All my eBook wants for Christmas is …

A Christmas eBook wishlist

Now that eReaders have hit that happy price-point of below $100 in the US most people predict a tipping point for acceptance of eBooks. A lot of people say they will buy eReaders as presents this year.

I don’t need an eReader for Christmas, I’ve already got one and I’m very happy with it too. It set me thinking about what, as a reader of eBooks, I’d really like to see. Here’s my wishlist.

Author backlists

Yes, all the new stuff is coming out electronically, but do you know what percent of fiction on my eReader was published in the last 12 months? 10-20%. The rest is backlist. Authors whose work I discovered in the last few years and have gone back to devour all their old work. Authors whose stories I loved, and maybe once even had the book but don’t have it any longer. Authors who sell off one or two of their earliers stories more cheaply in the hopes of enticing me to buy their newer work (and that works too, a lot more than I expected).

Thus over 80% of my book money is going on old books, and it would be a lot more if more old books were in electronic form.

So authors, if you own the rights, get out there and put your backlist up. If you don’t own the rights, talk your agent or publisher into putting the eBook up if you can. And don’t accept the same royalty rate as you do for a paper book. Yes it costs money to produce a book. Yes, it costs to get it on line and keep it there, but anyone who tells you it costs anywhere near the same as it does to print a physical dead tree version, store it in a warehouse, not to mention cater for returns, is either deluding themselves (or you) or they’re a poor businessperson.

Particularly in this case, where one of the major cost points — editing the damn thing — is already done.

Word count on books

Recently, I have bought a number of what I thought were novellas (based on the price) only to find out that they were short stories.

Price on eBooks is still important to me. My price points are usually $2.99 – $5.99 for a novella (depending on the author), $3.99 – $7.99 for a novel.  I once paid $9.99 for a book that I knew was 150,000 words, so I’m happy to pay more if I know I’m getting more.

There seems to be a resurgence of short stories now that ePublishing has arrived.  That’s good, there are some excellent short stories around.  For me, it’s a value for money thing and single short stories (especially when they’re priced around $2.99-$3.99) don’t provide that for me.

I want to know up front what I’m getting.

Open market

If I want to buy books from a US-based store, a British store, a Russian store, a Japanese store, I want to do it. There are a lot of books I’d like to buy that are not available in my geographical region.

This is one of the big changes that has to come from the ePublishing industry. On the world wide web geographical regions are no longer relevant. I have money. I am ready to buy. Sell me your book.

Which brings up another eBook wish-thing I desparately want to see.

The ability to read any book I purchase on the eReader of my choice

While I understand that digital rights management is important, I believe I have every right to read a book I have purchased on the eReader of my choice.

That means even if I buy something from Amazon, I should be able to put it into my ePub library and read it on my iBook reader if I choose. And yes, I know that Amazon provides a Kindle reader for the iPad, and Barnes and Noble provide a Nook reader for the iPad and whoever else who has their own proprietary systems does the same but at home if I buy Vernor Vinge’s latest book from the bookshop here, and I bought two earlier novels — one from Amazon, one from the book Depository (same author, remember, and same genre) I still put them all on the same bookshelf. And I definitely don’t have three separate bookshelves, one where I store all the books I bought from Amazon, the second all the books I bought from the Book Depository and all my locally bought books on the third.

Likewise, no matter where I purchase a book I think I have a right to read it on the ereader of my choice.

And let’s not even go into the hoops Apple force booksellers to jump to get their books into the iTunes store.

Lastly, I want:

Easy, secure ways to purchase books

Morally, I am uncomfortable buying eBooks from Amazon. The way they lock you into the Kindle format, their Big Brother attitude to what I believe I own once I have purchased, not to mention their sometimes dishonest (it feels to me) business practises such as the lending library ruckus, and the way they try to bully booksellers into their way of doing business.

Even so, their one-click to purchase is a dream.

I want something like that for all my booksellers. Even better, one-click and let me buy from my nominated bookstores with that one click. (But please, don’t give me PayPal.)

So there you have it. My eBook Christmas wish list for this year. It will be interesting to go back next year and see how much has changed.

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