Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why Download Sales are Lagging

Short answer: THEY COST TOO MUCH!!!

Example: Jobs announced yesterday that iTunes would now support movie rentals via downloads. The new version of iTunes allows you to download a movie, then anytime in the next 30 days, you can watch it. Once you start watching it, you have 24 hours to finish. All this for $3.99 per movie for old stuff, $4.99 for new releases. In other words, for the same price I can rent a physical DVD that I can have for 5 days, watch on a real TV, watch as many times as I like, take to a friend's house and watch it there on a real TV.

All that just gets Apple up to speed with Amazon's Unbox program. Which also costs too much. In fact, it's pricing is so close (as in identical) to Apple's I suspect the studios are the ones setting the prices, not the vendors.

Example: On Amazon I can buy a physical CD (I'm using Red Hot Chili Pepper's Stadium Arcadium CD for this discussion) for $16.99. I can carry that CD around, make a copy to have in my car, rip the tracks to my PC, put them on my iPod, loan it to a friend, sell it at a garage sale, and so on. Or I can buy the same album as un-DRM'ed MP3's. I get no physical medium, no liner notes, no cute little plastic case. Now I realize that doesn't count for much of the cost of delivering an album into my hot little hands, but it costs something. So how much does Amazon charge to download Stadium Arcadium? Yep. $16.99. Come on, Amazon; at least give me a buck off.

Example: I can buy a DRM'ed movie from Amazon Unbox (Waitress will be our example this time) for $14.99. That movie can only be played on my PC, cannot be burned to a DVD, cannot be moved to a different device without the expressed consent of Amazon, cannot be loaned to a friend (unless I loan him my PC as well), and cannot be sold in a garage sale. I again get no physical media, case, extra features, etc. What is my discount over buying physical media? Fifty lousy cents. Huh?

Example: Amazon's new Kindle e-book reader is getting a lot of press. Personally, it has to be one of the ugliest electronic devices I've ever seen, but that's beside the point. Anyway, I can buy a physical paperback book (Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia for this example) for $8.25. I can read this book anywhere, it never runs out of batteries, I can make notes in the margin, loan it to a friend, sell it at a garage sale, etc. Or I can buy the Kindle e-book, which can do none of those things for..... wait for it...... $8.25.

It's almost like they want electronic delivery to fail. Oh wait; the RIAA, MPAA, and major publishing houses do want electronic delivery to fail. All except Baen Books, that is. Their non-DRM'ed e-books are substantially less than even the paperback versions and come in a variety of formats including just plain ol' HTML.

If at any time, the powers-that-be want to see their sales figures improve beyond their wildest imaginings, cut the price of all electronic version of music, video and books in half. Across the board. Don't change anything else. Keep your useless DRM if it gives you warm fuzzies. Sales will explode. Or at least stop sliding into the gutter.

No comments: