Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Thursday Midday Links: Teleread Acquired by Media Company

Is it Thursday already? I feel like I haven’t had any traction this week.

For those publishers who believe Apple is their savior, they may want to take a look at this news report. Apple is driving down the prices of iTunes TV episodes to $1 per show. I think this is great and I know I’ll buy far more TV shows at that price. The idea of lower pricing is that you make up in volume what you lose in margin:

"If you move five times the volume [of sales] at half the price, it's a good idea," one digital media strategist at a big US media conglomerate said. "The argument for holding the line gets bad quickly."


NYTimes has a piece on higher ebook pricing. Most consumers don’t like it and won’t buy at a post $9.99 price. But publishers say that they are interested in testing the market:

Publishers say price levels are not settled by any means and that now, having reached agreements where publishers -’ rather than retailers -’ set consumer prices, they have an opportunity to test different situations.

"We may introduce a book at $14.95 for a year and then move the book to $9.99 when we would have put out the trade paperback edition," said Dominique Raccah, chief executive of Sourcebooks, an independent publisher. "I suspect you're going to see a fair amount of experimentation."

I thought it was interesting that Raccah is equivocal about decreasing pricing. It’s important to remember that dynamic pricing doesn’t automatically mean lower pricing.   The article notes how authors see readers who want lower pricing as full of entitlement and having a “Wal-mart” mentality.   Yes, as a consumer, I like low prices.


One publisher isn’t interested in agency pricing because it would result in lower revenues for the publisher. Convinced that Amazon will not be controlling the market, one publishing house won’t be joining the ranks of the other five:

The reason is that book publishers make less money from the agency model than they do from the traditional wholesale model (in which Amazon buys a book license at the full wholesale price, and then sells each copy for whatever it wants, often losing money on the sale). The agency model, therefore, also leaves publishers less money to pay authors and agents.

Random House is the likely suspect here.


RNA has its shortlist of books released.   I’m just going to quote wholesale from the Press Release:

The greatly-prized Romantic Novel of the Year is chosen from a shortlist of six titles which have been selected by the reading public from more than 150 nominated books. The winner is selected by three independent judges. The shortlist, in alphabetical order by author name, is:

  • Passion – Louise Bagshawe (Headline Review)
  • Fairytale of New York – Miranda Dickinson (Avon (Harper Collins))
  • Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts – Lucy Dillon (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • A Glimpse at Happiness – Jean Fullerton (Orion)
  • The Glass Painter’s Daughter – Rachel Hore (Pocket (Simon & Schuster))
  • The Italian Matchmaker – Santa Montefiore (Hodder & Stoughton)

The Love Story of the Year is for a shorter romance where there is a strong emphasis on the developing central relationship. A shortlist of six is again chosen by the reading public, with the winner selected by three judges. The shortlist is:

  • The Notorious Mr. Hurst – Louise Allen (Harlequin Mills & Boon)
  • Animal Instincts – Nell Dixon (Little Black Dress)
  • Always the Bridesmaid – Nina Harrington (Harlequin Mills & Boon)
  • Fair Deception – Jan Jones (Robert Hale)
  • The Wedding Party – Sophie King (Hodder)
  • Claimed for the Italian’s Revenge – Natalie Rivers (Harlequin Mills & Boon)

The People’s Choice Award

In keeping with the RNA’s desire to help good new romantic writers achieve prominence. publishers were invited to submit books by authors in whom they believe passionately, who would benefit from being part of the 50th Anniversary Awards event. Expert romantic writing buyers at key retailers were then asked to select their favourite six for the shortlist.

The winner of this award is chosen by the public. Readers are invited to read as many of the new paperbacks as possible and vote for their favourite at the poll website www.lovereading.co.uk/purepassion. The shortlist is:

  • Missing You – Louise Douglas (Pan)
  • Remembrance Day – Leah Fleming (Avon)
  • I Heart Hollywood – Lindsey Kelk (Harper)
  • Rich Girl Poor Girl – Lesley Lokko (Orion)
  • Heiresses – Lulu Taylor (Arrow)

The Rom Com Award is organised and administered in the same way as the Romantic Novel of the Year. To reach the shortlist, the books must really tickle readers’ funny-bones. The winner is chosen by a panel of writers and readers selected by the RNA. The shortlist is:

  • Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend – Jenny Colgan (Sphere)
  • The Nearly-Weds – Jane Costello (Simon & Schuster)
  • 50 Ways to Find a Lover – Lucy-Anne Holmes (Pan)
  • Rumour Has It – Jill Mansell (Headline Review)

Hachette saw a steep decline (20%) in sales in the fourth quarter of 2009 when, I suppose, everyone and their cousin has finished buying the Stephenie Meyer books, but it had a good overall year with revenues up 5.3% on a reported basis or 6.5% on a like for like basis. Ebook sales reached 5% of the total revenues in December.


