e-books, limited editions, and exciting anthologies

July 2nd, 2009

Pleased to note that Best Served Cold, and the First Law Trilogy, are now available on e-book via Waterstones.com:

The Blade Itself
Before They Are Hanged
Last Argument of Kings
Best Served Cold

The prices are a tad disappointing – £10 and change for Best Served Cold when a hardback is selling at £8.50, and around £6 for the First Law books when mass-market paperbacks are available for a mere £4.

My own feeling about e-piracy and so forth is that it’s virtually impossible to put a stop to – the more popular you are the more torrents will endlessly spring up, and most of them in places where folks don’t respond to a polite email. The only effective way to combat it is to provide people with a higher quality service than pirates do, more easily available and at a price that seems reasonable. Then I think most will be happy to pay.

One problem is that a lot of users somehow think that e-books, since they don’t have to be printed, are pure profit for the publisher and should therefore be virtually free whereas, of course, the great majority of the costs that go into making a paper book (commissioning, editing, artwork, marketing, repping, promoting and, erm, paying the author) still apply with an ebook. Champions of a revolutionary future of free-love filesharing where writers and readers will all be liberated from the shackles of publishers tend to forget the vital role they play as gatekeepers and ensurers of a certain level of quality (you may think some books that are published are rubbish but believe me, until you’ve seen a slush pile you really have no idea).

Even so, selling ebooks at more than the cost of the paper books is going to look just a wee bit like taking the piss to some buyers, I suspect. I’d like to see them retail at most at the same price as the paper equivalents, and ideally somewhat lower. At the moment most publishers and booksellers are still focused on the paper market where heavy discounts are applying more and more widely, making ebooks something of a speciality item and hence relatively more expensive. Hopefully in due course that will change, and I’ll certainly be pressing them to lower the price as soon and as much as possible but, hey, it’s a start.

In other news, I am delighted to relate that Subterranean Press, purveyors of high quality limited and special editions to the world’s bibliophiles, will be publishing a signed limited edition illustrated hardcover of The Blade Itself. If it does well, and let’s all hope it does, they will follow up with the rest of the trilogy. Not sure of the details yet – how many shall be the print run, who shall be the artist, how many and what style of plates shall be involved, but they have a great track record of involving the author closely so you will know when I know. Believe me, these guys make some beautiful books.

And finally, I probably mentioned a little while ago that I was writing a short story for a Sword and Sorcery anthology. Just heard a list of names of some of the other authors who will be contributing, and it’s a strong line-up. VERY strong. Can’t give any names yet, but I think lovers of edgy and interesting fantasy both old and new will get quite excited about this one…

Posted in announcements, news by Joe Abercrombie on July 2nd, 2009. Tags: ,

27 comments so far

  • Dwynnie says:

    ebook news is very exciting and welcome–but do you know if a mobi version is in our future (as it looks like Waterstones only does Sony/Adobe format)?

    Just wondering and hoping!

  • Oberazzi says:

    Will Best Served Cold be released fore the Kindle?

  • Mark Stay says:

    Nicely put Mr A. To answer Dwynnie's question, no plans for Mobi yet as Adobe's ePub is be the trade standard in the UK. No news either on when Amazon might launch the Kindle over here. Still very early days.

  • enjai says:

    I totally agree with your thoughts on ebooks and piracy Joe.
    People wouldn't buy mp3 albums that cost more than the physical CD and I'm certain they wouldn't for a book (unless they are hardcore technophiles). It's easier to understand how audiobooks can be more expensive though.

    Maybe there should be some kind of online library where people get access to heavily discounted (1 free book a month?) for a subscription fee?

  • Oberazzi says:

    I am on the other side of the pond. Will it be released for the US Kindle store?

  • Ross Warren says:

    Great news on the Limited Edition. I have Sub Press's editions of Scott Lynch's first two books and they are amazing.

  • Hendo says:

    Seconded Ross!

    For what its worth, my vote for artist would go to Michael Kormack, he's done some amazing art for Song of Ice and Fire and the Malazan Books of the Fallen.

  • Adara says:

    E-books are not really a substitute to paper for me, but it would make a nice additional service!

    Something along the lines of "buy the hardcover, get the ebook for free". Because, of course, I still want the hardcover version to put in my bookshelf, but it'd be very convenient to be able to bring the book along (e.g. on trips or just the subway) without having to carry the real book, or risk damaging it in a bag..

  • Susanne says:

    There's always a lot of discussion about how much an e-book *should* cost, i.e. how much readers are prepared to dish out for them. I haven't made up my mind yet, but do I think making them more expensive than the hardback is a bit…wrong, but I also agree that the production costs for an e-book aren't exactly zero, either, so they should cost enough to make it worth it for the publisher and the author.

    I can't wait to see the Subterranean version! They do make beautiful, beautiful books.

  • Ash says:

    I've bought (and am very much enjoying) the e-book of The Blade Itself. I'm was really happy when the became available. Totally agree with you about the price and it's really nice to see an author speaking out about it.

