Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Friday, 29 April 2011

First shot over the e-book bows

With the sourcing arrangements for physical books progressing nicely, and platform building underway, I turned my attention today to trying to get my head around what e-books are all about. It seems there's a big spat between Macmillan and Amazon, and another between Amazon and Apple. So the big names are fighting over something. And I am seeing more and more people with Kindles, so there is a market out there, and the big names think it's worth fighting over. How in the name of Bajeezus does it all work?

I guess most customers will go straight to Amazon. And probably buy directly from their store. If they do that, then the file they download is copy-protected (i.e. has "Digital Rights Management"--or "DRM") and can be read on all of the main platforms, kindle, iphone, android, tablet etc. They have a simple system, through their German website: to publish the book. All you need to do is send them a word file, it seems. They do the conversion into their format, although I was a bit unclear what happens about cover artwork. Kindle is in Black and White, so that would mean a potential re-design at least if the design looks naff in B&W. Unfortunately, it is not impossible to remove the DRM protection, but is sufficiently complicated a procedure that I am not too worried about piracy. What was concerning me was the kind of discount they would be wanting.

And I had a nice surprise! Here: they have a price list. The terms and conditions will need careful scrutiny before anything could go ahead. But, if the e-book is from the UK or a number of other countries, they list it at the standard cover price. The author gets a 70% royalty, which is a 30% discount. Paradise Press currently has a standard 35% discount to book shops, so that is actually marginally better than we could do if we placed the title in a shop, and none of the attendant difficulties of returns and capital invested. And there are some costs and tax issues hidden away in there, which might make some difference on the numbers, which will need careful study.

There is some chatter, well more of a shouting match really, on the web about e-books being too expensive, and I can see why. If the e-book is listed at the cover price, one of the reasons for getting the expensive Kindle in the first place goes away. No need to print the book, so it should be cheaper? Little does the poor reader know of the mechanics of the publishing industry! Even so, I would have thought with no need to print a physical copy, we could be saving the £3.90 or so unit cost of a book (based on the quotes for my book). So, let's say my cover price was £10? Then I'd be looking at £7.50 from the bookshop less costs of around £1.50 to get it into the hands of their customer. I'd be making something like £2.90 per book on a retail bookshop sale. Direct sales are better, say with a 10% discount for website sales, that's £9 less the £1.50 and not forgetting the cost of the book, I get £3.40.

And also, just think about those numbers for a mass-market publication, where the publisher is having thousands printed off on offset litho for a fraction of anything Paradise Press could match. Then the physical delivery of a printed book comes down more to postage and packing and the terms of the various contracts between bookshops, distributors, agents and authors about who gets what?

What about e-book sales? On a £10 cover price, I'd be getting £7. Fuck, that's twice as much. Or if it could be agreed to discount the price by 50% as an ebook, selling at £5, I'd still be getting £3.50, which is up with the other physical printing and selling options. With those numbers in mind, I can't understand why Amazon is insisting on e-books being sold at the same price as physical books. Or have I got that wrong?

I still don't like paying a discount to Amazon for distribution, when all they are doing is juggling files, something which most internet providers will do for a pittance, if not free. Since when did I pay hotmail to send an email, for example? How is sending what is essentially a .pdf of my book any different? It's a few clicks of a mouse's tail!

There must be applications to convert my file into kindle format (I just found Kindle's own software to build an e-book and preview how it will look on Kindle: But that probably won't include DRM, so that needs further research if we want to do it independently. So the file could be sold on our website at only £3.50 and still make the same margin. (well, there isn't any really, it's just pure profit.) But the bulk of sales would probably be generated through the kindle store, I rather suspect. It looks like the discount is not negotiable. And then there are contractual terms to consider, they want their money, at the end of the day!

Anyhow, watch this space, feeling better about ebooks now.

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