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The eBook Tax: Some Publishers Want Hardcover Prices to Be...

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Wildcard by Lora Leigh is a mass market release with a retail price of $7.99 but an ebook retail price of $14.00. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s One Silent Night is also a mass market release with a retail price of $7.99 but an ebook retail price of $14.00. Almost all of Kenyon’s books that are released in ebook format are priced at $14.00 or higher.

The reason for this is apparently an industry pricing standard according to a spokesperson for St. Martin’s Press. For some reason, Macmillan, who is the parent organization for Tor and St. Martin’s Press, believes that ebooks should be priced on the same level as hardcovers regardless of whether the book is in mass market print format or hardcover print format.

Macmillan isn’t the only publisher to believe this. Avon Romance began it’s “Love Gives Back” promotion recently which encouraged users to read 20% of the books’ contents before purchasing and then gave the reader an option to buy the ebook. Avon then set ebook pricing for the mass markets to $14.00+. According to the spokesperson for HarperCollins, Avon was “experimenting” with pricing but has since returned the pricing to mass market retail levels.

When Penguin first began rolling out digital versions of its ebooks, it’s pricing for the ebook version was higher than the print counterpart as well. This premium pricing does not encourage ebook reading, but rather deters it and, as I said before, I think it encourages piracy. I’m not the only one who thinks this.

Piracy is not the sole reason that ebook pricing should be lower but it is one reason. The point of ebook pricing is to convince a reader that buying a digital copy is a good idea over a) a print copy or b) a pirated copy. The reason why a) is important is because in these tough economic times, digital technology for books is the future, not simply another format.

It is true that margins in ebooks are not as great as one might perceive what with Hydra of Lake DRM. In other words, because of the many formats that exist, publishers have to spend $$ to convert into each format which raises the overhead and reduces the ebook margin. I don’t feel sorry for publishers because this cost could easily be eliminated with say, excision of DRM. What an idea, right? And no, I don’t want to hear about the dangers of piracy because guess what? E publishers sell their books with no DRM and still manage to make money.

One frustrated reader emailed me with this to say:

It’s hard for me to imagine the marketing strategy behind this, but I’m going to assume that there is one. (Maybe some division in your company has decided to try to prove that the ebook market is not viable? That wouldn’t work, though, because other publishing houses have more sensible prices so their results would disprove that. What on earth could the reason be?)

I buy a lot of ebooks (almost 800 from Fictionwise alone in the last three years), and I’m trying to buy ebooks exclusively now, but I will not pay that price.

In general, I won’t pay more than the print book list price for any ebook, but I definitely won’t pay almost twice that price, not even for the convenience of ebooks. Clearly someone must be willing to pay it, or you wouldn’t still be selling them, but I can’t imagine who or why, when they can buy the same book discounted at Wal-Mart for $5-$6.00.

The more that I look at ebook pricing and the way that NY runs their ebook business, the more convinced I am of three things.

  1. They don’t actually want to encourage the sales of ebooks
  2. They don’t know what ebook readers want
  3. They think that we are a group of readers that they can fuck around with

The problem is that the ebook readership pool is not super large right now, but it is the only area of publishing that consistently has shown increase, rather than decrease. At a time when bigger publishers are laying off people, cutting down on acquisitions, and freezing salaries, one of the larger epublishers is acquiring a publishing house.

There are reasons why ebooks sell right now: content, availability, and yes, price. By price, I don’t mean that price needs to be so low as to not generate profit for the publisher, but it needs to be reasonably priced so that everytime a reader purchases an ebook, she doesn’t feel like she bent over and stuck out her ass to be violated which is essentially how readers feel when confronted with an ebook price that is in excess of its print counterpart.

Right now, ebook pricing must battle the idea that the margin in ebooks due to no warehousing, no returns, no shipping, and no printing. Readers already feel like they are getting hosed when they have to pay the same price as the print counterpart, let alone a 100%+ surcharge.

I don’t really believe that there is an industry standard to ebook pricing. Simon&Schuster sell their ebooks at a 35% discount off the print retail price. Harlequin gives a 10% discount. Penguin has finally brought their prices down to print retail and Random House and Harpercollins, Warner also appear to be keeping ebook pricing consistent with print retail pricing. Only Macmillan books seem to be priced at a surchage. Call it an ebook tax.

If the ebook tax is the industry standard or what the industry is moving toward then look forward to fewer ebook purchases. If the book industry is suffering from decline in sales, taxing one portion of the readership with higher prices is not the remedy. Ironically, Pan Macmillan, the UK arm of Macmillan publishing, decided last year to release its literary titles in both trade paperback and hardcover because, according to Picador publisher Andrew Kidd, the hardcover is a “moribund format.”
Bantam Discovery released its titles simultaneously in trade and mass market.

The idea is to attract more readers at lower price points, not to deter readers with higher price points. Why publishers are moving backward with ebook pricing is beyond me. I’m not sure what we can do about it as readers because I’ve written and complained. If more of us write and complain, will that change things? Maybe the answer for ebook readers who confront the higher prices is to buy these publishers at the used bookstore instead of giving them retail dollars. Yes, this might hurt the authors but maybe the authors should start pushing for more reasonable pricing and no DRM. It shouldn’t all be on the reader.

Thoughts?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

112 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 04:31:25

    I think they really must be trying to kill this format off, so they can continue their outdated and frankly moronic print returns system (for what reason, I have no idea.) There are plenty of idiot authors around who think e-publishing means it’s not real publishing, so it could be as simple as pure and utter snobbery.

    But no way will people put up with this BS. It’s just going to turn ordinary folk into criminals out of anger.

  2. Jayne
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 06:37:18

    Maybe the answer for ebook readers who confront the higher prices is to buy these publishers at the used bookstore instead of giving them retail dollars. Yes, this might hurt the authors but maybe the authors should start pushing for more reasonable pricing…

    I’m not sure I’d go that far. I would definitely NOT buy an ebook at a higher price than I could buy a paperback edition. And if there’s no mmp edition available, I’d wait until either the ebook price declined or a cheaper paper option was on the market.

  3. Kimber An
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 06:58:18

    Maybe they fear the growth of eBooks and so are discouraging it through pricing. In my opinion as a blogging book reviewer, this strategy will backfire big time. It will only hurt their overall sales. There are too many places to obtain eBooks and print books for free or cheap, or for a reasonable price, to put up with over-priced books of any kind.

    As the Borg say, “Resistance is Futile.” eBooks are here and they’re only going to grow, regardless. Haven’t these people ever watched Star Trek?

  4. Lolita Lopez
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 07:03:34

    Fourteen bucks for an ebook is outrageous. You’d think publishers would be more concerned with reasonable pricing in this economic downturn. For fourteen bucks, I can hop over to any of my favorite e-pubs and pick up a handful of books to entertain me for most of my weekend. I could hit iTunes and download an entire album plus 3 extra songs. Heck, I could even drag Dave-O out to an afternoon matinee for ten bucks and still have four bucks to burn at the concession stand! (OK. So we’d be more likely to hit up Wally World and spend those four bucks loading up on yummies to stuff into my messenger bag to smuggle into the theater.)

    It’s really a frustrating Catch-22. The high price discourages readers from purchasing. The lack of purchases discourages publishers from pursuing e-books.

  5. Katharina
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 07:12:09

    No matter what, I would never ever pay the full mmp price for an ebook. In fact, as I read voraciously I either get them used via Bookmooch, or buy an ebook if it won’t cost me more than 2,5€. I have a list of autobuy authors, and as I am a book fetishist I want to touch those, and eventually also borrow them to friends and family.

    I doubt there will ever be a solution to this problem, but as long as sharing an ebook with a couple of friends is still considered being illegal, I would rather wait two years to read the “newest” release in a used mmp, than investing 8 to 14$ into an ebook.

    Furthermore, I absolutely hate DRM. I am by no means a specialist when it comes to formats, computers, etc… But I personally think that DRM-ed books won’t survive in the long run. They will get lost, and with it the money I spent on building my library.

  6. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 07:29:28

    E publishers sell their books with no DRM and still manage to make money.

    And our books still get pirated-to the point that’s it depressing, and it’s a huge part of the reason I’m writing few books for my epubs and concentrating more on the print side of my career.

    However, DRM’d books still get pirated. I know, because I see them. A lot. That high price tag is likely to encourage more people to pirate, or just buy the print version.

    But I’m going to be realistic here and point out that even if publishers release a book at a low, low price of $3, you’re still going to have people pirating. They either don’t realize how negatively it affects authors and publishers, or they don’t care. The sad thing is that they should care-when a publisher feels their bottom line is being cut into, they are going to find ways to make it up. Probably by raising prices, taking fewer risks, not putting out as many books.

    Which does affect readers.

    Regarding the prices of ebooks at hardback or trade paperback sizes, I don’t see the point in it. I realize there is a cost for multiple formats, but if the smaller epubs can absorb it, so can larger pubs.

  7. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 07:35:12

    Maybe the answer for ebook readers who confront the higher prices is to buy these publishers at the used bookstore instead of giving them retail dollars. Yes, this might hurt the authors but maybe the authors should start pushing for more reasonable pricing…

    I don’t see it helping. This is another one of those things that authors have very little control over. So basically it would just hurt authors and cut into the publisher’s bottom line (agreed, you shouldn’t care about that).

    But when a publisher’s bottom line is impacted, sooner or later, readers are going to suffer. I’d think what happens then is that publishers won’t take as many risks on talented new authors, they won’t buy as many from established midlisters and will focus more on the big names that they know will bring them money.

    And that seriously limits the reader’s choices.

    What I’d recommend is that the readers write the publishers. Often. If they get enough complaints and hear often enough that more readers would buy the ebook if the prices were reasonable (and give an example), then they’d possibly be more likely to consider it.

  8. Statch
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 08:08:40

    Great post! I particularly like your item no. 3, because I can’t help but feel that’s what they’re thinking. I certainly feel that the publishers who use what I consider predatory pricing strategies don’t care that they are alienating me as a customer.

    I recently wanted to buy Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, published by St. Martin’s Press. I can buy it new in paperback from Amazon for $7.99. Fictionwise is selling the ebook version for $20.36. (This is a separate issue from the one mentioned in Jane’s post. When the hardback comes out, the ebook gets priced similarly; then the ebook price doesn’t get dropped when the paperback version comes out.)

    It made me so mad that I bought it used. I understand the point about the impact of that on the publishers and the authors, but it looks like the publishing industry is going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century just like the music industry. If I buy the print version, it will just feed into their fantasy that they don’t need to change.

    I consider piracy abhorrent and immoral. I don’t feel that way about an individual reader stripping the DRM to ensure continued access to the product s/he legally purchased. I was a Yahoo Music customer when they decided to drop support for their DRM’ed music, and only a public outcry stopped them. The music industry has already gone through hell on this issue. Why can’t book publishers learn from that experience?

    I was at Samhain Publishing’s web site the other day and found this statement on their ebook page: “Samhain believes the price of an ebook should be less than a print book; after all, it doesn't need to be printed, stored or shipped! Why should it equal the cost of a print book? Samhain is dedicated to delivering excellent books at reasonable prices.” They get it!

    I have written the publishers and the etailers, and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there are enough of us right now to have a real impact with that method. It’s the future market that is really being impacted, and those potential customers won’t write….they just won’t buy ereaders or ebooks. It’ll be a vicious cycle because the publishers can then point to lack of growth as an excuse to continue their ways.

