The Book Market…. and why it’s chaotic…

Do not take my word for it. Just think about this observation and make your own conclusions. I have no real reason or even a clue why it is this way. Maybe there’s some industry secret that makes sense and the senior’d Editor or Publishers would get in my face and say, “yeah, duh dude!!” (I used two exclamation marks because that means it’s more exclamatory than just one, right?)

It’s been over a decade since I bought my first e-reader. When the Amazon Kindle entered the market, it basically dominated. It was a nice piece of engineering. It was CHEAP! And it with the power of Amazon books behind it, the sky was the limit. I remember when the big book sellers all had one: B&N had the Nook, Borders had the Kobo. I really struggled with which to buy. Because like everything in America, they were proprietary. I wanted something more universe. I really didn’t like how I had to buy my books from one business —all the time. In the end, my mother solved it by buying all Kindles one year for Christmas. Why? They were the cheapest and technically the largest source of books.

I was so excited. Don’t get me wrong. I love books. And when I say books, I mean real books. You know, paper, ink, the smell of a printing press. But, like the iPod, I was amazed and fascinated by the efficiency to carry around every song I owned and not have to worry about a back pack full of CDs and Cassette tapes. Now I had something for books too. Wow. No more rooms full of books. No more storage units filled with books. No more sleepless nights thinking where I put that one book that I now want to re-read. Yet, there was a problem. A very big one.

The cost! I would literally have to rebuy all my books. Or I could just simple move forward with digital only books. And that was a problem just as big. I love books. I want to hold them and smell them. So, okay, I’ll just buy most books digitally and then the favorites I would buy the real deal. Ok. That might work. Then it didn’t…. see, digital books should be cheaper. And when I say cheaper, I mean A LOT cheaper. And unfortunately they weren’t. Even a basic knowledge of commerce knows that a book you pay $26 for is really only getting about $6 to the publisher and $3 to a writer. (And cost of printing isn’t even factored here for ease of understanding). Because the universal rule of business is 50% as in everything is purchased at 50% to make the seller money. So the book is printed and sold to Wholesaler who buys book for around half the cost they’ll sell it to a Bookstore. Then that bookstore needs to double it so they can pay the rent, employees and make a profit. What if? The book never has to be printed. This cuts out a bunch of middle men and costs. The book never has to go to a printer. There’s no paper, no trees sacrificed to feed the machines. The books are not stacked on pallets and stored in warehouses (rent of warehouse costs money). Nor is the book put on trucks and trains and shipped to the Wholesalers warehouse. No gas used, no salary of a truck driver (or train driver…huh engineer?), no wholesale warehouse rent. Then those books would have to be back on a truck or train to ship to the bookseller. See where I’m going here?

There’s a ton of cost in printing a book and just getting it where it needs to be. But digital doesn’t have that. I mean its basically just electrons and photons right? How do you put a price on tiny particles of energy. I guess if you wanted to get picky you could say how much does it cost to transmit the file of about 1MB to a user. There’s the small cost of the user’s internet and electric bill. The publisher or writer has to store the book on a server or hard drive that costs money to buy or maintenance. But isn’t that literally pennies. I mean like 5 cents or a dime! So I’ve concluded that a book, with the original profit margin in place, should sale for about $4.99. Split that 50/50 with the writer / publisher…. huh? HUH? Sounds good. Maybe the publisher worries about lost sales buy sharing digital files?….

Now my RANT and gripe. Why in hell are digital books more than paper books? Clearly this is a big issue and why digital books will fail. Unlike digital songs which went to a very cost effective (cheap) model. .99cents a song…. So why can’t books do something similar and stay around the 4.99 price model? You know why I’m still buying tons of paper books to my regret. Because the books I’d most likely buy digitally are usually $14.99 and I can get the Hardcover for 12.99 (or a soft cover for 8.99). Sorry, I’m not JK Rowling and I don’t have $billions to burn. Is it me or is this just backasswards??

to be continued…..maybe….

Analog writing….

So I watched a documentary the other day….

It was about the resurgence of typewriters in the writing community. The film also spotlighted the notable writers that have and continue to use vintage and trusted typewriters.

I grew up in a time that I was given a typewriter as a child. My mother inspired me to write my stories. She even allowed me to type on her electric IBM at the office and she was lucky enough to take one home. Back then I just hunted and pecked my way around the keyboard. When it was time to go to High School, the one class I had to take and there was no debate (according to my mother) was typing. She said it would come in handy.

