E-books: the mess of where to get them and at what price?

Yes, this is going to be one of those ‘posts’, a post thatwill poke at a sore wound for some and is bound to get blood pressure up for some others. To be fair, this post is not intended as an in-depth post about the pricing of e-books and the big bad Amazon. Just a little post about the frustrations of a Dutch girl in getting her e-books.

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Way back when I started reading e-books, there was no such thing as a tax added up to the regular price if you lived outside of the US. So I went on my merry way and more often than not bought books directly from the publisher. And all was right in the world

Problem #1: Until some of those publishers went belly up (or decided to stop). With the notice that you had one month left to download all your e-books before you were unable to get them anymore (if you already didn’t have them safely stored). Since I had a back-up of my back-up, no worries, right?

Problem #2: Until my house got broken into and the back-up and the back-up of my back-up got stolen…. Fortunately for me, some authors were very sweet and gave me a new copy. But I didn’t have proof of purchase for all books anymore. So some were indefinitely lost. Not really a big problem since I didn’t like all of them anyways. See it as a clean-up.

Still, problems of a digital world and the keeping for digital files.

For a while after that, I bought my books through Amazon and Apple, with the thought that if my back-up was stolen again, I would still have all my books. At the time, you couldn’t get a Kindle in the Netherlands, so I read on my iPad, through the Kindle App.

And all was right in the world.

Nah, not really, because I read a lot outside and with an iPad, that sucks.

So I also started using websites such as Smashwords and AllRomance and publisher’s websites again.

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Problem #3: Until I realized that not only were my e-books once again spread all over, I don’t ‘own’ the books bought through Apple or Amazon. Ultimately the books bought through them are dependent on whatever happens to Amazon or Apple.

So I started searching for a central place to buy e-books and ‘safely’ store them in Dropbox.

Now as you might know – well fellow Dutch people – mainstream books by the big publishers are easily available at the regular e-books outlets. Reading sub-genres such as the m/m genre is a lot harder. It all depends on where the smaller publisher put their books.

Luckily in the Netherlands we have Bol.com. In a way a Dutch Amazon, but you ‘own’ the e-book.

Once again all was right in the world.

Nah, not really

Problem #4: Until I discovered that prices differ. A lot sometimes. Not just 50 cents, but several euro’s sometimes. There was, for instance, last month one book that cost:

(in euro)
2,99 at Amazon.de
5,99 at Amazon.com
5,49 at Bol.com
6,50 at the publisher itself

That is just one example as there are many more.

Now I’m one of those readers that reads quite a lot and therefore I buy a lot. I shudder to add-up what I spent per month and I really don’t want to know. At the same time, it also makes me price conscious. I don’t have one of those trees in the back yard that grows money. Plus I’m Dutch, we like a good bargain. I also have the patience (for some books) to wait until they go on sale. Not all books, but most of them. I’m also shark-like enough that I go where the price is cheapest.

That brings me right back to problems #1, #2 (sort of) and #3. You see where I’m going with this?

Now several years ago this wouldn’t have been as big of problem to me as it is now. Why you ask?

Problem #5: Until a tax law came into being a few years back. Because outside of Amazon and Apple and books I buy from Dutch e-book retailers, there is tax involved. Even if books are slightly cheaper somewhere else or there is a sale going at the publisher’s shop, there is a this nicky tax law that means the book often ends up more expensive and it’s straight back to Amazon(.nl) or Apple. Or in my case, the more expensive book from Bol.com.

I’m know that as authors and publishers it’s not easy to get a book out there. Nor do authors or publishers always have control over the price of a book. At the same time, look at this from a buyer’s perspective. It’s a bit of right hot mess isn’t it?

Is there a solution? Probably. Several. Are they easy? Not really. It just shows that the world of e-publishing really still is very much in the beginning stages.

And that was my point for this post, to show that it is still an ungoing project, e-publishing and authors and publishers should not just look at getting the books out there (though please please please do) but also at innovation.

What are your thoughts on this?

