Comparing e-books and the music industry

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Sommer Leigh
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Comparing e-books and the music industry

Post by Sommer Leigh » April 18th, 2011, 4:32 pm

I know this has come up in discussions before, but I'm not sure I've read a discussion just about this topic, so here goes.

A lot of people compare e-books to the music industry, specifically relating to .99 music on iTunes and similar places and that the publishing industry should embrace this and publish .99 books.

It seems like a bad comparison to me, since individual songs are sold for .99 (or 1.29 or whatever) but if you wanted the whole CD, it'll still cost you between $12-16 for a 12 song CD. The equivalent comparison would be if we sold our books by the chapter for .99.

I think that it is awesome that I can buy a single song from an album and I don't have to buy the whole album. It is more cost effective and it makes me happy. But this model can't be easily applied to digital books. I wouldn't be happy just buying one chapter. Books don't break up into smaller pieces. Unless, of course, we start talking about changing the model of the book and selling it in parts, sort of like trilogies but instead of 3 novels you get 3 novellas that make up one whole novel.

Right? Or am I missing something? What do you guys mean when you make this comparison and/or what do you think when others make this comparison?
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Cookie
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Re: Comparing e-books and the music industry

Post by Cookie » April 18th, 2011, 4:49 pm

As someone who works in the music industry, and I agree with you wholeheartedly with the song/ book comparison.
I don't know why people think this. Maybe it comes from a lack of understanding?

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Re: Comparing e-books and the music industry

Post by Falls Apart » April 18th, 2011, 7:00 pm

Eh, I can see the comparison, albeit from a different perspective. All industries go through major shifts along with major shifts in technology/society, and we can see similar trends. Music started out as something that could be bought and sold in solid form. Now, most people buy (or don't buy) it in ones and zeroes. The book industry seems to be moving in a more computerized direction. Personally, I love my CDs and my old-fashioned, paper books. But I can see where both industries are going, if only due to cost of manufacturing.

But the whole 99 cent comparison is, I agree, ill-informed. A book can't be sold in small segments. Theoretically. Or how about this business model?

Each author has his/her own website. On the website, you can request a subscription that costs x dollars per (however long the author plans on updating). Everybody on the author's mailing list gets a copy of the book, chapter by chapter. Of course, the author would have to have completed the book first, and this assumes that the author would have enough already completed to sustain his readers while (s)he works on the next book. Actually, it's a pretty dumb idea. But who knows?

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Re: Comparing e-books and the music industry

Post by Margo » April 19th, 2011, 10:34 am

The comparison is off to some extent, but charging per chapter isn't the way it's shaking out. The single song on iTunes is the short story in self-e-publishing. In general (very general), it's shaping up as 99 cents for a short story (and possibly for a debut novel, as a price incentive), $1.99 for a novella, $2.99 for a novel. But all of that is in flux anyway, and major names are using prices outside those rough guides.

I think the comparison to music is more about the fact that we have independent musicians making their own recordings and independent authors (I hesitate to use the term 'indie author' - don't want to disturb the pecking order) are putting out their own books. Beyond that, there's little the two have in common. A la carte purchasing? Yeah, I guess they are vaguely similar.
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Re: Comparing e-books and the music industry

Post by hektorkarl » April 19th, 2011, 10:57 am

Itunes sells movies and episodes of TV shows for more than .99, and both of those seem like better comparisons to books. I doubt that writers with established audiences will resort to .99 standard pricing.

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Re: Comparing e-books and the music industry

Post by J. T. SHEA » April 19th, 2011, 2:56 pm

Good points, Sommer. And, as I've said before, music has no equivalent to a paper book, no way of enjoying music without a machine.

It's also interesting that, despite much talk about the 99 cent e-books, the best-selling e-books are much more expensive, often more than a trade paperback, not to mind a mass market paperback.

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Re: Comparing e-books and the music industry

Post by Margo » April 19th, 2011, 3:00 pm

J. T. SHEA wrote:It's also interesting that, despite much talk about the 99 cent e-books, the best-selling e-books are much more expensive, often more than a trade paperback, not to mind a mass market paperback.
I think part of that is publishing houses releasing the ebook to coincide with the hardcover, so the prices are more in line with trade paperbacks than mass market paperbacks. However, even many self-published authors with a big following are playing more in the $4.99-$6.99 range. If I recall correctly, Michael Sullivan's wife (and business partner) blogged that his sales actually went down when they lowered the price of his books.
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Re: Comparing e-books and the music industry

Post by Quill » April 19th, 2011, 3:22 pm

Equating a song and a book in value is nonsensical and arbitrary. It is like saying that because candybars go for .89, then so should full-size fruit pies.

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