Tuesday, August 25, 2015

FUCK YOU, Henry Holt & Co.
DROP DEAD, Nation Books.
High book prices hurt both readers and authors

On Sunday I heard an interview with author Carl Safina and decided to buy his new book about animal communications. I went to Amazon.com to place my order and I was horrified. 

As an author, publisher, reader and animal lover, this book really pisses me off.

The hardcover costs a reasonable $17.96, but I'm trying to stop buying printed books. My bookshelves are overwhelmed with over 3,000 pbooks. I expect to move to a smaller house next year. I love the convenience of e-reading on multiple devices.

The ebook costs a ridiculous $16.99.

With no expense for paper, cardboard, cloth, printing, storage, packing, shipping or returns, the price difference between p and e should be much more than 97 cents.

For now I will refuse to buy the book. I feel deprived and enraged. I offer an apologetic I'm sorry to the author and a disgusted FUCK YOU to publisher Henry Holt and Co.

I could certainly afford $16.99 for a book I want to read, or even $50, but I don't like feeling ripped off. No ebook should cost more than $9.99. Even at that price there should be plenty of money for the author and the publishing company.

I had a similar problem on Monday.

I heard about a book about post-Katrina New Orleans written by
Roberta Brandes Gratz and went to Amazon.com to buy it.

The hardcover has a very reasonable price: $17.88.

The Kindle ebook shows contempt for readers with a price of $15.39.

I hereby send a disgusted FUCK YOU to publisher Nation Books, and an apologetic I'm Sorry to the author.

As an author and publisher I certainly know that words have value and that books should provide a profit. I detest the trend to sell ebooks for 99 cents, or zero cents. However, high prices are as destructive and counter-productive as low-low prices.

Back in early 2010 I wrote about the ebook pricing problem:
Just what ebooks are worth is a matter of debate. Publishers argue that printing and distribution represents a small proportion of the total cost of making a book.

“There are people who don’t always understand what goes into an author writing and an editor editing and a publishing house with hundreds of men and women working on these books,” said Mark Gompertz, executive vice president of digital publishing at Simon & Schuster. “If you want something that has no quality to it, fine, but we’re out to bring out things of quality, regardless of what type of book it is.”

To consumers who do not pay much attention to the economics of publishing, though, such arguments are trumped by the fact that ebooks have been available for $9.99 for more than a year.

One reason consumers may be sensitive to pricing is that they have so many other types of entertainment to occupy their time. (Next sentence added today) The same $15 or more that can pay for a book can pay for a movie, videogame, sports event, train ticket, a visit to a museum or a zoo, or a meal.

Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Vizio and Hyundai have proven that when prices come down, sales go up.

It seems highly likely that many more copies of a book can be sold at $9.99 than at $17.96, and the higher sales volume means MORE MONEY for author, bookseller and publisher -- with NO ADDITIONAL EFFORT OR COST.

It seems obvious that the only reason that publishers don't want to have $9.99 ebooks is because they don't want to hurt sales of more expensive pbooks -- not because they can't make enough money on the ebooks.

AFTERTHOUGHT:  If pbooks could be sold without the archaic and wasteful unlimited returns by booksellers, the price of pbooks could come down, too. Maybe we could get either p or e for $9.99.

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