I try not to be one of those indie authors that’s constantly bitching about the Big Six, especially since I don’t have a deal with them and have no inside knowledge, but some days it’s hard. Today is one of those days, so you get a full-on publishing rant.
First, this story from Digital Shift is a must-read. Randumb House has decided, in their finite wisdom, that since libraries are one of the largest groups of book buyers in the US, that they should pay TRIPLE the cover price for their ebooks. The statements from Randumb basically sum up as “because you can lend it, you should pay more.” I’m sure there are issues of publishers losing some revenue with an infinitely lendable item, such as an ebook, as opposed to a lendable item that wears out over time, like a print book. But really, do you need to TRIPLE the price? For the institutions that provide books to people who often can’t afford to buy the books new in the first place? It seems horribly misguided to me.
Another thing that seems misguided is backlist pricing from publishers. I wanted to buy a copy of a thriller last week. This book was first released in 1997 or so, and probably released in ebook within the last five years. The mass market paperback price – $7.99. The ebook price – $9.99.
I don’t think so.
I understand paying a premium for portability. I understand paying a premium to be the first one to read a book, thus the higher price for hardback. But backlist books are the books that you’ve already made your money on once. Or twice. Or in the case of this book, which was made into a movie, several times over. A fellow panelist at StellarCon brought up a good point that the cost of ebook conversion of backlist titles is a new cost, so that piece of overhead has yet to be absorbed. Which is valid.
But ebook conversion is cheap. Just a couple hundred dollars at worst. So pricing the ebook at $2 more than the mass market paperback is downright silly. It’s one of those things that makes you rail against traditional publishers, makes indies like me all look like we’re anti-publishing, which we aren’t (not all of us), and makes publishers look like assholes.
I don’t believe that Randumb House hates libraries, but I think somebody there is making a terrible decision. I don’t think that their backlist pricing is highway robbery, but I think somebody there is making a terrible decision. And maybe some of the folks making decisions about publishing oughta get out of New York once in a while and hang out with folks in the rest of the country to get some perspective. Because if you’re making all your business decisions based on life on one small island, you’re probably missing the other 290 million people in the country’s point of view.