eBook publisher insanity!

I just got myself an eBook reader – the new Sony PRS-300. Sony PRS-300

It’s a new device, and while it doesn’t have many gizmos and features it does have a great little screen that is pleasant for reading books. I read a lot of books, and my first thought when I got it in the post was to – you guessed it – buy a bunch of books for it 🙂


Waterstones has an online bookshop that sells eBooks, and while the selection is fairly small I was sure I could find something. Specifically, I was interested in Peter Hamilton’s Void Trilogy, where I had listened to the first book as an audio book. And yes, they have it – here is what it looks like in the shop, first the special edition hardback version for £12.50:
Void - Hardback special edition
To my surprise, the eBook version of the same book – which has no cost of shipping, printing, etc – is £15.90, or £3.40 MORE than the special edition hardback:
eBook listing
What is WRONG with these people? I was hoping and expecting to find the eBook version a bit cheaper than the paperback version. For £5, I would have bought it and thought it was a bit expensive, and for £2.50 I would have bought a whole bunch of them. But for £15.90, they can keep their eBooks!

It’s astonishing. If I buy a physical book, I can scribble in it, read it, lend it to someone, and sell it when I don’t want it any more. The Ebook is protected with DRM (Digital Rights Management), I am not allowed to copy it or resell it, and I can’t lend it to anyone. Yet it’s more expensive than the hardback!

Unless publishers wake up to this and start pricing eBooks at a reasonable level, the market will never pick up. Instead, people will buy what they want in hardback, and use pirated copies for their eBook needs – whether from a single sold copy or from a scanned and OCR’ed physical book. Clearly, the publishing industry learned nothing from what happened in the music world and to CDs.

3 thoughts on “eBook publisher insanity!

  1. I just sent the following to Waterstones – hopefully they will respond:

    Hi Waterstones,

    I have just bought a PRS-300, and I am frankly outraged at the prices you charge for eBooks. eBooks should be SUBSTANTIALLY cheaper than the paperback version – after all, it has no distribution costs, no printing costs, you can’t ever make too many of them so the risk is low, and I can’t share or sell it once I’m done with it because of the DRM.

    The first book I tried to look at cost MORE in eBook than in hardback. Instead of buying the book, I’ve written a brief blog post about the experience – I would appreciate your thoughts on this: http://www.mertner.com/allan/?p=120

    Now, priced at somewhere in the £2-4 bracket, I would buy many eBooks – including ones I already have in another form. At more than £5 per book, my money will go elsewhere…

    Thanks,
    Allan Mertner

  2. This is the reply that Waterstones eventually sent back, largely misunderstanding my issue. They are sorry to hear that I am unhappy with the fact that ebooks cost at LEAST as much as the printed versions, but that’s it. Not very impressive, IMO!


    Dear Allan,

    Thank you for your email.

    I am sorry to hear that you are unhappy with the price difference between ebooks and other formats online.

    There are a number of reasons why the prices are different online but as this is an exclusive product prices may vary, I would like to inform you that in the future there will be reductions and promotions as the item becomes more popular.

    I do apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

    Kind regards,

    David Sebastian
    Customer Service Team
    Waterstones.com

  3. I’m not a fan of ebooks for three reasons

    (1) books require no electricity to read

    (2) AFAIK I cannot lend my ebook to a friend to read without lending my drm enslaved device as well

    (3) I cannot sell my ebook after I’m done reading it (sell in the not-piracy sense, obviously)

    [this is my 10th attempt to submit this comment… yes, I can do arithmetic. Thank God for the Lazarus firefox extension]

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