Friday, February 5, 2010

The Price of an Ebook

There has been a lot of talk the past week regarding the price of ebooks thanks to Amazon and Macmillian Publishing. If you haven't heard or read about Amazon pulling all Macmillian books off their site this past weekend (as well as samples off people's Kindles), you can get caught up on the story by reading this amazing blog post about it by Scott Westerfeld.

I'm not going to choose sides, who I think is right and who is wrong. To be honest, I think that both sides have their argument and deserve to be heard. I am going to talk about prices of ebooks and what I feel is a respectable prices for a digital equivalent to some of my favorite books.

The whole debate has spread to many blogs and message boards, including a nook message board that I regularly follow now that I'm a nook owner. Not to trail off topic, but even if you don't have an ereader, there are some great people/discussions going on about good books in general.

Anyway, back to the whole debate of ebook pricing. I didn't know what I would write my blog post about today until I read a few comments on that message board regarding the Amazon vs. Macmillian fight. I found myself quickly responding, jumping on my soapbox so quickly, I'm surprised I didn't twist my virtual ankle.

It seems a lot of owners of ereaders believe ebook should be cheaper than other versions of said book. I agree with that, but just how cheap? While most people agree that $10 is a fair price for an ebook (and I tend to agree), one poster mentioned that they believe they should be no more than a dollar...and that's when I had to jump into the thread with my own post, which was as follows:

It takes a write/author a year or more to write and edit their stories. Take into consideration everything that goes into making the book beyond just the physical printing. You need the author, agent, editor, proofreader, type setter, marketing, cover designer...the list goes ON AND ON. They don't just take the Word file (for example) and change it to epub or whatever format of the choosing. If an average reader understood how much goes into making a book, you'd be dumbfounded. I'm currently shopping my manuscript to agents. I've worked on it since March 2008 and it is now in draft 8. I worked on it every single day for over a year straight. That is before anything happens to it in the publishing world. That's just trying to get it to a quality high enough to start querying agents.

So, for the person who said that it should cost a dollar, tell me, is there something in your life that you put years into that you don't think deserves to be sold for more than a dollar? I've spent hours of sleepless nights working on my manuscript, let alone the blood, sweat and tears (literally) it has taken to get to the point it is at.

Author gets a very small percent of the money spent by the consumer on the book. When their portion is divided out (which is smaller for ebooks than it is for printed books in most cases), they then give (usually) 15% of that to their agent.

Of course, all of that also goes into a book that is printed, but several of the steps have to be formated for it to look nice and pretty on your nook, Kindle, etc. Why do you think most scanned books, pdfs, etc look like crap on ereaders and the "real" ebooks don't.

I just don't get why people think that just because it's digital they can get everything free. No one thinks beyond their pocket book that a group of people put hard hours in to make it.

I'll get off my soapbox now. Carry on.

Now, that may not be the best post I've ever written on a message board thread, but it came from disbelief and passion. I believe ebooks should be cheaper than hardback books. But ONE DOLLAR? Insanity. But, it got me thinking, how much is an ebook worth and what can we look to for pricing?

I think that $10 is reasonable as I stated above. I compare it to the price of paperbacks. They are cheaper than hardbacks, and rightfully so. I also understand why some ebooks come out after the hardback release. Isn't that like books that are both in paperback and hardback? If they were released at the same time, wouldn't most people buy the cheaper option, especially in this economy? Of course they would.

Anyway, I will now climb off my soap box, but I thought it was an interesting topic. Why do you think people expect digital versions of things (ebooks, smartphone applications, etc) to be free or next to nothing and what do you think is a good price for ebooks?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

YAedge Feature Author: Jacqueline Houtman

We welcome another amazing guest from the Class of 2k10 to YAedge, Jacqueline Houtman, author of The Reinvention of Edison Thomas (Front Street). I'm looking forward to reading this title and will be recommending it to students, parents and staff who work with students at my school with Eddy-ish challenges.

The blurb:

Science geek Eddy Thomas can invent useful devices to do anything, except solve his bully problem.

Eddy Thomas can read a college physics book, but he can’t read the emotions on the faces of his classmates at Drayton Middle School. He can spend hours tinkering with an invention, but he can’t stand more than a few minutes in a noisy crowd, like the crowd at the science fair, which Eddy fails to win.