Teleread.org was sold to North American Publishing Company. Originator David Rothman is stepping aside, but Paul Biba and Chris Meadows will remain. Congratulations to David and the whole crew over at Teleread.


Remember the story about the small press author whose ebook was given away for free on Kindle? She caught the eye of Robert Gottlieb and now she has a deal with Pocket:

Gayle Trent’s KILLER SWEET TOOTH, the next in her Kindle-bestselling cozy mystery series, moving to Lauren McKenna at Gallery, in a two-book deal, by Robert Gottlieb at Trident Media Group.

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

43 Comments

  1. TKF
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 13:44:51

    The article notes how authors see readers who want lower pricing as full of entitlement and having a “Wal-mart” mentality. Yes, as a consumer, I like low prices.

    Me too, but I have so many problems with the aspects of just how Wal-Mart offers you those low prices that I refuse to shop there. Never have. Never will. And I'm relieved to live in a part of the country where I still have the option to make that choice!

    Just because Amazon set an entirely artificial (and lets us not forget money-losing) price and readers like it, doesn't make that the real price or value of those eBooks and it doesn't mean that publishers need to adhere to that price point from now on. It was a DISCOUNTED price. That was the whole point.

    When Fluevogs go on sale, I don't pout and scream when the sale is over about how the normal price is unfair and inflated. If I want the shoes, I pay the price. If I don't want to pay full price for the shiny new style, I can wait and hope they go on sale, or I can buy something else. But I certainly don’t think that Zappos (now owned by Amazon) should get to tell Fluevog their shoes are too expensive and they’re going to set a price limit of $XX on all shoes sold. And I REALLY don't believe I have the right to pout if Fluevog refuses to adhere to Zappos new pricing policy.

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  2. MariaESchneider
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 13:49:43

    There’s an entire thread on the “Wal-mart” and “entitlement” comment because apparently it was a quote from an author…who also posted on Amazon’s forums and stirred up a great deal of angst.

    Methinks he is having a bad couple of weeks…but they say that no publicity is bad publicity?

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  3. TKF
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 13:51:46

    The article notes how authors see readers who want lower pricing as full of entitlement and having a “Wal-mart” mentality. Yes, as a consumer, I like low prices.

    Me too, but I have so many problems with the aspects of just how Wal-Mart offers you those low prices that I refuse to shop there. Never have. Never will. And I'm relieved to live in a part of the country where I still have the option to make that choice!

    Just because Amazon set an entirely artificial (and lets us not forget money-losing) price and readers like it, doesn't make that the real price or value of those eBooks and it doesn't mean that publishers need to adhere to that price point from now on. It was a DISCOUNTED price. That was the whole point.

    When Fluevogs go on sale, I don't pout and scream when the sale is over about how the normal price is unfair and inflated. If I want the shoes, I pay the price. If I don't want to pay full price for the shiny new style, I can wait and hope they go on sale, or I can buy something else. But I certainly don’t think that Zappos (now owned by Amazon) should get to tell Fluevog their shoes are too expensive and they’re going to set a price limit of $XX on all shoes sold. And I REALLY don't believe I have the right to pout if Fluevog refuses to adhere to Zappos new pricing policy.

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  4. TKF
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 13:52:18

    Why won’t my post show up here? I can post everywhere else . . . *grumble*

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  5. Elizabeth
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 13:52:29

    Where have I been?
    How come I haven’t read any of these?
    My TBR pile just gets longer and longer.

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  6. Samantha
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 13:52:56

    That “Wal-Mart” comment really pissed me off.

    When big publishers produce e-books like a brand owned by Wal-Mart they deserve Wal-Mart prices. I have NO cover, there isn’t even a page that shows the publisher in 95% of the “Big” publishers electronic versions, No dedication page, no “What’s coming next” at the back of the file. I open that book it opens on Chapter One and ends on the last page. I don’t know about anyone else but I mean get real. I think it’s the E-Book mentality, can’t share it first and foremost but you get LESS so let’s charge them more. Not in this lifetime. Entitlement..pffttt.

    I think that Author needs to get educated before he shoots his mouth off. Ignorance is NOT always bliss.

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  7. Jane
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 13:55:53

    @TKF I whitelisted you. Sorry! We have a very aggressive spam filter.

