Open letter to WoTC regarding eBooks

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Dear WoTC,

I want to first applaud the fact that you are finally venturing into the world of eBooks.  I think it is a positive move that will help others around the world enjoy DnD products.  But your decision to publish the up coming novel Shadowbane as an eBook only product will hurt customers of the Realms rather than help.  With this decision you are preventing those who either cannot afford an eReader or have chosen not to purchase one, from having access to the novel.

I will not attempt to guess the reasons for this decision in this letter, but at first glance it does not appear to be one with the customer first in mind.  I urge you to stick with publishing both print and eMedia until such time that the pricing of eMedia reaches reasonable and fair levels.  I have been a loyal customer of DnD and the Realms for well over 20 years.  It is a shame that I will not be able to enjoy Shadowbane due to its unavailabilty in printed form.

For my fellow customers and fans, please respond to this post with your thoughts on this topic.  I feel it is an important one to all of us.

Product Description
The city of Luskan has always been a den of pirates, thieves, and murderers. But lately, things have gotten much worse. A ship crashes offshore with nothing but corpses. Every day, people go crazy and brutalize those around them. And the only signs that even the most hardened criminals still walk the streets at night are bones.

Luskan's sister city, Waterdeep, has sent a detachment to quarantine the unclean city—to let the filth within die, rather than infect the rest of the Realms. But Myrin has slipped inside, declaring that she will save Luskan. Shadowbane follows, determined to save Myrin and therefore her pet city—even if he has to kill every rat in Luskan to do it.


Shadowbane features the triumphant return of popular, dark vigilante from Downshadow and carries forth the threads of the worlds-spanning Abyssal Plague series.


This expanded e-book also includes a brand-new short story, entitled “A New Purpose”, as well as links to an existing prequel and an original e-novella, featuring characters from Shadowbane. Also included are links to background information on the Abyssal Plague series and sample chapters from other books in the series.


The previous book Downshadow was available as both, as were those in the Abyssal Plague series, while the author states [post 13] these are not required reading for this book at would make since to do so.


I won’t read novels this way; I have used the Kindle, did not enjoy it, and got rid of it.  If WotC was to publish all the existing 4E and Essentials rules and accessories this way, I might reconsider this option.


I enjoyed reading Downshadow and the Abyssal Plague series, but this isn’t enough for me to buy an E-book.  Sorry Erik
I agree with you on the notion of pricing: eBooks have much lower overhead and virtually zero marginal cost per copy, so there's no reason they should cost as much as a paperback.  

With regard to this, though:
With this decision you are preventing those who either cannot afford an eReader or have chosen not to purchase one, from having access to the novel.

you're writing this on either an Internet-enabled smartphone or, more likely, a computer.  Your reading experience using Amazon's Kindle or BN.com's Nook applications on your computer may not be exactly what you want, but it's disingenuous to claim that WoTC's publishing decision is preventing people from reading the book.



I agree with you on the notion of pricing: eBooks have much lower overhead and virtually zero marginal cost per copy, so there's no reason they should cost as much as a paperback.  

With regard to this, though:
With this decision you are preventing those who either cannot afford an eReader or have chosen not to purchase one, from having access to the novel.

you're writing this on either an Internet-enabled smartphone or, more likely, a computer.  Your reading experience using Amazon's Kindle or BN.com's Nook applications on your computer may not be exactly what you want, but it's disingenuous to claim that WoTC's publishing decision is preventing people from reading the book.




I do realize this.  On my part you are correct that I can indeed read an eBook on my computer.  I however am abstaining the eBook format until prices come down to more fair and reasonable prices.  I am exercising my role as a comsumer in order to keep retailers honest.  But there are still many people who do not own computers, believe it or not, who will be totally blocked from reading this novel.  Granted, you can't accomodate a shrinking demographic forever and at some point in time the industry will need to move forward.  But I think that time is still far into the future.

