A Year without Big Pubs

I had started another rant about eBook prices. And then I saw this, and it only made things worse.

Basic overview: the five major publishers got together and decided that ebook prices were too low, so together they would raise them.

I’m pretty sure you can’t do that. Price fixing, or something. What it means though is that books will continue there upward path from $10 for a new ebook to $12, $15, $20… For a text file.

Add on Brian Keene‘s (and many, many others) recent spat with his previous publisher and I have decided it time for action, not just blog posts.

So rather than post yet another rant about ebook prices, or about how big publishing treats writers and readers, I’ve decided to do something about it. My plan is to go a full year and not buy a single book from the major publishers.

Not. One.

I will read. I will read public domain books. I will read small press. I will read blogs and I will read forums. I will read, and I will buy books. But not theirs. Will I miss things? Great novels? good biographies? Even things written by friends? Yes. Yes I will.

But it is time to put my money where my mouth is. Will Macmillan notice that I’m not buying the latest shovelware best seller? No. But I will notice where my entertainment dollars are going to.

(What I don’t know is what to do about movies and music, so that will be another post.)

Notes on an Open Letter to Content Creators

Often times you will find yourself in a situation where there was something you wanted to say, something you wanted to express, but had difficulty in doing so. And then someone does it for you, better than you’d have done anyway.

This is such a case. The post, entitled “Why I Pirate, an Open Letter to Content Creators” off of Techdirt’s Step 2 community is an excellent read. I suggest it for anyone who creates content.

It isn’t so much about being ok with pirating, but about understanding the frustration that we, the consumers have with the products out there.

As it is said both in that article and several times elsewhere: one of the reasons we pirate is because the pirates offer a better product than the purchased version: Digital copies of movies without DRM or unskippable trailers; Ebooks that are properly formatted and in multiple formats; Games that have no DRM and will run offline (looking at you Starcraft); High bitrate music, available in places where people WANT to give you money but because of “Licenses” you won’t take it; no DRM; No DRM; NO F-ING DRM.

If you create content, I suggest you read that article and take note. As he says in the post “So let’s approach this from a different angle. How about we take a deeper look at why I pirate your content and how you can extract money from me.” This isn’t a rant about the **AA’s being bad, but rather a detailed analysis of one person’s view on content consumption. He spends money every month on content; do the creators want it?

And one final gem: “Stop pricing your content like a diva.”

*note, I don’t pirate content. It is worse than that for me: I don’t do anything. Not in a format I want? Not available how I think it should be? I’ll never watch/read/listen to it. So you don’t even get the benefits of someone who has consumed your content and will tell friends/buy the next one/maybe even buy that one.

Money in Impatience

Big content, whether it be movies or books (and to some degree music) is playing off of your impatience to make money.

Let’s take the movies as the biggest offenders. “Robotronic 5, attack of the Bastard” is coming out in two weeks. You know this because there have been TV ads and magazine ads and radio, bus stops, you are pretty sure someone painted the release date on the squirrel in your back yard.

Everybody is going to see this movie. EVERYBODY.

So what are your options? Let’s list them:

  1. In two weeks you go to the movie theatre. You buy your $12 movie ticket, $5 cherry Coke and split the $8 popcorn with the random guy next to you. You get to see the movie once from the very front row all the way to the left while the teenagers next to you talk and sometimes make out with each other. Your neck hurts.
  2. You wait longer, two to five months and spend $20 for the DVD, $35 for the Blu-Ray or $50 for the DVD/Blu-Ray/Special Collector’s Edition Hat. Now you can watch the movie at home all you want. Naturally you have to have a TV for this part to and a DVD/Blu-Ray/hat rack for this to work.
  3. You wait a bit longer, and the director’s cut comes out, it has 18 minutes of scenes that were cut out for a reason, a different box cover, three more special features you won’t watch. It comes in the $25 DVD, $40 DVD or the $75 DVD/Blu-Ray/Life Size Standee collector’s edition.
  4. You are pretty sure it will come out in 3D, first in the movies, then in DVD, but since you don’t have one of those TV’s you don’t care.
  5. You wait longer and it comes on cable, a premium channel like HBO that you spend $20 a month on. Sure you can’t decide when to watch it (unless you Tivo that Bastard) but you can watch it and lots other movies all month.
  6. You wait LONGER, like close to, what seems like forever (I mean ads for “Robotronic 6: The Bastard gets a job as a Nanny” are already out) and it will show up on regular cable/TV. Sure it has commercials, but at this point it is (mostly) free.
  7. Further down the road the DVD is in a bargain bin for $4

See how this goes?

This is not to say that you shouldn’t go to the movies or run out on release day to get a DVD. I am a proponent of all of these things. But you should be aware that your impatience is being exploited.

A great example of this recently was a deal that a major studio made with Netflix. See Neflix rents DVD’s and they were worried that if you could rend a DVD on the day it was released, well you might not go out buy it RIGHT NOW.

To be fair, these are the same studios that think that a movie has to make $200 Million in three days or it is a failure…

But the same thing is happening with books. We have hardcovers, then trade paperbacks, then mass markets. Ebooks are in there too, but again impatience is tied to their prices. Want the ebook when the hardcover is out? You’ll pay $15 for it. Want it when the trade is out? $10. Maybe, just maybe, it will drop to $7 or so when the mass market is out. By then you can get the hardcover for $2 in a used bookstore.

Just think of how many more people would have bought the ebook at $5 when it first came out…

Be patient. Spend your money wisely.