When the local school crossing guard is laid off, Eddy is haunted by thoughts of the potentially disastrous consequences and invents a traffic-calming device, using parts he has scavenged from discarded machines. Eddy also discovers new friends, who appreciate his abilities and respect his unique view of the world. They help Eddy realize that his “friend,” Mitch is the person behind the progressively more distressing things that happen to Eddy. By trusting his real friends and accepting their help, Eddy uses his talents to help others and rethinks his purely mechanical definition of success.

Here we go with the questions:

Eddy sounds like he has special challenges in life. I haven’t read the book yet, (can’t wait to get my copy!) but I’m guessing he has Asperger's or a similar disorder. I’ve met kids like Eddy at my school and I know they (and the staff who work with them) will identify with his struggles. How much research did you do to write Eddy’s story?

You guessed correctly. Eddy is indeed “on the autism spectrum.” Certainly a lot of the research was through observation. I had a few people who served as “technical advisors.” Autism--and Asperger’s syndrome in particular--is more common than many people think. Several studies have estimated that one in 100 people fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. I suspect the rate is even higher among scientists and engineers.

I also did academic research. For example, when looking at facial expressions, most people use a particular part of the brain to interpret what they see. People on the spectrum use a different part of the brain, a part that usually is involved in recognition of inanimate objects. For this reason, I made sure that all the descriptions of facial expressions were very mechanical. Eddy analyzes facial expressions instead of instinctively understanding what others are feeling.

I love that while you’re a scientist (of what exactly?) you also dabbled in theatre and write fiction. When writing The Reinvention of Edison Thomas, were there times where you struggled to blend fact with fiction?

I have a PhD in Medical Microbiology and Immunology and I’ve been making my living as a freelance science writer for more than ten years. I’m a stickler for scientific accuracy (so is Eddy). I’m not sure what you mean by “blending.” All fiction contains factual elements. Look at historical fiction. To be any good, it requires huge amounts of research so that the historical facts are correct. I like to call EDDY “sciency fiction” because real science is integral to the story, and not just tacked on. The characters and events may be fictional, but there’s nothing speculative about the science.

I see Eddy has some fun facts stored in his random memory. Care to share your favourite with us?

I’m a walking trivia encyclopedia, so they are all my favorites. Here’s one—“Fact Number 28 from the Random Access Memory of Edison Thomas: Listening to slow music can lower your heart rate, while music with a faster tempo can increase your heart rate.” I like this one because 28 (the fact number) is the lowest recorded heart rate, and the record belongs to Miguel Indurain, a five-time winner of the Tour de France. I’m a big fan of the Tour de France, and Indurain, so this was a great way to sneak The Tour into the book. (Observant readers will note that the random fact numbers throughout the book are not really random.)

Just for fun can you make this sentence sound scientificy?
“Sneezing makes me feel funny inside.”

It depends on what you mean by “funny” and “inside.” I’m going to take a guess and go with “Sternutation induces subcutaneous crepitus.” Crepitus is a grating, crackling, or popping sound and sensation.

How did you discover Eddy’s favourite band, They Might Be Giants?

A friend introduced me to their first CD for kids, which is called NO!. I loved that it appeals to both kids and grownups. No offense, but one can only stand so much Raffi. I started listening to more of their music, both the grownup and kids’ stuff. My favorite songs are the ones with the obscure facts. Who else would do a song about James K. Polk? In a quirk of timing, I found out about the imminent release of Here Comes Science just as I was doing copyedits. It’s a kids’ CD made up entirely of science songs, so it was bound to be Eddy’s favorite. That required some changes in the ms. In the course of a couple of days, I got my hands on the CD, changed the text (and rewrote a scene), and sent the ms to my editor.

If you could invent any device to make your life safer – what would it be?

I would love a bicycle force field. We’re a big biking family; my husband commutes by bike, even in sub-zero temperatures. Madison is generally a bike-friendly city, but sometimes the drivers are not as alert to cyclists as they should be. A force field would protect bikers from cell-phone-talking, texting, coffee-drinking, mascara-applying drivers.


You've just inspired me to haul my bike out of the garage this spring. ;) Thanks for hanging with us and we wish you many readers. Check out Jacqueline's website for additional info and more cool science facts!