Mar 22 2011
(Note: I’m a writer, but for the purposes of this blog post, I’m wearing my “reader” hat.)
Given the seeming hatred toward ebooks and library lending and so on and so forth, the profile of an ideal reader for the Big Six appears to be something like this:
1. Buys print (to prevent piracy)
2. Buys new
3. Does not use libraries, used book stores (UBS), or torrent sites
4. Has sufficient disposable income for entertainment, such as movies, books, music, etc. that does not compete with grocery money
5. Loves to read
Guess what? I’ve been the Big Six’s ideal reader for the last six years. I meet all their requirements.
So the publishers and the few authors who hate libraries, UBS and ebooks (because of piracy) should love the fact that I’m doing exactly what they want, right? After all, I’m a REAL paying reader (one of the ones that REALLY count), not one of those “cheapos” who lend or buy used, thereby depriving them of the income they’re entitled to.
But is this really the ideal situation for them?
My total entertainment budget hasn’t decreased in the last six years. As a matter of fact, it has gone up. But I spend far less on books than I ever did when I had easy access to good libraries and UBS.
When it comes to titles published by the Big Six, I almost always buy mass market paperbacks (MMPBs). They are currently priced at $6.99 – 7.99 on average. I have an “auto-buy” list and a “good-enough-to-buy” list. Authors on those two lists always get bought, no matter what, because I’m fortunate enough to have sufficient funds for it. All new-to-me authors are bought using whatever funds are left over. So I have to think very carefully before spending any of my “new-to-me author” budget. Since I buy everything new, if I want to try 10 new-to-me authors, I need to spend somewhere between $70-80. Unfortunately I really can’t spend that much on unknowns. So I usually pick about 2-3 authors from the list every month. (Sometimes none if all my auto-buy and good-enough-to-buy authors have books coming out back-to-back or something and deplete my budget.)
I can’t begin to count the number of DNFs and mediocre books by new-to-me authors that I’ve paid full price for. There are times I’ve wished I could strip the covers (since they’re brand new MMPBs) and mail them back to the publishers for a refund. I know I could get at least $1,000 that way. If I had a library, it wouldn’t matter as much because I could still try other new-to-me authors on my list for free. Maybe I’d discover somebody awesome that way. But since I don’t have access to a library or UBS, once I spend my “new-to-me author” budget, I’m done.
Furthermore, new-to-me authors, no matter how great the buzz is, get one shot with me. If they’re very lucky, two. There’s this romance writer (who shall remain nameless) whose debut was “meh” for me. Her next book was DNF. (I only bought the next one because so many readers said I should give her another shot.) Her latest is out in trade, and everyone says it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I’m not going to risk my money on that author again though. I’ve already forked over $16, and I think I’ve given her more than enough chances.
Now if I had a library where I could check out her latest for free, I might try her again, just to see. And if I liked it, I might go ahead and put her on my good-enough-to-buy or auto-buy list. But since I can’t, oh well. There are other entertainment options.
This is somewhat true of my auto-buys and good-enough-to-buys. If they disappoint me twice back-to-back, I demote them to my “buy-only-if-everyone-says-it’s-the-best-thing-evah” list. Or worse, to my “no-longer-buy” list. I can’t think of a single author who got demoted and then was later promoted again in the last six years. If I had access to a library or UBS, I might have given them more opportunities to win me over. But I’m not risking my money on an iffy prospect again. I’ve given them sixteen dollars’ worth of chance.
Some may think, “What a cheapo! It’s only $16!”
To put things in perspective, for $16 I can get any of the following:
- 8 TV episodes from iTunes (at $1.99/each)
- 5 TV episodes from iTunes plus some change left over (at $2.99/each)
- 16 mp3 files from my favorite singers / bands
- 3-7 movie rentals
- my favorite pizza, which I can split with my husband, plus ice cream
- a visit with my primary care physician
- my favorite pasta plus dessert
- 2 physical therapy sessions (plus some change left over)
- 3-5 ebooks from publishers and indie authors who do not engage in agency pricing
(An interesting side observation: I’ve noticed that I watch far more TV shows and movies than I did before I was forced into buying print and new all the time.)
Do I think I’m missing out? Yup. I know I’m not discovering many fabulous writers out there. But unless and until I make millions like the CEOs of the Big Six, I’m not changing my buying habits. After all, I am doing exactly what they want me to do: Buy print, buy new, 100% of the time.
P.S. In case anybody’s wondering, I do buy e-books if they’re DRM-free and not agency-priced. This post is directed at the publishers who are doing everything they can to force readers into buying new print books all the time. Like the old Chinese proverb says: be careful what you wish for…because you might actually get it.
About Nadia Lee:
Bilingual former management consultant Nadia Lee ( http://www.nadialee.net ) has lived in four different countries and enjoyed many adventures and excellent food around the globe. In the last eight years, she has kissed stingrays, got bitten by a shark, ridden an elephant and petted tigers.
She shares an apartment overlooking a river and palm trees in Japan with her husband, winter white hamsters and an ever-widening pile of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found digging through old Asian historical texts or planning another trip.
Carnal Secrets is her latest work. You can find the blurb and excerpt on her website ( http://www.nadialee.net/bookshelf/carnal-secrets/ ).