How the Tablet has Turned: A guest-post by Elliott David

Posted by @ 3:20 pm on February 10th, 2010

According to this NYT piece yesterday, the book publishing industry, who have been ever so patient for a savior (likely because one isn’t remotely foreseeable) has finally arrived at the astrological alignment under which they can ceremonially raise the ghosts of Alfred A Knopf Sr., Roger Williams Straus, Jr., Allen Lane, and George Plimpton, who will then enter the machine and destroy the internet from within.

Now that the iPad, Kindle, and other e-book readers are entering the mainstream, promising to further reduce the physiological recognition of tactile functioning and introduce cataracts as the new diabetes (Now In Kid’s Size!), power has returned to the copyright holders of that which is to be sold: content. (Who ever thought that content of all things would be making a comeback? 2010 is off to a good start.) But the questions is: what’s the price tag on electronic books? So I figured, let’s open it up to discussion. And why not here: a place where basically zero percent of readers have any intention of abandoning printed books.

Book prices, I feel, are much like Compact Discs, in that they have a long history of mercuriality, ranging from sticker prices of: less than you’d recoup from recycling; to outrageous and inane; to me stealing a copy of Antichrist Superstar.  And while there might be some economist mathematician in a back office doing profit-cost analysis, I’ve always had a strong feeling book pricing is fairly arbitrary and at best based on trend, book sales of the past, or simply by answering the question: how much can we charge for this and still expect people to buy it?

So. How much should e-books cost? What do you think? If you ask me, each publisher should do a Netflix-type subscription service, where you sign up for a membership and you can “download” so many books per week/month. Because we all know most of these people aren’t going to keep buying books, and that way the publishers will keep getting paid. Also, those who do purchase e-books probably won’t end up finishing them, they’d have to use their next month’s membership to renew their book. Not to mention that the guilt of having an unread novel on their little device will prevent them from purchasing and starting a new one, so the buck stops there. I’m all for the publishing industries milking this shit for all they can, because a cash cow like this ain’t gonna come around again until WWWW1 (World Wide Web War 1), when somebody drops an electronic nuclear bomb and we have to rebuild from square one. Adam and Eve will refrain from indulging in forbidden Apple, and will instead cyber their brains out, then fall asleep under the fading ellipsis of a beautiful ASCII sunset.


Elliott David is the former Senior Editor at Flaunt Magazine, a position he left for a colorful blend of fiscal and moral reasons. He’s also worked at Granary Books, the PEN American center, and taught creative writing to a group of emotionally superior 12 year olds at The Cathedral School. He currently freelances with several publications and online thingys; is writing a play, a screenplay, a novel, and three letters: one of recommendation, two personal; but mainly he just has countless surface friendships with a whole shitload of fancy New York people, which never seem to materialize into any tangible form of revenue. He does not have a blog, a twitter, a myspace, or a cell phone, the last of which, though unintentional, will likely not find resolve. Though no longer addicted to cocaine, alcohol, or nicotine, he possibly still suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. He lives in Manhattan, daydreaming of a reclusive life near unmolested organisms and loaded weapons. He feels strongly about things.

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