Book Biz: eBooks: 10 Years and We Still Don’t Know What They’re Worth

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After nearly a decade of eBooks evolving into their own unique market, it seems no one knows what they’re worth (ie. how to price them). Not helping the debate along is the fact that you don’t own the eBook you paid for. You can read it, probably not share it, and certainly can’t sell it.

Now that the Department of Justice has taken an interest in the subject, it may take another decade to figure what an eBook should cost.

eBook Pricing Storm Brewing

Years after adoption, if not whole-hearted acceptance, of “agency model” eBook pricing, along comes the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate how the model was crafted to thwart poor little Amazon’s loss-leader pricing. A Wharton analysis of the pros and cons of the “agency (platform) model”analyzes what works, for whom, and why.

DRM and the Anti-Trust Lawsuit

Did publisher’s insistence on digital-rights-management technology (which locked customers into specific eBook formats and vendors) cause the DOJ action? Tell it to J.K. Rowling who embeds DRM on all Harry Potter eBooks.

Microsoft Loves B&N, Hates Google

Barnes & Noble has spun off it’s Nook business as a subsidiary and sold Microsoft a 17% interest in the new entity (named NewCo) for $300 million, effectively valuing the new subsidiary higher than the parent company. Ahhh, the price of relevance.

Kindle Fire’s Unbelievable Rise

The Kindle Fire’s dominance of android based tablets increased from roughly 30% to 55% from Dec. 2011 through Feb. 2012. What? Give a Fire for Valentine’s Day?

Author Loves Amazon, Hates Publishers

What a different perspective authors have of this industry. Barry Eisler maintains that Amazon is a heroic savior of the industry, unfairly attacked by the big 6 “monopolistic” publishers. The last valid statistic I found was from 2008 when there were 63,000 publishers in the US that sold $14.2 billion annually. That number has surely grown with the popularity of the eBook. Monopoly? Really?

In an earlier interview Eisler boasted that publishing for him is “a business, not an ideology”.

More eBook Users than Buyers

The spread between the number of adults who have read an eBook as opposed to adults who have purchased an eBook is growing. Adults who’ve read an eBook increased from 11% to 17% from 2010 to 2011, but eBook buyers only increased from 9% to 11%.

Mohawk Paper Co. Growing

Four years ago we noted that premium paper manufacturer Strathmore had been purchased by Mohawk (Paper). Since then, Mohawk has continued making fine papers and has found markets as far away as China. They’ve added 38 employees this year.

Books-A-Million to go Private?

Books-A Million (BAMM) majority stockholder (53%) has announced that he is preparing an offer to purchase the balance of shares not under the control of his (Clyde B. Anderson) family. Is there hope for bricks and mortar?

What Angry Birds Can Teach Publishers, Printers

Rovio Entertainment, Ltd entered the publishing business to cash in on it’s best-selling app, Angry Birds. Digital vs. ink and paper? They say it doesn’t matter, content is king.

Let’s Play Walden Pond

The National Education Foundation has awarded the University of Southern California $40,000 to develop a Henry David Thoreau video game.(?)

Invisible Watermarks, Content, and Advertising

Somehow this process uses printed “invisible watermarks” to furnish additional digital content in any printed material to your smartphone. Here’s a demo.

Publisher’s Survey

If you have a few minutes, take the 2012 Infotrends Publishing Survey. Your participation will get you a copy of the published report.

Celebrity Mom Authors

What is it about celebrity motherhood that compels some women to write whether or not they actually can? This list of the 50 most notable of the group is the only time I’ve seen both Pam Anderson and Barbara Walters in the same list.

Final Thought

The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts. Oliver Wendell Holmes

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About Wayne Johnson 69 Articles
I've worked in book manufacturing for over 30 years, closing my company Baker Johnson, Inc. in 2005. Currently I work freelance with a large group of publishers, advising them on the printing options available to them as the book industry endures major restructuring. My wife Cathy is a retired psychologist and spent most of her career working with the youth at Maxey Boys Training School. She is a small mammal rehabilitator with Friends of Wildlife. Our daughter Whitney is a PharmD working in the Denver area evaluating the pharmaceutical requirements of nursing homes. Our son Eliot lives in Waterloo and is an editor at Mathematical Reviews in Ann Arbor.