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  8. Jane
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 14:04:24

    @TKF But Fleuvog isn’t in the Zappos store is it? If you have a luxury brand and you don’t want it discounted, a brand does not have to do business with a company. That’s entirely different than a manufacturer dictating how a retailer runs its business.

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  9. Mireya
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 14:17:25

    Though I am really annoyed at the attitude from some authors/published, I am also very interested in the outcome of all this. Personally, I don’t think higher prices are going to work and I actually do think that book piracy is going to increase due to all this. I don’t think a lot of readers have the kind of money needed to buy a hardback, and frankly, $14.99 (just to use as an example), is going to seem too high to most people (even the noobs to ebooks).

    Personally, I don’t buy any ebooks that are more expensive than the price of a long mass market paperback ($8.99). If a favorite author has a hardback coming, I seek coupons and discounts, and I buy the actual hardback at a discounted price. Thankfully, I don’t have a lot of favorite authors that have their new releases in hardback. If it gets to the point in which I can’t afford them, I’ll just get it from my library or wait for the mass market paperback version to come out.

    Very interesting article.

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  10. DS
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 14:43:52

    Anne Rice just weighed in on the Amazon review war. Her review says she is buying 10 copies to support Preston.

    I’m going to go make some popcorn. I think things may get good.

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  11. Ridley
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 14:49:33

    I think the funny thing is that publishers are right – $9.99 ebooks do devalue the hardcover.

    Where they’re wrong, however, is how to deal with it. It’s gone on long enough that the price point is pretty much etched in stone, for better or worse, and raising prices on ebooks is not going to change that. It’s just going to cheese off readers.

    Hardbacks have been dying for years. Kindle is just the nail in the coffin. Publishers need to find a way to profit off ebooks and paperbacks and accept that hardcovers are going to be a niche item in fiction. They’ll do this eventually, the only question is how much they’ll lose in the interim.

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  12. Joanne
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 14:57:38

    So much of what ‘appears’ to be chic lit on the RNA list, what’s up with that?

    I am going to try The Notorious Mr. Hurst by Louise Allen because it’s a Harlequin Historical. It’s also kindle for $4 and change– I just hope that the only review (5 stars) on Amazon wasn’t written by the author’s Mom.

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  13. Debra
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 15:29:24

    I think that if the publishers want to make money off their hardcovers then they need to delay the ebook release by at least a month. Then put out the ebook version for those of us that read that format.

    Let’s get real though…those books are already edited, the work all done…for the hardcover and paperback edition…converting it to ebook takes next to nothing in time and effort.

    Not only that, ebooks is not where the ‘big time’ author is going to make her money, the royalty rates are just to low. Their money is going to come in with the hardcover and paperback editions.

    An epublisher that does nothing else but ebooks has to take the cost of the editing and cover art, and the authors royalty rate out of that 7 dollars. The big publishing houses do not. All they have to do is put the book that is already done into ebook format.

    So a 14.99 price for an ebook that is already on the shelves is utterly ridiculous. Sense of entitlement my ass, I want fair pricing for what I am getting, and that is a paperless book that has already made, and will continue to make, the majority of its money on the hardcover and paperback edition.

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  14. TKF
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 16:36:28

    @TKF But Fleuvog isn't in the Zappos store is it? If you have a luxury brand and you don't want it discounted, a brand does not have to do business with a company. That's entirely different than a manufacturer dictating how a retailer runs its business.

    I'm wearing a pair of “Vogs” I bought via Zappos right this minute (though I have a closet full that I've paid retail for, LOL!). I pretty much only buy Fluevogs. It's a sickness. Especially if the Vogs are on sale . . .

    Maybe I see the whole thing differently than you (and apparently a lot of other readers)? To me it looks like Amazon (a middle man) telling publishers (the actual manufacturers) what they can charge for their books. And I simply don't get this. Amazon doesn't produce these books, they are merely a conduit for them. Amazon established a “sale” price for HB eBooks that readers quickly came to accept as the “actual” price. The fact that Amazon was losing money on them the whole time seems to be being largely ignored. $9.99 was an imaginary price. Invented purely to get readers to buy a Kindle IMO. Amazon didn't base it on anything other than not breaking that magical $10 price point as far as I've seen. And now that lots of people have bought Kindles, and have bought them with the understanding that $9.99 was the top price for an eBook (a promise made by Amazon, not publishers), they are understandably ticked off that the sale is about to end and prices are going to go up to something more in line with what you see for a discounted HB at a Costco or Borders.

