Fraser Speirs is a software developer (Mac and iPhone) and a teacher. This is from his blog where you can find further exposition.
Let me make this very clear: I know absolutely nothing about publishing. I don’t know how deals are structured, I don’t know about advances or geographical rights or anything. All I know is that I’m being offered one package of words in, usually, three formats – hardback, paperback and ebook – at three different prices.
In The Design of Everyday Things Donald Norman famously wrote about the disconnect between the user’s mental model of how something works and how it actually works. I think I have this problem with ebooks.
Here’s how I think of it:
I made these numbers up and I have no idea if the relative proportions of these blocks are correct in any way. In a sense, that’s not the point. What I’m expressing here is how I think about the value proposition when presented with three different ways to read the same book.
The thing that rubs me the wrong way with being asked to pay a premium for an ebook is that, thanks to DRM, a publisher gets to sell a copy that can never ever be resold. I think that enforced reduction to zero of the resale value of a book should be reflected in the purchase price – particularly for higher-end titles such as reference books.
The graph above shows how I think of ebooks and my buying behaviour reflects that. I don’t see ebooks as luxury items. I don’t see how pricing ebooks above hardback prices is defensible when there has been no material to physically construct and ship. I particularly resent that pricing structure when so many ebooks that I purchase have obvious OCR errors or truly awful typography.