  9. Keishon
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 08:15:19

    Maybe the answer for ebook readers who confront the higher prices is to buy these publishers at the used bookstore instead of giving them retail dollars

    I haven’t bought paperbacks in a long time because I plan to go straight ebook for my future purchases. I’ve been doing that but there are the few exceptions and they are_few_.

    I get so fucking frustrated about the ebook not being available that I could care less about buying the paperback copy and even if I am in the bookstore, I don’t buy it. Like Jayne, I can wait them out because I have over 400+ dead tree books at my house that I can read and keep or get rid of to Goodwill.

    So no, I don’t need to buy their books at the used bookstore to counter their higher prices – I just won’t buy it or wait till the price come down. Books are a pleasure for me and not a necessity like food and water.

    Since reading ebooks there has been this consistent resistance to accept this format beside it’s dead tree print second cousin. Quite frankly, it’s nice of them to try to define a ebook pricing standard and waste everybody’s time with it experimenting on something that anybody with a lick of sense can you tell that it wouldn’t work – with pricing the ebooks HIGHER than the print version. Stupid.

    Everything I’ve seen and heard shows that the industry is still ass backwards in getting it right. Idea for you (publishing folks out there): why don’t you come up with a ebook format standard and move with the future of ebooks because we’re not going anywhere.

    /rant

  10. Emmy
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 08:25:07

    Print books get pirated too, and fairly quickly. It’s possible to find an ebook copy of a print book of a popular author within weeks, if not days, of a new release. For free. Charging a ridiculous amount for an ebook copy in this economy only encourages piracy. Yeah, some will do it regardless, but more will do it if they want something nobody can afford. I can’t afford $14 for a file that’s probably going to get deleted the next time my puter crashes.

    I don’t think that the cost of converting books to different formats is more than printing a book, warehousing, and shipping to distributors. I agree with buying books at UBS rather than new if it’s available. Saves on the limited book fund.

    Publishers understand revenue. They won’t listen until they’re not getting any money. Sending out multiple letters is not going to be helpful when other people who don’t know any better are buying $14 ebooks. I’m not buying into the theory that the whole concept of a book will disappear completely if I don’t give a publisher my money. Publishers going to be put in the position of finding new ways of providing books at a price people are willing to pay.

  11. Keishon
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 08:41:42

    Hurting them in the pocketbook always speaks louder than words. Just a thought. I can use my money on other things like furnishing my house.

    I guess this type of commentary would fit under the umbrella of ‘reader and author disconnect’ because as readers we want to read ebooks without DRM and at a reasonable price point and authors want their product protected against piracy at the expense of readers. Just sayin…

  12. Jules Jones
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 08:53:04

    If it’s a popular author, a print book will be pirated within hours of hitting the shops. The only reason it will take that long is because if there isn’t a leak of an electronic file from the publishers, someone has to either stand there minding a scanner, or cut the spine off and and drop the dismembered book into an autofeed scanner. Which they do, to get status points on the darknets.

    As for the snobbery — seen plenty of that. It’s particularly hilarious when it comes from authors published by print presses that have no distribution and that expect their authors to buy boxes of books to hand-sell.

    But big mainstream publishers trying to price ebooks at full hardback price are not doing any of us any favours. It’s not cheap doing the conversions to a gazillion formats, and it’s not cheap running a secure commercial website, but pricing the ebook at the MMP level would be a much more realistic reflection of both cost to the publisher and value for money for the reader. And for many publishers a large chunk of that extra cost of conversions is licence fees for the DRM — which as this blog regularly demonstrates, is no barrier at all to anyone determined to crack it, and a damnable nuisance to the honest reader.

  13. Jane
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 08:53:51

    @ShilohWalker – The burden of creating a better ebook pricing system should not rest solely with the consumer. Sure, we can write letters and emails and I have and I know others who have – to no avail. Some publishers aren’t going to listen to a consumer. Maybe they’ll listen to authors. Like I said in the post, reasonable pricing should not be on the shoulders of just readers.

    All too often readers are supposed to save publishers from their dumbass business practices and why? So that they can continue dumbass business practices? Sorry, I am firmly on the reader side of this.

    High prices deters purchases and DRM does not prevent piracy.

  14. Azure
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 09:19:58

    While I’m glad that Harpercollins dropped the prices of their ebooks, enabling me to buy the Eloisa James book I had my eye on when this first happened, I do wonder something–did they drop their prices because of customer complaints, or because Eloisa James looked into the matter? Because I e-mailed a complaint and never heard anything back from them.

  15. Melisse
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 09:21:33

    I don’t have the budget for $14 books. I will confine my ebook purchases to ebook publishers like Samhain, LSB, Wild Rose, eharlequin etc, with an occasional mmp.

    I already know my local UBS and the library very well. In fact, my library has become quite enlightened about romance and now carries a lot of mainstream romance, and they take requests.

    I guess they want readers to NOT BUY their ebooks! Then they can say they tried it and ebooks just don’t sell.

  16. Diana Castilleja
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 09:30:36

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I plainly refuse to buy higher than mmp for an ebook from a print author. I’d buy the print, and I don’t have a problem using the USB. I rarely buy hardcovers-I think I’ve bought two in the last four years. My bottom line is my expenditure allowance.

    I will say high prices encourage the piracy, which I am completely against, but seeing the ease in which it is done, hours after a release… There will be people who simply don’t care about the monetary value of their theft. Dollar stories get traded just as often as the mmp book authors.

    It’s going to be a very slow and painful process as the NY houses come into the Ebook age. And they are going to fight it tooth and nail. That’s my perception of it, anyway.

    *going back to lurkdom*

  17. Victoria Dahl
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 09:55:57

    Wow. Just wow. Did they learn NOTHING from the music industry?

    I’m one of those who won’t buy an ebook unless it’s cheaper than the print copy. I don’t care about their explanations. When a new restaurant opens, they don’t get to charge $50 for a hamburger because of start up costs. Give me a break. And in the end, it doesn’t matter if it’s cheaper or more expensive for them to produce. All that matters is the customer’s perception of how much she should be paying. The sales price doesn’t come with a plea or an explanation attached.

  18. Angie
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 10:17:30

    Oh, man. My first thoughts are, “So much what-the-fuckage.” :/

    I blogged about this a little while ago; I think a great comparison can be made with the computer game industry.

    EA brought out the much-hyped and -anticipated game Spore just a few months ago, loaded down with truly draconian DRM, of the kind e-book readers haven’t contemplated in their worst nightmares. They claim they have to do this because of the pirating. But the fact is that Spore was available on the pirate sites several days before the game was released to the public. Clearly the pirates had an advance copy, leaked from the publisher, and this wasn’t the first and won’t be the last time this happens. Even for games which do make it into the stores without being pirated first, they’re up on pirate sites within hours, or days at most.

    No matter how much time and effort and money the game publishers invest in their newest super-duper DRM “protection” scheme, the fact of the matter is that the only people who have DRMed software on their computers are the honest customers who handed that publisher money.

    It’s the honest customer who has to type in twenty-six-digit serial numbers to activate their software. It’s the honest customer who has to install a DRM package which might well (and has in the past) open up a back-door to their computer, letting hackers stroll in. It’s the honest customer who finds their disks suddenly won’t work anymore, if they’ve installed the software too many times. (Ever wanted to install software onto a desktop and a laptop, both for your own sole use? Ever had your hard disk crash and have to reinstall everything? Ever upgrade to a new computer? And no, uninstalling does NOT always get you an extra install back.) It’s the honest customer who can’t use their software unless their computer has internet access, so the DRM system can call home, whether every time the software is used or just periodically, and it’s the honest customer who can’t use that software any longer — despite having paid for it — whenever the publisher decides they don’t feel like maintaining the activation server any longer, or if they’re bought out by another company which doesn’t feel like maintaining it, or if they just plain go out of business. The pirates don’t have to put up with any of this crap.

    The truth is that most computer games these days aren’t for sale — they’re for rent, and the publisher decides how long you get to keep it. It looks like DRMed e-books are heading in the same direction.

    The software publishers are punishing the people who are honest enough to hand them money before using their product, and only the people who are honest enough to hand them money before using their product. The pirates get a superior product, hassle-free use, and don’t pay a dime. It takes a strong moral constitution to resist making the logical — if unethical — choice under these circumstances.

    Honestly? There’ll always be pirated media. There just will. There’s no way to stop it, no matter how much we want to. It’s technologically impossible to secure electronic media resident on a customer’s computer in such a way that a technically savvy bit-twiddler can’t get around the security system, period. And it only takes one person to crack it and then spread the unlocked files around. Much as we might want to, there’s no way to get at the pirates, hurt them, or even inconvenience them very much.

    That being the case, it’s unbelievably stupid for a publisher to load more and more penalties on the honest people who want to hand them money. Customers who come waving money should be treated royally, not snarked at and electronically evicerated and treated like criminals. It gains the publishers nothing at all to force their paying customers to jump through ever more flaming DRM hoops, and loses them customers, more and more of whom at each stage decide that enough is enough and defect to the pirate sites.

    Trying to force e-book customers to pay more than buyers of hardcopy books only adds insult to injury (and previous insult), and drives away more customers, whether they’re angry enough to get a pirated copy or just reject the product all together.

    Personally, I never have and never will pirated any electronic media, and I’m not going to start over this. But I will refuse to buy media with onerous DRM on it, and I damn well refuse to pay hardcover prices for an e-book. I won’t even pay paperback prices for an e-book. Who do they think they’re fooling, here? The cost of goods is zero, the cost of shipment is zero, the cost of warehousing is zero — and yet they have to charge us paper book prices? o_O They’re insane. Or they think we are.

    If it’s the DRM that’s costing so much extra, getting rid of it is the logical course of action. It’s not saving them anything, it’s making customers angry in and of itself. If it’s also driving the price up to ridiculous levels, then clearly the costs outweigh the benefits. There — simple solution. [sigh]

    Of course, the publishers won’t see it that way. They seem determined to travel the same wreckage-strewn path already paved by the computer games industry, the music industry and the video industry. God forbid the book publishers should learn from others’ mistakes.

    Angie

  19. meezergrrrl
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 10:22:20

    I have to throw my ‘pinion in the hat on this one…

    I have been reading eBooks since the 90s. Back when Peanut Press was a really cool thing for my really cool Palm Pilot with the physical memory upgrade.

    I will not pay physical product prices for a virtual product. DRM or no. It just ain’t gonna happen. For the price of a hard cover, I expect quality in the paper, the print, the typography, and the dust cover. My expectations of an ebook are much less, so my opinion on price is in accordance with my expectations. Access to data = less than the physical book.

    FWIW – I’m also a OReilly Safari Online subscriber (again, since the very beginning) because I got sick of paying $40-$50 for tech books that quickly became obsolete and are now sitting around on shelves doing nothing more than collecting dust and proving my geek prowess to friends and visitors to my home. Safari Online lets me access all of the content I want – even download a PDF of a chapter from time to time, for a fixed yearly price. This really works for me. If I find that I can’t live without a particular book (or it was written by a friend or someone I know), then I’ll shell out the bucks for paper.

    My solution to stupid pricing? The used bookstore at my public library, my public library, the NYPL eLibrary, and paperbackswap.com. No exceptions. If I have to wait, so be it.