    If Kindle owners have a beef with anyone in this, it's with Amazon for making a false promise, not with the publishers who NEVER priced their books that low in the first place.

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  15. Maili
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 16:37:30

    @Joanne:

    So much of what ‘appears' to be chic lit on the RNA list, what's up with that?

    I tried to explain to someone some months ago that what defines ‘romance’ differs between the US and the UK. For example: the UK views Jane Austen’s P&P as a comedy of manners or ‘chick lit’ while the US views P&P as a romance novel.

    A romance like, say, a Julia Quinn or Susan Elizabeth Phillips book is seen as “American romance” in the UK, rather than just a “romance”.

    Historical romances? A massive difference! This genre, the fantasy romantic kind that the US produces, doesn’t really exist in the UK. The UK’s historical romances are usually seen as ‘historical fiction’ in the US. A UK historical romance is usually down-to-earth, ‘realistic’, no-nonsense and a lot less fantasy-based yet still very much romantic. I once sent a popular UK historical romance to a friend in the US, and she couldn’t get into it because it wasn’t American-styled romantic enough.

    So yeah, IMO, there’s a massive difference between American and British romance writing. (The exception is, of course, M&B category romances.) I do think there is a difference in mentality as well. British romance: Screwed up? Use humour to get hero or heroine make light of it or be dismissive about it until it’s sorted. American romance: Screwed up? Get the heroine or hero to beat themselves up until they’re redeemed. Australian romance is in-between the UK and the US. :D

    I think, in general, British romances (or in the US’s eyes, chick lit or Women’s Fiction) are less fantasy-based, subtle, less restrictive (UK readers won’t bitchslap the heroine if she has flaws or makes mistakes, for instance) and more than not, humorous.

    This is just an opinion, but I hope someone will do a comparative study some day (especially UK, Canada, US, Australia, India, Japan, and all other countries). Laura Vivanco, hopefully!

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  16. LVLM
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 17:19:26

    Can someone please link to those Amazon discussions with Ann Rice and Wal-mart?

    Thanks

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  17. Jane
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 17:29:07

    @TKF: Of course you can see things differently. Isn’t that the point of comments? But retailers setting the price is very common. Retailers have a closer relationship with consumers, understand the price elasticity better. Do A/B tests better.

    Also, pubs could set the price to its customers (resellers) at any price it wanted. Amazon and others just discounted like wal-mart, costco, Amazon, your drugstore, etc. do with paper books.

    I don’t agree that 9.99 is an artificial market price. What I do see is that Amazon tested the market, understood what price would move consumers to buy, and priced accordingly. It was able to sustain losses and would be able sustain losses into the future because of the volume of their sales.

    I disagree that it was invented to sell the Kindle. If that were true, it would have developed other platforms. The pricing was designed to create a monopoly, like iTunes did, for ebooks by getting people in to being hooked to the Kindle proprietary format. Kindle devices merely assist in that goal.

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  18. Jane
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 17:35:41

    @LVLM I think it’s this amazon discussion.

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  19. DS
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 17:42:50

    @LVLM: Sorry, I try to give links. Anne Rice is on the Impact product page on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Impact-Douglas-Preston/dp/0765317680

    Go down to the reviews and sort by most recent. Anne Rice’s five star review is dated 2/11.

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  20. DS
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 17:46:41

    Oops, I tried to edit my post with the link to the page where Anne Rice appears and it went to moderation.

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  21. Joanne
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 17:49:37

    @Maili: Ahh.. I always knew Americans didn’t speak the same language as the British.

    Thank you for the explaning the differences, it makes a difference!

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  22. Jane
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 17:59:07

    @DS Ah, Anne Rice.

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  23. TKF
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 17:59:14

    But retailers setting the price is very common. Retailers have a closer relationship with consumers, understand the price elasticity better. Do A/B tests better.

    On items that they own, yes. But books aren't owned by the retailer. It's simply not the same business model.

    For example, the things Macy's stocks on their shelves are things they have already bought. They either sourced it domestically or imported it themselves. The price they set is one that they want to make on their own goods. If they have a sale and mark it down, that discount comes out of their profit margin. But this is not the case with Amazon. They have established a price for a product they do not own or produce and that imaginary price is now being looked at as the “actual” price of the item.

    Publishers (rightly so given the howls of protest that only a small window of such pricing has produced) are worried that Amazon's “right” price will become the only “right” price in the industry, taking away their ability to price their own product. They also seem to be worried (again, rightly so IMO) that this made-up price could kill the HB book within the next ten years, and they're attempting to find their own balance in the rising new market. Having Amazon dictate it for them simply doesn't' seem logical.

