Delusion or Reality?

The other day, I sat down and tried to figure out how long I had actively been watching the publishing industry and how it responded to the digital revolution. I was surprised when I did. It’s been ten years, give or take a couple of months. That was long before my first foray into indie/small press publishing. It was when I first started buying e-books from Baen and wondering why I couldn’t buy similar offerings from other publishers, especially at a realistic price point and without DRM added.

Back then, and for some years prior to that, traditional publishing had looked down on Jim Baen for rocking the boat. Traditional publishing didn’t understand that their customer base was changing. It was getting younger, more technologically sophisticated and more on the go. Back then, traditional publishing was the only road open to writers who wanted to be considered “legitimate” authors. Oh, there were vanity presses out there but not much more for those writers who wanted another route besides the traditional — and slow — route available.

Then along came the Kindle, an e-book reader that was affordable, connected to a bookstore for easy purchase and download and traditional publishers started to grudgingly admit there might be a market for e-books. But they wanted to control that market, control prices and got their hands judicially slapped for colluding with one another on pricing. All the while, Amazon — and later other outlets — opened up digital publishing to indie writers. I’m not sure anyone expected e-books to take off the way they did. Certainly, traditional publishing did not. Nor did the lamented Borders, a bookseller chain that is no longer with us, and certainly not Barnes & Noble that is still having issues finding the right online platform to make it easy for its customers to find and order e-books.

So, when I read over at The Passive Voice how Randy Penguin (sorry, Penguin Random House) claims it “read too much into the e-book hype”, I have to laugh. This from a company that didn’t want e-books to begin with. This from a company that consistently overprices, in my opinion, e-books. But I wanted to be sure. So I went to Randy Penguin’s website to see what books they have coming out and what prices they are offering them at.

The first I checked is Janet Evanovich’s Turbo Twenty-Three. It will hit the stores November 15th. The price for hard cover is $16.78 on Amazon. The price for the hard cover on the flap is $28.00) The e-book price, which is set by Penguin Random House, is $14.99.

Debbie Macomber’s Sweet Tomorrows is listed at $26.00 for the hard cover (flap), $14.99 hard cover (Amazon price) and the e-book price (set by the publisher) is $12.99.

It goes on like this. You can check.

Now, I don’t know about the folks at Penguin Random House, but there are very few hard covers I buy any longer. It just isn’t economically feasible for me to buy hard covers like I used to. They have simply become too expensive. Those hard covers I do buy, I buy from Amazon or when the books are on sale in brick and mortar stores. I can’t tell you the last time I paid what the publishers have printed on the inside flap for a hard cover. Every reader I know does the same thing. They shop for the best price for their books just as they do for almost anything else in their lives.

So, when readers see e-books that cost almost as much as a hard cover book, they shake their heads and walk away. Oh, there are exceptions. Each of us have a few authors we will pay more for their books than we will for everyone else. But that seems to be something the traditional publishers have a hard time accepting, just as they have had a hard time accepting the fact that e-books are here to stay.

From the Telegraph:

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Ms Prior [Joanna Prior, the managing director of Penguin’s general books] said: “There was a definite moment when we all went shooting out after the shiny app thing and spent money on that and invested probably unwisely in products that we thought could in some way enhance the book.”

“Enhance the book” instead of simply converting the book into digital format and getting it out into the reading public’s hands. That was the second mistake. The first was dragging their feet when it came to getting behind e-books to start with. Now, I have a couple of those “enhanced” e-books and I found myself getting aggravated at the enhancements. Sure, it’s great to have links to external sources and the link IN NON-FICTION books but not in fiction. It interrupts the flow of the narrative and throws the reader out. But the editors and bean counters didn’t see that. All they saw was the shiny and a way to increase the price of the book.

And what is bringing this change of mind to the bosses at Randy Penguin? The fact e-book sales dropped 2.9% last year. Yes, read that again. A decline in sales of less than 3% has they crowing that they were initially right to doubt the viability of e-books. Funny, they didn’t have that sort of a reaction when print sales declined much more than that. Instead, they doubled-down on doing all they could to keep the print portions of their business alive.

