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First, the terms of service for ebooks make it clear that regardless of price, we don't own the ebooks we purchase. Instead, we own a "license" to read them.

Second, five publishers conspired with Apple to create and maintain an artificially high price for ebooks. Apple has once again appealed the decision of US District Court Judge Denise Cote.

And finally, according to the New Republic, publishers only make a 41% profit on a hardback book. On an ebook, their profit soars to 75%. And the lower prices of ebooks (lower than hardback) do not result in a hardship for publishers. A $27.99 hardback book produces $5.67 in profit. The same book offered in digital format sells for $14.99 and yields a profit of $7.87.

I have problems with this. Not least is the fact that $14.99 is an outrageous price to pay for a license to read a book. But also, why is the publisher making a 75% profit instead of the writer?

Last week, I posted some of the results of Hugh Howey's report on Author Earnings. My focus was on Amazon's dominance of the ebook market, especially in the indie or self published genre fiction. This week I would like to look at how the big five publishers are cutting themselves the largest slices of every pie.

Howey's first report focused on a single day of 7,000 genre (mystery/science fiction/romance) fiction ebook sales at Amazon. A follow-up report included information on 54,000 bestselling ebooks at Amazon, of all types. Of the 54,000, 11,000 were genre (all fiction genre) fiction titles.

His third report, which was released yesterday covers some 5,000 genre fiction ebooks sold at Barnes & Noble. The results in one area seem remarkably consistent across all three reports: the author makes more money via indie or self publishing.

Most of the critiques of Howey's report dealt with how he was either ignoring print books (well, duh, he was talking about ebooks) and/or how he was using a snapshot of one day to extrapolate future earnings that the data didn't support. The fact that he ignored print books didn't bother me, nor was I particularly concerned with his extrapolations. He wouldn't have to make so many guesses, made on so little information, if the publishers and sellers like Amazon weren't so tight fisted when it comes to actual dollar figures.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo make it even harder to get a clear picture of author earning by forbidding its authors to even discuss how many books they sell or how much they make.

It’s a little known fact that the terms of service for both Amazon and Barnes and Noble prohibit openly discussing exact sales figures, even for self-published authors; Kobo’s terms of service cannot be discussed as they pertain to this article because the Writing Life terms of service forbid even disclosing what’s contained in the terms of service. This disclosure for all companies apparently even extends to so much as a lowly blog or Facebook post, preventing a self-published author from even sharing with his own followers that he’s celebrating the sale of his 100th copy of his book, for example.

GoodEReader

From the picture that we are getting through a glass darkly however, it seems that digital books are a bonanza for the big five publishers. They charge us readers more money per book, pay the authors royalties similar to print, and pocket the difference, all the while claiming that the publishing industry is in dire financial straits. And that piracy is a real threat to their existence so they need DRM to further restrict how we are able to read the books we purchase licenses for.

Aaarrrggghhh

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule:






DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
alternate
Sundays
2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
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Sundays
2:00 PM Bibliophile's Wish List Caedy
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays (on hiatus) 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
alternate Fridays 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 03:11 PM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

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