[FoRK] Sony's 2nd gen ebook reader site

Ken Meltsner meltsner
Sun Jan 8 14:54:24 PST 2006

DRM turns the product into a niche tool -- if the features are good
enough, the DRM might be acceptable to certain markets.

For example, textbooks:  the publishers would love the DRM stuff,
students would like to pay less per quarter, etc.  Is the ebook itself
good enough for this application?  Resolution is decent, many
textbooks (once you get outside the popular courses) are monochrome,
print runs are small (driving costs way, way up), etc.

The big issue will be price.  It always is.  Publishers will insist on
receiving nearly the same revenue from the electronic version even
though they can add "features" like expiration of content (no more
competition from used book sales!).  Some of the accounting figures
I've seen indicate that creating and dealing with "real" books is not
that big a deal -- printing and binding might be a few dollars per
copy for a textbook retailing for $50 unless the press run is
ridiculously small.  Warehousing/fulfillment adds a few bucks; the
retailer adds 25% to the wholesale price (traditionally) for their
effort.  The remaining costs go to support editorial and marketing, I
believe.  Unfortunately, these costs don't go away for ebooks.

My guess is that even though a $400 ebook reader might make sense for
textbook users, the publishers will not be willing to adopt a business
model that would also be attractive to those users.  Consider it the
reference & professional publishing equivalent of the iTunes store's
battle with music publishers over flat rate pricing.

Ken Meltsner

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