 
Are you objecting to the price of the books, or the price of the readers?  Because all of the things I've purchased were less for the electronic version than the printed one.  And I use the free smartphone app, so I didn't have to shell out cash for a dedicated reader (I did buy a smartphone, but I would have gotten it anway - and did get it, first, before the apps existed).
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition

I agree with you on the notion of pricing: eBooks have much lower overhead and virtually zero marginal cost per copy, so there's no reason they should cost as much as a paperback. 

With regard to this, though:


With this decision you are preventing those who either cannot afford an eReader or have chosen not to purchase one, from having access to the novel.


you're writing this on either an Internet-enabled smartphone or, more likely, a computer.  Your reading experience using Amazon's Kindle or Barnes and Noble's Nook applications on your computer may not be exactly what you want, but it's disingenuous to claim that WoTC's publishing decision is preventing people from reading the book.



As far as the money goes, I view it as replacing the cost of paper with the cost of the tech.  Hell if Erik was to place it on his own web page I'd gladly pay him the associated fees for reading it, cutting the middlemen out of completely, but sadly this isn't the way business works.


While I’m reading/writing this from my PC, I’m also reading a paperback copy of Naamah's Curse (677 paper pages – mmm love the smell) purchased at my local bookstore for $7.99, not one of the large chains.  If I could have waited awhile the near-by Used book store would have offered it for $3.99.  The e-book however is available for $12.99 so in this case it actually cost more. 


This series (8 books so far) has been loaned to 4 other people who see me reading it and want to burrow it, they in turn got hooked on it and have bought there own and others by the author.  When I had my Kindle no one every inquired as to what I was reading and it was never loaned out, which I would have done for 2 of 4 friends (the other two live to far away). 


Even the author notes the limiting factors of a trilogy in his post:


Assuming all goes well (i.e., sales figures pan out, story demonstrates its popularity, etc) this is to be the start of a series, indeed. More on the exact plan as details emerge. 

Thank you for your guys' support over the years. It's proved very, very important to the whole process! (Also, keep it up, pls!)


Cheers



But how many people are going to loan their E-reader’s out?  Where is the terrific art that will cach the eye and raise someone’s curiosity of a new costomer?  And where is the delectable smell?

Are you objecting to the price of the books, or the price of the readers?  Because all of the things I've purchased were less for the electronic version than the printed one.  And I use the free smartphone app, so I didn't have to shell out cash for a dedicated reader (I did buy a smartphone, but I would have gotten it anway - and did get it, first, before the apps existed).



Mainly the price of the eBooks.  I think the readers are priced at a high but reasonable point.  I can see them coming down.  The eBooks however are at least $2-3 overpriced.  Publishers need to change their whole view of how eBooks are created and priced.  Setting the price to the length of a book would be a good idea with your average FR paperback being around $5.  But right now, they are taking the savings they get from printing, storage, and shipping and funneling it right into their profits rather than passing that savings onto the consumer.  If people continue to accept list prices that are exactly the same as the paperback then they will never have any reason to lower those prices to more reasonable levels.
See, that's what I don't get.  Everything that I've bought so far has been less expensive, sometimes half the list price for the printed version.  I mean, I look up a book, and it'll say $12.99 print, and $7.99 for the Kindle version.  I've never once seen the electronic one higher.

Maybe it's because I haven't really been going for the newest releases.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
See, that's what I don't get.  Everything that I've bought so far has been less expensive, sometimes half the list price for the printed version.  I mean, I look up a book, and it'll say $12.99 print, and $7.99 for the Kindle version.  I've never once seen the electronic one higher.

Maybe it's because I haven't really been going for the newest releases.

or best sellers.
See, that's what I don't get.  Everything that I've bought so far has been less expensive, sometimes half the list price for the printed version.  I mean, I look up a book, and it'll say $12.99 print, and $7.99 for the Kindle version.  I've never once seen the electronic one higher.

Maybe it's because I haven't really been going for the newest releases.



www.amazon.com/Sword-Gods-Forgotten-Real...

This book is a few months old.  I mentioned the list price because that is what the publisher suggests the price the retailer should sell the product at.  So in WoTC's eyes, $7.99 is what this novel should sell at.  Amazon of course is trying to move people into their eBook reader so they discount that product by $1.60 to make it more attractive than a paperback.  