    Yes, this post is repetitive of other posts in this discussion. The point, less so the content, is more so, the number of people who are saying the same thing: Hell no, we won’t go.

    No wonder the NY publishers are hurting. Poor business and marketing plans do that to a company.

  20. Kerry
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 10:23:14

    I buy my books almost exclusively in e-format. I will not pay more than paperback prices – I think it’s ridiculous to charge MORE for an ebook than a paperback. Even if you do factor in the costs of formatting the book for e-format, I think it should be offset by the printing costs, storage costs, shipping costs for a traditional book. I really don’t believe that it costs MORE to do an ebook.

    Charging more for an ebook feels like I’m getting screwed over, and even if it’s a book I really want, I’m not going to be buying it.

    As for piracy – I don’t think DRM does jack except frustrate people who legitimately bought the book and might like to read it say, on their iPhone and Kindle but have to jump through hoops and ultimately break the law to do so. If you want to stop piracy, you’re going to have to make it less easy/attractive to do so, like by shutting down the pirated sites.

  21. TerryS
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 10:24:08

    #3 is my vote!

    This practice is a just another example of an attempt to manipulate readers. Sad to say it is not new to ebooks but it is sad to see it becoming more pervasive instead of less with the passage of time.

    Note to publishers and authors: My reaction as a reader is not to run out and buy a print copy but rather not buy at all no matter how much I might like an author or want their book. Lost sale, period.

    On another point I am so, so, so very tired of hearing publishers/authors disrespect their readers with the automatic assumption that all readers are just waiting to pirate their books. This is downright insulting to their readers honesty and sheer arrogance on their part.

    All of my book dollars will continue to go to those publishers who show their respect to their ebook readership niche with fair prices and wide selection. In return I show my respect for them by recommending others to purchase their books, not by pirating them. And I respect their authors by not ever buying their books at the used book store.

  22. theo
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 10:29:25

    I have to say that I’m not all that affected, pocketbook wise, with ebook prices because I’m a very tactile person and unless I really love an author’s print books, I don’t buy ebooks at all. I probably have less than a dozen. It’s hard for me to read them on any kind of screen and I have this crazy need to ‘feel’ the paper and cover while I read.

    I have printed the ones I’ve purchased however, so it is a bit easier on the eyes for me, but does little for the tactile experience.

    That said, the few I have bought have angered me no end because of their prices. Since I find it difficult to read them anyway, the price just discourages me further from purchasing any. And that’s a shame because I’m sure I’m probably missing some great reads.

    The cost of the ebook though, coupled with the cost of ink and paper to print it once I’ve purchased it is so off-putting that I rarely bother. And I always thought I was missing something because to me, an ebook should be the same price as a mmp or less due to less overhead and publishing costs.

    But what do I know? I’m just a lowly reader…

    Who most of the ebook publishers are trying to jack as much as they can…

  23. Crystal-Rain Love
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 10:38:40

    I won’t even pay $14 for a book in PRINT if it is available in a cheaper, mass market edition. I am an e-book author, and the highest you would pay for an e-book from my publisher is $6.00 and that’s for a long book. Paying more for an e-book than you would pay for its print counterpart is ridiculous. I don’t see any logic in it at all.

  24. Hilcia
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 10:48:08

    I’m just a puny reader here… one that reads over 200 books a year… and I can say that I don’t want ANY book badly enough to purchase it at a higher price in ebook format than I would as a print book. I don’t care WHO the author happens to be.

    I will always look to pay either the same price for an ebook that I would otherwise pay for a print book, or less than I would pay for a print book. But NEVER more — in that case, they can keep it.

  25. Linda Mooney
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 11:04:42

    Just an observation. Maybe these companies took such a huge loss this past year, they’re raising the cost of ebooks to help fill the void. And they think readers are desperate enough to read the latest from a favorite author to pay that amount. When you live in Podunk, TX, where the nearest B&N or Bdrs is a two hour drive away, and the local grocery store doesn’t stock Lora Leigh…

    My 2 cents. :)

  26. Nicole
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 11:18:33

    I also had planned to buy some ebooks that had been priced higher than the mass market version. Instead, I ended up grabbing them at my UBS. Lost a few sales there, publisher.

  27. Ann Bruce
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 11:33:39

    I guess this type of commentary would fit under the umbrella of ‘reader and author disconnect' because as readers we want to read ebooks without DRM and at a reasonable price point and authors want their product protected against piracy at the expense of readers.

    If you replace “authors” with “publishers,” I’ll agree with you. I’m not a fan of DRM and refuse to buy e-books with DRM. As for Macmillan, if they insist upon dragging their feet and living in the last century…well, we can draw parallels to the American auto industry, can’t we?

  28. Darlynne
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:09:28

    Apparently the auto industry isn’t the only tone-deaf player out there. Book sales are already way down, Borders is closing outlets in overly-saturated markets and the last remaining independent here is going out of business. Where is the logic, then, in raising prices on an alternative medium that has the potential to positively impact sales, while reducing a company’s overhead at the same time?

    If publishers won’t listen to angry customers, would they pay any greater heed to the manufacturers of ebook readers? Because if we aren’t buying, manufacturers aren’t selling. How much more basic does it get than that?

  29. Melissa Lopez
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:13:29

    I had no idea some NY publishing houses are charging so much for e-books. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I love e-books but I can’t afford to pay more for a e-book than I would for a print copy.

    Best,
    ~Mel

  30. Robin
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:18:52

    Wow. Just wow. Did they learn NOTHING from the music industry?

    Obviously not.

    I don’t ever expect to understand the business model on which print publishers rely (and believe it’s as incoherent in practice as it appears to me as an outsider), but this is just ridiculous. Illogical, greedy, arrogant, and more counter-productive to the growth of ebooks than probably anything else they could do (IMO it’s worse than not publishing ebooks).

    I have no problem buying used books in print to combat what I believe are inflated hardcover prices and will absolutely withdraw my money from publishers who insist on reaming ebook-savvy readers. I mean, we keep hearing about how the consumer rules and all that, so I’m willing to help make that a fact rather than the bullshit myth it currently is.

  31. Jenn
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:20:39

    Honestly any publisher charging 14 dollars for an ebook just won’t get my business. There are so many ebook publishers out there that are willing to price ebooks reasonably and they will continue to get my business.

    I don’t think I have been in a Bookstore in over a year, with the exception of buying print books in the Grocery store and ordering some sale books online, ebooks have become my sole source of reading material.

    With over 1200 ebooks in my library my collection continues to grow. It’s not to say that I don’t want print books, but when it’s Sunday Night at 9 pm and I want a book I know I can fire up the laptop, hit Fictionwise, Samhain, EC, Loose Id and many other publishers and have my Ebook fix as fast as I can click my mouse.

  32. Janine
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:22:07

    I'm one of those who won't buy an ebook unless it's cheaper than the print copy. I don't care about their explanations. When a new restaurant opens, they don't get to charge $50 for a hamburger because of start up costs. Give me a break. And in the end, it doesn't matter if it's cheaper or more expensive for them to produce. All that matters is the customer's perception of how much she should be paying. The sales price doesn't come with a plea or an explanation attached.

    It is ludicrous because anyone who took an introductory Ecnomics class in college knows that price is determined by supply and demand, or what the market will bear. If you set the price above what most people are willing to pay, you sell few products.

  33. Anion
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:27:49

    On another point I am so, so, so very tired of hearing publishers/authors disrespect their readers with the automatic assumption that all readers are just waiting to pirate their books. This is downright insulting to their readers honesty and sheer arrogance on their part.

    Terry,

    I am so sorry if you–or any other reader–has ever gotten the impression that writers/publishers think of our readers as nothing more than potential thieves. Speaking as someone who has been and continues to be very vocal about piracy and what a terrible thing it is, and as someone who has wished heartily for some time that publishers would start taking the problem seriously instead of waving it off with “Those people wouldn’t have bought the books anyway”…

    It honestly never occurred to me that my readers might feel as thought I was pointing a finger at them, or suspecting them. And I feel terrible now thinking my remarks could ever have come off that way.

    In my defense–and the defense of writers everywhere–I have seen far too many otherwise lovely and normal people justify their piracy with “It isn’t in my local store” or “shipping is too expensive” or (the absolutely infuriating one) “They’re rich enough as it is/my one book won’t make a difference.” There are even people who honestly don’t realize it’s illegal. These are people who wouldn’t usually dream of stealing; people who don’t even always equate what they’re doing with theft. I’m not saying that to justify anyone’s making you personally feel accused or attacked, just to say you’d be surprised at the number of people out there who do it.

    So perhaps I–perhaps many of us–do get overzealous in trying to be heard on this issue, and to make our point.

    But as much as it’s a concern for us, we never assume hordes of Evil Readers are out there, giggling maniacally and rubbing their hands together, desperate to pirate our work; that behind every smiling face and fan email lies a malicious thief waiting to rip food from our childrens’ mouths. We know there are readers like you, thousands upon thousands of them, who are honest. It’s never, ever been my intention–or, I’m sure, the intention of any other writer I know–to make good and honest people feel accused or mistrusted.

    I’m going to think very hard about some of the statements I’ve made in the past, and any I may make in future, and I want to thank you so much for that comment. Like I said it never occurred to me that honest readers would feel suspected or accused, so I really appreciate you mentioning it.

    Do you have any suggestions? Any thoughts on what we should be saying and doing, in order to get our point across but make it clear that we don’t think every reader is thieving scum? I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on that.

    I’ve always been puzzled and upset by the idea that readers and writers have some sort of adversarial relationship. I’ve never once thought of my favorite authors as enemies, so it’s a constant source of confusion to me to see some authors treat readers as such and to see some readers refer to writers that way.

    Piracy is a problem we all have to work together to solve. So I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    (Sorry, didn’t mean to hijack the thread. For the record, ebooks should be cheaper or at least the same price as print books; the idea of charging more for an ebook is frankly bizarre.)

  34. TeeJay
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:41:18

    How many times do we honest readers have to hear the piracy arguement??? I for one am very tired of hearing that old cliche. Let’s turn it around here.

    How would the publishing industry like their tendancy to treat all ebook readers as potential pirates if all readers (print and ebook) considered all authors as potential plagerizers? Would they consider it insulting? Would they argue vehemently that one case of plagerism should not be used to judge all authors? Would they be right? The answers seem simple to me as a reader – Yes to all of those questions.

    That is a harsh example and, obviously, untrue. Just like authors that plagerize are few and, thank goodness, far between, readers that pirate are also few and far between. Yet that argument is used over and over by publishers and authors alike for their reasoning. It is very depressing when you actually think about it and realize that each and every one of us readers is considered dishonest by the very people we support with when we purchase their books.

    Hey, it’s called discretionary income for a reason. We don’t have to spend it with a publisher that considers a $14 ebook a fair price for a $7 print copy of the same book.

    And I do not need to be insulted by authors who only are in print now because ebook readers made their epublished books so popular in the first place.

    Ebooks have been my preferred reading choice for many years now and number in the thousands (honestly purchased and never pirated!). Believe me I am now very careful of both the publisher and author viewpoints on readers. Probably even more so in these economic times. My discretionary dollars are thrown wholely to those publishers and authors who respect their readers and show that respect by their actions. Those who don’t (MacMillan, for example) never see a penny. Those can always be purchased at used book stores.