So what does this mean for readers? It means we will continue to see traditional publishers over-pricing e-books. They will continue to load them with DRM and will press for more onerous (for the reader) laws about the licensing of e-books. Remember, traditional publishers don’t believe you “buy” an e-book, only license it.

As readers, it means we will have to continue to choose between buying one traditionally published e-book from publishers like Randy Penguin (at $12.99 or more) or buying two or three — or more — indie or small press published e-books. It means choosing to buy e-books from indies or publishers like Baen, sources that don’t add DRM, or buying fro publishers who aren’t afraid to say they think their customers are thieves and that is why they add the DRM. After all, they don’t trust us not to pirate their books or — gasp — resell them after we’re done with them. As readers, it also means we need to be smart and start backing up our e-books to places not connected with our e-readers, etc. Because, as sure as I’m sitting here typing this this morning, I guaran-damn-tee you there is some bean counter sitting in an ivory tower in the publishing industry who is trying to figure out a way to limit the number of times we can read an e-book before we have to buy a new license or something equally as silly. Don’t believe me? Remember, these are the same publishers that put a limit on how many times an e-book can be checked out at a library before the library has to buy — at an inflated rate — the e-book again.

What really caught my eye and had me shaking my head was this:

Penguin is now focusing on providing app developments for picture books aimed at pre-school children, which Ms Prior believes can make money.

“There is beginning to emerge a financial model for that, I think it is an exciting way of getting very young children into reading,” she said.

So, they want an app aimed at pre-school kids for picture books to help them learn to read. This at a time when studies are saying we need to get kids, especially young kids, away from the screen. This at a time when we are told we need to get our kids outside to play. This at a time when parents should be sitting down and reading with their kids instead of shoving a tablet at the kids as an electronic babysitter. Oh, wait, there are already apps like this out there. But Penguin wants to re-invent the wheel. Color me surprised. Once again, Penguin is behind the times and targeting a single audience instead of looking at what needs to be done system-wide to increase the productivity and profitability of their business.

Frankly, it is time for us, as readers, to understand that the traditional publishers who follow the path of Penguin-Random House and the other Big 5 publishers aren’t our friends. They don’t respect us as readers or as their customers. They sure as hell don’t respect most of their writers. To them, writers are simply interchangeable widgets. It is time for us to hold them responsible for their actions. If we don’t like the price of a book, don’t grit your teeth and buy it. Wait until it goes on sale. Let the author of the book know — yes, I know. The author has no control but they need to see that their publisher is killing them — and let the publisher know. More than that, use social media and let other readers know. Check your favorite authors on Amazon or your favorite online site and see if they have their backlist available. If they have it available through the indie route, buy it. Sure, you may have already read the book but a lot of authors are updating their backlist, returning the book to what they wanted it to be before the editors got to it. Even if you have already read it, you will be supporting that author, showing them that you still enjoy their work. Leave reviews for the books you read. That is some of the best help you can give an author.

Just don’t buy into the hype from publishers when they talk about how expensive e-books are to produce. Don’t let them con you into paying hard cover prices for a mass of electrons. Unless and until the publishers realize that their business plan no longer works, they will continue down this path and, believe me, it is not the Yellow Brick Road.

I guess it’s now time for me to do a bit of promo.

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1) is now available for purchase.

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

Witchfire Burning is the start of a new series. However, it takes place in the same town as Slay Bells Ring and some of the same characters are present in both. Both have a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance. Witchfire adds in an urban fantasy note as well. While it wasn’t a book I had planned when I sat down at the beginning of they year to figure out my publication schedule, it’s one that decided it needed to be written and I had a blast doing it. I hope you guys all enjoy reading about Quinn and company as much as I enjoyed writing about them. Also, for those who prefer print versions, it should be available in approximately two weeks. I’ll make an announcement when that version is ready.