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  24. Jane
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 18:04:30

    @TKF: Of course it isn’t logical for legacy publishers who are trying to sustain the hardcover business model.

    Shop at Target? Walgreens? The grocery store? Gas station? Physical bookstore? They buy at wholesale and sell to us, the consumer. Same business model.

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  25. kirsten saell
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 18:08:44

    @TKF: On items that they own, yes. But books aren't owned by the retailer. It's simply not the same business model.

    Booksellers’ ability to avoid all risk by being not much more than a consignment broker, while enjoying all the freedoms of a retailer is galling–especially so for some small presses whose contracts with retailers pay them on the consumer sale price of the book, not the list price (wish I could dig up some links on that one, but my history’s been erased). In those cases, the retailer has even more power–they can not only discount the book as much as they like, but they then pay the publisher a percentage of that discounted price.

    Can you say “the shaft”?

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  26. kurzon
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 18:44:27

    I fall somewhere in the middle on ebook prices.

    I don’t ever want to pay more for an ebook than the current price of the physical release. I think that’s unwarranted and plain stupid.

    I also want DRM dropped as soon as possible, and I want the quality to increase – I don’t think I’ve bought an ebook yet which hasn’t had a scanning error (though admittedly I’m reading a lot of books which are nowhere near recent release). Idiotic regional sales restrictions need to go away soonest as well, thanks.

    But I’ve no attachment to this $9.99 figure which Amazon had many readers buy into. If the book was released in paperback ten years ago, I think the price should be about $3-5. If the book has just been released in paperback, I think the ebook should be at least $1-2 cheaper than than that new release paperback (so if the paperback is $8, I want a $6 book, please). If it’s an ebook of a new release hardback retailing at $25, then a $15 ebook sounds fantastic to me. I get the book way before I would normally purchase it (since I wait for paperback for most things) and have no issues with trying to wedge a bulky hardback onto my groaning shelves.

    The Walmart pricing model, and the reader/consumer’s desire to pay the least possible amount for anything, is slightly tempered in my case where books are concerned. Because I’m not just purchasing one book, I’m wanting to purchase the next book by that author. Writing is already a dreadful business to try and make a living with, and so when I’m buying books there is always that consideration in the back of my mind that a $1 book might mean I may not see another book by this author, because they’ll be too busy working at paying jobs so that they can feed their kids.

    Nor am I willing to write publishers out of the equation. There are thousands – millions – of writers out there. And they’re producing some good books – and vast amounts of dreck. I can probably save a few bucks buying self-published books from currently established authors who choose to go that route, but I don’t want to plough through the mud looking for my next favourite author. I want a publisher to find suitable candidates, sort them into the recognisable categories I’ve spent years learning to identify by book covers, and polish them up as much as possible before I spend my limited reading time on them. [I definitely love finding a new good author enough not to be expecting them to pay out thousands of dollars up front to have their book edited, cover art done, etc, when under the cover model they at least aren't risking that kind of money up-front.]

    Each and every book, each and every author, is a unique product. Paying the cheapest possible price instead of a fair medium – let alone aggressively loss-leading as Amazon has been done – is to me forgetting that I am effectively potentially doing myself out of reading my new favourite book.

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  27. Jane
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 18:50:16

    @kurzon I don’t disagree with your assessment at all which is why I try to buy new when I can and for books I love even though I get those books for free. If publishers were truly trying to evaluate and meet all their customers and actually listen and respond to them (ie., the best way to break the Amazon monopoly is sell direct without DRM), I would be cheering them on. But, unfortunately, that’s not what they are doing.

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  28. kurzon
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 19:07:54

    Yes, I know exactly what you mean – I’m talking about what I would like the model to be, not what it is, and Macmillan particularly appears to have been truly stupid in approaching ebooks in the past.

    But the $9.99 argument just never seems to cover the whole story.

    Amazon was trying to lock its suppliers into an agreement to never sell less than to Amazon, with an automatic downward shift of Amazon’s prices if the publisher happened to, say, list the book on their own site for $8. That would make $7.99 Amazon’s new price instantly. Which is fine if your only aim is to get a cheap book, but dreadful from the publisher and author’s point of view. Cheaper prices doesn’t automatically translate into more sales. Sometimes it merely translates into less money, particularly when you’re dealing with unique, non-essential products like books.