    I truly respect the ability, imagination and hard work of authors and show that support with my purchases. When that respect is not returned, I don’t purchase again. It is a simple enough concept.

  35. Ciar Cullen
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:46:48

    Maybe it’s part of a bail-out package we haven’t been told about yet?

  36. MoJo
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:56:58

    I can tell you 2 eHarlequin EBOOKS I wanted but refused to buy because of price:

    Tempted by Megan Hart ($11.30, discounted)

    The Duchess and her Entourage and et al by Victoria Janssen ($11.30, discounted)

    Now that I go back to the site to find a whole bunch of other books I’d sure love to read.

    And won’t.

    Because now I’m so insulted I won’t buy the print version, either.

  37. Statch
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 12:57:40

    One thing I have noticed is that Amazon seems to be using its clout to keep the Kindle prices down. For example, Eloisa James’ When the Duke Returns is $13.49 with the Fictionwise discount, but Amazon is selling the Kindle version for the same price as the paperback, $7.99. Also the Augusten Burroughs book I mentioned earlier is being sold by Amazon for $7.99 for both the Kindle and the paperback version.

    If Amazon believes it can’t charge more for the ebook versions, wouldn’t the publishers be smart to take note of that?

    Anion, I thought that was a very nice note!

  38. Robin
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 13:17:33

    According to the spokesperson for HarperCollins, Avon was “experimenting” with pricing but has since returned the pricing to mass market retail levels.

    Well, somebody better tell Fictionwise. ;)

    I am so going to volunteer for the EFF.

  39. Jennifer McKenzie
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 13:18:29

    My cheapsketery reared its ugly head when I went to Ellora’s cave and paid $7.99 for a book I REALLY wanted. And that’s not even an unreasonable price. I love ebooks because they’re AFFORDABLE!!!! Not because they’re Green (though they are) or because they’re convenient (though they are), but because I can plunk down $5 or $6 and get a damn good book.
    The ONLY time I buy books in hardcover for over *gasp* $20 is when it’s the next in a series I’ve been salivating for. Even then, I cringe paying that price.
    So, am I going to pay over $10 for an ebook?
    Probably not.
    Frankly, the piracy thing doesn’t really get under my skin. Here’s why. Print authors are resold in used bookstores all the time. But when the book is OUT OF PRINT, those used bookstores are treasure troves. There’s no way to stop some people from pirating ebooks that doesn’t involve inconvenience to the reader. Just as there’s no way for a print author to stop someone from taking their book to be resold with no reward for the author.
    But here’s the thing. I’ve purchased used books and THEN bought the new books by that author because I loved it. It’s to our advantage, as authors, to gain readers. If money was the only reason I wrote books, I would have found a more lucrative career long ago. Readers are what I want.
    So, pricing books higher? Stupid IMHO.
    Putting something on a book that makes it difficult to deal with? Also unwise.
    Convenience and price are what have made ebooks popular and the only section of publishing to have growth in the last year.
    Personally, I buy directly from the publishers I know which gives authors the highest return, some of them already mentioned here. It’s unfortunate that the bigger publishers aren’t seeing the advantage in offering the reader what an epub does.

  40. Stuart
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 13:27:57

    Anion @ 33,
    I don’t think anyone is arguing that piracy is a good thing. It is simply that high prices encourage it, and DRM does little, if anything, to stop it (and irritates readers besides). After being stung once or twice with dodgy DRM in the 90s, I’m not going to buy any ebook I can’t convert to html. Sorry.

    As for the high prices – I’ll admit I’ve spent hardback prices on ebooks, once or twice. Living in the UK, paying US$ prices has been (until recently!) a good way to get a discount. Nowadays, well, it needs a heavy discount.

    -Stuart

  41. Ann Bruce
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 13:28:55

    Maybe it's part of a bail-out package we haven't been told about yet?

    Haven’t you heard? The latest B term is “bridge loan.” Not bailout. Bridge loan.

    And I’m stopping now before I go on an off topic rant.

  42. Keishon
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 13:32:34

    People are buying the mmp at the higher ebook prices – When the Duke Returns and I’m just curious to know if they are even aware that the paperback retails at $7.99? Ok, I’m done.

  43. vein
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 13:45:34

    From a self-interested point of view I just see this as giving the epublishers focussing on ebooks (EC, Samhain, Loose Id) etc an advantage they might otherwise lose due to the NY presses economy of scale. So let them shot themselves in the foot for as long as they want too….

  44. MS Jones
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 13:50:10

    I agree with everyone here: the publishing industry is shooting itself in the foot. Yes, this is going to drive readers into the arms of pirates, especially during difficult economic times. What's worse, this will establish a pattern, particularly among younger readers, because I think there's a feeling of entitlement if you've already bought the same books in hardcover. If you own the Twilight series and want to carry it around on a tiny electronic device, there's no psychological barrier to downloading it for free: the author's already got your money.

    And the same feeling drives consumers to download drm-less versions of a product they've already bought. As Angie observes:

    Once I’ve got an authentic disk, that I’ve paid money for, downloading a crack feels more like it’s in the possibly-illegal-but-not-immoral column.

    And a commenter agrees:

    once you force consumers to learn HOW to get their hands on pirated copies, it chips away at their standards.

    So there you are, in the pirate embrace.

    maybe the authors should start pushing for more reasonable pricing and no DRM. It shouldn't all be on the reader.

    Absolutely! If popular writers would agitate for reasonable policies, then publishers will be hammered from both ends: by resistant consumers (that's us) and by the bedrock of the industry (the authors). Kenyon could insist that her next publishing contract include a drm-less, half-price ebook version. What has she got to lose? All her work is free right now at Pirate Bay.

  45. Mary Winter
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 14:36:14

    As a reader, author, and publisher, I have very strong feelings on this. Before I opened Pink Petal Books, I took a look at the price points from various publishers. I know what I would pay as a consumer, and I’ve had people walk up to me at conventions and mention their concern over the price of ebooks across the board. The topic gets brought up on nearly every electronic publishing panel I’ve been on. So I price the offerings from Pink Petal Books accordingly.

    I think there’s a lot of “not getting it” on the part of certain facets of the industry when it comes to electronic books. It’s the same way as the attitude I received a few years ago from a non-romance professional writing organization, and the one that still gets bandied about. The price points offered by NY only reinforce that notion. They don’t get it.

    Several people mentioned buying the books used. Depending on where, and when, I know what my personal policy is, and if I’ll save less than a fast food value meal, then I’ll spring for the new. But I also belive readers AND AUTHORS need to voice their opinions. As crazy as it sounds, these companies may not actually THINK they’re doing anything wrong. Some feedback, especially if you can include names and titles… “Hey, I’d love to buy the latest Lora Leigh in ebook and here’s why…. but I can’t at your prices…” (Or even better yet… “Hey, I just dropped $50 at Fictionwise, too bad I passed over your latest offering by Author Iwannaread because it’s $20.00 and I can get four books for that amount of money anywhere else…) I suspect would go a long way, especially if it came in numbers.

  46. Statch
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 14:47:24

    I’ve actually been watching the Fictionwise top 10 list, hoping that none of the higher-priced ebooks would make it on there, because of course that hurts our argument :->. The new Eloisa James did show up there, but I really think that’s because Fictionwise was running a 40% off sale for quite a while that brought the price of that book down to close the paperback price.

  47. Ann Somerville
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 15:07:53

    The cost of goods is zero, the cost of shipment is zero, the cost of warehousing is zero

    Just to correct a common misconception – ebooks do not cost nothing to produce and distribute. At a decent publisher, there are editing costs and cover art costs. ‘Shipping’ has to be handled by a secure server and appropriate software, neither of which are cheap or free. Maintaining a decent website and ecommerce site is also not free.

    Of course, some epublishers do it all on the cheap – and it shows. But the good ones spend money to make money, and the costs are appropriately covered in the price of the product.

    What drives me insane about ebook publishers is the variation in price – one very small press will charge $12-14 for an e-anthology, another $4-5 for the same length and similar content. There’s no comparable difference in quality either. Samhain consistently charge less than Loose ID and Ellora’s Cave for similar length books. The consumer has no way of knowing before they buy whether paying more will get them a better product, and a page length excerpt is simply not enough to give them a proper idea of the quality.

    The epublishers are well placed to make a killing while the print publishers eat their young. But by god they need to lift their game – stop overcharging for mediocre content, give readers longer excerpts so they can really see if the book is worth it (the Google Books example might be worth following there), and stop being so damn greedy – no one will pay paper prices for something they can’t lend or resell, especially if the editing and writing isn’t up to print publishing standards.

  48. Sheryl Nantus
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 15:09:57

    kind of tells me that the publishers involved have NO idea of what’s happening online.

    maybe they’re all still using 2400 baud modems to connect…

    :P

  49. kirsten saell
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 15:27:14

    I could almost see paying that kind of price if I thought the author was making a 40% royalty–which Samhain seems quite able to pay me while at the same time keeping prices low, converting to multiple formats and making enough money to have recently bought another publisher–but how much you want to bet it isn’t just the reader getting cornholed by these NY publishers?

    If I ever sell to NY, I think I’ll do what GA Aiken did with Dragon Actually, and sell the ebook rights to someone who actually knows what to do with them.

  50. Bob Russell
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 15:27:51

    I think that publishers are trying to set the paradigm for pricing for fear that people will lose a sense of value as we shift to e-book formats. Publishers want people to see the content as the value, not the “container”. They feel that they need to get readers to consider the purchase (although with DRM, it’s more like a loan) of an e-book to be purchase of content. If people start to view it in terms of the marginal cost of another copy, all of a sudden as we move to e-books, the revenue model is destroyed.

    If this doesn’t work, and market forces or piracy threats cause them to discount more in line with traditional demand and supply competitive dynamics, then they will certainly discount. But do if right away and you’ll never know if e-book prices were sustainable. And if there was ever a chance, it’s now when early adopters are much more price insensitive. In fact, so much that publishers may be getting the wrong idea from the market feedback so far. Early adopters will probably pay almost any price up to the hardback price to read an e-book. That might just be causing publishers to stick to that pricing model. But as the general public gets more involved, look out for much more price sensitivity and I think publishers will be forced to discount.

    If they can move the demand curve by reshaping the consumers’ view of the value of the product, and if they can focus on the uniqueness of each title (so that consumers don’t feel like they can just substitute any other book instead of a particular title), then maybe they can set a paradigm that creates huge revenue benefits in the long run.

    As far as piracy, I think it will always be a legitimate fear in the minds of publishers, but I think it’s overblown. As long as there are “reasonable” prices, and piracy is not accepted legally and morally by the mainstream, then people will prefer the safety and simplicity of legitimate sales methods. Even those who grab some pirated titles are more likely to be huge purchasers of legitimate titles who are just supplementing with titles that they probably wouldn’t have bought anyway.

    Btw, there are all-you-can-eat music plans out there. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have an entire library of e-books available to subscribers at a reasonable price as well?

  51. Keishon
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 15:35:25

    Honestly, all we need is for someone to see the big picture. Ebooks are the future and unfortunately things are going to change and people hate/fear change.

  52. theo
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 15:44:46

    Then I guess I’ll just have to be that much more careful with my mmps because until they can give me the same experience reading an ebook that I get with a paperback in my hand, I won’t be knocking down any ebook publisher doors.

