Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Pricing

When I went to the store last week, I was pleased to find "The Brass Verdict" by Michael Connelly back on the shelf and displeased to find it US$2.00 more than in February.

Still, the $7.44 price is less than the cover price of $9.99 which was two dollars less than the ebook price of $11.99, now up to $12.99, which is why I wanted to buy the paperback instead of the ebook. It's simple economics.

What I don't understand is why the publisher wants more money for the ebook than for the paperback instead of less since no trees are killed in the making of ebooks and no oil is consumed to truck ebooks to the distribution points of sale.

One might assume that the publisher is taking advantage of ebooks to cash in on their rising popularity. It isn't only Connelly's publisher that's doing it because I've seen higher prices for the ebook version of other best-selling titles, too. Even the typical $9.99 is too much for an ebook because it costs so much less to make and distribute compared to a paperback.

One might also deduce that by pricing ebooks higher than paperbacks and releasing ebooks several weeks after books printed on paper, publishers are trying to retain their traditional control over authors' works by discouraging readers from buying ebooks through delayed availability and over-pricing.

Once an author realizes that s/he can receive more money from a self-published ebook or print-on-demand contract than through a traditional publisher which takes approximately 52% of the price of the book, there might not be enough incentive for an author to try for the traditional route. Already, publishers are experiencing the desertion of writers, although not yet in the droves one may expect due to the lingering stigma of the vanity press.

The advantage for readers is that with traditional publishers losing control over the writers who are going for independent publication, they're also losing control over what is available for readers to read. Censorship by editors rejecting manuscripts solely because of personal bias, such as the editor who rejected a novel containing capital punishment only because she is opposed to capital punishment, is being eliminated by authors bypassing the traditional publishing houses in favor of the independent route. This makes the digital revolution the best expression of freedom of the press we've yet to experience.

What's surprising to me is how traditional publishers are fighting against and trying to resist the inevitable change after seeing how newspapers have declined and blogs have flourished instead of trying to figure out how to work with the transition for everyone's benefit. It's always difficult for those in power to step back and give up even a little of their power when the normal attitude is to gain even more power.

These certainly are interesting times.

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