    1. I’ve heard rumors of a drool-resistant cover, but nothing that is proof against toddler teeth. Unless it might be one of those custom super-duty field lap-tops some of the petroleum engineers have.

      1. Panasonic Toughbooks. About four grand apiece last I checked, but you can run over ’em with a truck. Still, a toddler might be a bit much.

        1. Don’t give them any ideas. Can’t you see Randy Penguin trying to sell such a thing as “guaranteed toddler proof” with the Randy Penguin logo on it? Then, a few months later, they’ll lament that the e-book market for toddlers is gone and print will live forevah!

      2. When I think of the mischief my son got into as a toddler, I know there is nothing on the market he couldn’t have destroyed given a few minutes on his own. No way would I have left him with a tablet or smartphone, etc. At least not if I wanted it to work the next day.

    2. There you go, asking questions a normal person would ask but not those in the marble halls of publishing. How dare you apply common sense to the equation. VBEG

    3. Amazon Kindle is fairly resistant, with basic supervision, and has a two-year no questions asked replacement guarantee. (It’s a normal kindle fire in an inch-and-a-half-thick foam cover.)
      For my three year old boy and incidental attacks by his almost-year-and-a-half sister, YMMV depending on the destructiveness of said child.

      1. If I’d had a kindle back when my son was that age, it would not have survived. My son was inventive when it came to destruction. 😉

  1. The group of indy writers that I was a part of at the time had members who were very tech-oriented and adventurous if they were not. We were all thrilled at the advent of the Kindle, and threw ourselves into making our books available through Kindle (and later, the Nook) at a reasonable price. We could do the math, and see that there were no print, shipping, or warehousing costs involved. To steal a phrase – All is proceeding as we had forseen.

    1. Yep. I think that is why I am still amazed when the the talking heads from the Big 5 go on and on about how e-books are a passing fad, etc. I guess they have drunk enough of the punch and repeated the mantra of “e-books and Amazon evil” long enough they actually believe it.

  2. A true story: Once upon a time there was a band that released most of their first album for free. And my ear was delighted and wished to hear more. But the publisher of their CDs wanted $15 for their new album, which at the time was a bit steep. So I contacted the band and bewailed this inequity, and was told… we’ve still got a few copies in our basement…. how does $7 sound? Gimme. And while you’re at it, gimme your other two CDs too.

  3. we need to be smart and start backing up our e-books to places not connected with our e-readers, etc.

    Yup, that’s my default behavior — I’ve side-loaded form Day 1. Just did a mega-download of my recent purchases a few days back, and I’ve used less that 2GB on my memory card …

    Now, an interesting thing to note is that *newer* generations of ereaders *don’t* have slots for memory cards.

    1. The $50 Amazon Fire has a microSD slot. And the just-came-out Fire HD 8, which starts at $90, still has the microSD slot. So not *all* the newer generations of ebook readers are dropping the memory card slot.

      1. True but the dedicated e-readers, to the best of my knowledge, now have no expansion slots. Still, I was thrilled when the low cost Fire put the slot in. I use that as one of my backups and that is what I send with my mother, sans the sd card and with wifi turned off, when she travels.

  4. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    I remember Baen’s first push into Ebooks and it looks like I bought my first bundle in 2001. Three David Weber books for $10.00. Of course I already owned two of them and bought the third later, but this showed the potential of ebooks. Jim could price the books like this because the printing sunk costs weren’t there and he never had to worry about returns on ebooks. As time went on how Jim and Toni have handled the ebook sales has evolved, but it’s always been a money maker and demonstration that how the Big Five think about ebooks is just plain wrong. I remember wondering why the other publishers never figured out what was going on. Now, according to Larry Corriea his latest monster hunter book is going to earn out the advance just due to Earc sales. That is the book will have enough sales before the official publishing to make money and then create even more buzz later. That’s how Ebooks are changing the market.

