buying. A lot.

    Here kid. First hit’s free. Just have a taste. Go on. Everyone’s doing it. Just take a puff, and pass it along.

    I buy Scott Sigler’s pre-orders not only because he writes a hell of a good story (he does: or I wouldn’t buy ’em) but because I’m a FAN. He, like the rest of those guys up there, interacts with his fans. And when three thousand of us pre-order? yeah, he doesn’t need that big publishing house as much. And I’m happy to give my money to Scott, not a publishing company. I want him to write full-time.

    I could go on on this topic for a long, long time. It’s time to change the way things are done. It’s time to stop witch burning a new way of doing things because it doesn’t support the old model.

    At the end of the day, all that most of us, readers, fans, authors, and yes, even the publishing companies, want to see is people reading, listening, watching, consuming. And paying a fair price to do it: one that keeps them reading, every day. I don’t know if what’s emerging now is the best way to do things. But I know the old way, the way where the artist talks about how the consumer is fucking him or her out of profits, while the publishing company offers fifteen percent of what comes in for a product with ever-reducting cost? Yeah, those days are gone. And good riddance. I want to see the publishers wise up, and the authors, artists, and PRODUCERS of content get paid. Properly. A living wage and more. Because it’s the producer I give a shit about, not the middle man.

    At the very end of the day (and the blog post) I’m a FAN. That’s the word. I’m a reader, and I’m a fan. I buy things to support the people who make the things I’m a fan of. Can I get ’em free from ye olde intertubes? for sure. But, I tend not to now. Because these are all good things, and they have value to me. Which means I want to pay for them.

    Oh, and for the love of fuck, let’s find a way to make it so anyone who buys a hardcover gets a free e-version? Because seriously, enough with the fucking double-dipping.

    Also… Flame on!