How Much Would You Pay for an E-Book?

“While Amazon might be able to find a market for $9.99 books on the Kindle, the iPhone-iPod Touch world is a very different place. Very few people are willing to pay that kind of money for any sort of application, let alone an e-book.”

via Why people won’t pay for e-books on the iPhone | Fully Equipped – CNET Reviews.

With the lower cost of production and distribution, you might expect publishers to pass some of the savings from e-books on to the readers, but the trend seems to be a strategy of maintaining prices and simply expanding the profit margin, and you can’t really blame a company for looking at it that way, as long as readers are still buying.

Amazon Kindle E-Book Reader
Amazon Kindle E-Book Reader

There are two considerations that come to mind here. The first is that if readers won’t pay the increased prices, then the market will correct itself and the price of goods will drop to reflect the lower cost of production. The other is that the majority of these increased margins are likely going to the publishing houses, not the authors (similar to the relationship between record labels and musical artists). This means that there is an opportunity for independent authors to self-publish and cut out the middleman.

This possibility has existed before, and e-books have been distributed online for on-screen viewing, but the mainstream market’s push to popularize the portable e-book devices, similar to the explosion of MP3 players (notably, the iPod), has opened up a new market for self-published e-book authors to tap into, who are already primed for the delivery method.

Moreover, the idea that users pay more for content when they have a convenient way of viewing it means that more e-book readers may signal higher prices for the e-books themselves.  For consumers, the questions still remain: How much would you pay for an e-book and does the platform you read it on make a difference?

Royalties for Digital Goods

Amazon Kindle
Image by jblyberg

Seth Godin recently posted on his blog about the Kindle ($359 from Amazon). He mentions publisher resistance to lowering prices on digital books, similar to studio or label’s resistance to lower prices on film, tv, or music. They all claim that lower prices would mean less revenue for the artists, authors, actors, etc.

If you eliminate the cost of physical products, you should be able to lower the total cost, raise the percentage that is paid to the content creator, and still make a profit. Unless the reason to keep prices high is to maintain the bloated physical distribution arm of a studio/publisher/label.

Maybe the idea is just to keep milking the connections that keep traditional distributors on top of the promotional game before an agile content aggregator/digital distributor/promoter comes along who doesn’t have to keep supporting the whole physical production and distribution department and can afford to simultaneously pay the creators more and charge the consumers less. Imagine what that would be like.


At first, this post might seem a little. . . ephemeral. But I have a point here.

Firstly, I just changed my name from “The Insider” to “Palindrome.” This is because now The Producer and I are both “insiders” – and it feels a little tacky for me to hold on to the title. Also, I actually respond to “Palindrome” in real life, so it might work out better in the long run.

Secondly, I have just finished Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style (Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style). You might be shouting, “But Palindrome, why are you reviewing a fashion book in a film blog?” Well, because it’s made me think about the importance of style in the film world. One of the privileges of working in a “creative” field is getting to wear jeans and sneakers to the office, and only break out the fancy if you win an Oscar. However, I met with a freelancer today whose hair was perfect, her jewelry matched her bag, her sweater was tied neatly. . . she looked great, even though she mostly works from home. What struck me was this: Being “creative” is only half of what we do. The other half is asking people for money, for permits, for a few hours of their time (or a few weeks). If you’re running around asking people to trust you to coordinate a shoot, it doesn’t hurt to show you can coordinate an outfit.

That said, I highly recommend Tim Gunn’s book – cheesy and carnation pink as it is – because it’s not about dressing like the mannequin at Ann Taylor (or Armani), it’s about dressing appropriately for whatever activity you’re engaged in. If that’s filming alligators, then for god sakes wear hiking boots (and maybe shin guards). If that’s pitching to the Discovery Channel, you might want a blazer. Even Michael Moore wears a tux sometimes…

Fast, Cheap and Under Control by John Gaspard

In an effort to gather inspiration for my next project, I’ve been reading Fast, Cheap, and Under Control: Lessons from the Greatest Low-Budget Movies of All Time by John Gaspard. In the book, he examines 33 independent films, ranging from the well-known (The Blair Witch Project, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, sex, lies, and videotape) to the more obscure (Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One). From interviews with the directors, Gaspard collates 69 rules for low-budget film production, some of them overlapping, others contradictory, and summarizes them in the appendix. Some of these ‘rules’ have limited application, but many of them are worth considering when planning or thinking about a low budget film. At the very least, it is worth reading what successful indie directors have to say about their craft and the lessons they learned from it.

Overall, I would recommend the book if you are looking for a broad introduction, although it is rather lacking in specific detail. You won’t find much about the technical aspects of filmmaking, such as lighting, sound and cinematography (although Gaspard’s other book, Digital Filmmaking 101: An Essential Guide to Producing Low-Budget Movies may contain more in that regard; I haven’t read it yet.) and you won’t find much advice on directing actors (for that I recommend Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film & Television by Judith Weston) but you will find general information on how to get your movie made without falling into the major pitfalls of low-budget production along the way. After all, much better to learn from others’ mistakes than repeat them all ourselves.

Introductory Reading for People Making Films

I’ve been finding a lot of good resources lately, so I thought I would share a few.

First is a great post on HD for Indies entitled Top Ten Things Every Indie Filmmaker Should Know Before They Start. It’s a good first read, or reminder for anyone starting a film project.

Next, a little more basic, and mostly only useful for larger productions is a Glossary of Roles in Movie-making. It’s pretty elementary but still could be useful. They also give you an opinion on which roles are required.

For those of you planning to shoot in HD, here’s a chart comparing various HD formats.

In the offline world I’ve been recently reading Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film & Television by Judith Weston. It’s a great bridge for technically oriented directors to get more comfortable working with actors. I highly recommend it, since of course, the story and the performances will have much more to do with making a good film than the technical details of how and what you use to shoot.

Those are my suggestions for now. Look for an update post on the One Minute Film project coming soon.