  • Mark Lord says:

    I have tried reading an e-book on my iPhone and while the experience was OK I don't really want to repeat it again in a hurry – iPhone is just a bit too small – you have to hold it up to your face too much, or perhaps my eyesight's getting worse. I guess the Sony Reader and Kindle are perhaps a bit more book sized so easier to handle.

    I like the Subterranean concept, although sometimes it seems to take ages for their books to come out – I have been waiting a long time for the Vance tribute title to come out.

  • Anonymous says:

    Will your short story involve any of your already 'established' characters? There are so many I would enjoy reading more about.


  • phild says:

    Very pleased to hear that the Subpress deal has come through and I totally agree with Hendo – I already passed my vote for Michael Kormack to Bill Schafer.

  • Well, I just bought the ebook and am currently reading it, my way of bypassing the American release date without the effort of importing, minimal as it might be.

  • Jebus says:

    Just can't get into e-books, love the feel of a real book too much plus have yet to find a satisfactory device to read them on.

    I have the Sub press numbered edition of Erikson's "Gardens of the Moon" and it is STUNNING, can't wait for the rest of that series and I'd be sorely tempted to grab yours as well.

    I had purchased two lettered books of GRRM's ASoIaF when Meisha Merlin was doing them and they were great books but an horrendous company to deal with. Sub Press are much more professional and don't take years and years to get product out.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree re the e-book thing. I was a mug and bought an e-reader when they came out, loved the idea of being able to transport my books around in e-format, ideal for holidays and so on. But do I use it? No. Because the bloody books are so expensive and Waterstones are as guilty as most. I appreciate your comment that they have to make enough to cover costs plus profit, but when they are so out of line with the books you see in the shop….My cunning plan was to wander into Waterstones, browse and select books of interest and then buy them as e-books. But then you find the three for the price for two does not apply to the same books on line, likewise their 'half price book of the week' is more expensive online! And their site is a nightmare to navigate, but that's another story.
    So in my view, they are still a rip off and I still buy my books on paper. Given I buy at least a 100 books per year, that is a LOT of paper!

    Mind you, I do love bookshops, so if e-books really take off, they will start to disappear…..

    Swindon Nick

  • marky says:

    Pirate’s aaaarrrrrr bad! Sorry, couldn't resist.

    It's the way of the world, eh? You put your all into a job, and some one eyed, pegged legged, rum soaked, jolly rodgering sea dog, takes away all your profit.

    You're right when you say you can't put a stop to it, and the only way forward is to offer a higher quality product.

    It wouldn't have happened in the old days! The hand cramps from trying to copy a book would have no doubt put them off.

    I remember I used to try and tape songs off the radio when I was a bairn. You'd spend the whole night with your hand poised above the pause button, waiting for the DJ to start talking, and then if you got a bit of DJ speak, you'd try and rewind it before the next song started. The first tape I ever did, I gave to my then girlfriend. See, piracy is romantic. Just like in the movies!

  • Pete says:

    Eeeeh, yeah, having higher prices for the pdfs will not endear them to consumers. But, until I get a Kindle or something like it, I'll buy novels in book form, and leave gaming books and technical manuals to the pdf realm. 🙂

    Reading Best Served Cold currently, awesome! 🙂

  • Jared says:

    That's fantastic news about the Sub Press books – they do brilliant work.

    Geekily, I'll have to request the same numbers in the numbered/limited edition that I do for my Richard Morgan books.

    (Goes home to alphabetize things. And put them in hermetically sealed covers. And then alphabetize them again.)

  • tomlloyd says:

    Yeah, it's unfortunate about the pricing, but publishers can't discount E-books as far when they have to add VAT to those editions. The prices should be the same but no online store sells a book at the correct price and they don't bother to keep the e-book in line. They'll work it out eventually, once people start buying ebooks in real numbers.

  • m.q.zed says:

    Hi Joe,

    ordered Best Served Cold from CD WOW and it arrived today! I have a question though, when I opened the book the dust jacket was marking the cover page where the tittle is instead of at the beginning (you know blank page, praises, etc). Which I found odd, and then I saw there was a signature on that page.

    The signature is a bit indented and it looks like it was done with a ball pen… looks real. So, is this just really good printing where all your books now have your autograph in the tittle page made with cool technology that makes it look real? is it real? or is someone taking the piss? CD WOW worker thought it funny to sign a few books and imagine the bemused faces of author's fans.

    I know you posted about signing a bunch of books but mine wasn't advertised as signed or anything like that.

    I'm gonna take a picture…

    So, Joe is it real?

    ps. my husband bought me the book and he's getting extra kisses if it's autographed.

  • Jonathan says:

    Hey Joe,

    I'm reading BSC at the moment and loving it. My fav. character is Friendly, and I was wondering if you've had any experience with OCD? The way he thinks really rings true to somebody who suffers from it.

    Also, now that we've all read the First Law trilogy, read it again, got our friends to buy it etc, is their any chance of putting up a map or two on your website? It'd be nice to finally be able to visualise the whole world, or at least part of it.


