April 9, 2010

Prices...They Have A Changed

Although via Gail Carriger's publisher I have a (now cherished) manuscript version of Changeless, yesterday I bought and downloaded for my Kindle the digital version. I did so knowing that I paid the exact same amount as somebody who walks into a bookstore and walks out with a print copy. And, had I walked into the B&N where I have a membership (forgetting my employee discount), I would have paid less than I paid for my digital copy. I'm not at all happy about it, but I support the authors I adore, plain and simple.

For weeks now, if not longer, I've been bitching about how Steve Jobs has mucked up the digital playing field. I've noted that when iTunes was born, he forced the music industry into the 21st century but that when it came to iBooks, because of Kindle competition, he did not. I moaned about how the agency model would only truly be reasonable to consumers if release formats were staggered but prices didn't rise. I complained when this did not happen, when I noticed delayed releases of new print hardcovers into digital format also included increased prices. And I wondered what would happen to paperback-only releases.

And now I know...I think. In checking my Kindle purchases for the last several months, I noticed that I generally paid 20% less for my digital copy than I would have for a print copy. Instead of paying $7.99 for a paperback-only release, I most often paid $6.37, although occasionally - very occasionally - $6.99.

I re-tweeted myself when I noted that increased competition most often leads to reduced prices for consumers, but that with the release of the iPad and creation of iBooks, we've seen the opposite. I love my Kindle, love having a thousand books at my disposal in a package that is the size of a paperback yet weighs even less. I love being able to download in the middle of the night, at an airport, or after reading a review while waiting in a doctor's office. But let's face it...a digital copy, as great as it is, is not the same as a print copy. No trees were killed in the making of it, no ink used, no machines or human beings paid to secure a print run. And I can't lend a digital copy to a friend...it's even illegal for me to reformat a book so I can read it without Kindle software. And yet now I'm being asked to pay exactly the same price as I would for a print copy.

Essentially both the publisher and the consumer reap the benefit of convenience as far as digital books are concerned. They don't have to pay any printing costs and I am able to access books 24/7, and save space in my house at the same time. They continue to reap the benefit. They still have no printing costs to pay, but now they want us to pay 20% more for - nothing. The price of creating digital copies did not increase overnight. "That does not compute, Will Robinson." My little brain simply cannot grasp the logic of a 20% price increase when no additional costs have been incurred.

I think what publishers fail to consider is this: Not all of us are that "buys one or two books a year" reader. Genre readers tend to read a lot...I know I do...and to spend a lot of money to feed our habits. This month alone, even with all the reviewing I do, I bought several urban fantasies and romance novels. But now I'll be thinking twice about those Kindle purchases and will most likely buy one, probably two, fewer books a month to make up the difference. And I'll do it grudgingly, knowing that I'm being over-charged, but in the hopes that the inequity is rectified soon.

Hard-core readers need to read and we've been left entirely out of the equation. That's right - those of us who shore up the publishing industry are being screwed by it. It sucks. We are paying the price for publishers who don't understand our loyalty, or that their business has changed, as evidenced by the statistic in my last entry, that e-book sales grew at a rate of more than 175% last year. Somehow I knew this was going to happen. Damn.

P.S. I believe I've shot my wad on this topic and don't plan to write about it again...unless something changes in a big way.

P.P.S. And so I don't leave you entire with a bad taste in your month, let me share a link to a video trailer for Soulless that Gail Carriger mentioned; click here and enjoy.



CindyS said...

I saw a commercial for the iPad and about cried. It was like seeing Star Trek come to life and I turned to Bob and told him 'just so you know, I only want an iPad'.

That said, I think I need the publishing industry to get it's crap together. I hear the the Kindle is the easiest in downloading but there are still problems with formats and such. Until there is a universal way to download books from any source I'm not sure I'm ready for the headache.

At that point, and only at that point would I see a reason to pay paperback prices. Not having to leave your house on release day and picking up a book without any stress should allow for some incentive to pay close to equal.

So for now I'm sitting on the sidelines. (I won an e-book years ago and remember spending hours trying to get just one book to download - formatting was wrong and then I couldn't transfer it and well, it was just a big PITA so I bailed.)


Liz said...


This is an unfortunate situation, and this is exactly why I haven't spent money on an electronic reader of any kind.

Why should I spend $200 to $300 for an e-book reader to receive e-books at the same price I pay for print books?

I would LOVE the conveniene, but publishers don't seem to be getting the point that everything isn't about convenience. You know I read a ton of books, so I'm not willing to cough up the extra $$ for something that really isn't going to save me any money, and won't/can't provide me the same opportunities for brand new or even older books that I can get at the bookstore.

I think going with e-books is such an excellent idea and can be such a great deal for both publishers and consumers, but not if it continues heading in this direction.

Diane said...

I hope they LISTEN TO YOU. They should.

Laurie G said...

Cindy - Star Trek: TNG gizmo really was quite the thing, wasn't it? I remember wanting one as well.

Liz - I was quite happy with how everything worked until Apple changed it all. I know it's ridiculous to find them the villain, but I can't help it. I used to think Bill Gates was the Anti-Christ because so much Microsoft software was impossible to entirely uninstall, but now I've decided it's Steve Jobs.

Diane - Nobody's going to listen to me on this because since January and the Macmillan flap, Amazon is getting the blame and everybody else LOVES the iPad and iBookstore. Until yesterday I had hoped against hope that the discount on digital paperbacks would remain something I could count on, but publishers are really feeling their power these days. So, in the end, I blame them for lack of foresight and the greed that goes along with it. Why on earth, really, would people now buy an e-book reader if there is no discount on the books most of us read?

Finally, if a blog can be said to be underground, this one surely is. You're one of the ten or so people who read it. I'm not complaining; I decided when I started blogging again that I was doing it for me and nobody else, but facts are facts.