July 6, 2010

A Letter to Penguin Pubishing

I just sent this to Penguin Publishing, at ecommerce@us.penguingroup.com and thought I'd share it here.

I have been a long-time Kindle user, mostly of trade and mass market paperbacks, which generally have been discounted 20%. Since your company decided to set your own prices, I've stopped buying from you, and here's a perfect example why.

I am a fan of the author Jonathan Tropper, and in fact, How To Talk To a Widower, his book from a few years back, is one of the best books I read this year. Alas, it was published by Random House, and I hadn't realized he'd switched to you when I decided to buy This Is Where I Leave You to coincide with the release of the trade paperback.

The trade paperback went on sale today for $10.20 at Amazon. The Kindle version remains the same $12.99 it was when the book was sold solely in hardcover. As of yesterday, when only the hardcover and Kindle version were available, the hardcover was being sold new at Amazon at $11.23, making the digital version more expensive than the hardcover. I assumed that when the trade paperback was released today, the Kindle price would at least match its price. Imagine my shock to discover when that did not occur. Of course, now that a trade paperback is available, the hardcover price has increased, but the Kindle price remains the same. Do the math as I did and you'll note that you are selling the digital version at a price which is more than 25% higher than the trade paperback.

I have heard all the arguments for increased digital prices, but for you to set a HIGHER price for a digital version than I would pay for a print version is not only ludicrous, it's revolting. Everybody has focused upon the price changes for digital hardcover releases, but nobody really considered the price changes publishers would institute for digital trade/mass market paperbacks. For those of us who read a lot, the price increase means I'm buying fewer books each month, and specifically, it means I'm sticking with Random House and Harlequin, because they did not go with the agency model.

You have lost a valued customer with your greed and refusal to face market changes. There is no way in the world I will accept that it costs MORE for you to provide me with a digital copy of a book than a print copy.

FWIW, when I realized I would not be buying This Is Where I Leave You, I found an older Tropper book, one also published by Random House, to buy. The trade paperback price for Everything Changes, like your trade price for his newest, is also $10.20, but the digital version for my Kindle is $7.20, a 30% discount, which I appreciated. That said, I would gladly have paid $8.16 - a 20% discount.

For you to allow discounting on print versions while refusing to allow them on digital ones results in cheaper print copies than digital ones, which discourages customers in the only growing segment of the publishing pie. That's quite a business model you have. I can only conclude that you are so afraid of losing money on print books that - like the child who puts his head under the covers in the belief that if he can't see a monster, it won't see him - you would rather gouge digital readers than revise your antiquated business plan. Shame on you.

I'll share any response I get. Grrr.


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