 

7 Comments


  1. // Reply

    My first thought is: online backup! My files – including my ebooks – backup automatically onto the cloud (because I’m rubbish at doing it myself). Shop around: some providers are better than others with regards to ease of accessing your files, among other things.

    I always use Calibre https://calibre-ebook.com/ to manage my ebooks, wherever I’ve bought them: it can convert the books to the format your particular device needs, if your vendor of choice doesn’t offer it.

    Calibre users who buy ebooks with DRM (eg from Amazon) & wish to convert them or keep a backup copy may find googling “Apprentice Alf” of use.


    1. // Reply

      True, I do that too now. Dropbox works perfectly. But way back then, you didn’t have cloud back-up.

      Calibre is awesome! Best program ever. I was mostly hinting at my purchases being all over the place, but didn’t quite write that down well!


  2. // Reply

    Larissa, you bring up an important topic: e-books are licensed, not owned. If you want to own a book, buy paper. Licensing is tricky, and so are the infamous TOS, which can change without warning. Large companies are taking advantage of this trend. Look at Adobe, where users used to purchase physical discs with computer programs. Now, if you want new Photoshop or InDesign, you are stuck licensing it by the month. This adds up to a lot more money over a period of, say, 5 years, than buying the program outright. This is why old, still-useful programs sell for so much on eBay: paying $450 is a good long-term investment for a self-publisher who’d rather not pay $150 per year.
    Movies are streamed rather than rented or purchased. Libraries loan out e-books that expire in three weeks. I think it’s only a matter of time before we “stream” our books and audiobooks, and I see us heading into a world of endless, multi-tier subscriptions, much like when paying for television.
    Do I like this? No, not really. I can’t change it, so all I can do is learn about it. But this is why my preferred e-book formats are PDF or ePub. Those are portable, can be read on a variety of readers, and stored on a key chain. That way, when the e-book libraries we’ve accumulated over the years, disappear, I’ll still have a few of my favorites tucked away.
    Does this evolving technology benefit me as a writer and a publisher? No, not as far as I can tell. Sometimes I see my books listed at bizarre, high prices where e-bots bid on them, but I never see a dime from those “transactions.” At other times, my books are priced higher in Europe than in the US even when I had specified a price in the KDP form. I don’t know why this is. It’s not the VAT – the numbers don’t add up, and I’d expect the VAT to be added at the end.


    1. // Reply

      Thanks for the insightful reply, Kate! Yes! Companies take advantage of that. It’s why i still want to be able to download the epub or the mobi so I have it digitally on my computer. Even then they are not entire mine, but I like it better than Apple and Amazon. Truth be told though, I have been contemplating going back to paper books. At least for some authors that I always end up buying anyways.

      I do the same with DVD’s. Even if I don’t like the space they take up, I don’t go through streaming services.

      But the system is not quite right yet, but you do see it evolving. I do hope in the future it gets better.


  3. // Reply

    What JLMerrow said.

    (1) Online backup. I use Crashplan.
    (2) Calibre for ebooks. All DRM stripped. (DRM for Apple iBooks can’t be cracked as far as I know, so I don’t buy those.)


    1. // Reply

      Ha, yeah. Like we talked about. But still I don’t want to go to all that trouble 😛 And I want the prices to be the same everywhere!


  4. // Reply

    Well I hate the kindle reader. I don’t like how it looks, it takes away some of the joy of reading. Plus if I pay for something I want to be able to back it up. When I wanted an e-reader in 2010, we did lots of research and settled on an iPad. iBooks used .epub format, this could be buggy but I could read it like a book and it was stable.i could also buy from lots of publishers, I went for the small boutique ones because they let me buy from Australia.

    I now use total reader on my iPad 2. I read .mobi format and I can download my books directly from Dropbox. See I read and retread books, I always have from the first paperback I ever read.

    Do I like that some authors only publish on Amazon, no, I don’t but it is their business and I just won’t get to read their books. I troll smashwords, are, bookstrand, dreamspinnr press, MLR press’s and a few others. I don’t know where things will go, I just hope those I buy from are able to hold up against Amazon.

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