    And that’s not hate or fear, that’s simply the preference I choose to live with. One that makes me feel not only a part of what I’m reading, but one that’s much easier for me to read overall.

  53. Victoria Dahl
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 16:01:44

    If I ever sell to NY, I think I'll do what GA Aiken did with Dragon Actually, and sell the ebook rights to someone who actually knows what to do with them.

    Unless you have clout, they would likely walk away from the deal over this issue. I’m just saying that it’s not that simple.

    Also, I would not say that prices at e-pubs are better across the board than prices for e-books at traditional publishers. I get pissed off every time I buy a novella at Ellora’s Cave… which is why I don’t buy e-books very often.

  54. kirsten saell
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 16:27:53

    Unless you have clout, they would likely walk away from the deal over this issue. I'm just saying that it's not that simple.

    Probably true, but it wouldn’t stop me from trying.

    Also, I would not say that prices at e-pubs are better across the board than prices for e-books at traditional publishers. I get pissed off every time I buy a novella at Ellora's Cave… which is why I don't buy e-books very often.

    I can agree with that. It’s a rare favorite author who can induce me to purchase at EC, or at LI, for that matter, because their prices are too close to what I would pay in paper. If I can’t resell or give the book away when I’m done with it, I should not have to pay the same.

    But I will say, EC isn’t the only ebook publisher out there.

    Samhain charges $5.50 for an 80k ebook–that’s entirely reasonable. If they can keep prices down, pay 40% royalties on ebooks, send anything over 50k to print and have the books in brick and mortar stores, have consistently good cover art and editing, offer their ebooks in a variety of formats, and still show decent profits, that shows me just how pathetically poor a job NY pubs are doing if they have to charge $14 (or $8, if we’re being honest) for an ebook.

    Honestly, the only people I know who would be in a position to choose e- over print in the examples from this post are those like Mrs. Giggles, who lives in a country where shipping is prohibitive and dirty books don’t tend to make it through customs.

  55. kirsten saell
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 16:29:17

    dang duplicate post. sorry

  56. Dana
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 16:34:42

    Oh man…that’s insane. Part of the appeal of eBooks is the pricing and for me personally, if I don’t get a nice solid book to take with me on the Muni or on my walks, I do NOT want to pay hardcover price.

  57. Miki
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 16:56:28

    I agree with so much that has been said here, and don’t want to be repetitive.

    So here’s my attempt to make only new points:

    1) One of the other mainstream publishers (think it was Penguin) tried this crap awhile ago. I bought a few of them, because they are from authors who are also releasing books in tradepaper releases. (And I’ve grown accustomed to publishers pricing ebooks to be somewhat equivalent to the print prices). It wasn’t until I saw one of the books in the bookstore that I’d realized I’d been bamboozled! Then I went to every book blog, list, and forum I could find to talk up the problem! So I think part of the problem is WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THIS WHEN WE FIND IT. As more people discover ebooks, they won’t know what’s “normal” or expected.

    2) I’ve been told too often online that emails just don’t have the same clout as snail mail in people’s minds. I’ve been trying to find the name (and address) for St. Martin’s ebook editor/VP/whatever for a few months. I still have a query outstanding that I’m hoping to hear something back early next week. If anyone has insights into how to find in-depth publisher information (not just the “customer service” mailing address offered on most websites), I’d love to see it.

    3) I have a long list of St. Martin’s (and more recently HarperCollins) ebooks in my Fictionwise wishlist, waiting for the price to come down. I am not buying print books any more. If I just *have* to read a book, I’ll go to the library. I will admit, though, that I caved on a few I really wanted when Fictionwise had its 50% “bailout” sale. I’m sorry if this hurts the author (and maybe even eventually me). As one of the other posters said, if we just go out and buy the print books, we’ll only prove the effing publishers right!

    4) Is there an overall ebook advisory group (IDPF?) that would be interested in our opinions and willing to share them with its member publishers?

    5) I appreciate Bob Russell’s comments about publishers wanting to separate consumers’ view of the “content” as opposed to the “container”. But that doesn’t even hold true in print today! People pay more for the hardback “container” because they want a sturdier book, a prettier book, or just can’t wait until the book is released in paperback. Publishers charge more for tradepaper “containers” for books with no more depth or length that a category romance sold for 1/3 to 1/4 of the price! That’s definitely a case of charging more for the “container”. Well, as much as I love my ebooks, the “container” has limitations – device-specific DRM, no sharing with the same friends/family I’d share my print books with, and no resell ability, for example. Because of the limitations of that “container”, I think the pricing should reflect the consumers’ decreased rights to do what they what with their copy of a book they legally bought.

    6) I wouldn’t hold Amazon up as a paragon of what resellers should be. Amazon is trying to gain a Microsoft-like monopoly for its Kindle and will take short-term losses for what it hopes will be long-term gains. If you remember, ALL print books were discounted when Amazon first opened, but that stopped once that had a large enough customer base. And it’s not the same as Wal-Mart being the only company to release a certain band’s CD…if I buy a CD from Wal-Mart, it’ll play on the CD player in my living room, in my bedroom, and in my computer. If I buy that ebook from Amazon, I can only read it on my Kindle. Amazon has either arranged for an exclusive deal with those publishers (to the loss of anyone without a Kindle) or is temporarily selling those overpriced ebooks at a loss (to tempt people to buy a Kindle).

  58. Robin
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 17:09:46

    I think that publishers are trying to set the paradigm for pricing for fear that people will lose a sense of value as we shift to e-book formats. Publishers want people to see the content as the value, not the “container”. They feel that they need to get readers to consider the purchase (although with DRM, it's more like a loan) of an e-book to be purchase of content. If people start to view it in terms of the marginal cost of another copy, all of a sudden as we move to e-books, the revenue model is destroyed.

    If all this is true, why charge roughly *twice* what they are charging for MMPB? That’s not valuing content; that’s, well, piracy of a different sort, IMO.

    It’s bad enough that I have to pay MMPB prices for books that half the time I have problems with going from device to device, site to site (like Harlequin doesn’t release in eReader, so I have to use Adobe, which is a NIGHTMARE), that I cannot resell, lend, or give away, and that can actually become unreadable depending on the shifts in software/reading devices. But I’ll do it because I recognize that I’m paying for the work as much as for the packaging and production. And because I want to convenience of portability. But to actually think it’s okay to charge me DOUBLE for all the sacrifices I already have to make (let alone my complete objections to the way publishers exploit copyright via DRM) is positively mind-blowing.

    At the very least it makes me want to know — as a reviewer — if any book I am considering for review is going to be or is selling at that ridiculously inflated rate.

  59. Robin
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 17:11:17

    Oh, and regarding GA Aiken, I assumed that since she’s published with Samhain and Kensington as Shelly Laurenston that the partnership between those two publishers resulted in her dual ebook/print book deal. Is that not true?

  60. kirsten saell
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 17:12:36

    I appreciate Bob Russell's comments about publishers wanting to separate consumers' view of the “content” as opposed to the “container”. But that doesn't even hold true in print today!

    Hell, yeah the content has value, but if I’m buying fabric softener and get one of those collapsable refill packs so I can reuse my old bottle, I’m certainly going to expect a discount on the price, even if I’m buying the same amount of product.

    And like Miki said, sometimes the container has value, especially if the container and the content are legally inseparable–you own the container and are therefore legally allowed to sell it (and the content with it). With ebooks, you lose the resale value inherent in the container. The price should reflect that.

    And I’m just going to bite my tongue on the whole Kindle/Amazon/monopoly issue, other than to say I agree with Miki. I’m already pissed off enough.

  61. kirsten saell
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 17:14:24

    Oh, and regarding GA Aiken, I assumed that since she's published with Samhain and Kensington as Shelly Laurenston that the partnership between those two publishers resulted in her dual ebook/print book deal. Is that not true?

    I thought so too, but I’ve since heard through the grapevine that that wasn’t the case. I may be misinformed, but I think it was her own contract negotiations.

  62. Statch
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 18:11:11

    Oops, didn’t mean to imply that the whole Amazon/Kindle model is worth following. I’m actually pretty strongly opposed to that model, and would never buy a Kindle, as a single-purpose, single-format (for the DRM part) device. I just meant that if Amazon, which actually does have a monopoly in its market right now because it did tie the Kindle to a proprietary format, sees value in pricing ebooks lower to entice people to become customers, perhaps the regular publishers might draw some conclusions from that.

  63. Miki
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 18:20:32

    Ah, good point, gotcha.

  64. Anonymous
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 18:29:46

    I think another big issue that (I don’t think) anyone’s touched on is that authors make more money per copy on a hardcover than they do on an ebook. A frontlist hardcover usually has a short lifespan. If the ebook comes out at the same time and is priced well below the hardcover more people may buy the ebook instead of the hardcover.

  65. Jane
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 18:33:14

    @Anonymous: We are talking about ebooks being priced higher than their print equivalent.

    Besides, a frontlist hardcover has a longer shelf span than that of a mass market book. Perhaps authors need to start bargaining for higher royalties for their ebooks than their print books. But the royalty per format issue is one for authors and not for readers.

  66. theo
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 18:41:44

    To add a comment to the Amazon/cheap ebook price, I’m curious if anyone else got an offer from them oh…two months or so ago to send you the Kindle and get $25 worth of ebooks. Try it for a month, if you liked it, they’d charge your account on file. If you didn’t, just send it back and pay nothing.

    What a marketing ploy that was! Wonder how many people took them up on it. I didn’t take them up on it because I’m just not an ebook reader. At least not enough to justify their price tag. I’ll read it on my phone if it’s an absolute must-have.

    But I digress…

    That Kindle offer along with the inexpensive ebook prices are definitely their way of trying to grab the biggest share of the market.

    And that’s a shame.

  67. DS
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 18:41:58

    I was listening to James Boyle yesterday on On the Media (I think) where he was talking about his new book The Public Domain which is available for free under a creative commons license– look here for download information: http://www.law.duke.edu/boylesite/

    Usually when people talk about either side of internet piracy I just close down– it’s been talked to death– but Boyle was making a good deal of sense in pointing out the economies of scale.

    And while I appreciate valuing content, many books I buy are no more than a few hours entertainment and the value of their content is about that of a movie, about $5 to $6.

    While I love my Kindle so much I want to marry it, I also know that Amazon is currently absorbing some of the cost of some bestsellers. However, they also have this feature where if a book is not yet in Kindle format, a press on an onscreen button will add to a count of people who would like to buy an ecopy. According to the verbage this is sent to the publisher who should at least get an idea of the interest in ebooks if they pay any attention to it. However, I guess it could be like the Tor debacle, where they wanted to join the Baen model and the Suits got all wound up about the idea.

    I think competition is good so I don’t think Amazon should be the only model, but it may take something like this or the competition with Sony– to create enough buzz to get publishers to listen.

  68. Jane
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 18:51:37

    The more that I read about these inept businesses and how the consumer has to save them by buying things at higher prices or in the format that the manufacturer prefers, the less I care about seeing those businesses succeed.

  69. Mike Cane
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 19:04:06

    >>>They think that we are a group of readers that they can fuck around with

    I use language like that and I get shit from all Teh Suits who trip over my blog and are horrified at such “unprofessional” language (right, like I’ve never been in their lairs and have never heard all of their smug and very casual racist and sexist “jokes”!).