Now if WoTC listed the price at say $4.99 Amazon will probably leave the price as suggested but it would still be a far more attractive price than $6.39 or even $7.99 for a paperback.  I would feel like WoTC is acting in a fair way and I would be more motivated into moving into an eReader.  But right now they are trying to maximize their profits at the expense of the consumer.  Basically, if you buy an eBook, you are getting less for your money than if you had bought the same book in paperback.
I agree with you on the notion of pricing: eBooks have much lower overhead and virtually zero marginal cost per copy, so there's no reason they should cost as much as a paperback.  

With regard to this, though:
With this decision you are preventing those who either cannot afford an eReader or have chosen not to purchase one, from having access to the novel.

you're writing this on either an Internet-enabled smartphone or, more likely, a computer.  Your reading experience using Amazon's Kindle or BN.com's Nook applications on your computer may not be exactly what you want, but it's disingenuous to claim that WoTC's publishing decision is preventing people from reading the book.



There are *gasp* people who don't own computers. Or Nooks, or Kindles, or smart phones, or iPads. Some people can only access computers at their local library for a few hours a day at most. Publishing a book as digital only, does in fact, prevent a significant number of people from having access to that material.

See: The Digital Divide.
"And why the simple mechanics? Two reasons: First, complex mechanics invariably channel and limit the imagination; second, my neurons have better things to do than calculate numbers and refer to charts all evening." -Over the Edge
I agree with you on the notion of pricing: eBooks have much lower overhead and virtually zero marginal cost per copy, so there's no reason they should cost as much as a paperback.  

With regard to this, though:
With this decision you are preventing those who either cannot afford an eReader or have chosen not to purchase one, from having access to the novel.

you're writing this on either an Internet-enabled smartphone or, more likely, a computer.  Your reading experience using Amazon's Kindle or BN.com's Nook applications on your computer may not be exactly what you want, but it's disingenuous to claim that WoTC's publishing decision is preventing people from reading the book.



There are *gasp* people who don't own computers. Or Nooks, or Kindles, or smart phones, or iPads. Some people can only access computers at their local library for a few hours a day at most. Publishing a book as digital only, does in fact, prevent a significant number of people from having access to that material.

See: The Digital Divide.

@Blackbriar,

I hate to be mean, but folks who don't have computers would probably be better off not buying D&D books, either. Just a thought. (As a compy can run for a cheap not very good one about as much as 2-3 D&D books and do infinitly more for your quality of life.) 
Characters currently: Abscense makes the heart grow fonder but the characters disappear.


There are *gasp* people who don't own computers. Or Nooks, or Kindles, or smart phones, or iPads. Some people can only access computers at their local library for a few hours a day at most. Publishing a book as digital only, does in fact, prevent a significant number of people from having access to that material.

See: The Digital Divide.

@Blackbriar,

I hate to be mean, but folks who don't have computers would probably be better off not buying D&D books, either. Just a thought. (As a compy can run for a cheap not very good one about as much as 2-3 D&D books and do infinitly more for your quality of life.) 



You do realize we're talking about a $7.99 paperback as a digital ebook, right?
"And why the simple mechanics? Two reasons: First, complex mechanics invariably channel and limit the imagination; second, my neurons have better things to do than calculate numbers and refer to charts all evening." -Over the Edge


There are *gasp* people who don't own computers. Or Nooks, or Kindles, or smart phones, or iPads. Some people can only access computers at their local library for a few hours a day at most. Publishing a book as digital only, does in fact, prevent a significant number of people from having access to that material.

See: The Digital Divide.

@Blackbriar,

I hate to be mean, but folks who don't have computers would probably be better off not buying D&D books, either. Just a thought. (As a compy can run for a cheap not very good one about as much as 2-3 D&D books and do infinitly more for your quality of life.) 



You do realize we're talking about a $7.99 paperback as a digital ebook, right?



No I was thinking normal D&D books forgot they were talking about the awful, awful D&D novels.

