It seems sometimes that no one is talking about anything except ebook pricing. Whether it relates to owning vs. leasing content because of DRM, or piracy, or costs to publishers (always misrepresented, but that's another post). Now, Paulo Coelho posits that the best way is the iTunes way: $0.99 ebooks.
His logic? Making an ebook that cheap prevents piracy because it's easier to buy an ebook legally than go through even well-lit back channels to get a free version, and at $0.99, the price isn't enough of a barrier to divert people into piracy (though you'll note that this is a "sale." Because this price point is unsustainable).
But piracy is not completely a bad thing, nor is it something we can stop. Ever. Cory Doctrow will tell you that. People will pirate if they want to, and they won't if they don't. Making content more accessible by removing DRMs is going to be more effective than low-pricing publishing out of business. Piracy doesn't put industries out of business. Monopolies and bully-pricing do.
Looking to the music industry as a model of how we want book publishing to end up is a mistake.
They, too, were obsessed with piracy, 15 years ago. They did not stop piracy. Now, in most cases, music sales don't even make the profits. It's the tours, the merchandise, the endorsements. And do you know of any authors who can create enough of a spectacle to fill Madison Square Garden??
Popular (read, money-making) music is produced through a few hyper-consolidated means (the same producers and song-writers work on pretty much every song you hear by Katy Perry, Beyonce, and Rhianna) and distributed, essentially, through ONE channel. That would be Apple, ladies and gents. Book publishing has our own Big A looking to achieve this status.
Music's obsession with preventing piracy, rather than improving content and innovating sales mechanisms, is part of why they're where they are. When they realized that fighting piracy is like fighting a flood with a thimble, it was too late.
Music's evolution, a reactionary rather than proactive one, should serve not as our model but as our warning.
What do you think? What would you pay for an ebook? If we've all agreed that $0.99 is the right price for a song, does that transfer to a book?