eBooks And Digital Editions Sadly Head Down the Rabbit Hole

I have to admit, I was slow to become a fan of eBooks.  I loved my print copies - the smell, the feel.  The change came about for me as we began to travel more. I found that I read enormous amounts of books while travelling. I hated the weight of carrying print books, plus I kept running out of titles to read and would have to find new ones, abandoning those read along the way.

My husband bought me a Sony ebook reader (now ancient) for a birthday one year and I filled it up for a trip to Hawaii. After consuming 15 books in 16 days, I was sold  What I loved more than the fact I could load it up with tons of titles and it weighed almost nothing, was that I could read laying down on my side in bed with the lights off, holding it with one hand and turning the pages with a touch of my thumb.  I also loved that authors would package their older titles in a ebook series that was super inexpensive to purchase.

For those who do not know, I am also the author of two best selling books - Life Outside the Box and The Wisdom of Listening.  After becoming aware of the challenges of waste worldwide, I was led to look closer at the same terrible issue of waste in the publishing industry.  I began to understand that digital editions were an option I strongly wanted to promote.  Here are a few of my reasons why.
  1. They help me reach out to a global market. International readers can download copies anywhere in the world. This is especially great for areas of the world with limited or very high shipping rates. 
  2. They are a great choice for those whose living space is compact. You can store tons of books in your computer or reader - no shelf space needed.  And those titles worth a second read are always at your fingertips
  3. Digital publications are the perfect solution to the waste found in traditional publishing.  Did you know unsold print books that are returned are often destroyed. A 2009 article in the Daily Mail shared that 77 million unsold, unread, unwanted print books are returned and destroyed yearly, and that figure was from a decade ago. I would love to know the number today. It takes one tree to make approximately 6 books, so that's over 12,800,000 trees cut down and pulped for no reason.
  4. The cost makes them more affordable.  Print on demand has really changed the market and removed some of the problem with waste, but this small run option means the books naturally cost more to purchase - usually over $20 retail.  Meanwhile the same in a digital publication is usually $8 - $12.  But that is changing.
The promise of digital editions was huge, but unfortunately the publishing industry has taken this promise and twisted it.  You have no idea how disappointed I am.

Let's start with a simple thing like formatting.  When I release a new book, I upload it to the distributor who starts with the print book. Then I have them convert the file into a second offering - a universal eBook that can be read on any device - well except Kindle.

Why? Because Amazon converts my universal file into one that can only be read on their device or using their APP. Don't want to buy their eReader or use their app, then you can't get my eBook from them.  And they are not the only company doing this. Part of this the problem involves the comples issue of of digital rights management, but I believe if they wanted to find different solution they could.  So much for giving my universal edition wings. Those wings are being clipped more and more each day.

Now comes the latest in a trend I've seen growing for a while - unreasonably high prices. An author certainly has development costs for any book no matter what format it is released in, but hard copy books also have the additional costs of printing and shipping, plus the cost of returned books that are destroyed.  Digital editions are simply the transfer of a file. No additional costs. So why are some authors charging the same or more for digital editions.

When digital editions first came out, most were under $10, with a few popular authors hitting the $12 mark. In fact I was told $9.99 might be too high. No longer.  Here are some recent examples from Amazon.com in US Dollars.  I will comment that Audio books do have some significant additional expenses to create that affect their final cost (sound engineer, voice actor, etc.) you can see that there is a real imbalance.  If a print book costs around $23, why would a digital one cost around $22????
  • Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon - Print $22.68, Kindle $21.54
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama - Paperback $24.17, Hardcover $17.59, Kindle $15.79, Audio $24.00
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck - Kindle $14.65, Hardcover $14.99, Paperback $12.15

In addition, the way the publishers now license these books to public libraries make them extremely expensive.  If the libraries buy a print book, it can stay on the shelves and be lent out until it is worn out. Not so with digital editions. They are licensed for a certain number of borrows and then the license must be renewed.

There is a great article on this called, "Expense of ebooks threatens digital library collections as 'Big 5' publisher changes business model." From the article, "For instance, David Baldacci's The Fallen costs the VPL $22.80 for a physical copy, and $87 for a digital copy." You can read the full article HERE!

What can you do? Make your voice heard and use your wallet wisely. If the digital edition is unreasonably priced, then just don't buy it.  Then take the next step and email the publisher to let them know your thoughts.