    1. Thanks for the reblog. As for your comments about Baen, you are spot on. Too bad the Big 5 can’t see what the rest of us do. Of course, they can’t see it because they don’t want to.

      1. Back then, there were endless discussions on the Bar about how Ebooks would work. The big thing was that Jim wasn’t afraid to experiment. Give books away? That actually increased sales of other books. Sell Ebooks cheap? Well sales went up and then we stupid fools tended to go out and buy the books anyway. Put ARCs up as ebooks? those sell too and it’s early money. The thing is that Jim was thinking about all this stuff as early as the 1980’s, long before anybody really considered how electronic books might work. The fact that thirty years later he is STILL ahead of the curve shows just how hidebound the Big Five are.

        1. Give books away? That actually increased sales of other books.

          Still is.

          My mom got hooked on Baen from the ebook CD that came with one of the War God books.

        2. Toni was doing her Baen Road Show at CONstellation this past weekend and the subject of eARCs came up. Big mouth that I am I yelled for her to tell the crowd the history behind them, so of course she looked at me and said “you do it.”
          All publishers do ARCs, advanced reader copies. Used to do them in print, but these days all electronic. They get sent to book reviewers and anyone who might contribute a nice remark for the jacket cover. Baen fans knew this and backed Jim into a corner at a con once upon a time and badgered him about getting their hands on these early, not fully edited, copies of their favorite authors’ newest releases. Not sure where he plucked the figure of fifteen bucks from, but that’s what he told them and that’s what they’ve been ever since. Essentially free money as all the work has to be done anyway, and the sales infrastructure exists as the Webscriptions site. Jim Baen was many things, but never a poor businessman.

        3. eARCs are an amazing idea. I try hard to resist but regularly succumb. I am astounded that no other publisher does the same thing.

          I think I started buying baen webscription bundles in about 2002. I’ve hardly missed one since. I don’t know how many people are like me, but I assume there’s a few thousand of us loyalists.

          Again I find it incredible that no other publisher seems to have cottoned on to the idea.

    2. Baen truly revolutionized my reading and buying habits. Having the option of reading the books I wanted *right there and there* with a few mouse clicks (and a credit card, of course) completely altered my expectations when it came to books, so by the time the Kindle arrived I was all primed for it as a customer.

  5. ebooks have been around for a while. My first novel This Shining Sea was published electronically, back in 2000. The pioneering epublisher was Third Millennium (, which had and has a hybrid business model, including print on demand for all books. They are still in business.

    1. What? Who are you aiming this comment at? If me, you couldn’t be further from the truth. I love TPV and The Passive Guy’s comments on many of the items he links to. As for being “distressed”, nope. I find it funny the way the Big 5 continue to try to convince themselves that their outdated business model works.

    2. No more distressing than all those YouTube videos that people find entertaining about cars, trucks, and trains out of control and crashing. Much there in common with the direction the Big 5 seem to be headed.

  6. Check the one-star reviews under some of those books– you’ll find folks complaining about the price of the ebook in a lot of them.
    Yeah, it sucks, something the author has zero control over– but there are a lot of “verified purchases” that are one-star for that reason.


    Peeve: the studies about screen time consistently treat all of it as identical; the kids reading on a tablet (or having the Little Critter ebooks read to them by the free-with-Prime app, or “playing” on Starfall, or…) is treated the same as them zoning out in front of SpongeBob. There’s also a tendency to use watching TV as the thing used in any tests, rather than “hand them a tablet and let them do whatever for an hour.”

    1. I have the same pet peeve about it. I just found it funny that Randy Penguin was suddenly saying that have this great idea for putting toddlers in front of a screen when every study is saying you need to not put young children there. In a way, it struck me as too little, too late — again — where e-books and the Big 5 are concerned.

  7. I’m OK with high initial e-book prices. I’m willing to pay extra for a few authors. That said, I hate the fact that ebook prices stay high. The kindle editions of Starship Troopers, Magic of Recluse, and Storm Front currently cost $9.99 — for books published 56, 15, and 16 years ago, respectively. I can get a new paperback for less. With a little browsing, I can pick it up at a local used bookstore for half that. I can order a slightly used paperback for $0.01 plus shipping ($5 for up to two pounds of books).

