Saturday, October 29, 2011

Traditional Publishers' E-book Pricing - A Crime

Received this link in an e-mail from Amazon with a list of several other books they thought I might be interested in since I had purchased some other Mystery/Thrillers recently. Just out of curiosity and as I've read Jodi Picoult in the past and enjoyed her, I checked the link out:

Now aside from the fact that this book is a reissue with a different cover (a rant for another day about how publishers get you to purchase a book that you've already purchased, but luckily I remembered the premise in this case) it's shit like this that just pisses me off with traditional, big publishers. WHY the hell is the Kindle version TWICE as much as the print?!?! And this is just a sample. I've seen other big name authors' books priced like this (J.R. Ward, for example, whose Black Dagger Brotherhood books I avidly follow!). Amazon makes this note beside the Kindle edition: "This price was set by the publisher", like this is supposed to somehow absolve and separate them from the travesty.

When I purchased my Kindle, I thought I would just convert and buy all my books in the Kindle version from now on, but with prices like this, I can see myself buying half-print, half-e, or just stop buying books from traditional, big publishers altogether, except in very special, auto-buy-author instances (and these are getting few and far between, especially since I can find comparable authors and themes with e-publishers). Admittedly, I have found lots of bargains and have downloaded numerous FREE or reasonably priced (i.e., $2.99-$5.99) books in Kindle version (some by big name authors) since I purchased my Kindle, so I guess like with any new technology, one must take the good with the bad (i.e., outrageous, traditional publisher pricing vs. reasonable e-publisher pricing). As usual, the best prices for e-books are coming directly from the source: E-Publishers!

I still like the idea of the Kindle and reading on it, but traditional publishing, hanging on tooth and nail to their outdated models (and pricing accordingly) is, as usual, trying to control the market and stomp on the "little" guy. Except that the little guy isn’t so little anymore as authors like Barry Eisler can attest:

So traditional publishers, stomp on! E-Publishing is here to stay. Better check yourself before you wreck yourself!


Jean said...

Don't blame Amazon for the high e-book prices of tradtional publishers. I believe there was a lawsuit or at least a huge battle that ended with Amazon being forced to allow the publishers to set prices. In the past, Amazon has been setting prices, lowering them to compete with other sites. But not anymore. I'm an author with an e-publisher and it's music to my ears to see the big publishers gouging readers. Then perhaps you will all take a chance on us lesser known authors who offer a fair (or low) price for a great read. We welcome your business!

Gracie C. McKeever said...

I'm an author with a few e-publishers, have been for more than a decade, and I do read "lesser known authors", have done so for more than a decade ;) However, I was speaking with my consumer hat on and not my author hat. No one wants to be price-gouged for any reason. I think it's bad business for everyone, but especially for traditional publishers who are alienating readers with these prices. The pricing might force some readers to try lesser known authors; some readers may just bite the bullet and buy the authors they like regardless of price (myself included); some will just go to the library and borrow their books; others still will buy used. As I said, I think traditional publishing is going to lose, in the long-run, with these tactics.

Jim Brown said...

Amazon isn't your enemy in this case. Amazon want ebooks to be priced lower, but they cannot force that (not allowed to fix pricing by law). Publishers are fully entitled to price their books at whatever price they feel is right for them. The fact that many other (usually indy) publishers price their books at a more reader-friendly level is moot. However, as I have commented on in several places, in epublishing the reader will drive the market. Publishers who price books too high will find sales may be poor - then turn round and use that information to say that epublishing isn't that big!

The reader/customer will let us all know the appropriate price points for ebooks. Like any purchase you might consider, if the price is too high, you don't have to buy. One thing there is not a shortage of is books and authors.

Traditional publishers have shown repeatedly over the last few years that they don't like epublishing, they don't like the model, and they'll be damned if they're going to follow it. They seem to feel that lower ebook prices devalue the product (while strangely offering much lower royalty percentages to its authors than indie does), when they should be realising - as all who have embraced epublishing do - that ebook devices are changing the way the public reads. If they fail to realise that and change their publishing models, they will indeed be left far behind. They will also find their best authors (as some have already done) will desert them for other publishers or to self-publish.

Lara Santiago said...

Great blog post, Gracie! :)
I also have a Kindle and I LOVE it. However, I'm with you, anyone charging more for the electronic copy of a book rather than the print copy is making a mistake. Readers likely won't put up with it for long.
At least I hope not. :)
The other thing that really annoys me to no end is when the publisher puts the "print" book out at an earlier release date than the electronic version. If we pre-order a copy for our Kindle, why oh why do we have to wait an extra week to get our Kindle copy?
Yet another annoying practice they need to stop. :)
What do you think?

Savanna Kougar said...

