Make digital books cheaper than paper.

At the time of writing the Amazon Kindle edition of Sarah Pain’s book “Going Rogue” is selling for $14.09 and the hardback edition for $13.50.  This is utterly ludicrous – it’s a rip off and it’s bad for the environment. Amazon’s capitulation to Macmillan over selling eBooks (at a loss!) for $9.99 as a Kindle loss leader is a disaster for the customer and the planet… now Rupert Murdoch has sniffed an opportunity for increased profits price gouging us, the consumer, while his print media empire inexorably collapses around him (along with everyone else’s) [ref 2].  And all because the currently mythical iPad will apparently let publishers charge more… cheers Steve.

They’ve done it to us with music and now they’re trying to do it again with books.  A CD had to be pressed, packaged and transported to the point of sale then collected and taken home by the customer [ref 1] this last step contributing a significant amount to the energy cost.  A digital download is loaded onto a server and is ready to go… only the vendor has to be paid.  Server farms certainly consume energy in substantial quantities, however, they are becoming more efficient with each improvement in technology and monetary and energy costs are tiny compared to shipping a physical product.

With books the gap is even more pronounced as the finished physical product is bulkier and heavier than a CD and the digital download is tiny compared to music at a high sample rate [ref 1] shows bandwidth is a factor with music, not so with books.  Also a book was often read by many people particularly if a copy is released to the library system so the author got paid once and once only – well protected digital books vastly reduce this ability for people to share and they therefore sell more copies. There is no justification for using this huge reduction in overhead and the improvement in profitability to make a killing at the expense of the customer.

eBooks reduce the need for paper, power and water.

Please hug me...

There are other reasons to encourage people to use digital books rather than paper.  Paper, even when recycled, is a very expensive resource in terms of materials and water consumption – 3 times the raw material and 78 times more water than an eBook [ref 3].  Don’t misunderstand me here – it’s still better to take an unwanted book, pulp it, clean it, bleach it and make it into another book than it is to burn it or kill another tree.  It’s also highly desirable to stop creating new paper and process what we have it into insulation and use it to build a low cost well insulated home.

But any way you look at it paper is a dreadful waste of energy and water.  Publishers, therefore, have a moral duty to discourage the use of paper and encourage the use of eBooks.  Stick a little advert at the bottom of the page to make it worth your while… I’m really not bothered.

© Chas Newport 2010 All rights reserved.

References

Relative cost of CDs by retail method

Rupert Murdoch gunning to raise eBook Prices

Wikpedia eBooks

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