    The publishers have done stupid junk in the past. They might continue to try and do that in the future. But there are two main points I take out of the Amazon/Macmillan thing:

    1. Macmillan’s model was eminently reasonable, even if it’s not the way they’ve been practicing in the past. Amazon’s practices were obnoxious in the extreme.

    2. While ebooks have been around for over a decade now, and for tech-savvy people it seems like they’re well settled in – ebooks are only just beginning. They represent some ridiculously small percentage of current sales. Publishers have barely bothered to care about them, but now that they’re on the rise, they’re going to have to grapple with the problem more seriously.

    Everyone’s primary issue on ebooks will be different (mine is probably regionality – abruptly halfway through last year, suddenly people in my country couldn’t buy most ebooks because of a stupid legal interpretation). Quality and DRM are my second issue, and I’m holding off on the serious spending I could do on ebooks until they settle down (I want a lot of back catalogue of books I’ve already read, but I’m not going to buy DRM versions with 1 instead of I).

    Price? It will keep changing. But I do not in any way whatsoever find $15 for a new hardcover unreasonable.

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  29. brooksse
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 19:54:08

    The article notes how authors see readers who want lower pricing as full of entitlement and having a “Wal-mart” mentality.

    Some of those authors would be wise to take lessons on how to conduct themselves in public. Alienating current or potential ebook readers is not wise. Alienating current or potential print readers who shop at Walmart, which may be the only way they can afford your books, is not only unwise but also has the added bonus of coming across as snobbish.

    I have NO cover…

    This is one of my pet peeves with the NY pubs. They treat ebooks like a store brand for which they charge champagne prices.

    Many of the NY pubbed ebooks I’ve bought do not include the cover. Harlequin can do it, epubs can do it, but the NY pubs which typically charge more for their ebooks don’t bother with the cover.

    If you want the cover, plus the blurb, you would have to crack the DRM, download the cover & blurb, and run it through a program like Calibre.

    ETA: champagne prices = hardback prices. I’ve bought 3 ebooks that were hardback price (with rebates from fictionwise) and not one of those included the cover.

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  30. DS
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 20:23:59

    @brooksse: I wonder if it has anything to do with the contract with the cover artist. Maybe if they use the cover on another edition they would have to pay the artist more. Just guessing on that idea.

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  31. brooksse
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 21:23:13

    @DS: That’s true, they do put different covers on different editions. But not wanting to pay the cover artist more could mean they don’t think ebooks have the same value as the other editions.

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  32. hapax
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 22:34:17

    Publishers need to find a way to profit off ebooks and paperbacks

    And how are they supposed to do this?

    Keep in mind that the vast majority of published fiction titles lose money. This is the point that people simply do not seem to grasp. After paying out advances, editing, cover art, marketing, production, distribution (the last two of which is a very small part of the total cost), that title not only does not make a profit, it makes a loss.

    A loss that is made up only by the best selling hardback titles. All the rest of these sales merely *minimize* that loss.

    So, to “profit on ebooks and paperback”, the publishers have to:

    a) raise prices
    and/or
    b) reduce costs — eliminate advances (which would be terrible for authors), even less editing, worse binding, do away with cover art entirely, abandon marketing…

    It’s not like Wal-mart, which can just outsource all their production to Chinese prison labor.

    I suppose the equivalent would be to just take the slush pile submissions, slap a logo on it, and call it “publishing.” Is that what readers really want?

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  33. rebyj
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 23:34:58

    People over at the Amazon thread keep insisting that Amazon only claimed to offer best sellers at 9.99 when it was released. I found the Newsweek article from 2007 which said

    “Amazon prices Kindle editions of New York Times best sellers and new releases in hardback at $9.99.”
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/70983/page/1
    quote above is from page 2.

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  34. kirsten saell
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 23:35:54

    @hapax: Keep in mind that the vast majority of published fiction titles lose money. This is the point that people simply do not seem to grasp. After paying out advances, editing, cover art, marketing, production, distribution (the last two of which is a very small part of the total cost), that title not only does not make a profit, it makes a loss.

    A loss that is made up only by the best selling hardback titles. All the rest of these sales merely *minimize* that loss.

    I’d venture to guess that one reason paperbacks so frequently = losses is due to returns. With hardbacks, at least returns can be remaindered–getting something back is better than nothing.

    Paperback returns are a total loss. And one more way these retailers who want the freedom to act as retailers AREN’T retailers at all. They want to kick and scream over the right to be treated as retailers when it comes to pricing, then act horrified at the idea that they should bear more risk than a typical consignment broker.