See, she knew that typewriters (and eventually ‘word processors’) was the future of my academic writing. And it would one day the tool to write my book(s).

When I was a small child, I remember my mother going to the community college to take a typing class. Because she was a single mother and poor, she asked the professor if she could bring me and sit in the far corner of the room. The professor took a great risk and trusted that I wouldn’t be one of those children that disrupted the class. I took my coloring books and notebooks. I sat there drawing and writing stories every Wednesday and Thursday nights, for 16 weeks. It was so cool to hear a dozen students banging at keyboards and hearing the rhythm hum and beat of the IBMs typing away!

After the class was over, the professor marveled at my discipline (more like my shyness) and thanked my mother. I couldn’t wait until I could use the machine to write.

So, as I watched the documentary, I decided I want a typewriter again. I have the old manual one I was given as a child. Its lost to the archives of the garage but I will venture to dig it out and maybe clunk away at it once again.

Wish me luck!

Where’s the Coffee Machine?!

And, so we stood, confused and dazed.  The coffee machine was missing!  This happened early on a Monday morning.  The coffee machine was the one thing we all looked forward to on a Monday morning – it made the stay in the office tolerable.  It was a miracle of modern technology – it dispensed black coffee; decaf coffee; coffee mochas; cappuccino; hot chocolate; lattes; and hot water.    Some of us even were rumored to worship the coffee machine.  The area around it was a social hangout.  We told stories about our weekends in front of the coffee machine; we discussed the reports in front of the coffee machine; we shared photos of our kids around that freaking coffee machine –  the machine was part of our family.  There was always a line – most of us standing with empty mugs in hand.  We needed it to get the extra wake-up juice that the day required.  There we stood, in disbelief.  Jack Eden had already called building security to report it stolen.   When the security guard finally arrived to take our statements, the management staff strolled up and tried to get us to disperse. 

A few weeks before we all learned we were moving cubicles, again.  Management brought it upon itself to suspend the funding to the coffee machine.  Budget reports showed that it was a huge red line in the bottom line and somewhere the management staff had to decided that the only way to fix it was to have it removed.  No concern was taken on how this would effect the employees or our morale.  The situation  started to get ugly.  Tempers started to flare.  Tensions were rumbling on every floor of the building.  We took it upon ourselves to send emails to anyone who would listen.  The story goes, that even the CEO was aware of the musings of mutiny.  He quickly placed a note on his blog, on the company’s homepage on our intranet – to dispel rumors and sweet talk the employees with his boyish charisma.  The seasoned workers like Rick and Jack saw through the lies and deception.  Rick and Jack spent the rest of the day calling the coffee machine vender and other coffee wholesalers.  Their daily reports and emails went ignored.  The two men worked up spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations and pie charts on the expenses on a company providing the simple life blood of coffee to its employees.  Jack had even called the exact technician that removed the machine.  With a day’s work and math, they came to the conclusion it only cost the company about $10 a day to give 1000s of cups of bold, hot, stimulating coffee to its legion of cubicle prisoners.   

After days of buying coffee from the Starbucks from down the street, the group decided to pitch in for a coffee machine and coffee.   It took several days before building management discovered our bootleg coffee pot.  We were instructed to remove it.  We asked, “why, we’re paying for it out of our own pockets?”  The building management’s excuse was “it’s a fire hazard and the building couldn’t accept the liability.”  That excuse had us scratching our heads – once again – for hours.  How could our machine be a fire hazard yet the one that sat there just days before – for years and years – was not? Did they know the liability of disgruntled employees?

Production had already slipped by 37%. The writing was on the wall. Yes, several uncontrollable naps would happen. Concentration would be lost to staring at cubicle walls for hours at a time. But most importantly, the tine it took for 87% of the staff to walk 1.5 blocks to the Starbucks, waiting precisely 8.6 minutes to order their drink, waiting another 12.7 minutes to get drink, and then walk slowly back the 1.5 blocks back to the building. Before the coffee machine was 20.7 feet away. Now it caused this reckless behavior and loss of production.  It made no sense whatsoever! 

If we were to keep our freshly installed coffee machine, we were gonna have to take it to the mattresses – and bribe a few fire inspectors!