    I’m glad to see the issue makes *you* mad enough to speak about it frankly like that!

    It’s absolutely insane what they’re doing. And St. Martin’s Press is a particular brand I find very offensive: Just look at how it’s *not* possible to get *any* complete set of Ken Bruen’s work in eBook form:
    http://ebooktest.blogspot.com/2008/07/ken-bruen.html

    That post is from July, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find it hasn’t changed much.

    As for all of the formats they must do: They can shove it. Get them all behind ePub *only* and even *amazon* will fall into line. (Sorry all you people invested in eReader and Mobi and LIT [anyone still buying LIT?!!?] — legacy formats!)

    And while I’m here, about all those tears shed for the recent round of NYC publishing layoffs:
    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/12/04/youre-fired-now-stfu-and-deliver/

    I hope this formatting is OK. I had to use Edit and it looks screwy on screen now. Eh.

  70. Statch
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 19:05:31

    DS, even though I don’t like the business model Amazon uses for Kindle because of the proprietary format, I do think it’s the future of ebooks. Ebooks won’t break into the mass market until all the devices are as easy to use as the Kindle.

    Also, even though I don’t have a Kindle, I regularly click on that button on Amazon to say I’d like to see a certain book on the Kindle, if it’s one that I would buy if it were in ebook format. I figure if they put it into Kindle format, they’ll put it into a format I can use too.

  71. Bonnie
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 19:44:41

    Ebooks won't break into the mass market until all the devices are as easy to use as the Kindle.

    Statch, Bingo!

    I wouldn’t have the patience to deal with the other ebook readers. The Kindle is idiotproof. Really.

    And, as far as the hardcover price for ebooks? I generally wait until they go down. To my thinking, it’s crazy to pay that amount of money on a regular basis. There are a few exceptions, but very few.

  72. Angie
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 19:57:35

    @47

    Just to correct a common misconception – ebooks do not cost nothing to produce and distribute.

    Ann — I never said e-books cost nothing to produce and distribute. I’m an e-pubbed writer too and I do know how the business works.

    A paper book also has editing costs, also has cover art costs, and most of the larger publishers already maintain web sites set up for sales so they also have secure server and appropriate software costs. All those costs are there there in hardcopy books in addition to the costs of paper and cardstock and ink, the costs of storage for the unsold stock, of packaging, of shipping. A paper book requires every expenditure that an e-book does, plus the costs I mentioned, which are zero for e-books.

    Angie

  73. BBusyBookworm
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 20:25:08

    Having switched to buying eBooks more or less full time, it is very irritationg when some Publisher price their eBook versions well above the current paper version.

    While $15-25 per book can be painful, if the book is only out in Hardcover, it is at least understandable, with the Publisher probably not wanting to canabalise their own sales (though the two groups are probably going to be different IMHO, but I digress).

    When it does get Irritating is when the Book has been out in retail for half the price, for months if not years and the eBook price does not reflect this. And I’m ignoring the discounts you can usually get on Printed books both HB and PB both online and off.

    Pricing description like that don’t convince users to buy Paper books. it just means that It goes to the back of the list if not compleatly off it, especially with an unfamiliar author. So not only does such pricing lose a potential sale, it may end up affecting a lot of future sales, as if I run into another book by the author in the future, while I might not remember why I Didn’t get it, the fact I did’t probably means that I’ll probably overlook or ignore it.

    To the authors here, having books only available in DRM’d formats, often with Limited rights and cumbersome authentication system and at prices at he same level if not more expensive make me (and others) question why we bother. Why does the Paying customer get burdened with restriction while the pirate can probably find a free copy with a few minutes of searching online or over p2p.

    Pireted version of books are always going to be there, and a certain percentage are always going to download them, no matter how cheap the price. Worring about them is counter productive, and serves no purpose.The majority of people however are willing to and will pay a REASONABLE price for a well made eBook if it is easily available. The quality of the eBook and buying experience is key.

    Most pirated books are very poorly formatted, and often require some searching around. If the Legal, well made version was easily and cheaply available, most people will pay, just for the convenience.

    However expecting me to pay more then the equivalent paper version, especially after spending a few hundred dollars on a dedicate reader and no ability to resell or share them is not going to work.

    Having had bad experiences in the past with DRM, I refuse to buy books with DRM if possible, and if I Have to, I buy a version whose DRM can be removed so I can preserve my investment in eBooks in the future when I might have devices which don’t support that particular for of DRM, or the company has gone out of business.

    I wonder what going to happen in an year or two when People realise that they are locked to a certain companies readers, as their books cannot be transferred to other readers.

  74. Ann Somerville
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 21:03:28

    @Angie:
    I quoted you directly, and you said they cost nothing. You’ve clarified what you meant to say.

    However, I was really aiming the comment at those who really do think ebooks are free. Back in 2005 when Torquere was pretty much the only m/m game in town, a lot of new original from fandom authors, like me, like Manna Francis, like Dusk Peterson, put out their stuff for free. There wasn’t a market for ‘original slash’ and at that point, there were few opportunities to sell the work commercially (one of the reasons for Torquere’s success was lack of competition at that point.) I wasn’t interested in a fulltime writing career because I didn’t want to write mainstream romance, and anything else wasn’t viable.

    Now things have moved on, but the combination of
    1. People being used to quality m/m writing from fanfiction, and some original authors
    2. A large volume of erotic stories available for free
    3. The prevalence of piracy especially among the readers coming from the yaoi/manga background (because they are used to unauthorised fansub and scanlations being their only access to the product)

    has meant a wide misconception that if it’s on the internet, or in eformat, it shouldn’t cost money. Overturning that thought process, especially among readers, at least in the m/m genre, has been incredibly difficult, and you will still, incredibly, see people popping up on large LJ comms asking quite boldly about how to get free downloads of commercial books. It really hasn’t helped that Torquere*** and too many other startups have, at least until recently, offered products often less well written and edited than free fanfiction.

    So your point about *additional* costs is well taken. However, it’s damaging to make any statement implying or appearing to flat out say ebooks cost nothing, because it’s not true and it reinforces the entrenched mentality that they should be free. After all, it makes people feel even less guilty about piracy if they think they aren’t really stealing anything valuable in the first place, right?

    This, BTW, is one of the reason Messrs Glodberg are so uptight about free/efiction. When something good is available at $0 or $5, and they want to sell commercial fanfic for $20, they know perfectly well they have a difficult argument to make.

    ***In fairness, I will point out that I have noticed a marked upswing in quality and editing at Torquere. I still have reasons not to do business with them, but they’re not as lousy as they used to be.

  75. Robin
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 22:16:31

    Most pirated books are very poorly formatted, and often require some searching around. If the Legal, well made version was easily and cheaply available, most people will pay, just for the convenience.

    YES!

    I am actually a bit confused about where the piracy angle comes in here. Are publishers trying to sell this as a deterrent to piracy (or a recoup?). Or are authors the ones interested in this issue (and if they have gotten this from publishers, IMO publishers have sold them some bad ‘shine in terms of their own interests in DRM-free books)? Because I want to know exactly how much actual research publishers have done on piracy (i.e. how much actually goes on and how does it compare to the large numbers of paper readers who sell or otherwise give their paper books to someone else). If it’s true that ebook readers are merely a drop in the bucket, aren’t the effects of paper readers who create a resale market way more significant to author royalties?

    However expecting me to pay more then the equivalent paper version, especially after spending a few hundred dollars on a dedicate reader and no ability to resell or share them is not going to work.

    Exactly.

  76. Angie
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 22:53:47

    @74

    Ann — what I said was that the cost of goods, the cost of shipping, and the cost of warehousing were zero, and they are. I didn’t mention editing, cover art, server costs, promotion, or anything else. I merely pointed out the deltas, the costs which are zero for e-books and non-zero for paper books. I neither implied nor said that the entire cost of producing and selling e-books was zero.

    That said, you’re right about the history of the market, and the fact that there are a lot of people out there who are used to getting high quality m/m or f/f romances and erotica for free. There’s a pretty strong thread in fandom, though, about respecting the author’s right to control what happens with their fic — for example, regarding unauthorized archiving or posting — and I think most people who come from the fannish community (although granted not all) are well able to respect the idea that commercial fiction is to be distributed commercially and no other way. There are other options, especially now when there’s more interest in original slash and places to post it than there were a few years ago, which make theft that much less excusable.

    I definitely agree, though, that anyone who doesn’t get that needs to be educated. I’ve never seen anyone posting on an LJ com asking where they can get free downloads of commercial fiction, but I hope other people popped up and stomped on the idea. [wry smile]

    I just eyeroll at Lee Goldberg. He’s amusing at times, but I don’t generally pay him any attention. He and Dr. Hendrix can both go jump in a lake so far as I’m concerned, and in fact I’m wearing my “Pixel Stained Techno Peasant” T-shirt right now. :)

    Angie

  77. Ann Somerville
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 23:31:37

    the cost of goods, the cost of shipping, and the cost of warehousing were zero, and they are.

    I suppose I don’t really understand how you can separate the cost of producing and distributing a product from the cost of a product. Unless you consider the ‘product’ the bits and bytes on a server, the ‘product’ is the sum total of the writing, the editing and marketing. The costs of distribution are infinitely smaller for ebooks – and would be even less if publishers gave up on idiotic DRM – but aren’t nil.

    ‘Shipping’ for ebooks is the secure download system – a good one is not free, or cheap, and must be maintained by a coder, as must the online bookstore (unless the publisher chooses to slice margin and only use Amazon et al.) ‘Warehousing’ on a server must also be maintained, and high bandwidths and security are not free or cheap either. They’re still a lot less than the insanely wasteful print publishing system.

    I don’t begrudge any publisher – or author – making a profit out of what they do. But what Jane’s described in her post is nothing less than a pure and simple rip-off. It’s dishonest, it’s mean spirited, it benefits neither author nor reader, and it’s prejudicial to the industry’s future. There’s nothing good about it.

    I have popped up and complained about piracy requests – I always get the impression it’s bad form of me to make a fuss, but then, as you probably realise, that rarely stops me :)

    [oh, and you used that fool’s name. You realise he’s like Candyman? Any minute now, he’ll turn up and turn it into an ‘all about lee’ post :( ]

  78. Angie
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 23:50:45

    @77

    Ann — the publishers discussed in the OP are big, established print publishers who’ve begun to offer electronic editions of their books. The big NY publishers all tend to have web sites already where they offer their books for sale, and have done this for quite a while before they started offering e-books. When they started selling electronic editions, they already had the servers and the sales software in place. The addition of another chunk of software to allow buyers to download an e-book isn’t going to be anywhere near the investment that a small e-pub has to make when setting up the whole system from scratch.

    Cost of goods is the cost of the physical goods — the paper and ink and card stock. None of these apply to e-books, so if this is the basis of their argument then the paper books should be the ones to cost more.

    Cost of shipping could, I suppose, be compared with the cost of maintaining a server to let buyers download the e-books, but without having actually looked up any numbers, my guess is that the cost of shipping physical books around the country or around the world, whether it’s by truck or train or boat or whatever, is a lot more than the cost of keeping that server up and running. So if that’s their argument then the paper books should be the ones to cost more.