    You want the freedom to discount books, you should be stuck liquidating your own stock, just like any other retailer. I’d have no problem with them discounting books as much as they wanted–as long as they paid wholesale (not percentage of sale price like they do with some epubs), and didn’t force losses back onto publishers for unsold stock.

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  35. SAO
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 23:39:53

    Kurzon:
    While your musings make a lot of sense to me, I tend to have relatively low expectations of romance fiction. I read a lot, but don’t spend much per book. I mostly buy used books.

    For me, the sad truth about light reading is that there’s so much crap out there. It’s true of even authors who usually produce good books. The better and more popular the author, the less willing the editors are to reject the book.

    A publisher that produced only really good books and helped me to find books I’d like (a service Amazon provides, to some extent) could extract more money from me.

    But, until then, I’m not going to change my price point until my ability to source cheap or free books dries up. Maybe I’m worthy of scorn from the publishers, but until e-books came around, no one questioned your right to buy a used book, borrow from a friend or the library.

    I think there’s a HUGE market out there for really cheap books. The publishers aren’t looking at it at all. Figure out at what price point people will download rather than go to the library.
    Hint: it’s not $10.

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  36. Robin
    Feb 11, 2010 @ 23:56:52

    @hapax: It might help if they simply stopped printing twice as many books as they expect to sell: http://jenniferonwriting.blogspot.com/2008/05/all-about-print-runs.html

    We expect most commercial industries (except for natural monopolies) to suffer the consequences of such inefficiencies, but corporate publishing seems to have been relatively impervious.

    As a reader, I have no problem paying different prices for different books and certainly don’t expect to pay 10 bucks for every book. But as a consumer, it galls me to pay to sustain the status quo in a business model that does not even regard me as its customer, let alone show any willingness to understand my priorities and interests.

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  37. kirsten saell
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 00:51:10

    @Robin: It might help if they simply stopped printing twice as many books as they expect to sell:

    Publishing–especially with mass market paperback–has been operating on overproduction for a long time, but a lot of that has to do with returns. Publishers base print runs on how many books they initially estimate booksellers will order, and those estimates are skewed by the retailer’s ability to send back, or strip and dump, anything that doesn’t sell without swallowing a dime of that loss.

    Bestseller lists based on how many copies are on shelves, rather than how many are in shopping bags, don’t help.

    The fact that the retailer is standing between the end comsumer and the publisher, and the retailer faces no risk at all of getting stuck with unsold books, means retailers overorder and publishers overprint.

    And publishers go along with it because they know they have to strike while the iron’s hot if they have any hope of making a book succeed. They stick 20 000 copies of every title out there, hoping that a few will catch on right away, because they know retailers will only give it a month or two on the shelves, and if they’re scrambling to print more copies because the dang thing sold out in the first week, well, by the time it’s back on shelves the buzz is gone. They go all in on every hand, because if they don’t, they lose every time.

    The whole thing is like measuring success by counting seats in theaters instead of bums on seats. It quite probably results in books with the largest print runs–and the top spots on bestseller lists–ending up garnering the biggest losses once returns are factored in 6 months or a year later.

    An insane way to do business, but what are you gonna do? That’s publishing.

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  38. Mina Kelly
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 06:48:21

    The difference between cheap prices in Walmart-like-shops and cheap prices for eBooks is in how the items are produced. eBooks aren’t made in sweatshops or with child labour. Ethically it’s a world apart.

    The only justification for the Agency model I can see is that publishers were worried Amazon would eventually pressure them into charging less for eBooks wholesale than Amazon are currently discounting to them. Short term, publishers using the Agency model are charging customers more and actually getting a smaller return on most books. Yes, Amazon probably has too much power, and it’s a good thing to take some of that back, but I don’t think this is the stand MacMillan and co should have taken.

    People don’t expect cheap eBooks because Amazon priced them that way (partly because $9.99 isn’t that cheap!), they expect cheap eBooks because they can see toher publishers producing cheap eBooks. There’s no printing costs, no storage, no shipping. Authors, editors and designers have to be paid, true, and there’s formatting and DRM to cover. I read one interview where a publisher admitted they’d had to hire extra staff because no one in the office had the faintest idea how to handle that. So, yes, adding eBooks to print books will incur an extra cost, but surely that’s offset by all the costs they don’t incur.

    Why should we pay extra for eBooks because the publishers want us to buy hardbacks? Because hardbacks are keeping the industry afloat (barely)? They want to stifle eBooks to support a broken business model. It must have worked once, but books aren’t the luxury commodity they used to be. No one’s matching them to their library wallpaper any more. They’re not the only option available to individuals who want to entertain themselves in the evening. The business model has been slowly disintegrating since Penguin started selling cheap paperbacks from vending machines – the recent recession just made it really obvious. And when not only the ePubs, but people like Harlequin, have adpated and thrived, watching the big names flail around like children who’ve been told they can’t have it there way any more… Well, I know who I’m buying from.

