So, two people emailed me with questions about e-Books. Generally I trim long emails, but I'm going into ultra-pruning mode for the sake of time.
You should sell an e-book. Figure a five percent sell-through and 98 percent profit. If you get 500 visits per day and you're making $4.80 per unit, it works out to about $3,600 a month, possibly enough to rent a dumpster behind the Port Authority.
No, I wouldn't. Even if I sold 500 books per day, which bestsellers don't even do, Amazon would take 55% of my profits - or more. I'm not sure what their commission rate is for e-Books. I imagine it's high because they (and B&N.com, to be fair) are the only real vendor.
[Deleted section: This guy likes reading e-Books] Every-now and again though, for the same reasons I went to used bookstores and bought the most random title i could find, I nab stuff that is e-book only. Like before, most of it is pretty horrible and a few of them are worthwhile reads. One in particular was the best read I've had this year(since then its being picked up for print, which makes me very happy). Anyway, my question is this, where in the world are the reviews for this part of the industry?
Don't get me wrong - I'm a technocrat. My teenage years were spent on ultra-slow Prodigy Online and then on slightly faster local network. I shamelessly download an entire TV series that's either too expensive or not available for retail in this country (I like Japanese feudal dramas). That said, I hate reading books online. I'm willing to read fanfic because it's free and I already know the characters, so I'm more likely to like it, but I can't remember the last time I read an e-Book, even for free, that had no relation to some fandom. Why? Because most people feel that reading a book on a computer screen sucks. And most people make up most of the consumer market (though it's all right to feel special).
When hand-held devices that you could actually read on came out, there was a whole lot of press about how it would change publishing industry and we would all be switching to reading off our tiny, poorly-lit Palm Pilot screen like the guys in Prelude to Foundation. Remember when Stephen King did that chapter-by-chapter/pay-as-you-go posting of a novel? Or I took that course on hypertext fiction? (No, you don't because you weren't there. Well, I did. I needed more time to spend with my Playstation so I opted out of another history course.)
Even some ten years later, industry professionals are scratching their heads, trying to make a way to make e-Books profitable. As the person in charge of the digital division at I think it was HarperCollins explained to me this summer, "e-Books and internet files are being published by the major companies, but it's still basically R&D." (research and development) And she was a person willing to read a novel on her little novel-reading device, but she admitted no one understood her, even her co-workers.
As with any new thing that comes along unexpectedly and alternately revolutionizes/threatens your entire industry, it takes time to figure out how it's going to work. With the internet it's especially hard because things are constantly changing, as are the devices we buy to keep us hooked to that digital IV while we're away from the computer. What publishers have discovered, for the most part, is that e-Books are unprofitable. You put it up for $5.95 (dumb companies charge more), Amazon takes half, and then the author gets a cut. Also, people don't buy it, especially if it's a new author and/or it's also available in print form. In the end the result is easily less than $50 a month - for the company.
Not that the industry has given up. They have figured out that it costs almost nothing to create an e-Book other than editorial, especially if you've signed the author for a print run and you're doing the editorial anyway, so they don't really lose money; they just don't make money. The advantage is in time: it takes a book a year, at absolute best, to go to press, between the contract signing and the day the books appear on shelves. e-Books can go up whenever the editorial is done and someone's put some cover art together. Some companies are using the e-Book as a promotional tool while they're waiting for the book to come out, and even then, that's promotion restricted to people who spend a lot of time on Amazon. I do, but a lot of people don't. The point is that it's free promotion, and promotion is rarely free, so that's why you're seeing e-Books.
(Also you're seeing them because some people like them, but those people remain in the minority until our computer screens don't make our eyes want to bleed after a 12-hour session)