I expect a fair amount of resistance to my next two posts, but I feel this needs to be written. I’ve been tracking this space for a while due to personal interest and I keep seeing things that remind me that this is not a mature market. There is some further maturation needed in the space and I am hoping that we’ll see some of that this year.
One thing to remember is that this post is not about the readers. That is an entirely different topic. This is about eBooks which can be read on readers, tablets, and computers. The method for reading eBooks will evolve and improve but I’m not talking about that here. This is focused on what we are reading.
My Reading Background
I’ve been accused of not being a reader whenever I say anything negative in this space. That is far from the truth. Since I was young, I read a lot. I’d save all my money from my allowance and yard work to buy books. When I was growing up, the rule in my house was in bed by 8 or 9, but we were permitted to stay up until later reading books. I even rigged a nightlight on an extension cord to read books under the covers after lights out. This was because I grew tired of burning through the batteries on my flashlight.
My parents have a “library” that encompasses half of their walkout basement. I have pretty much always had to invest in bookcases to store books. In fact, I need new ones right now. I still read at night, though less now that I have kids. There is always work to be done and sleep is at a premium. I still stay up late reading when I have a good book. As sad as it sounds, I spent New Year’s Eve reading as midnight ticked by while my pregnant wife slept in bed next to me.
My mother has a Kindle and I have used it. In fact, it was my purchasing of more Kindle books for her that inspired these posts.
Paper Book’s Market Appeal
For my mother’s birthday this year, I decided to buy her some books for her Kindle. This was inspired by a few factors:
- She has a book wish list on Amazon.
- The eBooks cost less than regular books, so I could give her more to read.
- I was running short on time and eBooks ship immediately for zero cost.
I went to buy them and it was easy, and very flawed. Buying one Kindle book for someone just requires an email address for that person. Easy enough. My issues quickly became apparent:
- I couldn’t group the books into one purchase. My mother received multiple emails and had to go through the process of receiving the gift and downloading each book individually.
- The email was sent immediately. It would have been nice if I could have scheduled the email to arrive on her birthday. I can gift wrap presents that I send from Amazon to delay gratification, why not provide delayed email delivery to achieve the same effect?
I probably should have sent them to myself as a gift and then written an email combining the links and having my email system send it automatically on her birthday. She still would have had the multiple downloads, but at least the delivery would have been more timely.
These are items that can be worked through. One thing that I saw while making the purchases was that while books were cheaper as eBooks than as hardcover copies, that wasn’t always true when looking as paperbacks.
This is very flawed.
A paper book requires inventory control, shelf space, and packaging to delivery. If you buy three or four of them, you can usually get free shipping. The whole process costs more for the vendor with physical books, so why do some eBooks cost the same as the physical book? That is ridiculous. Even the publisher can make more money selling eBooks over paper books.
I understand the need to make more money, but dropping the price point would encourage adoption and lead to more overall profits. I know people that would move into eBooks faster if the price was lower. As a result, they would likely read more as they would have their books in more places.
Another issue is around the ownership of books. If I have a real book, I can lend it for any period of time or even just give it to someone. That person can then pass it along to someone else. Amazon now lets you lend books for 2 weeks, but that just doesn’t work. Oh, I love the fact that I would never lose a book, or have it destroyed, when I lend it out, but 2 weeks isn’t a long time. For serious readers, 2 weeks works well. For casual readers, 2 weeks isn’t enough. Also, sometimes you lend a book to someone that isn’t ready to read it immediately as they have something else to finish first. 2 weeks just isn’t going to work long-term.
After all, if I own the copy of the book, I should be able to give that copy to anyone. If I have less ownership rights with an eBook than with a physical book, then the price should also reflect that.
Of course, this ties back to the paradigm conflict I hinted at in my 2011 Predictions post. That’ll be the topic of the next post. I was going to talk about it here, but I’ve rattled on long enough.