Yes, it seems it’s ebook week on The Lunch.
Free books (Photo credit: randomduck)
On just about every high street in Britain there is some kind of mis-named Pound Shop, selling things for 99p, and it’s a well-known psychological effect that we think that 99p is vastly cheaper than a pound because it has less digits, even if our subconscious obsession with lower numbers in buying but higher in selling leads us to all have jam jars full of pennies.
The odd thing though is a shift in the area of “free” goods. On Amazon and other ebook stores there are thousands of free ebooks, some are actual out-of-copyright classics, some are good books simply written for the enjoyment of it and given away, others are free just to be generous and helpful. The problem is that we often assume that if something is always free then it must be of lower quality, whereas we will eagerly grab a book that’s normally £3.99 but is reduced for a day to £0.00. This idea of low quality is reinforced by many writers and journalists who have said that only crap writers do it for free [Andy looks at own not-for-profit blog and sighs].
This is a problem for new authors who are publishing solely electronically – price it too high and buyers might not want to take a shot at an unknown, give it away and it’s likely that people will see the words “FREE = CRAP” with memories of bookstore remainder bins in the back of their minds.
There has emerged a middle ground, more and more books are being published at 99p, cheap enough to be a potential throwaway purchase but someone thinks it’s worth actually charging money for which gives you a bit of confidence that it’ll be worth it. It also feels like you’re getting a bargain even if it’s not reduced.
Amongst the ebook chaff there is wheat and if this idea gets it noticed then it doesn’t matter whether crap gets sold at the same price – that’s what Amazon’s reviews sections are for.
English: A woman cuddling a pile of digital devices: laptops, smartphones, tablets, ebook readers etc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With new rules saying that book publishers should basically price ebooks fairly in relation to the fact that there is no physical object to manufacture I’ve had an idea.
Maybe someone has already had it but anyway let’s say, like me, you have a large bookshelf, some of the books you want to keep because of their aesthetic appeal, or sentimental value, maybe they’re signed. Others you keep for reference and would be happy to have as searchable ebooks.
You’ve already paid for the paper version so you’re reluctant to pay the same price again for the ebook version. What if you could send your good condition paper version to either a charity or a company like Amazon and they’d exchange it for the digital version and then sell the paper book second-hand to cover the cost of your ebook. You could save space and the charity/company could still make money. Even if they charged you a pound to do it it would still be worth it surely?
English: Title page of the Americanized Encyclopedia Britannica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Techdirt recently reported on how a British institution adapted to the new century’s technology rather than trying to sue its competitors into oblivion or whining “that’s not fair”.
The first decade of this century has seen a massive shift to digital distribution and consumption both legally and illegally. Some traditional media creators have reacted to this with great anger and lawsuits that would keep Ally McBeal busy for a few series (ok, showing my age there, but it was the last legal series I watched). Instead of adapting business models to cater for these new outlets, providing exclusive tasty content or extra value with digital downloads to tempt people away from pirate sites for example, they have tried to simply legislate the problem away – hence SOPA et al.
They criticise artists who give away content for free, ignoring the facts that this can generate sales as people will often pay for foll0w up material, as also often happens after someone downloads pirated material and then buys the album after they find they like it. As a content producer I don’t condone piracy, but I don’t feel that tighter copyright laws will help either.
Which brings me on to the venerable, weighty and very British Encyclopedia Britannica. In the nineties a CD based publication was launched and then as that market faded they launched their own online encyclopedia in the face of the onslaught of Wikipedia and the like. In both cases they saw what was coming early on and adapted and restructured in order to embrace and make the most of the emerging technology rather than hold on to the past. Britannica.com is still here alongside Wikipedia because it has evolved, moved with the times and because of its history and reputation it is still a trusted source of information. They have a premium paid-for service that provides extras for members such as videos, research tools and more.
From door-to-door to digital with no fuss, taking it all in its stride.