I’ve owned a Sony e-reader for about four years, which probably makes it an antique, given the advancements of the Kindle, Nook and i-Pad. It was purchased as part of a domestic peace accord, the terms of which were that I could buy and read as many books as I wanted to as long as they didn’t take up any more space on shelves, end tables, kitchen counters, mantles or nightstands. This has worked out well, and both parties to the agreement have enjoyed some harmony, at least with regard to my book collection.
Recently, the Justice Department and 15 of the States, joined in a suit against Apple, Inc. and some of the major book publishers, claiming that they had colluded in raising prices of e-books and eliminating any competition. The rise in prices, according to the suit, has cost buyers about $100 million in the past couple of years. There’s been a lot of finger pointing from the Attorneys General and among Amazon, the book publishers and Apple, particularly at Steve Jobs. Blaming the Apple founder is probably safe, because, well, he isn’t around anymore.
A few of the publishing houses have already settled while some are not going down without a fight. It probably isn’t going to mean much to the consumer who actually got bilked out of $2 to $5 per book. It rarely ends up in our pockets, with those legal fees and all. The plan is to slap some folks on the wrist and tell them to play nicely in the future or else. I’d like to know what it’s really going to mean for those of us who buy the e-books.
Most of us who use e-readers have already noticed that the prices have gone steadily up, something I didn’t understand – well, I understand the need for increased profit – but I couldn’t quite grasp why something you could download had to that expensive to begin with. I guess this is where I have to wave my white flag and claim that I am at a complete loss as to how this whole e-reader versus hard copy of a book thing works.
I looked on Amazon’s site to see how they were pricing “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, which I though was fairly representative in terms of a well-known novel and what it should cost. The Kindle price and the paperback price are just about the same, with the Kindle version coming in at $9.99. Now, from where I’m sitting, that makes no sense. I know, first of all, that my e-reader doesn’t allow me to share my book once I’ve read it. That means that my friends have to go out and buy their own copy – in whatever form. There’s an increase in sales, and profit, already.
I’m also working under the notion that it has to be cheaper for the publishers to put that book on the internet than to produce and deliver a paper version. We’re saving trees and gasoline and all sorts of overhead like warehouses and stuff, but I’m still paying the same price as I would if I were to buy it from the supermarket’s book aisle. I’m throwing my hands up and letting one, or all of you, explain this to me. I think I’m an informed consumer. I like 10 for $10 days at Kroeger’s and I download e-coupons. I’m happy when I order 3 gallons of fly spray for the horses and get the 4th one free. This e-book thing, however, is far beyond my expertise. I’m sure that there’s some business model or plan that makes more sense to someone with more experience and knowledge than I possess. So, I’m not lifting a finger here. I’m not researching it, and I’m going to sit back and wait for someone else to explain to me why the damn things cost so much.
I’m going to go read a book now.