Sunday, August 29, 2010

A layman's opinion of The Wall Street Journal's Are EBooks Worth it.

As an author, I read the Wall Street Journal’s article related to are EBooks worth it with an analytical eye toward my own future. However, I strongly disagreed with the journalist on several of his key points. My opinions are expressed as a layman, of course, as I am not a professional journalist. I express my opinions as an author and a book-buyer.

1) Casual readers probably shouldn’t bother. The median American book buyer purchases just seven books a year according to AP-ipsos poll in 2007. First, we’re using a three year old poll, and second if you take a look at how the poll was conducted it shows the Associated Press conducted the poll over two days based on random interviews with 1,003 adults. Now, knowing how many adults there are in just America, does that not change your opinion on these results? I certainly know it did mine. We simply cannot poll 1,003 people and state that their opinion applies to all median-American book buyers.

2) Ebooks aren’t as cheap as they should be. Well, true, some books aren’t as cheap as I myself, a buyer, would like. Prices are referenced from $12.99 to $5.69. No mention of the freebies, the 99 cent, $1.99, $2.99, $3.99 and $4.99 ebooks. In fact, the article totally ignores that market as if it doesn’t exist. The last paperback I look at was priced at $5.99. I could buy six 99 cent books for the price of one mass market paperback. I would agree that publishers need to assess their prices with an eye toward the readers. I recently wanted to purchase the new Kay Hooper book, but found the Kindle copy at $14.12, and the paperback was only $17.00 and some odd cents. I refused to pay that much for the digital copy. So, yes, readers do have a limit on what they’re willing to pay. That isn’t a bad thing. In fact, hopefully it will result in cheaper ebook prices from traditional publishers. And on that note—The Wall Street Journal subscriptions on line at last check were only $16.00 cheaper than the printed subscription. Surely the savings for only line publication versus printed, and delivery would far exceed $16.00 a year.

3) Savvy readers read the classics, which are better than most of the stuff published more recently anyway. The definition of Savvy is 1) to know; understand 2) shrewdness or intelligence; common sense; 3) shrewdly informed; experienced and well-informed; canny.
This statement really bothered me. It goes back to an agent’s early assessment of my first book submitted that it was “too complicated” for readers to understand. Too many characters for a “normal” reader to follow. I consider myself a “normal” reader, and I’ve never needed a character list to help me follow a book if it was well written with a well plotted plot. The story pulled you in to well-defined characters and it didn’t take an Einstein to follow their role in the plot. Yes, I love the classics, and yes I love freebies, but I believe myself to be a person who can read, comprehend and understand what I’m reading with intelligence and common sense.

4) Potential costs of buying a Kindle. You end up making lots of impulse purchases. Credit cards have the same problem. An yes, initially when you first receive your new “toy” you may find yourself purchasing more books then you would if you were in the book store, most at a much cheaper price as most new buyers will first cruise through the freebies and 99 cent books before they start running amuck with huge purchases. And, once the new wears off, most ebook readers will slow down to buying only the amount of books they want to read during a particular period. And there can be savings related to purchasing ebooks. I’ve never made a trip to the bookstore that I didn’t also stop by another store and spend more money. On top of that there’s lunch or dinner out, another $20.00 to $50.00 depending on where we go, and then of course with the rising cost of gasoline there’s that expense. So downloading six ebooks at $.99 could actually save me over a $100.00 for one trip to the bookstore. These savings would quickly pay for my ereader.

5) Cost of rivals, and if you’re thinking of buying a book reader – wait. There may actually be merit to these, if you want to wait. Prices will eventually come down.

Overall, I believe the journalist was expressing his personal opinions, and he states he loves EBooks, and often takes 10 with him on vacation. I simply wish his article has not been quite so biased against what I consider to be a flourishing market of new authors. The Indie authors who are offering their Ebooks for $3.99 or less. The publishing industry has all but embraced these authors, offering self-publishing through traditional publishing houses, however, the media continues to ignore them.

Using old figures, only because I can find no new data, in 2004, 950,000 titles out of 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells 500 copies (Publishers weekly, July 1, 2006). The average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime. Staggering figures, that take into account only those books published through traditional publishing houses. Many Indie authors are surpassing these figures by leaps and bounds, averaging 250 sales a month—not a year. In fact, I believe we currently have at least one or two Indie authors selling in excess of 1,000 books a month.

Isn’t it time The Wall Street Journal and other media sources that inform the world on “reading” encompass the entire field?

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