Monday, April 06, 2009

$9.99 Boycott

What's the right price for an e-book? No more than $10, says a group of Amazon Kindle e-book owners — and they have found a novel way to make themselves heard.

Some 250 Kindle readers are using Amazon's own book-tagging system to mark e-books priced more than $10 with the tag '9 99 boycott'. Their argument: A Kindle book is more restricted in its use than a paper book and therefore should not cost as much.

O'Brien and other Kindle users who have joined the revolt have used the boycott tag more than 7,200 times so far. "It doesn't take that much time to do, and it sends out a message," she says.

"Some of the Kindle books now cost more than their paperback version," she says. For instance, she points out that she purchased a digital copy of Small Favor, a book by Jim Butcher for $10 in June last year. The Kindle price then jumped to $13.94 and is now back to $8. A paperback version of the book costs $10.

Kindle books are limited in their use: They cannot be donated to a library, sold to a used-book store or even Amazon's used marketplace or traded elsewhere. In addition, some books are badly designed and offer little pictorial or other kind of visual relief, they say.

I am joining the movement. I too do not understand why a version that has no physical publishing costs and can't be resold or shared with friends should be priced the same as a physical book. $10 is a fair price, but anything more is excessive.

I have both Uranium and Wired for War on my reading list, but both are over $14 in Kindle format. It would be cheaper to purchase the physical books, get the free shipping, read them and then resell them on Amazon. I paid over $14 for The 10,000 Year Explosion and then found out that it wasn't even formatted very well for the Kindle. Never again.

On the other end of the pricing scale, I have noticed a whole bunch of books that are now free at Amazon. Lots of classics like The Return of Sherlock Holmes, some other unique historical documents like Debate on Woman Suffrage in the Senate of the United States,2d Session, 49th Congress, December 8, 1886, and January 25, 1887 and then some newer books like Assassin's Apprentice (no clue why that is free). I had been using Feedbooks for my access to free books for my Kindle (which still formats its classics better than Amazon does and has a cool Download Guide), but now I will have to start checking out Amazon as well.

via Wired

Update: Gregory Cochran, the author of The 10,000 Year Explosion was kind enough to comment and reply to my suggestions. I should mention that I really did enjoy the book, just wasn't a fan of the pricing scheme and felt that the formatting of the book for the Kindle needed help (see comments for details). He also mentioned that as the author he has no control over pricing, it is all in the hands of the publisher. He got an advance for the book and will see no additional profits from sales unless they reach 25,000. So, it is the publishers that need to have pressure applied to.


gcochran said...

"it wasn't even formatted very well for the Kindle."

So, what was the format problem? I'll see if I can do something about it. Second, did you find the book interesting?

Gregory Cochran

Fat Knowledge said...

Hi Gregory,

Cool to see that the author is commenting on my blog. :)

On the formatting 4 things:

1) It is in a Topaz/.azw1 format rather than a .mobi/.prc/.azw format. This has the following issues:
a) The font is larger and doesn't look as good (at least to my eyes) on the Kindle's e-ink screen
b) It takes longer to turn the page
c) The file is larger

2) It would be nice if the Notes were hyperlinked from the main text, so you could find easily read the additional information or find what the source of the information was.

3) It would be cool if the sources in this Notes and Bibliography were hyperlinked, so you could actually read the research articles through the Kindle browser or be able to purchase books through the Kindle store. I don't think anyone else does this currently, but I think it would be very useful to your kind of readers.

4) The Index at the end has page numbers that don't refer to the Kindle version at all. Actually no need for an index at all with the Kindle's search ability.

On a related note, I happened to come upon this book on Kindle formatting today. Haven't purchased it, but it gets positive comments.

As for the content of the book, yes, I did find it a good and interesting read.

One thing I didn't get was how the evolutionary math worked if you had multiple advantageous alleles at the same time. It seems like you could only have selective pressure applied to 1 allele at a time. That having 4 alleles that each had a 10% selective advantage and a 5th with a 15% advantage would mean that the selective pressure would just occur on the 5th and ignore the other 4. But, I don't know enough about the math to really understand. This gets to the larger point of whether you can have lots of alleles currently being selected for simultaneously and if evolution is occurring quicker with a larger population.

If Neanderthals did breed with humans, wouldn't this mean that Australian Aborigines wouldn't have the Neanderthal genes, as that migration occurred before humans went to Europe? If so, couldn't you look for alleles that don't occur in Aborigines to look for potential Neanderthal genes?

Oh and this line bugged me: "The human genome has about 3 billion bases (the four molecular building blocks that makeup DNA) organized into forty-six separate bundles of DNA called chromosomes." Shouldn't that be either 3 billion base pairs and 23 chromosomes for a genome or 6 billion base pairs and 46 chromosomes for a diploid genome?

And since you responded, I am also curious if you could tell me if you make more money from the Kindle version or the Hardback version.

My frustration isn't with the $10 price point as much as I think the digital version should be sold at a discount to the physical version. Currently the hardcover version of your book is $17.82 vs. $14.85 for the Kindle version. The $3.00 discount doesn't seem enough to me, since I can't resell or share the digital version. But I am curious which one is better for authors? If I knew that the author was getting a bigger cut from the digital version, I would be more likely to purchase them. And how much control do you have over the selling prices? Can you easily switch to a $9.99 price or is that out of your control?

Anonymous said...

Assassin's Apprentice is part of a promotion to introduce people to series and by way of that to authors, most of which have fairly large back catalogs:
From the publisher
they're up on Lexcycle
A wired article on this in relation to Scribd

I like what you mention in the comments. If an eBook actually made use of the electronic format (integrated links to notes and sources and such), we might actually move toward a situation where the whole "a paperback is more useful than an eBook" fades away.

Fat Knowledge said...


Interesting. Basically they are using the drug dealer model of giving away something up front to get you hooked and then charge you for additional product down the line.

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