Though I still say that they'd be better off saving money and buying a computer then buying the books. And if they're checking them out at the library Wizards is making very little money on them (and thus frankly doesn't care much about them, sad as that is.) 
Characters currently: Abscense makes the heart grow fonder but the characters disappear.
There are *gasp* people who don't own computers. Or Nooks, or Kindles, or smart phones, or iPads. Some people can only access computers at their local library for a few hours a day at most. Publishing a book as digital only, does in fact, prevent a significant number of people from having access to that material.

See: The Digital Divide.

I work in social science and education; I'm familiar with the idea of the digital divide.  The existence of a growing portion of the American population that cannot afford to participate in the expansion of digital consumer culture is a serious problem, and it's one of the best arguments against a rapid and wholesale transition to digital content: we risk accelerating the creation of a permanent underclass that lags in education, which is in turn the key predictor of class mobility in the United States. 

But the overlap between the market segment that is interested in purchasing the latest licensed Forgotten Realms tie-in novel and the segment that is genuinely unable to access e-books is likely very small. I'm not particularly concerned about those who have privilege and access but have made decisions that prevent them from having precisely the reading experience they'd prefer.
No I was thinking normal D&D books forgot they were talking about the awful, awful D&D novels.

Though I still say that they'd be better off saving money and buying a computer then buying the books. And if they're checking them out at the library Wizards is making very little money on them (and thus frankly doesn't care much about them, sad as that is.) 



Interesting that libraries are some of the biggest purchasers of books then, huh?

I work in social science and education; I'm familiar with the idea of the digital divide.  The existence of a growing portion of the American population that cannot afford to participate in the expansion of digital consumer culture is a serious problem, and it's one of the best arguments against a rapid and wholesale transition to digital content: we risk accelerating the creation of a permanent underclass that lags in education, which is in turn the key predictor of class mobility in the United States.



It's not limited to "consumer culture." One quick example is companies are in a big way moving to electronic applications (as in applying for a job), leaving those who can't afford a computer to find someone who can to help them job hunt, or, more likely, they have to find someone to teach them how to use a computer first, then try to find a job via the internet. Digital socializing is also a huge concern as those who cannot afford computers are left out of an increasingly important part of society.

But the overlap between the market segment that is interested in purchasing the latest licensed Forgotten Realms tie-in novel and the segment that is genuinely unable to access e-books is likely very small. I'm not particularly concerned about those who have privilege and access but have made decisions that prevent them from having precisely the reading experience they'd prefer.



So in your mind to be interested in FR novels means you're able to afford a computer to read a digital only book on? That's an interesting premise, if completely lacking in basis in reality. Where, pray tell, have you performed your extensive market research into this particular problem?
"And why the simple mechanics? Two reasons: First, complex mechanics invariably channel and limit the imagination; second, my neurons have better things to do than calculate numbers and refer to charts all evening." -Over the Edge
No I was thinking normal D&D books forgot they were talking about the awful, awful D&D novels.

Though I still say that they'd be better off saving money and buying a computer then buying the books. And if they're checking them out at the library Wizards is making very little money on them (and thus frankly doesn't care much about them, sad as that is.) 



Interesting that libraries are some of the biggest purchasers of books then, huh?

I work in social science and education; I'm familiar with the idea of the digital divide.  The existence of a growing portion of the American population that cannot afford to participate in the expansion of digital consumer culture is a serious problem, and it's one of the best arguments against a rapid and wholesale transition to digital content: we risk accelerating the creation of a permanent underclass that lags in education, which is in turn the key predictor of class mobility in the United States.



It's not limited to "consumer culture." One quick example is companies are in a big way moving to electronic applications (as in applying for a job), leaving those who can't afford a computer to find someone who can to help them job hunt, or, more likely, they have to find someone to teach them how to use a computer first, then try to find a job via the internet. Digital socializing is also a huge concern as those who cannot afford computers are left out of an increasingly important part of society.

But the overlap between the market segment that is interested in purchasing the latest licensed Forgotten Realms tie-in novel and the segment that is genuinely unable to access e-books is likely very small. I'm not particularly concerned about those who have privilege and access but have made decisions that prevent them from having precisely the reading experience they'd prefer.