    As much as I prefer the e-book format, why would I ever pay two to three times as much for that format? Especially when I can invest a little time to find independent authors I enjoy who are willing to sell books for half that price?

      1. If I’m remembering correctly, that’s something else Baen does better. The price of the eBook drops with each treeware release, so that it’s always cheaper to buy the eBook than the available paper copy.

      2. I agree with you there. I also refuse to buy and e-book when it is within a certain margin of the hard cover and, yes, the other day I saw a new release where the e-book was more expensive than the print version. I can’t remember the title right now but it was from one of the Big 5.

  8. I agree with you, strongly, but I think there are better examples.

    The high ebook prices you quote are for books whose print versions are only available in hardcover, and I think it is a quite reasonable policy for a publisher to have its ebooks always cheaper than the cheapest print version. The reason that hardcovers are more expensive than paperback and come out a year earlier is just price differentiation: if you really want that book now you can pay more, or wait a year and get it cheaper in paperback. (I remember in the early days one publisher explicitly had “ebooks will be $X cheaper than the cheapest paper copy” as a policy but their inventory system couldn’t handle it. As a result, they ended up with “paperback ebooks” and “hardcover ebooks” — identical except for the price and one being released a year later than the other!)

    For better examples, take the “Johannes Cabal” series. The first book was released in 2009 by Randy House and the kindle version costs $11.99, MORE expensive than the paperback! And the rest of the series is similarly priced. As a result, even though I really like the books, I’ve gotten them from the library — I won’t pay $12 for a ebook! This is insane!

    1. I agree there are plenty of example of “e-book prices higher than the print edition”. I found those in five minutes of browsing.

      One minor correction, though — the prices I quote are for books whose publisher only offers hardcover because the paperback print edition is no longer on the market. There’s a thriving used market for those paperbacks, and I can order them from Amazon via a third party for one-half to one-third their e-book price.

  9. Witchfire Burning is a wonderful book, something of a paranormal cozy, with aspects of police procedural, and romance as well. Anyone who liked any of Amanda’s other series will love this one. And it will be an entire series, Myrtle and Amanda’s editors insist on it.
    One very interesting aspect of this book in particular is that Amanda wrote it not much more than a month ago, final edits were done in late September, and it is now up for sale at Amazon with print to follow in a few short weeks.
    With traditional publishing, even from a small house, that process would take anywhere from one to two years. And Amanda should see sales reports immediately and start getting royalties next month. With trad pub your insight to sales is only what your publisher wishes you to see, and royalties are doled out on a quarterly or biannual basis.
    If you have a quality product, and can get it noticed by potential readers, indie rocks.

  10. Thirty-something years ago, when I banged my comic book scripts out on an Apple][+, printed them on a dot-matrix printer without true descending letters, and printed the comic books in black and white because color was too expensive, I remember thinking how easy color comics would be if I could just find a way to display them on the computer and skip all of the expense of printing.

    Skip forward ten years to book discussions with co-workers at a new job. I speculated on how amazing it would be if I could carry a library of books around on a device with RAM memory. My co-workers were appalled, vowing they’d never give up their real books. I don’t know if they did or not, but once a Kindle was in my price range I snagged one and never looked back.

    The whole concept of electronic publishing has always struck me as a great idea, both for comics and for prose books. I know I’m smart, but the world is full of smart people. Why don’t any of them work in traditional publishing?

    1. It’s all those ostriches and lemmings in trad publishing, at least with the Big 5 and their ilk. If their heads aren’t stuck in the sand, they are following one another over the edge of the cliff.

  11. You know I wrote a rant in July 2007 – – that pretty much echoes what you have just written 9+ years later (only I was referring to Harper Collins – not that it matters, I’m positive that Random Penguin were equally clueless then too).