    (I had a long analogy with a luxury car maker selling motorbikes here – suffice to say, would you pay any other industry more for a lesser product because they want to prop up their high-end stuff? Why are books so special we have to pay extra because the publisher’s business model is failing?)

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  39. TKF
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 09:31:18

    Mina Kelly said: The only justification for the Agency model I can see is that publishers were worried Amazon would eventually pressure them into charging less for eBooks wholesale than Amazon are currently discounting to them . . . Why should we pay extra for eBooks because the publishers want us to buy hardbacks?

    I'm not sure I understand the “extra” in any context other than readers feeling entitled to the $9.99 Amazon price because they've grown used to it. The eBook version will still be discounted from the full HB price from what I've read, just not as steeply as Amazon has been doing it. And most models being discussed appear to involve a gradual lowering of the ebook price (mirroring the print side of Trade and MM following HB).

    From my perspective, the thing that seems to be worrying publishers is the pricing phenomenon we saw over this past holiday season: Amazon and Wal-Mart went to war on the price of HB bestsellers, resulting in some of the season's top books being priced as low as $8.99. It's one thing for this to take place as a loss leader where the publisher still gets paid their same wholesale price, it's something else if the Titians of Retail decide they want the wholesale price to reflect this new price point, and it's even worse for publishing if readers in general adopt the idea that the “right” price for a new HB is under $10.

    The thing I'm really wondering about is what will happen when eBooks actually become dominant (right now they're a teeny-tiny 5% of the market for most books)? Most of us who are in this discussion today are still riding the wave of early adoption. We're the big readers. Those who buy a book a day to a book a week. It makes sense for us to hop on the eTrain. But the majority of readers (the populace to whom the vast majority of books are sold) buy less than one book a month. For them, it doesn't yet make sense to buy a dedicated reader. But eventually the Kindle-killer will arrive (personally, I don't think it's the iPad, but I do think we'll see it in the next 5 years or so). And when it does, and pretty much everyone has one, then it will be game on, and if you think the price of books, when there is only one format, will drop, think again . . . I'd bet dollars to donuts that the price will go up to something between a MM and a Trade.

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  40. stevie
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 19:04:06

    Well, if the rumours about free Kindles for Amazon Prime subscribers are correct, the customers who bought their Kindles thinking that it ‘entitled’ them to cheap e-books are not going to be happy bunnies.

    And then there’s

    ‘App Store Now Has 150,000 Apps. Great News For The iPad: Paid Books Rule.’

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/12/AR2010021203020.html

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  41. Suze
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 19:14:38

    So here’s my vision of the future of publishing, based on assumptions, full of holes, and not completely thought through. One of my assumptions is that if the industry can settle on a standard format, it will be accessible by any e-reader and will easily print without conversion (yes, I am technologically naive).

    But you know what? I don’t buy food containers that force me to do all my grocery shopping at Safeway, or clothes hangers that force me to buy all my clothes from AdditionElle (heh, the food forces me to do that). The container should be irrelevant to the content producer.

    My system:

    - author writes a book
    - editor buys and edits book and it’s polished up nicely, and contracts it to publisher
    - publisher formats, provides cover, and markets book
    *Up to this point, it’s an ebook
    - retailer offers ebook for download $
    - retailer offers same ebook in paper as POD (espresso machine) $$
    - retailer offers same ebook as artisinal hardcover (whole new industry) $$$

    It’s a simple philosophy, but it gives me hope.

    ETA: By the way, if any publishers are out there reading this, thinking, “Damn! That’s brilliant! But my lawyers say I’m not allowed to accept unsolicited suggestions!” Feel free to steal this model at no charge, and make it a reality.

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  42. Jane
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 19:41:31

    @TKF No, under the agency model, the publisher sets the price and the retailer cannot discount. This is entirely different than how the publisher is selling the paper books, by the way.

    And there is no guarantee prices will be reduced. Macmillan and others use the term dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing is an economic term for sophisticated price discrimination.

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  43. Stevie
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 07:40:07

    The simplest example of dynamic pricing is going on holiday; resorts vary their charges throughout the year depending on demand.

    Incidentally, Kindle owners venturing outside the US, on holiday or on business, are charged $1.99 for the privilege of downloading each item that they have already paid for…

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