  • Some responses, not necessarily to all:

    Sorry, don't know exactly what formats will be available. I believe Waterstones have an exclusive deal for the time-being.

    That's a good question, and I'm really not sure. See above, but it may be that this falls within the area of US publisher. A confusing area, since the internet of course respects no political boundaries.

    Knows much more than me about these issues and has already answered these questions…

    Enjai, Adara
    I've no doubt that all kinds of different ideas will be tried as e-readers become more popular.

    Hendo, PhilD
    Hmmmm. I'm a big fan of Komarck's work, but there are other things to consider than just how good their work is.

    The short story involves characters from the forthcoming book…

    Swindon Nick,
    I agree with you. As Tom Lloyd points out, the VAT issue and the relative scarcety of e-readers means that prices are still way high, and ebooks don't get included in offers where virtually all paper books qualify for some kind of reduction or other. Time, time, the healer.

    I love alphebetisation. I nearly always win.

    Mister Tom Lloyd,
    Very good points.

    MQ Zed,
    Yeah, it will be one of the 1,000 I signed at the warehouse, most likely. A lot of those just filter out into general circulation and aren't necessarily sold with great fanfare.

    Well, we've all got a little familiarity with OCD, haven't we?

  • nath says:

    The good thing about ebooks is that they are searchable (well, some at least). But there are a lot of bad things as well, for example that I have to pay a couple hundred bucks to get a reader first.

    If ebooks were cheaper than the paperbacks, they still could be worth buying as one would pay back the reader over time with those savings.

    Ebooks more expensive than even the hardcover is simply stupid though.

    Some publishers give the ebooks for free or really cheap if you bought the paper version – that is fair.

    I would like to have all my books in an electronic form on my PC just to be able to search trough them – but for reading I prefer the paper versions.

  • Tyrion says:

    There is an important point to be made about electronic (digital) goods such as ebooks.

    The point is that the marginal cost of an ebook, that is, the additional cost of each sold ebook, tends to be close to zero (there is the credit card fee and the bandwidth cost, but these are relatively insignificant).

    Because of this, every ebook sold after a cetain arbitrarily set point will bring in almost 100% profit to the seller, and it can be sold for an (almost) infinite number of times.

    Therefore, the price of ebooks should be much lower if you want it to take into account the cost to the seller.

    This does not even take into account the inherent disadvantages of an ebook, such as inability to resell and DRM which leads to things like the recent Kindle fiasco with the deletion of the book 1984.

  • Nath,
    Unlike the music industry, physical copes of books continue to offer advantages the digital versions don't (some of which you mention). The idea of giving away the ebook with the physical is a good one, I think.

    Your important point applies to paper books in virtually the exact same way. The additional cost of each paper book sold is not very significant after a certain point. Those costs associated with a physical book – printing, warehousing, transport, etc. are small compared to the costs of development that apply regardless of whether the book is paper or digital – commissioning, editing, proof-reading, marketing, publicity, paying the author, paying the retailer, artwork, advertising, and a whole raft of administrative, financial and logistic roles undertaken by the publisher. Now of course most of those costs are not ongoing, or at least reducing over time, so once you've sold a certain number of copies (be they physical or digital) you will have recouped that outlay and be making significant profits on every unit sold (though those profits are split many ways, between author, agencies, retailers and publishers, all of whom have their own overheads). But that threshold can be quite high, and the majority of books published (perhaps even the vast majority) will not reach it. Success stories that sell millions and run into great profit where the margins are huge and the ongoing costs small, such as Stephanie Meyer or JK Rowling, serve to subsidise many of those new and less commercially successful authors who often run at (close to or actually) a net loss for the publisher. In this sense, whether a book is digital or physical actually makes relatively little difference.

    I agree with you the price of ebooks should be lower than paper equivalents, but I'm not convinced they should be vastly lower. The costs for the creators aren't actually very different.

    As for the inherent disadvantages of ebooks – the DRM, the reselling, the rental as opposed to ownership, and the kindle fiascos, well, I'm with you there. Exactly what the solutions to those various problems is I'm not so sure…

  • I'm a fan of all things technological and was an early adopter of the Sony Reader.

    The vexed question of the pricing of Ebooks will, I think, only be resolved when the volume of business being done forces the price of the digital books down.

    It's Catch 22 I suppose: The prices aren't coming down because the volume of business being done does not justify a reduction while the high prices are discouraging prospective purchasers.

    Anyway, as an early adopter I am happy to be ripped off in the short term in the, possibly vain, hope that my persistence (and that of other like minded idiots) will eventually inure to the benefit of future buyers!

    I went on holidays recently with my Reader and, before heading off, visited the Waterstones site to browse for suitable reading material. I was delighted to discover your books and immediately purchased and downloaded the trilogy. On holiday I became so engrossed with Nine Fingers and the rest of the characters that I barely saw the sun! I have since purchased Best Served Cold and am now thoroughly engrossed in that. Give me back my life, dammit!

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