    In the 9 years since that rant I have personally moved to an almost exclusive ebook diet and my ebooks are either Baen or Indie/small pub via amazon. I am not part of Random Penguin’s market anymore. I know I’m very far from alone in this.

    What I’m seeing here is an industry that has been hit by a disruptive innovation and has failed to embrace this innovation. The result is that other more nimble entities (Amazon) now have overwhelming dominance of the new marketplace and the customer base.

    Ebooks are following an absolutely classic Technology Adoption Life Cycle and have clearly at this point crossed the chasm and may even be penetrating the conservatives (late majority). By turning their back on ebooks the Trad pubs are stuck serving the laggards and that means that they are stuck with a declining customer base that will (literally) die on them.

    1. I have to agree with you and I know I’d find similar posts if I went back and checked. Still, it amazes me that trad publishing, especially the Big 5, continue to refuse to admit that times and tech and customer demands have changed.

  12. Something like 20 or 30 years ago main stream publishing made a mostly abortive attempt to shut down both libraries and used book stores. Never got very far, the mocking and ridicule seemed to have scared them off.
    Now they’re deeply into the whole cut nose, spite face thing, pricing their books out of reach for most potential customers. But the one hard fact they are unwilling to accept is that they aren’t killing reader interest, they’re just killing their product chain. I believe I saw recently that on Amazon e-books now outstrip paper by a fair margin. And with everything being dependent on technology and in flux, things will continue to change, and that all hopefully to the benefit of the customer. For those who sincerely desire real hard copy print books Createspace and Ingram Sparks are making that available from indie authors. And there is a tremendous wealth of inexpensive electronic only material being produced. What is desperately needed is a better way for the typical reader to sort through the inevitable dreck to find those precious gems they will grow to love much as we did in olden times when a paperback reprint went for a quarter.

    1. “Something like 20 or 30 years ago main stream publishing made a mostly abortive attempt to shut down both libraries and used book stores.”

      Waitwaitwait…whaaaaaaat? What kind of asinine shortsighted plan was that?

      1. The kind generated by minds so consumed with their own immediate greed that the thought of more than one person reading a library book or aftermarket sales of used books neither of which puts money in the pockets of the publishers was anathema.
        Same sort of mind that insists that software should only be leased, never sold, and that the users must be milked for every cent possible.

      2. I remember that. Lots of smoke and noise, then it went away.

        There were some fairly famous authors who were banging the drum for “used books are theft!” though.

    2. Oh, it is still going on, Uncle Lar, at least where used bookstores are concerned. I saw a post not long ago by a traditionally published author — who I won’t name — lamenting the fact that so many of her books were being bought through places like Half-Price Books and she wasn’t getting any money for it. Evil readers shouldn’t be out there looking for bargains but buying her books at the inflated prices charged by her publishers. She was calling once again for the publishers to try to push Congress into changing the law so that authors would get royalties on these types of sales. Yet, when someone suggested she worry instead about how she is not receiving an accurate accounting of how many sales she is making because of the reliance of Bookscan, she blocked the poor soul who dared bring up reality. After all, her publisher is wonderful and would never, ever do anything that would keep her from claiming one sale’s worth of royalties.

  13. If I read it in KU and buy it, do you get paid twice? What if I read it in KU more than once? I like to re-read books. KU is nice, but you don’t have the local copy (and I have not tried to side-unload one that’s on my Kindle) should something go wrong.

    Just KUed Witchfire Burning. If I like it, I’ll buy it when the second one comes out (and leave a review when I’m done).

    I was a late adopter of ebooks. The revelation came when I was lugging eight thick paperbacks across Easter Europe to read on planes. I bought a Kindle when I got back and haven’t bought a print book since.

    I make a very few exceptions to the $6.00 price point. Hillbilly Elegy was one of them – and very much worth it. The 1632 books are another, but I have to grit my teeth every time.

