Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Does an Ebook Byte Really Cost?

There has been a lot of ink, real and digital, spent on the current government “crackdown” on those felons that run the big publishing houses and Apple over price fixing ebooks. Comments and articles about forcing the consumer to pay millions more than they should for an ebook are everywhere. And the scenarios imagined in the press (they have these perps meeting in darkened rooms to fix the price of a bundle of bytes), are well, just head-scratchers.

Is there is a common price for ebooks? Go to iBook, or Barnes & Noble, and even Amazon and scroll down the prices. At first glance they seem all over the place, and at second glance you notice that they ARE all over the place. Part of the reason for trying to fix a price for a service or product across an industry is to insure future profits and ultimately control over that market. It is a way to attempt to control the marketplace, this is why the Feds feel entitled to wave a big stick. Ultimately this leads to complete failure, whether the nannies in Washington get involved or not. I for one missed the price sheet, I set my books at whatever price I hope the market will bear, so far some of my books have sold in the price range of $5.99 to free. Some days I think the market wants me to pay them to read the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles.

I really don’t care what these publishers tried to do; it would have failed miserably anyway, the market just doesn’t care. The market will do what it does, they may control prices for a while but they will not win. They may have, like the meetings of the Dons in one of Mario Puzo’s books, even tried to set the price of these electronic books. But my take is a bit more sinister, suppose the real reason is to control the Internet itself. I can just imagine the scenario:

“But, Don Corleone, you are the biggest of us, you have millions in the bank, and control over the politicians and the judges, in all fairness you must allow us a taste.”

“This may be true,” the elder Don said thinking of his empire of editors, warehouses, print shops and bookstores. “But we must go after the younger people, we have to get them hooked on our product, make it so WE are their only source. Let the others have their hardbacks and paperbacks; they are only librarians anyway. We are the future, we will control their minds through these iPads and readers.” Corleone said as he pointed to the piles of shiny tablet computers strewn about the dark mahogany. “It’s through these that we will control the market and thus make millions.”

The heads of the other families nodded, for many decades they had tried to control their respective neighborhoods through intimidation and fear. By twisting their street peddlers, the bookstores, with high wholesale prices, the bookstores were forced to continually raise the product’s price, but hell their customers where addicted, who cared as long as the money flowed.

“But I fear for a new gang in town,” a small voice said at the corner of the table.

“What new gang? If you are talking about the Independents, they are nothing to me.” Don Corleone said thinking of his dead brothers Don Amiche and Don Knotts. He hadn't heard from his missing brother, Don Rickles in months. “They sell a poor product, they are nothing, they know nothing of our business, they are foolish children. We will step on them like the little bugs they are.”

“But Don,” the small voice insisted, “we are only five or six or some other number I can't remember, and after the mysterious death of one of our best dealers, Don Borders, we are all afraid, should we go to the mattresses?”

“Fear, I laugh at fear, and quit talking in confused sentence structures.” The room was immediately filled with the Don’s booming laughter. He almost spit the tissue he had jammed in his cheeks. “That is why I am here, to save your miserable shelves, let me set the price for these ebooks, I know what’s best.”

“But Don, with all respect, these are some of our most addicted souls, they are writing and putting their ebooks on the market right next to ours, without our help. Their dealer Amazon…”

“Don’t mention Amazon to me in this room, they are lost to me. If I could I would kiss them on the mouth, that would show them.”

“Yes Don, we all know of your hatred for these people, but they are also one of our biggest dealers, we have to meet with them.”

“Who are you to tell me what to do?” The Don nodded to one of his henchmen, B. Noble, there was a shot. “Does anyone else have a question?”

“We are on your side Don Corleone, you will lead us,” the chorus of family heads said as one voice. Smiles ringed the table.

Their revere was cut short by a knock on the door, henchman B. Noble squinted through the door’s peep hole, “Holy horse head Don Corleone, it’s the Feds.”

All the others looked at the Don with fear written in large letters (Garamond font), on their faces, he smiled and strummed the back of his cheek with his fingertips. After a dramatic pause, he said, “I invited them.”
More later . . . . .

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