So in your mind to be interested in FR novels means you're able to afford a computer to read a digital only book on? That's an interesting premise, if completely lacking in basis in reality. Where, pray tell, have you performed your extensive market research into this particular problem?

I'd say that Wizards has probably done that marketing research. I can guess what they found.


And libraries do buy books but only a couple for many readers. I can guarantee Wizards would prefer each user buys their own copy.
Characters currently: Abscense makes the heart grow fonder but the characters disappear.
It's not limited to "consumer culture." One quick example is companies are in a big way moving to electronic applications (as in applying for a job), leaving those who can't afford a computer to find someone who can to help them job hunt, or, more likely, they have to find someone to teach them how to use a computer first, then try to find a job via the internet. Digital socializing is also a huge concern as those who cannot afford computers are left out of an increasingly important part of society.

You missed my point entirely.  By "digital consumer culture", I meant the ability to purchase and upgrade various electronic gadgets which provide access to the Internet.  The inability to participate in that culture--by which I mean not owning a computer, smartphone, etc.--causes lots of problems.  Which I feel I've thoroughly acknowledged, at this point.

So in your mind to be interested in FR novels means you're able to afford a computer to read a digital only book on? That's an interesting premise, if completely lacking in basis in reality. Where, pray tell, have you performed your extensive market research into this particular problem?

"Completely lacking in basis in reality"? RPGs in general, and licensed D&D novels in particular, are a niche product marketed principally to white men with disposable income. (Whether that should be the case is another discussion entirely.)

But aside from that, BaronFel hit it on the head: I don't have to do the market research.  WotC has undoubtedly done so, and with that information in hand they decided to go e-book only for the newest FR novel release.  It's not that hard to work backwards to what the research indicated.
So let me see if I get this straight, If we want the game books then we HAVE to buy the print version, but if we want the new novels then we HAVE to buy the digital version!?

Why isnt there a facepalm smiliey!?
I survived Section 4 and all I got was this lousy sig Off-topic and going downhill from there
Just learned about the decision that Shadowbane will be eBook only. Hope ist will be available in Europe, too. Not like the link for Sword of the Gods above, where it's said that


This title is not available for customers from your location in:

Europe

I know this is a minor problem compared with the Digital Device problem you have over the pond (and maybe we have here too, but I'm not aware of it - I don't know people without computers), but it's a problem of selfish me, because I like to read the DnD novels.

"Completely lacking in basis in reality"? RPGs in general, and licensed D&D novels in particular, are a niche product marketed principally to white men with disposable income. (Whether that should be the case is another discussion entirely.)

But aside from that, BaronFel hit it on the head: I don't have to do the market research.  WotC has undoubtedly done so, and with that information in hand they decided to go e-book only for the newest FR novel release.  It's not that hard to work backwards to what the research indicated.



Your first statement shows narrow-minded prejudice, which I find offensive, and your second is based on an assumption, which has a saying that goes with it, that I would rather not be included in.

It is a shame on the social science and education industry that you have even made this comment.


To avoid wall-of-text syndrome, I've hidden the lion's share of my reply. Abandon all hope ye who enter here, &c.
Show
I am not making an argument that D&D can or should be restricted to white guys (that would show a narrow-minded and shameful brand of prejudice).  However, that's who has historically been part of the hobby, that's primarily who designs and develops the game, that's most of the people I find at every FLGS I've visited, and that's the majority of people you meet at cons.  D&D's fan base has historically been and continues to be proportionally more white and more male than the population as a whole.

I think D&D should improve their marketing and branding, down to the art direction, to broaden the appeal of D&D.  (I was involved a year or so ago in an epic General Discussion flamewar on exactly this topic.) I think WotC should make an effort, including massive donations to libraries, to get the product into the hands of people that ordinarily wouldn't or couldn't buy it. I think they should make a printed intro rulebook, free for anyone that wanders into a bookstore and wonders what this D&D thing is all about.


But regardless of what I think WotC could and should do to expand their appeal to constituencies D&D hasn't successfully reached in the past--and, in fact, regardless of the efforts they are currently making--no one can change the game's history, and even a relatively powerful company can only slowly alter public perception.  That means that many or most of the people you run into as a D&D gamer are going to look... well, a lot like Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.  


