I'm really looking forward to reading Eugenides' new book, but am I alone in thinking that the e-book version is priced too high?
I understand that the content is the same as the hardback printed version i.e, it has been edited to within an inch of its life, and typeset professionally. But really, why is a format of the book whose price isn't dictated by the cost of paper and print production only £1.81 less?
I really think that publishers need to start thinking of bundling e-book downloads in with their hardcopy print versions as standard. How would this work, you may ask? Here's my idea:
If a print version of a book is purchased then there are a number of ways that the e-book can be downloaded. The first is through the use of a QR code which allows one download to one logged IP address. This would then stop others downloading the e-book once the print version is discarded in second hand bookshops.
Or, much like on blu-ray films, there is a promotional code that is entered which allows allows one download to one logged IP address.
This downloaded book which is either DRM-free or reader-specific (a choice is given to the reader which format they would like to download) comes DIRECTLY from the publisher. Not Amazon (sorry guys)... not Waterstones... but from the publisher. They will have to create a site/service for such an option but at least they will have control over the distribution of the digital versions. This version of the book only ever comes from the publisher if it is requested in conjunction with a physical sale. If only an e-book is purchased, it will be from Amazon or some other bookshop site. There should also be the option to "upgrade" from digital to physical if the purchaser wishes. That way, physical book sales can follow digital rather than the other way around, should the purchaser want to "keep" the book forever, or lend it to a friend.
But what the purchaser won't be able to do is "lend" the digital copy because it is downloaded into a specially designed program such as Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, etc. These programs allow you to read your book within the program but not to distribute it. This cuts out piracy (to a degree).
Now, if a purchaser is unhappy with a book then I think changes need to be made to purchasing rights. Much like music downloads, if you buy it you keep it, no matter whether you like it or now. If you but a print book, you have five days to return said book in perfect condition, and if the e-book has been downloaded, there is a facility built in that means publishers can "call back" books off computers that they have the IP address of. This would all be covered in the Accepted Terms and Conditions. Therefore, if a return is made, money is given back to the purchaser for the print version and a "call back" is sent to their computer which either deletes said e-book from their system or "locks" it so that they can't read it anymore.
This, to me, seems a perfectly fair system under which to distribute e-books alongside their print versions.
Now, if the current back-of-office systems set up in publishers and booksellers cannot cope with the idea of e-book downloads and the new ways of addressing credit control issues, dealing with returns and trade discounts then I suggest publishers and booksellers re-address how they deal with these issues in light of digital downloads regardless of how they have dealt with them in the past. Why such a blatantly incendiary statement? Because digital is not going to go away... if anything it's growing and those who do not embrace the new technology will be those left moaning the old ways as their businesses go down the drain.