Re: pricing of ebooks

From: Michael Martinez <>
Date: Fri 06 Oct 2000 13:33:18 -0500

> I agree with Michael Martinez that the low pricing
> of ebooks perpetuates the perception that they are
> worth less than paper books. However, I believe
> that in many cases this is an accurate perception.

[snip how ebooks differ from printed books]

This touches on a long-standing debate which, I think,
is not really appropriate for this forum. It wasn't
my intention to draw anyone into a discussion of the
pros and cons of ebooks. They have their supporters
and users, who remain a small but growing audience
when compared with the traditional printed book

However, the promotion of electronic merchandise (which
includes, I suppose, everything from ebooks to web
space) is an important industry and not, in my humble
opinion, a well-defined one. The Motley Fool just
announced a "duel" over Amazon.Com, whether it's a good
investment or not. The debate concerning Amazon's
future is in a way symbolic not just of ecommerce
(which I regard to be very healthy despite all the
hoopla over dropping stocks and folding companies),
but is also representative of the business community's
uncertainty over what to do with the Internet.

This is a business mailing list, and sometimes I feel
very much like an outsider. Sure, I sell stuff, but I
don't even make enough money to have to file a 1099
for it. My perspective is still that of a consumer, or
closer to that of a consumer.

On the other hand, the Internet wasn't created for the
sake of conducting business, and it will always
maintain that old tradition of everything is freely
disseminated in some corners (and they will be very
large corners). So, rising above the ocean of Web
sites, mailing lists, and services is as important for
the non-business Webmaster as for the business

> I think that in order to raise the perception of
> ebooks they need to be positioned as something other
> than books. That is why when I venture into
> electronic publishing, I will not be calling my
> creation an ebook. I'm going to call it an electronic
> seminar, or something like that. People will pay much
> more than for paper books for a lesser amount of
> pure information if it is positioned as a seminar,
> because people know that seminars usually cost $99
> and up.

I don't know if "electronic seminar" is the right
direction, but I do agree that the word "ebook" has
become fixed, in some ways, in the popular imagination
with certain assumptions. The business model that the
next generation will use for electronic information
distribution (and that IS what this discussion is
about) really hasn't been developed, in my opinion.
Maybe we've seen glimpses of the future, but right now
all the technologies are underwhelming.

There are people who swear they will never read an
ebook, and yet they surf the Web all day long. They
seem totally unaware of the fact that the definition
of "ebook" (or "electronic book") covers Web content.
There are Web books, Web magazines, and just
Web-published whatever. It may be hard on the eyes,
but hundreds of millions of people are reading
electronic text every day. I believe most of them
would not (at this time) consider buying an ebook.

So, something has to change public perceptions, and
that something may have to wait for the new
technologies to save our eyesight.

> I think Stephen King could have gotten the same
> number of people to pay $2 per installment for his
> novel in progress, or even more, if he'd called it
> a subscription. Note that people pay extra for
> premium cable channels to get access to movies on
> cable that have not yet been released to video
> stores.

Many years ago my brother made a comment to me about
little itty beer bottles (I seldom drink myself, so
this is purely second-hand). He said it was easier to
get drunk on them than on regular or oversized beer
bottles. When I asked why, he said it was because you
lose track of how many you've had more easily than
when you're drinking large beer bottles.

To this day, I believe him. I've eaten far more small
chocolate candies than I would cosume large chocolate
bars. And I believe the candy manufacturers know
this. They keep making the candy smaller and smaller
(and they keep introducing bigger and bigger bars, too,
so maybe the trick works in the other direction, too,
and people lose track if they eat just one mondo candy

Take that principle and apply it to anything being sold
on the Web. What's $1 or $2 to anyone who is able to
pay for their PC and Internet access? In fact, to
many merchants, it's expensive. They'd rather charge
more to cut down on fees. So there is a conflict on
the merchant's side between the psychology of "a
little bit doesn't really hurt much" and the necessity
to keep fees down.

People might actually be more willing to buy things for
a dollar or two if they come piecemeal, like King's
book, because this week that's all the discretionary
income they can spare.

So, that puts electronic text publishers in a quandry,
doesn't it? They have to decide whether to sell
piecemeal or not. And that makes a big difference
between what you are PROMOTING, doesn't it? The value
of part of an electronic item is less than the value
of the entire thing. So you have to address the
public's perceptions in different ways.

And given the difficulties we have in figuring out how
to promote anything on the Internet, that complicates
the equation, doesn't it?

Is the secret to eBook success really lying in finding
the right promotional strategy more than in finding
the right technology?

Science Fiction and Fantasy
New and expanded discussion forums! Over 20 topics!

Received on Fri Oct 06 2000 - 13:33:18 CDT


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