Monday, September 24, 2007

Von Holtzbrink and eBooks

One really does have to wonder what's going through the minds of the people at Von Holtzbrink -- parent company of Tor, Forge, and St. Martin's Press -- when it comes to ebooks.

They have mostly given up doing Tor titles as ebooks (I was promised that my Mindscan would be released as an ebook, but it never was; I never even bothered to ask about Rollback).

But now, just today, Fictionwise at long last has Douglas Preston's Tyrannosaur Canyon as an ebook -- but only in Mobipocket format, and -- get this! -- for a book that's been in mass-market paperback at $7.99 since August of last year, the ebook is priced at $14.00. That's right, almost double the price of the current print edition.

I'm at a loss to explain the logic of this. Given that Von Holtzbrink insists on ebook rights in their contracts, not exploiting them efficiently, in a timely manner, and at a price point that would actually perhaps generate sales seems ... less than optimal, shall we say.

(I went through the same nonsense years ago with the ebook of Hybrids, the last title of mine Von Holtzbrink did as an ebook: priced at way more than the prevailing print edition, and only available in one format. Apparently they've learned nothing since.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At September 24, 2007 3:02 PM , Blogger redlion said...

Eric Flint and Cory Doctorow would give them the screaming fantods, wouldn't they? Especially Flint, and the Baen Free Library / Webscriptions business model.

At September 24, 2007 3:10 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Yes, it had been announced a year or two ago that Tor was going into partnership with Baen's Free Library (Tor's publisher, Tom Doherty, owns part of Baen Books). And then -- bam! -- Von Holtzbrink pulled the plug on that alliance. Sigh.

At September 24, 2007 8:58 PM , Blogger Josh said...

Of course, this isn't limited to books. Most of the old-media institutions seem to be trying to dig in and resist the e-ing of everything. The major music labels certainly aren't making it simple for honest listeners to get a hold of digital music with no restrictions on it; and just this past week I read about how in the U.S., NBC is taking its shows off of iTunes to put them up elsewhere.

I guess it seems easier to fight than to think outside of the box and find a way to go with the flow -- but man, the flow doesn't seem to be abating, and I think Von Holtzbrink et al. are gonna wish they'd learned to swim.

At September 25, 2007 12:33 PM , Blogger Janet said...

Hmm, it's strangely appropriate that it's a book about dinosaurs, isn't it?

At September 25, 2007 3:11 PM , Blogger Fred Kiesche said...

Von Holtzbrink/Tor insists on the rights? But apparently not 100%. For example, David Drake has gotten several of his Tor-published books in Baen's Webscriptions (no DRM!). And Vernor Vinge's latest was up for free on a site because it was nominated for the Hugo (again, no DRM). The monolith is breaking, maybe?

Pricing of eBooks makes little sense. I've seen eBooks priced more expensive than deadtree editions on sale in the stores. I've seen eBooks more expensive than their paperback equivalents because the price was never reset. They just don't seem to get it.

At September 25, 2007 3:44 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Von Holtzbrink has allowed those uses. Controlling rights means having the right to control how they are used, and, yes, Tor has allowed some non-DRM releases, especialy at awards time. That doesn't mean that the rights aren't controlled by Von Holtzbrink, and having no DRM doesn't mean the work has fallen into public domain, of course.


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