A WEEKLY ROUNDUP OF INTERNET CURIOSITIES FROM THE BOOK WORLD
It seems that the argument over the cost of e-books vs p-books is a beast that just won't die. On The Guardian's site, William Skidelsky provides a fairly concise survey of the key issues in this spat, inspired by a chapter about publishing in author Robert Levine's forthcoming book Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and how the Culture Business Can Fight Back. It seems there are people who still think that when they buy a paper book, the bulk of the price tag pays for the object, for the book itself, the stack of paper, glue & ink. Skidelsky explains (c/o Levine), however, that it costs only about $3.50 US to print and distribute a hardcover. The rest of the money is split between the retailer, publisher and author. No kidding, right? But apparently it is still necessary to explain to some willfully ignorant people that what they are paying for is not just a stack of paper, and that if you remove the stack of paper to make an e-book, the book should not become almost free. To these people I say: If you went into an art gallery and offered to buy a painting for the cost of the canvas, wood and paint that was used to create the picture, what do you think the response would be? Of course, a book is not a painting, it is a mass-produced object, which is why it costs ONLY $20 to $30 (or thereabouts) and not $20,000 to $30,000 (or more) which is what any respectable painting can cost. (And for those who are going to drag out the iTunes comparison, please know that it takes a hell of a lot more work to write a novel than it does to write a 3-min pop song.) Behind just about any book there is a squad of people who created the thing. That's right, it didn't spontaneously self-generate on the shelf in the bookstore, nor on the server of your e-book retailer. If people insist on denying that books are created by people who deserve to be paid well for their work, then what incentive remains for anyone to write and/or publish books? Figure it out already.