This blog post by Paul Cornell makes some good points about e-book, publishing and piracy:


Including stuff like:


1: Publishers have always thought that when you buy a hardback, what you're paying more for is the chance to own it on the day of publication. Paperbacks are cheaper because they come out a year later. The reading public, on the other hand, always thought what they were paying more for was the extra physical mass and quality... From this difference in perception stem all subsequent horrors.


Worth a look, I think.


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Interesting, but the real issue is the pirating, and that will grow exponentially until the sites are legally held to account and fined heavily enough to discourage them.

The issue with books being available at different prices on Amazon and Amazon UK needs to be fixed by Amazon UK, who will have to accept the lower price.  For that matter, U.S. citizens will soon also pay VAT.  I rather doubt that our country is enlightened enough to except print versions of books from that. And why is there VAT on e-books but not on the same book in print?


A hard cover does cost more to produce than a mmpb, but probably not much.  Mmpbs are the next best thing to trash.  They tend to fall apart after one use and frequently part of the text is illegible because it's in the binding because the publisher has crammed as many words as possible on each page.

How would taxing e-books work? If I sell some through my private site, then report it on my income taxes, I'm taxed that way. VAT would be another tax on top of this? Good luck enforcing that one.

VAT is a sales tax in England (and other European countries).

We have one in Canada, too, the GST (Goods and Services Tax). Anyone who charges for a good or a service has to charge the tax, but only after $30,000 per year. All freelancers have to set up a GST number, but then as Benjamin says, it gets declared on income tax and there are a lot of deductions avalable to "small business" which is how freelancers are qualified.

Pretty much every industrial country has something like it.

It does seem odd to tax e-books and printed books dfferently and that's likely something that will change.



Having a floor on the income before the tax kicks in, as the GST in Canada, is more reasonable. I'd hate to get pinched by the IRS on a few ebook sales.
The customer pays VAT.  The seller passes it on. I suppose if you're selling your own books, you have the hassles. Otherwise it's Amazon or the distributor.  At least I think that's the way it works, but these days I'm not swearing to anything.
He went on a bit long on the whole "piracy is bad" thing. He's right, but long-winded.

This first point is the best takeaway of the whole piece. A classic example of twp parties looking at exactly the same thing from different perspectives and seeing something completely different. The catch here is that the publishers are demonstrably wrong. If they charge more for quicker access and readers don't see the benefit to it ("thought what they were paying more for was the extra physical mass and quality"), then the publishers don't know, or understand, their customers or market. Which, when you think about it based on recent examples, sounds about right.

Bookstores also played into this - they liked having the more expensive hardcovers to sell exclusively for a while.

But you're rght, it's no way to serve customers. In my most recent contract negotiations with my publisher the important things for me were having every version of the book available on the same day and in every country.



Congratulations on winning your point.  I just lost two contracts over this sort of thing.  And I still maintain that the customers who buy hardcovers are different from the ones who buy electronic versions.

What really hurts sales is library purchases.  These days of improved cataloguing, the libraries have the books on their shelves when the stores do.  Strangely, publishers don't seem to care about that.

Well, with the little advance I get, I feel I should get everything else i ask for ;)

Libraries don't buy very many copies. I'm about number 125 on the waiting list for one of thirty copies of Jonothan Franzen's Freedom at my local library. If I really wanted it I'd buy it. And the library only bought that many copies because there are so many requests for the book. The Toronto Public Library buys one copy for every six requests. If there are no requests they sometimes buy one copy for all the branches to share.

Recently I bought two e-books for less than ten dollars that had just come out in hardcover, Elmore Leonard's Djibouti and Keith Richards' Life. In those cases what the publisher lost was paperback sales because niether book was available in paperback yet. 


But that means you didn't buy the hc versions.  Perhaps you wouldn't have anyway.  As for releasing the paperback a year later: I would have forgotten all about the book by then. At that point, you get only sales to casual browsers. It sort of confirms what I have always suspected.  Tried and true fans will buy your books in hardcover -- even at the shocking price of 29 dollars (which is the price my most recent publisher put on mine).

I might have bought the Elmore Leonard hardcover, but not Keith's. It's a good book and I enjoyed it but not that much.

So, cheaper versions (paperbacks or ebooks) can extend an author's reach past tried and true fans. As a fan there are maybe three or four authors whose books I buy as hardcovers, but many, many more authors whose books I buy in cheaper formats.

There are a lot more types of book buyers than just tried and true fans and casual browsers. Might as well try to serve them all.



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