One thing librarians are always ranting about is the cost of eBooks. In some instances, the eBook can cost 150-200% of the list price. The Kindle 2 blog just posted an interesting break down on the cost of print books. When it comes down to it, printing costs are only about 10% of the total book cost. Author royalties, marketing, proof reading/editing, cover design and the like all take a piece of the pie as well. These expenses don’t magically go away on the eBook. The 10% printing cost is used to manage interfaces, buy servers, and to pay programmers, which probably costs more than 10% of the book I would think. Ron Boehm, from ABC-CLIO, wrote a nice article about the economics of publishing and ebooks for NSR, it contains more information on the pricing of p vs. e. The question still remains, why are some eBooks priced at list and others at 150 – 200% over list? I think some of this has to do with the number of simultaneous users, 24/7 access, and other value added features that a publisher or aggregator may offer. Recouping costs of development and storage are probably factored in their too. None of this makes it any easier to swallow for those of us paying the higher costs, but one can only hope that over time, as the eBook matures and interfaces are perfected, that the costs will stabilize.
On the Friday of the ALAMW Conference, the Independent Reference Publishers Group met for a panel presentation/discussion on using one single platform to host all reference content. It was an interesting discussion. I’ve summarized the panel in my notes below.
Independent Reference Publishers Group Meeting
Friday, January 23, 2009
Representatives from the following organizations were in attendance: Choice, CQ Press, Omnigraphics, Sharpe, ifactory, Sage, Salem, Neal Schumann, ABC-CLIO, Rosen, Credo Reference, Serials Solutions, NISO, Booklist, CHOICE, Wright State University.
The theme of this meeting and panel discussion was instituting a single platform for electronic reference content. Sue Polanka from WSU started things off with her wish list and each publisher had a chance to respond.
Sue Polanka — Wright State University
One day I’d like to purchase/license all of my reference content, regardless of publisher, and load it on the platform of my choice for the best cross searching available. This platform could be an existing one, like GVRL, Credo, ebrary, EBL, NetLibrary, etc. or some shareware, something developed by libraries. Benefits to patrons and librarians include: Greater access, more content, single search interface for ease of use and discoverabilty, easy to implement in library instruction and on web sites. These systems need to have unlimited simultaneous use, 24/7 access, with no DRM or other restrictions on downloading or printing, the most multimedia available during today’s expensive economic times and an actual ebook price, up front, would be appreciated.
Todd Carpenter – NISO
One platform has barriers to interoperability and they are bigger than technological, as in political and economic. [barriers shouldn’t prevent us from trying to do this. IRPG would be a good venue to discuss this. Seems like publishers would want to do this for reasons of — more exposure, and less cost of producing pricey interfaces — has anyone ever heard of epub or the IDPF? SP]
Peter McCracken — Serials Solutions
Federated products are often a starting point for research and therefore have an opportunity to have a reference role. The current design doesn’t work best for the patron since they get mostly articles. Somehow relevance needs to be a factor to assign tags to reference and get them to the top. We need to use field mapping more effectively. [I prefer a pre-indexed approach since federated products tend to be slow. Publishers/aggregators should take advantage of all metadata and tag reference items appropriately. If federated products are used, the reference content should be faceted as “overview material” or “background information.” SP]
Rolf Janke — Sage Reference
Publishers still have an infrastructure that supports print publishing. The infrastructure is a difficult component to downsize in favor of doing more digital publishing. Print is a one size fits all model yet e publishing is not so, publishers have a multitude of business models, interfaces, features, etc. The concept of a one size fits all platform for all publishers content is way ahead of its time, publishers currently could never agree on a standard business model. Pricing standards could help, but are not likely. [Gee, these must be the political and economic barriers that Todd was referring to? Looks like publishers could learn about collaboration from libraries. SP]
Ron Boehm — ABC-CLIO
Publishers need to invest in new things while maintaining our print production, which is expensive for publishers, particularly in these bad economic times. Right now we need to do both [e and p] or we would lose half of our business. The best strategy for ebooks is to have unlimited access. Ron supports the idea of publishers working with multiple aggregators or distributors to have reference content available in a multitude of platforms, but doesn’t recommend the libraries/consortia maintain their own platform. [Ditto on unlimited access and multiple aggregators. OhioLINK has been maintaining its own platforms for years. It’s a great system when you want to make enhancements and don’t have to wait on other companies or the majority of users to agree. SP]
Big news in reference publishing today. ABC-CLIO has licensed the content of Greenwood Imprints. Here’s a clip of the press release:
ABC-CLIO and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt today announced an agreement granting ABC-CLIO a perpetual license to use the imprints and publish the titles of Greenwood Publishing Group, including Greenwood Press, Praeger Publishers, Praeger Security International and Libraries Unlimited. In addition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will transfer certain assets, including copyrights, contracts and inventory, of Greenwood Publishing Group to ABC-CLIO. This agreement is effective immediately.
According to Ron Boehm, a No Shelf Required Advisory Board Member, oh, and the CEO of ABC-CLIO, they will dramatically be scaling up the eBook program with this combination. I like to hear that news!
Sounds like the perfect October audio interview to me….Ron, you up for it?
Attention Librarians – want to get an insiders look at print and eBook pricing? Ron Boehm, Chairman and CEO of ABC-CLIO Publishing has written a great summary of the economics of reference publishing. It’s available exclusively on No Shelf Required’s Pricing Models page. Your comments and questions are always welcome.