I recently flipped over a paperback cover of “the Justice” done by a celebrity lecturer at Harvard, Michael Sandel. Paperback version of the Justice was published by the Penguin Books. It had short back-grounder of the company and the founder, Sir Allen Lane. As noted in the back-grounder, Penguin Books was great entrepreneurial and philanthropic journey of Sir Lane to bring quality books to mass-market at fraction of the price of those sturdy but expensive hard-cover titles.
Sometimes, the books published by Penguin are heavily edited to fit into the format of Penguin’s design guideline or cost structure. Though, books are very appealing as readers can easily get to the point, grab authors’ main idea, and also enjoy original style whether books are classic or post-modern pieces. Though, the biggest attraction of Penguin titles was definitely its low price point, which was only 6 pence when the Penguin published its first title. (Oh, well, now, mid size paper-back from Penguin Books costs 9-10 pounds due to inflation and higher production & distribution costs.) Mass-market have enjoyed quality books at quality price for several decades thanks to Sir Lane’s efforts.
eBooks are very trendy new novelties that are mainly pioneered by Kindle and iPad. Though, due to its pricey pricing policy of single title often ranging avg. 9-something-dollars, it gives a good reason for mass-market not to jump on the wagon right away. eBook is cheaper than paper-back and hard-cover. Though, it does not cost as much as what publisher needs to spend for manufacturing, distribution, and managing inventory. With eBook, authors and readers can be greatly rewarded as there are minimal middlemen in the distribution process. eBook is very environment friendly saving trees cut for paper. eBook does not require complex distribution such as warehouse or inventory cost. eBook is even easier to make worldwide distribution or update release.
Price is really big pain. We respect creative work of authors and their efforts to come up with great master-piece. However, we don’t want to see eBook industry is crippled by publishers’ overwhelming greediness and slow response to mass-market’s increasing demand for eBook titles. Growth of iPod or other portable MP3 players sales is greatly contributed by MP3’s universal standard that can be used by literally all the devices supporting MP3 format. Though, more importantly, what music labels and publishers have come up with in terms of pricing point, that is in the range of so-called micro payment pricing level, music labels have successfully tapped in mass-market and also reduce piracy.
We’d like to see more quality book titles on our fancy eBook devices. Given entry price to buy device will go down soon and also technology such as longer battery or brigher, but less-power consuming display would enhance. Though, we’d like to see more MP3-alike pricing point that makes eBook more accessible and compelling. Paper book publishing will decrease. Trouble faced by Barnes & Noble, a major bookstore chain in the Untied States, could be a good example how paper-based publishing industry will struggle in the near future.
Publishers may enjoy more profitable and manageable business with eBook. Though, in order to make eBook mass-market appeal, you have to sell at right price. If publishers can’t, at least, they can sell by a piece (like chapter by chapter) so that readers can pick and choose what they want. People who want to have whole chapters or tangible books in paper will continue shopping anyways.