What Are They Thinking?

 Posted by at 12:57 AM  Tagged with: ,
May 222010

What a deal!

There have been numerous complaints from readers about unreasonably high e-book prices. Consumers rightfully feel that e-books, which have zero printing, storage, shipping, or returns costs, should cost less than printed books. Publishers have responded by claiming that all those costs only add up to 10% of the total cost of a book (which raises the question why we’re being charged 10x that amount, and why $2.50 hardcovers are sold for $25?). Even if we believe that 10% figure, the e-book should still cost less than the cheapest printed version (and most e-books do), no matter what kind of creative math publishers try to use.

However, a distressing number of e-books are priced at the same price as the paperback equivalents, or are often discounted from the hardcover price, but cost the same or more than the available paperback version. Also, publishers like to compare e-book prices to hardcover list prices, which almost no one pays (that $25 hardcover costs $9-$12 at Amazon, Costco, or Walmart, and even B&N offers 30% or 40% off bestsellers).

However, I recently came across an absolute abomination of pricing, one that shows just how badly the big publishers don’t get it. The book is the “authorized” sequel to Douglas Adams’ hilarious Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s called And Another Thing, by Eoin Colfer. The book was OK, but I was a little disappointed by it (true, Adams is a tough act to follow).

Anyway, check out the following price points of this book, which I bought in hardcover from a bargain bin a few months ago for just $4.48 at B&N.

  • Hardcover, new, from Amazon: $9.87
  • Paperback, new, from Amazon: $10.19
  • E-Book (Kindle version), from Amazon: $14.29

Now, let me get this straight: the e-book, which you don’t have to print or ship anywhere, costs almost 50% more than the hardcover, over $4 more than the paperback, and more than triple what I paid for the hardcover in a bookstore? (By the way, the prices are similar over at B&N and elsewhere, so it’s not just Amazon that’s wonky here.) If this isn’t proof that some large publishers are trying their best to kill e-books before e-books kill them, I don’t know what could be.

My question to the publisher (Hyperion), with all due respect, is: What the hell are you thinking??

  2 Responses to “What Are They Thinking?”

Comments (4)
  1. The whole point is they aren’t thinking, not really. They are being greedy. I for one will find other books to read. There are too many good books that I’ve read and can and will joyfully reread as a cheaper book purchased from Amazon or as a DTB that I still own. Eventually I think they’ll get the message that people who want ebooks aren’t willing to pay unreasonable prices. Perhaps we need to start a letter writing campaign. LOL

  2. Sometimes I think that unpublished authors, such as ourselves, shouldn’t point out this kind of idiocy on our blogs on the off chance that someone in a position of power accidentally stumbles upon it and gradually grows a clue. But then I quickly dismissed that possibility out of hand.

  3. Sharon, I agree. With the combination of great classic books in the public domain (free), reasonably-priced older books ($4.99 – $6.99), and very inexpensive books by independent authors ($0.99 – $2.99), I’m hard-pressed to think of a reason to pay $12.99 or $14.99 for an e-book. Heck, I can still go to the library (free) or find most books in the bargain bin (under $5). I just think the big publishers are totally missing the boat on this one.

    They’ll never show us the numbers, but I would be SHOCKED if raising prices from $9.99 to $14.99 results in the same amount of revenue (2/3 the number of sales). My guess is that the sales were cut in half or even worse.

    Station Agent, maybe you’re right. On the plus side, if the big publishers haven’t found me by now, they probably never will. 😉

  4. I’m used to reading many different genres of books and have over the years. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve generally purchased books from authors we’ve all heard about, but since joining the Kindleboards (in May) I’ve downloaded 2 books from independent authors and just started on the 2nd one. The first was great and I anticipate the 2nd will be also. These books are generally cheaper, I think possibly because a writer wants to get his/her work out there until people begin to look for their items. Sometimes an initial book is free. I think there will always be a place for published books. I prefer ebooks now that I have my Kindle, but I’m not going to deny your right to read a paperback or hard cover book. Like others I have found that the hardbook is the most expensive and if it sells good then a paperback is released and the price is much cheaper. Perhaps we will need to practice patience and wait until the price comes down for some of the books we want. In the meantime read free books, look for new authors and refuse to purchase expensive books. When ereader sales increase and publishers’ profits decrease they will get the message.

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