      1. And here I was wondering whether Easter Europe was near Passover Europe. Re: KU payments, my understanding is that KU pays only the first time a page is read (per account, of course).

    1. We get paid a fraction of a cent for every “page” read with a KU borrow. We also get paid if the book is then purchased. I don’t know if we get paid if a book is read more than once under KU.

      As for price points, for most authors, $7.99 is my limit. There are exceptions but they are few and far between. For those exceptions, I’ll pay $9.99. I can count on one hand and have fingers left over the number of times I’ve paid more than that for an e-book.

          1. I had to go far higher for the text for my French courses in college. The 180-day online eBook rental was around $70. 😦 If there’d been an alternative there is NO way I’d have paid that, but the online homework was completely tied to either eBook rental or physical book purchase, and the bookstore ordered no physical books.

            1. Textbooks are the biggest offenders, imo, of price gouging there is. When my son was still in school, we faced the reality of having to order one reference book he had to have for a class from a professional organization for over $300. Some of the e-books tied in to his homework ran over $100 and that was, as you noted, for a rental and not for ownership. Fortunately for my wallet, all it took was going with him to the university bookstore and then to the off-campus used bookstore once to compare prices for his textbooks to get him to understand the need to buy used as often as possible.

          2. Yeah, for some things I’ll go higher for. Nonfiction that would be too expensive for me to obtain otherwise (because of shipping 85% of the time!) I’ll pay higher for. But… I’ll probably complain and bitch about it because I like reference stuff to be PHYSICAL.)

          1. Yeah, Jim Butcher, you, Larry, Matthew Reilly and some others. But … then there’s this, where I would PREFER deadtree version, but RAWR. SHIPPING TO AUSTRALIA.


            Now, mind you, I find the hardcover anthologies okay in price (500+ pages for 30-odd USD? Okay) plus it helps someone out. I really wanted to buy Unfettered 1 and 2, and Unbound as dead tree, but the shipping (as well as exchange rate) would probably set me back at AUD200. I tried asking a friend if their shipping it to me if I bought it would be cheaper; unfortunately USPS’ ‘Wrong side of the world, motherfuckers!’ costs weren’t going to save me enough to make the effort worth it.

            The ebook versions are MUCH more affordable, and I’ll probably end up going that way (except I already spent my month’s book budget. So maybe next month, I’ll snag them as ebook, coz at least that way some thing is bought.)

            But grrr. I would’ve liked them as hardcover.

    2. My husband wanted the latest book by an author he really likes, but he balked at the price (which was over 10.00) just because he hears me talk about indie pricing from time to time. I told him it wasn’t the author’s fault, but he figures this guy has the bargaining power to negotiate over pricing. Don’t know if he’s right, but it underscores the impact on sales of pricing too high.

      1. With the exception of a very small group of super best selling authors, perhaps as many as ten, the writer has no say in the pricing or marketing of their book. Technically it’s still your book, but you have sold total control over what’s done to it for the length of the contract you sign.
        Not so very long ago trad pub was the only game in town. Now, not so much, but that change of reality has not really penetrated the lofty halls of their posh New York offices. Listen very closely, what you hear is the sound of dinosaurs dying.

      2. Every author, unless locked into a long-term contract with a dead-tree publisher, has the bargaining power to negotiate over pricing. Don’t like the publisher’s retail prices? Publish it yourself and set your own.

        And yes, a one-star review based on price is valid. ‘This product is not worth the money I paid for it’ is perfectly cromulent, and in reviews of every other kind of consumer product, it is understood to be so.

    3. On the book of faces I wrote recently about price points and my treatment of them
      $3.99 and under. Impulse buy, check out the blurb, cover. If it seems OK buy
      $4.99. Probably read sample if not an author I know and like. But probably buy without much hesitation if there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy it
      $5.99-$7.99. Better be an author/series I enjoy and/or one recommended by people I trust, especially as the price goes up
      $8.99 and up. Almost certainly not purchasing unless it’s a Baen eARC

  14. I quit using Barnes and IgNoble when they forbade downloads to my PC. I also tossed my subscriptions to Analog and Asimov’s likewise and for the same reason. And my entire library is DRM-free and backed up on five different hard drives. Funny thing: I’m subscribing to Harlequin romances because the prices are reasonable and the stories are mostly well written. Add in Baen and my tower responds “Sorry, Randy Penguin, but the pattern is full.”

