I guarantee the Big Six take the wrong lesson from this.

From Mike Cane’s blog:

How many times will the Big Six have to see this happen before it wakes up?

1) Your eBooks are too damned expensive. People don’t give a damn about your “fixed costs” (which includes your too-fat salaries at the very top). Google dominated the entire world starting from nothing. We should pity your overfed overpaid fat asses?

2) There are no more regional rights. The new regions are the boundaries of language. You get to sell English-language worldwide. All other languages are now the sub-rights for “regions.”

3) Start making bundled sets. Or you’re going to screw every writer with a series whose backlist is too damned expensive as single buys.

4) What is your mission? To sell books or to keep your jobs? You can do the latter by lowering the prices to make the former larger than you ever dreamed.

Inspired by a post from a Canadian who wasn’t allowed to buy a legit copy of a le Carré novel, Mike strolled among the torrents to see what kind of ebooks you can find for free these days if the publishers refuse to sell to you or price the books unreasonably. The quality of the Stieg Larsson “Millennium Trilogy” ebooks he found looks professional enough to me.

And Cane is right. More than $10 for an ebook is ripping off the customer, and the customers have figured that out. You’re not driving them to buy the hardcover instead, you’re driving them to torrents and getting nothing rather than something. But this an old argument and the Big Six show now signs of wising up.

Cane’s comments about regional restrictions and bundles really got me thinking, though. Now that I’m reluctantly committing to the Kindle, I would love to give Hachette $50 for Kindle versions of the dozen or so Agent Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. But I can’t. So I’m faced with buying them individually, or breaking out Stanza to read the eReader copies I already bought. Hachette is leaving money on the table and they probably don’t even realize it.

Instead, I bet the lessons the Big Six take away from this sort of thing is that they need stronger DRM to keep people from pirating their books. Given that most pirate ebooks are lovingly proofread scans of paper copies, I really don’t think that’s going to work. But they’ll try it. Because the alternative is to change “the way things have always been done,” and that’s unthinkable. Right up until they go out of business.

2 thoughts on “I guarantee the Big Six take the wrong lesson from this.”

  1. Jeff, reality is, a great many Big Six titles are no more than Mumbai-converted print PDFs and reading those ebooks suggests there was no proofreading at all. The pirates may actually be doing a better job of it.

  2. Hi, Jeff. I lost track of you for a while.

    As someone who monitors the illegal downloads to watch trends, I’m seeing a shift in the source of pirated e-books. Yes, there are still lots of scans, but they are mostly of older books or books not released as e-versions. Recently published e-books are being stripped of DRM and uploaded.

    But the answer is NOT to put on stronger DRM. That’s ultimately a losing battle. DRM is cracked almost as soon as it’s updated. The answer is the one the Big Six don’t want to hear. Take off restrictions; price books reasonably, and e-books will sell.

    Baen is still respected on the illegal sites. I’ve seen people berated for asking for or downloading Baen books. Baen does everything it can to make it easy for people to get e-versions of their books.

    Oh, why do I watch trends? I’ve got a series I’m working on. I intend to upload the darned things myself to various Torrents and news groups. I trust the readers to respect me if I respect them by making them inexpensive and DRM-free. We’ll see if I’m right.

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