There's another unfortunate point in the mix, as well: D&D isn't necessarily a hobby with high ongoing expenses, but it is one that can have a fairly high buy-in.  Moreover, 4e has gone all-in on the electronic side with DDi.  All of those facts together mean that regardless of what I would like to see, or what would be best for the game, D&D is currently accessible primarily to people who can afford to purchase a couple of books a year at $20-30 and/or a DDi subscription.

To put it more succinctly, D&D is a niche product marketed principally to white men with disposable income.  That's beginning to change--huzzah!  But sociological change, even change driven by modern advertising, is slow.

Meanwhile, accusing me of "narrow-minded prejudice" for discussing objective, observable facts like the average race and gender makeup of the D&D audience is a lazy ad hominem.  It also distorts and impedes the actual conversation about who D&D traditionally appeals to, why, and how we can work on improving access to our hobby and making its audience more diverse.


Coming back around to the topic of the thread, it remains likely that WotC is not going to lose a significant portion of their audience due to actual, technical inability to access the e-book.  (LarsVolta's point is one I hadn't considered, and I acknowledge that the non-US audience has an additional access problem.)

WotC certainly does market research, and they employ accountants and businesspeople whose job it is to 1) estimate how many purchasers they might lose with a decision like this one, and 2) whether the marginal increase in profit per unit on e-books is greater than the marginal loss in potential purchasing base.  That's an assumption, but it's a tenable one; the only alternatives are to presume that A) WotC, which is owned and has access to the resources of a large publicly traded corporation, doesn't do market research, or B) WotC does do market research, but intentionally made a decision that would make them less money.

Well met, all.

I'm here to report that I've been hearing from a lot of folks that my e-book only novel (SHADOWBANE) and Rosemary Jones's serialized e-novella "Cold Steel and Secrets" are proving to be completely unavailable to those without a US billing address. This, in mind, seems to constitute a major distribution problem, and I would like to advocate for finding a solution to it.

(Also, if you don't like D&D-related novels, please drop out of this conversation. That's what we're talking about, and we don't need all the negativity.)

That said, carry on, please.

Cheers

EDITED to clarify: My apologies, I revived this thread thinking it was the FR-specific thread, which has been updated much more recently. My post still stands, it's just less likely that anyone will actually pop in to discuss the topic at hand. My purpose here is to share information that I have, which is that lots of people are having trouble getting their hands on WotC's ebooks these days.
Carry on what?
A conversation with the last comment posted 3 months ago?

You resurrect a dead thread, tell people to be more respectful, then go on to say that if you're not willing to discuss only D&D-related novels (on the D&D 4E RPG forums) to "drop out" of the discussion.
If you, as an author, have an issue with the way your product is being distributed (or lack thereof, that is), then perhaps thread necromancy on the D&D 4E game forums isn't the most viable means of resolving the issue. Perhaps talking to WotC directly (through the proper channels) would garner you a better outcome.

Not trying to be snarky or argumentative, but if I have a problem with the way my homemade cookies are being sold, I'm not going to go on the grocery store's chat site and discuss it with other customers...I'm going to talk to the people who can actually do something about it.
As I've edited into my post above, my purpose here was only to update everyone on the European "no ebooks" situation. I was specifically asked about where to contact WotC about the issue, so I came to find this thread, which I mistook for the FR-specific thread (much more recently updated). Unfortunately, I posted before I realized this was nor actually the thread I was looking for, but a duplicate in a totally different forum. My apologies for that. 

I am not now, nor have I ever been an employee of Wizards of the Coast. Basically, I'm just another reader/gamer/fan, like you guys. I don't really have "proper channels" to get things done, and I have no special pull in their decision making.

The ebook initiative is an experiment they are doing, one I highly support--I think it's a great idea, and an excellent way to minimize costs. I just want to get all the information/feedback out there in the open so we can figure out the right way to do everything. If you or a friend is having issues with getting a WotC ebook, let someone know!

Cheers