    Cost of warehousing could possibly be compared with the cost of maintaining the server with the files available for download, but again, in the case of physical books they have to buy or rent a physical building, and a pretty large one, pay for some minimum of power and water and heating/AC, hire employees towork in the place, driving the forklifts and shifting things around and keeping a physical inventory and making sure everything is placed or sent where it should be. Again, the cost of doing this for paper books is going to be way more than the cost of maintaining a server.

    Sure, you can make comparisons if you want to. You can say, well this is like that, and this cost corresponds to that other cost there. All right, fine, let’s do that. The fact is still that the costs associated with producing and distributing e-books are much less than the costs associated with paper books.

    My statement was about three aspects of producing and selling paper books which (in my view) are not associated with producing and selling e-books. That’s all. I didn’t claim that e-books cost nothing to produce and sell, I didn’t claim to be toting up the sum total of the costs of producing and selling either e-books or paper books, nor did I say that the three cost areas I mentioned were the only cost areas involved with either type of book. I made a statement about three aspects of producing and selling paper books which are expensive for paper books and non-existent for e-books.

    I absolutely agree that there are other tasks and resources required for selling both paper and e-books which are most definitely non-zero; I never said nor implied otherwise, and honestly have no idea where you got that impression from what I actually did say.

    But what Jane's described in her post is nothing less than a pure and simple rip-off. It's dishonest, it's mean spirited, it benefits neither author nor reader, and it's prejudicial to the industry's future. There's nothing good about it.

    Here we agree 100%. :) I’d add that it doesn’t benefit the publisher either, because they’re going to find very few people willing to pay those ridiculous prices and whatever investment they’ve made in opening up their business to e-books is going to go down the tubes unless they smarten up quickly.

    Angie

  79. ShellBell
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 02:30:58

    I’ve only been buying eBooks for around 18 months and I am certainly becoming increasingly selective about buying what I consider to be overpriced books. All of my purchases get converted to New Zealand dollars so with the bad (for me) exchange rate right now I am paying double the price of books sold in US dollars. While this is still cheaper than buying paperbacks or hardcovers in New Zealand I am still very reluctant to pay hardcover or trade prices for eBooks – to me there is simply no justification for these prices. The book market in New Zealand is very small compared to other countries, hence paperbacks and hardcovers aren’t particularly cheap to buy. I would have to say that the eBook market here is also restricted – there are absolutely no ereaders available here. I would love to get an Iliad but would have to order it from Australia, which puts it out of my price range.

    I buy very few books in print format now, and any books I consider to be overpriced go straight into my wish list until the price comes down. If I am really desperate to read a particular book I now try to borrow it from the library and then purchase the eBook when the price is more reasonable. I won’t even use my micropay rebates on hardcover/trade priced eBooks any more.

  80. Miki
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 05:30:46

    I have no idea if this will help the issue, or if it’ll end up going to the same base group of people who post here, but I posted a comment about this pricing over at AAR, too.

    I think the only way we are going to change this is to get people to notice it and stop buying those books.

  81. Azure
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 08:22:32

    (Sorry all you people invested in eReader and Mobi and LIT [anyone still buying LIT?!!?] -‘ legacy formats!)

    I’m still buying LIT because it’s the easiest to remove to DRM from. Oh, I’ve figured out (with a lot of help) how to remove DRM from a Mobipocket file, but it takes a lot more work and took a longer time to figure out how to do. But I have to buy these, because I have an eBookwise reader. Not that I’m complaining about this, because it’s been my trusty companion on many a long trip for the past three years, but the eBookwise selection is severely limited.

    However, if they were to go to one format, one that all ebook readers could read, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

    (Hope I don’t get in trouble for admitting I strip DRM from the books I buy, but honestly, I don’t pirate them. I just want to be sure that when I upgrade to a Sony Reader sometime in the future, I won’t have to repurchase the more than 300 ebooks I already own.)

  82. Leeann Burke
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 08:32:12

    I find it funny that NY publishers are now getting on the ebook bandwagon and trying to change it to what they want. While small publishers have been the ones to work hard to make it the success it is today.

    Personally if the ebook is cheaper than the print I’ll pick it up. If it’s the same price as the print copy I’ll think a lot more before I purchase a copy. If it’s more than the print copy I walk, it’s that simple.

  83. MoJo
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 08:52:42

    Sorry all you people invested in eReader and Mobi and LIT [anyone still buying LIT?!!?] -‘ legacy formats!)

    I'm still buying LIT because it's the easiest to remove to DRM from.

    Yes, that would be me, too, right down to the eBookWise reader.

  84. Eugene
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 10:32:16

    Seth Godin sums up the problem here: “Businesses live in ecosystems. A series of rules and assumptions that, taken together, make a thriving mechanism . . . We get stuck because we believe that the rules of our ecosystem are permanent and transferable. In fact, they are almost always temporary and rarely transferable.”

  85. Azure
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 10:49:10

    I guess I’ll be buying my future Avon ebooks from BooksonBoard, because I saw Suzanne Enoch’s “By Love Undone,” the only Enoch book I haven’t read because it’s been out of print forever, for pre-order at Fictionwise…for $12.74. (It’s also only available in eReader–go figure.) At BoB, it’s available in MS Lit and Mobipocket and Adobe, and it’s only $5.77.

    And Eloisa James’s book is still the ridiculously high price as well. (I bought mine at BoB.)

    Sheesh. Did Harpercollins not send the memo to Fictionwise, or did Fictionwise just ignore it?

  86. Mic
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 11:59:21

    BoB also has the eReader version, but for $12.37 instead of $5.77. Why the eReader discrimination?? At least FW has a 100% rebate this week.

  87. Miki
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 13:18:06

    And there are more today…I saw elsewhere that some of the HarperCollins books have been “corrected” on Books On Board, but I’m wondering if that’s a below-cost choice they’re making, too. The first couple of these I checked there are still listing at the higher price.

    Many of these seem like re-releases of backlists, although not all are:

    Kristine Smith : Contact Imminent e=$14.99, p=$6.99
    Kristine Smith : Endgame e=$14.99, p=$7.99
    Kristine Smith : Law of Survival e=$14.99 (b&n not listing as available in print new)
    Kristine Smith : Rules of Conflict e=$14.99 (b&n not listing as available in print new)
    Kristine Smith : Code of Conduct e=$14.99, p=$6.99
    Robert W Walker : City for Ransom e=$14.99, p=$6.99
    Robert W Walker : City of the Absent e=$14.99, p=$7.99
    Robert W Walker : Shadows in the White City e=$14.99, p=$6.99
    Laura Durham : For Better or Hearse e=$14.99, p=$6.99
    Kayla Perrin : Gimme an O! e=$14.99, p=$6.99
    Kayla Perrin : Say You Need Me e=$14.99, p=$6.50
    Suzanne Enoch : By Love Undone e=$14.99, p=$6.99
    Patti Berg : I’m No Angel e=$14.99, p=$6.99
    Patti Berg : Wife for a Day e=$14.99, p=$6.99
    Patti Berg : Stuck on You e=$14.99, (b&n not listing as available in print new)
    Sunny : Mona Lisa Blossoming e=$14.00, p=$6.99

  88. XandraG
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 17:55:55

    This is a money grab, pure and simple. The big boys are trying to muscle the little and growing ebook market into something that they can fit with their present way of doing business (because it costs a lot more than a crapload of money to change a corporate culture, and this one extends throughout the entire industry). In case any authors haven’t noticed, I’ll bet most of ‘em are getting the same royalty rate on ebooks as they are paperbacks (somewhere between 6 and 10 percent), when the ebook industry standard is 25% *at the low end.* And don’t think the whole, “well, ebook sales are barely earning out the cost of putting them out there so it doesn’t matter” explanation stands up under sunlight.

    The market is taking off enough now that they’re experimenting with where its boundaries are, in the hopes of distracting enough people with the price of the book so they don’t notice that they’re just marking time until they can turn around and say, “but we’ve always only offered 6% e-royalties. It’s the standard.” Authors, fight for your royalties now, while the ink’s still wet. On the consumer side, won’t it be a great relief to see all those prices go down?…to just *above* the price of an mmp.

    For those of you asking if they learned anything from the music industry, remember when CDs first came out, there was a big narrative that said the new format would be a tad more expensive first because of the technology, and the costs associated with moving the transfer of the master recordings to CD instead of LP record or tape, but that once CDs were adopted as the standard, prices would go down. Well, they did. A penny. People got used to paying more for a CD, stopped questioning or holding out, and just started sucking up.

    Aside from that, as a consumer, I think ebooks should be comparable with mmp. My thought process is as follows – most books don’t see hardcover print runs in fiction, so a hardcover is a windfall for an author that indicates longevity, a bonus “keepsake” edition for diehard fans, a specialty print-run for places that require durable solid goods (libraries, et al), and a nod to the author that said author is worth investing a tad more overhead in.

    Bulk of sales seem to be made in the mass market–new readers, casual readers, impulse readers, readers on a budget, noncommittal readers, bulk readers, and subscription readers (something I bet we’ll see more of in the future and in the e-market, but for now, think the HQ “book clubs” that subscribe you to lines every month or the subject matter book clubs that offer deep-discount selected titles on a rotating basis).

    Based on this, seems that most buyers believe a book is worth mass market price. Now, most people do not choose a mass market format for the materials. Yes, the “tactile sensation of a book” is frequently heard of on here, but none of the tactile people specify that it’s the specifically cheap-ass quality of the pulpy paper, or the crappy-ass fail-glue that binds the pages together for a limited time and/or one reading, or the ink that rubs off all the way to your elbows. You want the physical book over the electronic file, for the most part. So disregarding the physical materials with which the book is created, that leaves content as the other element of value.

    Keep the ebooks equal to or slightly discounted from the mmp price. When publishers started adding on an extra dollar to a big name author’s paperbacks, people found it for the most part acceptable to pay a little extra for the guaranteed good read the name was supposed to engender, and they’ll do the same thing for e-reads. It’s generally perceived that people pay more for hardbacks because the *materials* cost more, not because the story’s any better than it is in the paperback edition.

  89. Ann Somerville’s Journal » Blog Archive » Tis the season to be screwed
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 20:46:27

    […] always done things, apparently confident that consumers won’t work out that charging double hardback prices for ebooks is the sign of an industry in total […]

  90. The Daily Square - Christmas in Hollis Edition | Booksquare
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 21:20:18

    […] The eBook Tax: Some Publishers Want Hardcover Prices to Be Ebook Pricing StandardFile under: They. Just. Don’t. Get. It. Jane at Dear Author points out the, uh, absolute idiocy of some publishing professionals. PS: pub professionals — read the comments. These are your customers talking to you in a big way. […]

  91. Mike Cane
    Dec 09, 2008 @ 20:06:49

    >>>I'm still buying LIT because it's the easiest to remove to DRM from.

    I’m sympathetic. Isn’t it a real pain to get them into another format and still look good, though?

  92. The Daily Square - Christmas Night in Harlem Edition | Booksquare
    Dec 09, 2008 @ 22:04:33

    […] The eBook Tax: Some Publishers Want Hardcover Prices to Be Ebook Pricing StandardFile under: They. Just. Don’t. Get. It. Jane at Dear Author points out the, uh, absolute idiocy of some publishing professionals. PS: pub professionals — read the comments. These are your customers talking to you in a big way. […]

  93. Azure
    Dec 09, 2008 @ 23:35:04

    I'm sympathetic. Isn't it a real pain to get them into another format and still look good, though?

