Sunday, September 14, 2008

Flipping the Pages Onto a Screen

As digital content starts to evolve, we still have a couple of issues to address – price and value add. We have long argued that for consumers to switch onto ebooks there must be value, merely replicating the physical copy and presenting it digitally offers little. The experience may be different and offer some value, but the content is the same. This is a shame as the format offers so much extra that is currently largely being ignored.

We can add all sorts of marketing materials and extras, such as author interviews, original submissions, character biographies, historical notes etc. Penguin have stated to experiment with such in their renditions of the classics to digital. However, whereas the classics are relatively easy to collate public domain materials on, current works may prove a bit more taxing. First of all, who owns the intellectual property and is it tied to the specific rendition or the work? How do you clear author’s moral rights and if done does that gives them any rights of association going forward? Who gets paid what re royalties, or is the additional materials fee based? Can the additional materials be used in its own right and if associated with several works, can it be the leader and not the follower?
Some may say that we are talking about things that are already fully covered, but are they and do authors fully understand this aspect of the total work? Its interesting, following the highly published JK Rowling case, to perhaps stand back and think about this contextual work in a digital world.

The question of price will roll on forever, that's until, as in music, someone creates that price point and case that flips the market. Pricing ebooks equivalent to physical copies, is as ludicrous as applying VAT to digital copies of the same work. Its interesting that the reported consumer reaction to price in the press appears to indicate that the consumer is unaware the price is a VAT inclusive price.

Is anybody asking the consumer what they want? Do we have a collective view of the needs of the market, the potential barriers, or are we all assuming we know best.

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