    1. I’m guessing actually that Harlequin isn’t making the physical versions of their manga-renditions-of-their-romance novels-translated back to English because it’s easier for them to put it up as ebook.

      I sulk some, because I prefer print copy manga myself, but if that’s the only way to get it, that’s how I’ll get it.

    2. Watch your Harlequin prices since the house has sold to Harper Collins. I can almost guarantee those prices will start to creep up to match the prices charged by other imprints under the house’s aegis.

  15. Total agreement here. I find the current ebook pricing strategies employed by the large houses ridiculous, particularly coupled with practices like limiting the number of times an ebook can be checked out (!) This is going to catch up with them eventually.

  16. So much good stuff here. I’m going to have to resort to a bulleted list:
    * Hardcovers are the most profitable format for large print publishers. They’re deliberately angling for the affluent Manhattan/Frisco coffee-shop crowd, who consider a $30 hardcover chump change, especially to signal their sophistication to their friends by leaving the latest literary Hot Thing on the coffee table, often unfinished or even unread.
    * No more than a few weeks after a hardcover hits print, used copies show up on Amazon for less than the discounted Amazon price. A large and evidently growing number of readers recoup the (high) cost of hardcovers by selling them online when they finish them. These might as well be new books. This behavior is new, obviously, because we’ve only had easy online buying and selling for fifteen years or so.
    * Most hardcovers are remaindered well within a year of publication, and are bought by the pound by remainder houses. These are then sold for a dollar or two (and sometimes a penny!) plus shipping. Books I’ve read as trades or ebooks that I’ve really liked and intend to read again I often buy as hardcover remainders.
    * Laying out ebooks is a snap, once you have a style template in place and a little practice. I laid out Ten Gentle Opportunities in less than eight hours, without being in a hurry, including breaks for lunch and running the dogs around in the yard. It’s easier than laying out print books (which I also do and have done for twenty years) because you don’t have to fuss over widows and orphans and kerning and stuff. So tradpub complaints that ebooks cost as much to create as print books is nonsense, especially given the high inseparable costs of P&B, transportation and warehousing. What keeps Big 5 ebook prices high are their fixed costs: expensive people working expensively in expensive office buildings in expensive (but oh so trendy) coastal cities. They could cut their costs at least a third by moving to Omaha. (Stop giggling.)
    * Worrying about ebook piracy is an ego thing. There’s nothing to be done about it that won’t alienate readers, and when you alienate readers by timing-out, taking back or device-locking an ebook, you simply teach them to find and use the pirate sites to re-acquire the books they’ve already paid for. Once they find the pirate sites, a good proportion of them tend to hang around. DRM and related antipiracy tactics basically give readers a full ride at Pirate University. (Sidenote: I’ve asked some sites to take down my books, and they do. A month later, the books are back. And then there are torrents and Usenet. Don’t waste your breath.)
    * The key to success in publishing ebooks is to make them cheap ($3-$6 is the sweet spot) and effortless to buy, and then leave the reader alone. Amazon has this (mostly) figured out. The Big 5 are just not psychologically equipped to grasp it. Management by spreadsheet (pushed by people who don’t read books) is an almost impossible habit to break, and it will eventually kill them. If print publishing is to survive, it will survive in the hands of medium and small press. Especially those houses located in Greater Omaha.

      1. I’m still refining my print template for fiction. (Most of the books I’ve laid out are nonfiction of various sorts.) I’m a tinkerer at heart. Once I really and truly like the template, I should be able to lay out a 300-400pp book in a day, without widows, orphans, or other awkwardnesses.

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