I worked last night for the first time since going on vacation, and saw that in celebration of Penguin's 75th anniversary, they are offering through B&N a "buy one, get second 50% off" sale on specific books. That's terrific, you say. Well, it would be if that sale extended to all readers of Penguin books. Unfortunately, it only applies to those who buy print versions. Those of us who prefer digital reading material are not included in Penguin's celebration.
Just this morning I read in this week's Newsweek that the average production cost for an e-book is fifty cents, which I kept in my mind when perusing some of the titles from the sale that garnered my interest.
Although I have a B&N membership, I'm not going to include any extra discounts in this little experiment. So, let's see...I've had my eye on Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind for some time. The B&N price online is $11.52. To download the digital version, I'd pay $12.99. As for the second book, while we already have a print copy of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, I wouldn't mind having a digital copy. B&N's online price is $10.80. The e-book sells for $12.99.
The Penguin discount is not based on the online price but on the list price, so Pollan's book, after the 50% discount, comes to $7.50. The total for both books in celebration of Penguin's 75th anniversary? $19.02, a very nice price for two trade paperbacks. Unfortunately, as a digital reader I am not invited to the party. My price would be $25.98 - nearly $7 more.
Let's try another duo, shall we? Three Cups of Tea sells very well at the bookstore. To buy Greg Mortenson's non-fiction book in print, my online price at B&N is $9.36. Once again, the digital download is $12.99. Tanya French's In the Woods also sells well; the online price is $8.25...yet again the digital price is $12.99. After application of the 2nd book discount - which puts French's book at $7.50 - the total is $16.86. The digital price comes to $25.98. Penguin seems to be telling me, quite loudly, that it is holding its nose to sell me e-books. Rather than inviting me to its 75th anniversary celebration, it is telling me I can't participate, and as a result, I would be charged more than $9 more to read the same books a print customer would.
If my previous blog on the topic didn't send you over the edge, I imagine this one just did.
None of this should reflect badly on B&N. The publishers who went with the agency model set their own e-book prices and do not allow sellers to discount digital content. On the other hand, discounting of print books occurs everywhere - from your local bookstore to your local CVS.