Glad you ranted about this, Gracie. In the end, as Jim said, I think this practice will only harm the big boy publishers.

With so many authors, the established and the newbie, jumping on the Indie train and also publishing with the epub/small print publishers, unless the Big Boy pubs go for buying the small presses out, to corner the market [which they will likely try], their days are numbered.

Now the problem other Indie authors have, as I've been reading on their loop, is that Amazon has slanted its algorithms to help out the Big Boy publishers, as far as listings, etc.

So, in the end, it's not a fair playing field. Hopefully, however, readers and epublished authors/Indie authors will win out anyway.

Gracie C. McKeever said...

Interesting point, Lara and I can see being annoyed by the practice. Here again, seems to be a Big Boy Pub tactic. I've seen a few indie books where the electronic/Kindle version released/was available for immediate download weeks before the print version.

Gracie C. McKeever said...

Jean and Jim, thanks for your comments. I stand corrected. Amazon isn't the this case ;)

Savanna, I hope that you are right and that the epublished authors/indie authors will win out anyway :)

RowenaBCherry said...

Just to be contrary about this issue, I am baffled by the sense of entitlement that Kindle owners display.

Why should you be entitled to cheaper reading material by virtue of your ownership of a device?

It's not the publishers' job or duty to subsidize Amazon's product.

It was your free choice to buy a device from a device maker.

Did publishers promise you cheaper books if you purchased a Kindle? I suspect not.

So who made the promises and raised the expectations of cheap books? Who didn't deliver on the promises that convinced you to buy a Kindle?

Is it possible that Amazon made promises it had no right to make?

Publishers are not committing a crime, and they are not culprits as far as I can see. As long as they continue to sell printed works as they always have done, they haven't betrayed you.

They might be short-sighted, but that is not a crime.

If Amazon can produce a device and become its own publisher, I wonder whether it has occurred to the Big Six publishers to produce their own proprietary e-readers.

Susan Roebuck said...

I agree Gracie - ebooks should NEVER be higher than paperbacks. That makes no sense at all because ebooks are cheaper to produce. I have another rant LOL. I live in Europe. Amazon UK won't sell ebooks to me (don't know why) so I have to get them from An e-book that's priced $4.99 for US customers costs me $8.99. It's very hard - especially as it's all delivered by 3G. (Sigh).

Pauline B Jones said...

I also believe that big publishers are being short-sighted about pricing and couldn't figure out why until I read somewhere that they don't consider readers their customers. Bookstores and distributors are their customers (in their minds). This totally boggled my mind, but it does explain why they aren't listening to readers.

Gracie C. McKeever said...

Rowena, thanks for your insight. I see your point, but perhaps cheapers is not the right word, rather reasonable, as in the point that Susan made, as ebooks are cost less to produce than a print book, than ergo they shouldn't be priced more than a print. I wouldn't have an issue if the prices were equal to a print (which still wouldn't be reasonable to me, considering the previous logic) but TWICE AS MUCH?!?

Savanna Kougar said...

While ANY publisher has the right to price their books however THEY want. Then let the market work as far as what is purchased and what is not --

However, as a point, Wal-Mart won't carry a company's product unless they take a huge cut in profit generally. I don't agree with this position either because in the long run it hurts consumers and companies... so, no, I don't think Amazon should dictate price per se.

What I do disagree with is a company like Amazon and Wal-Mart *PROMOTING* THE BIG BOY MONOPOLY-type COMPANIES. Therefore, there is really no free market. Or an equal playing field for anyone, author or reader, and in the end it is the consumer who is victimized. Artistic creativity is also a victim.

As far as every publisher having their own e-reader, I got a real hot picture of that one. Sure, readers are so flush with money, they can just purchase reading devices for ALL the publishers out there, where they might want to buy a book. I think the publishers know that is a losing game. Even if some haven't figured out ebooks priced reasonably could only help their company, let alone their authors.

A few authors are jumping ship and not going with lucrative contracts because they have enough of a readership to make WAY more than the offered contract by going Indie.

This is my deal. I'm for authors. Rarely are authors, except the designated *stars*, treated with any kind of real fairness as far as monies and promotion, by most of the Big Boy publishers. I've been studying this since the eighties, so hey, prove me wrong.

So, let me know when most of the Big Boys actually 'care' about their readers and their authors, except as way to feed their greed, and their power trip. [of course, this could also be true for some of the small pubs]

NOW, I'm not talking PROFIT. I 'believe' in profit. I believe in business. I believe in a free market and fair competition. For all of us.

And, I'm willing to bet if that scenario was truly happening the world of books would look NOTHING like it does now.

Gracie C. McKeever said...

Amen, Savanna. And thanks for mentioning the G word that is at the root of this entire issue--Greed.