    Not really, not with the MS Lit. (I’ve had a little trouble with Mobipocket.)

  94. Hump Day Bonus! Free EBooks « Lurv à la Mode
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 05:08:46

    […] 10, 2008 by kmont It was discussed over at Dear Author last week how some publishers righteously (my description) believe that their ebooks should be […]

  95. Persephone Green
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 00:15:14

    JFYI: technically, ‘piracy’ is redistribution for profit without compensation. ‘Illegal file sharing’ != ‘piracy.’

    I know, I know, p2p network users and darknet people all call themselves pirates because it’s cool and shit. Whatever. When it comes to prosecution, an ‘illegal file sharer’ may or may not end up in civil court. Pirates always end up in at least criminal court, if not both civil AND criminal court.

    Recently, the RIAA and the MPAA have been convincing judges that emailing a digital copy of a song to someone is the same as selling that song on a CD in the subway. They’re not the same. If someone in China prints out my ebooks and sells them without giving me a dime, his ass should be in jail. A fifteen-year old kid who uses Azureus to download a copy of my work should not. I’d rather he pay me, but he’s not doing anything worse than every single music teacher I’ve ever had who made photocopies of sheet music when the sheet music was out of print, or any of my teachers who printed photocopies of copyrighted articles, magazine clips, cartoons, photos, etc. throughout my education. All of those people breached copyright law. I don’t think they should be in jail.

    As for DRM and ebook taxes, you can bet I will do everything in my power to never give those companies another cent of my money ever again. I’ll buy used; I’ll go the library. I’ll borrow copies from friends. I will not buy from them anymore.

    Bottom line: publishers, distributors and authors who support DRM and high ebook prices will get my ire, my condescension, and my middle finger. What they will not get is my hard-earned money.

  96. One Post, Two Things « Books and Games
    Dec 14, 2008 @ 04:03:26

    […] December 14, 2008 by Taja Some days ago, I read a post on Dear Author about the pricing of ebooks. I actually don’t want to write anything about the stupidity to set a higher price on an […]

  97. Missy Lyons
    Dec 18, 2008 @ 09:40:25

    This is unfreaking-believable.

    Since I don’t go around checking prices, I wouldn’t have figure this out until after the purchasr. Thanks for the heads up.

  98. LindaR
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 19:54:55

    Just hypothetically speaking:

    What if thieves kept going into the bank and taking money, and the only thing that ever happened was honest people sat around whining about “those pirates” and how unethical they were, but sheesh, I mean, there’s the money for the taking and, ya know, I’m sick of working for my money so why not help myself to some of that good money too?

    But that’s not how it works. There’s things like police and jail time for thieves.

    I guess this is a naïve question, but why not prosecute the ISPs that host the torrent sites that give away other people’s workproduct?

  99. Angie
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 22:47:59

    @98 — because if the people running the ISPs have any brains at all, they’ve kept a hands-off policy and maintained their common carrier status. It’s actually to the benefit of everyone not to prosecute ISPs just for having clients who break the law; if ISPs were responsible for what their customers did online, it wouldn’t be worth it for anyone to run an ISP and most of us wouldn’t be able to get online because it’d be way too expensive. And it’s unreasonable, when you get right down to it, to expect them to police all their customers; it’d ben like prosecuting the phone company because a gang of thieves used the phone to discuss their plans. The only way the phone company could be held responsible would be if they made some effort to monitor and police conversations, and none of us want that, right?

    Now, once an ISP has been informed that a customer is breaking the law, they should take action, usually cancelling the account and cooperating with law enforcement, handing over records to someone with a warrant, that sort of thing. If they’re notified of wrong-doing on their system and do nothing, and refuse to cooperate with law enforcement, then that’s something they can be prosecuted for.

    But just having a pirate site on their system doesn’t make them responsible from the get-go, and it shouldn’t. That’d cause more problems for everyone than it’d solve.

    Angie

  100. LindaR
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 22:54:44

    @99 — Thanks for this. Of course you’re right.

    But it does seem that piracy ruins it for all the honest people, and I would love to figure out a way to get rid of them.

  101. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 23:09:52

    But it does seem that piracy ruins it for all the honest people, and I would love to figure out a way to get rid of them.

    You aren’t kidding…I recently shelved a series that I write for one of my epubs and piracy played a HUGE part in that decision.

    @ShilohWalker – The burden of creating a better ebook pricing system should not rest solely with the consumer. Sure, we can write letters and emails and I have and I know others who have – to no avail. Some publishers aren't going to listen to a consumer. Maybe they'll listen to authors. Like I said in the post, reasonable pricing should not be on the shoulders of just readers.

    No, definitely it shouldn’t. I don’t think that was my implication-I just suggested that if enough readers complain, they are more likely to listen. The weird format of the paperback books that went out for a while…a very short while…a lot of readers complained about them and they stopped doing it. Was it solely because of reader complaints? I have no idea.

    But readers complaining would have a lot more impact than the typical author. A couple of major names could maybe make a little bit of an impact. But the typical author isn’t a major name.

    If it isn’t heard from both sides, it won’t help. And if it isn’t heard often from the readers’ side…again, I don’t see much of a change.

  102. LindaR
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 23:25:33

    Well, here is a fantasy:

    There outta be a law: It is illegal to participate in electronic piracy on both sides of the equation, either making material that belongs to someone else available for downloading OR downloading material without the creator’s permission.

    Then, to make it enforceable, just set up a bounty hunter situation where the first person to report an illegal download site gets the “bounty” = fines imposed on both the entity running the site and everyone who has downloaded illegally from the site.

    The bounty hunters could report the sites to their local DA who would then issue a cease-and-desist order on the ISP, compelling the ISP to archive all the records from the site. Fine the hell out of all the participants to pay for the process.

    A few well-publicized busts, and demand will dry up. Or am I crazy?

  103. Note to NY: You Can’t Muscle out Ebooks. Nice Try Though. « Publishing Renaissance
    Jan 02, 2009 @ 05:19:07

    […] 2, 2009 by zoewinters Over on Dear Author there was a post about how many of the larger trade publishers seem to want to make ebooks the same […]

  104. Armando Torres Jr
    Feb 23, 2009 @ 12:14:28

    I started purchasing eBooks last year when I purchased my Sony Reader and decided on the Reader because it gave me the flexibility to purchase in pdf which many eBook publishers used. It also gave me the option to shop around for eBook prices but recently I saw a book in paperback for $7.99 coming out soon and the eBook price at $9.99. Initially I thought the pricing issue was a fear of change but I feel that it is the fact that it will cut into their profits. I understand that converting to other formats take time but I work in Information Technology and know that there are many programs out there that do this quite easily.

    I do not see how they can justify an increase on their paperback pricing to eBook pricing other than maintaining profit and pushing readers away from eBooks. I do not understand why they would not want to add other formats to increase their profit just as AudioBooks did. I know that profits for eBooks would be less than paperbacks but the eBook Readers are growing but they also should consider reasonable pricing to increase purchases which in turn increases profits. You cannot charge someone $9.99 for a book that does not kill trees, employ expensive machinery and manpower but charge $7.99 for the ones that do this. We should not be punished for their own limited outlook.

  105. Statch
    Feb 23, 2009 @ 16:59:39

    I’ve noticed an odd trend lately, if I can call two books a trend. Both Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole and Primal Needs by Susan Sizemore are out in ereader format for $6.99 (at Fictionwise.com) but in Mobipocket format, they’re $9.99. Fictionwise isn’t carrying the Mobipocket version, presumably for that reason. That’s a really hard one to understand!

  106. Caldwell
    Apr 14, 2009 @ 06:56:14

    I understand when a *new* book is published in hardback format, it’s reasonable to charge the same whether hardback for ebook.

    But I’ve noticed that when that same hardback comes out in mass paperback, eReader will continue to charge hardback prices for quite some time — a year or longer. No one in their right mind is going to pay $25 for a book they can purchase for $7.99 (or less — $5.97 if they go to WalMart).

    Or a $7.99 paperback gets republished and the price suddenly jumps to $14.99 or more.

    Mists of Avalon *was* listed at $10, *now* it’s $17.10. I purchased Jim Butcher’s Grave Peril (#3) for $7.99, now eReader wants $15.15 for it. It appears his mass paperbacks are getting re-released in hardback. They’re pretty good, but not $25 good. If I kept all the books I read, I’d need a snow plow to clear a path into my house. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I’ve never really understood the appeal of hardback anyway — unless it’s a reference book. I wouldn’t care if it’s published on toilet paper as long as I can read it.

    I liked the convenience of ebooks and saving paper and resources, but I find myself purchasing less and less electronic books and returning to paperbacks. Most of the time eReader is one or two weeks late — or even months late. Many times they don’t even get the book at all. Or they’re missing one or two books from a series. It’s annoying.

    I’m truly fed up with the greed and pricing games. I read a lot of different genres, and I’m just not going to pay hardback prices for books that are currently in paperback format. And I’m definitely not going to pay hardback prices for books that were previously published in mass paperback not so long ago.

    If eReader is trying to drive customers away … I’d say they have definitely been succeeding with me. They’ve gotten on my last nerve.

    And if anyone should get a nice discount on new book purchases, it should most definitely be electronic readers since those books don’t have to be printed, handled, shipped, or stocked. Geez, I thought we were suppose to be trying to go greener.
    Caldwell

  107. Brad’s Reader » Blog Archive » Why are some publishers raising ebook prices?
    May 18, 2009 @ 18:33:35

    […] it feels like we take 3 steps forward, and 2 steps back. And when I read a post about an ebook "tax" some publishers feel is necessary, I knew we still had a lot of work to do. It’s actually not […]

  108. Rachel
    May 30, 2009 @ 17:37:20

    I’ve started a price comparison website for ebooks (http://www.ebookprice.info) (all suggestions for improvement very welcome!)

    The price differences between different formats from the same bookstore, or from one week to the next at the same bookstore continues to amaze me.

    Rachel

  109. Statch
    May 30, 2009 @ 19:33:33

    Rachel, your site is wonderful! Thanks so much for starting it. I’m going to use it not only to find the lowest price, but to find if a book is available in ebook format at all.

  110. My eBook Resolution: Just Saying No to the Ebook Tax | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Feb 07, 2010 @ 04:01:12

    […] in December of 2008, I wrote about the ebook tax or the surcharge that Macmillan and other publishers were placing on ebooks by charging more for […]

  111. Book Geek Wednesday: The End of Publishing? « Tales From The Hollow Tree
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 14:22:51

    […] theory that electronic publishing will forever ruin traditional publishing, Amazon vs. McMillan, ebook price wars, Authors vs Google and the list goes on and on. There’s been alot of anger over the effect […]

  112. Brishtell
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 20:05:23

    It amazes me how expensive ebooks are, because first you have to purchase an e-reader, and some only accept certain types of file formats (nook=epub, kindle=azw, etc.). Then you have to purchase the books, which are just as pricey as paperbacks, if not higher. And it’s only in digital text, so it really costs nothing! Not even shipping and handling. I think there needs to be a significant decrease in ebook pricing, because I have the Nook, and the Nook itself is satisfying, but the pricing is outrageous and ridiculous. Also, e-readers are the future. There are much more environmentally friendly, saving paper, etc. For them to over-price ebooks is almost like saying that they’re discouraging progession and advancement in a sustaining manner. So, ebooks should be cheaper!

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