The price of thought

The WSJ reports that Google is toying with the idea of renting books that can be read, not downloaded or printed, over a week. They say Google would charge 10 percent of the cover price. Thus, they believe that the ideas and thought are worth one tenth the paper, distribution, and retail markup. And, of course, not all that would go to the guy who had the thought; she’d get a fraction left over after publishers, agents, and Google itself. Content is devalued yet further. [via Paid Content]

  • If libraries were a new idea, would you oppose them?

  • Mike G

    Hey, Jeff, ever heard of royalties?

    The author typically gets something like 8% of cover price.

    Google just gave authors a RAISE!

  • What are you talking about Jeff? Do DVD’s rent for 100% of the purchase price?

    Plus, what a producer-centric view of “value”. Isn’t it more accurate to look at this from the consumer point-of-view?: being able to view a book online-only for a week is 1/10th as good as buying it. (Not to me! It’s worth far less, maybe 1%)

    (I’m going totally off your description; I haven’t read the article)

  • what stephen duncan said is spot on — seems to be a producr-centric view of “value.” from a customer-centric perspective, reading online sucks, and having a time constraint on when i can read sucks too.

  • Jimmy

    Once agian, you are underestimating the value of content. Personally, I don’t care how cheap a one-week rental is, if I love a book enough I’m still going to plop down the $20 to buy a hardback. DVD rentals haven’t replaced DVD purchases and they certainly haven’t devalued the content. This is nothing more than another revenue stream for the publisher and the author. If anything, I wold say it increases the value of content.

  • Jeff, I suspect the last thing Google are thinking here is devaluing content. Through Google Print, they’re digitizing everything ever written, whether the publisher or writer agrees to it or not, and are being sued for it by The Author’s Guild and The Association of American Publishers who are claiming “Google Print is, potentially, one of history’s biggest cases of copyright infringement.”

    I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to digitize the world’s words and make them available to everyone online, but I also don’t think offers like ‘renting’ books and charging for viewing snippets of books (another Google Print initiative) represent the next big thing in publishing. What they are is an attempt by Google to show publishers and writers a couple of ways their digitizing efforts could generate incremental revenue and to encourage them to drop their resistance to it.

    But what Google’s real plans are once they’ve digitized everything are a bit of a mystery, to us anyway. Somehow I doubt they’re thinking of “devaluing the content.” Making as much money as possible off it more like.

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  • paid content is a future IMHO

  • not all that would go to the guy who had the thought; she’d get a fraction left over

    Ha, nice gender balancing.

  • Hopefully, Google won’t practice the same kind of de facto censorship of authors as it does with its advertisers. For more on this, see:

    “Google’s Gag Order: An Internet Giant Threatens Free Speech”

  • Shalom Y’all,

    Just for the record, the author doesn’t get a percentage of the cover price, the author gets a percentage of the sale price. So when Amazon or Borders marks a book down, the author gets less royalty.


    Jeff Hess

  • Considered an author may get 5% out of a book, whose value is may be 100 and that he may get 50% of the Google version, whose value is may be 10, if I believe your post, he will still get 5 both ways. Content is not devaluated but Google’s readers don’t pay for the media and the trees get better.
    Of course, you people who did not even ratify the Kyoto protocol don’t care.
    (From a third world reader who however learned to compute)

  • Jim S

    I just want a better reader if they’re going to give me digital content. Something about the size of a trade paperback that’s as easy on the eyes as paper. In addition there should be a new model for certain content. Technical books that are updated yearly should have a subscription model where updated material can be downloaded for a fraction of the price of the original book.

  • There is so much fear in terms of shifting or evolving mediums. It makes sense, artists are worried that large corporations will almost completely rob their incomes. The outrage to Google’s plan, as well as to this one, seems to be more a protest against corporate influence and encroachment than to the actual concepts of moving books online in one form or another.