Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Kindle Pricing

   
Author Topic: Kindle Pricing
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just curious if anyone had any thoughts on this subject. I just finished reading, "Let The Right One In", which was an excellent book that was actually better than the movie, which I loved. But you know, I wanted to read something that wasn't scifi/fantasy/horror. I always feel that I only read literature books in undergraduate and graduate. I often go back and re-read those titles, but I never take a chance on another literary book because, when I'm perusing new titles, they always sound so *boring*.

So I decided to go to Goodreads and searched for one of my favorite books, "A Confederacy of Dunces", to see what people who enjoyed that also read. After scrolling through about a dozen titles, I finally found one that sounded interesting, and the reader comments were encouraging. "The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters" by Robert Lewis Taylor. First published in 1959, it's about a 13 year old boy traveling with his father towards the California gold rush in 1849. Reader review comments had words like 'humorous', 'surprising', 'at times violent'.

Sounds interesting. So I go to Amazon fully intending to buy the Kindle version, and the listed price is $19.99. Like seriously, WTF?

Amazon

So the book is out of print. With the ease of print publishing today, I'm not sure why a book that seems to have some type of demand can't be printed up, but okay. And if you look at the Amazon listing, you see that there are hardback and paperback books available, some listed as new, but ALL cheaper than the Kindle price.

It really boggles the mind. Now, I suppose if I lived in America, I'd just quickly order a regular copy. But the real frustration is the idea the publisher has behind this price gouging for the digital copy. I can imagine this book *mainly* being read because its assigned academic reading in a university English department. That's the only reason that makes sense as to why the publisher believes they can charge quite so much money for something that's probably almost free to mass produce: digital copies of an ebook.

I have nothing wrong with authors making money, though I bet this author is dead (1998, according to Wikipedia). We all hope to make a profit on our writing, but this seems *awfully* greedy. And of course I'm going to grit my teeth and buy it, but now if the book isn't fantastic, I already know I'm going to be slightly annoyed.

Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The novel paperback edition is 548 pages, an unconventional page count for any paperback format. Unconventional page counts make for more handling expense. Out of print might mean that the press no longer has plates but that the publisher has print copies stored in a warehouse. If print copies are still in storage then technically the title is still in print.

Originally a Random House title. Random House sued Amazon and won the right to set distribution prices on its properties. This is more complex than print on demand digital distribution too. Amazon was pushing for digital pricing to support its digital product rollout and oblivious to print distribution costs. Random House wanted digital and print copies to be competitively priced so that digital didn't obviate print. Other publishers similarly won similar rights.

Anymore, digital copy is part of a submission package and from which print and digital production develop. Titles not priorly digitized must go through an exhaustive and costly redevelopment process.

Converting the print copy to digital from the 1992 copy or earlier costs money too. The process takes up to one hundred skilled hours for the basic conversion. Then several passes for skilled proofreading that are equally time consuming and costly. The end product at that point is essentially a labor expense in standard business models. Not including material and overhead and operating costs. Labor in that regard is thirty percent of the product price. Royalties and licensing and any actual materials amount to another thirty percent costs. Overhead and operating costs are another thirty percent. Ten percent gross profit, out of which other costs are also paid, like board and executive stipends and salaries, etc.

The Pulitzer winning title sold a million-plus copies in its debut seasons but demand has long since declined to maybe a few thousand per year. Lower demand; lower economy of scale benefits that drive the print publishing culture. Likewise, though not as beneficial, digital production nonetheless benefits from economy of scale production.

Publishers discount titles to distributors based on sales volume. Typically, a publisher charges 100 percent of cover price on direct sales, discounts 20 percent for minor distibutors, 40 percent for major distributors, and up to 60 percent for bulk distributors like book clubs that make a one time mass purchase. Amazon's pricing and news report anecdotes suggest to me that Amazon receives a 40 percent discount.

Backlist titles are traditional publishers' bread and butter revenue earners and priced at a value-supply-demand-price point.

The above combined, all things considered, the Kindle price seems to me reasonable.

[ January 09, 2014, 06:30 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 5101 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pyre Dynasty
Member
Member # 1947

 - posted      Profile for Pyre Dynasty   Email Pyre Dynasty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The fact that you are willing to pay it means the price wasn't too high. This isn't like bottled water when a hurricane is coming. You aren't buying it under duress. Sure, perhaps the copyright owner is being greedy, but why shouldn't they sell their product for what it will sell for? Is there some moral imperative about selling things below their value? If the price is too high it won't sell well and they will either lower the price or just decide they don't care because they have other books to focus on. Yeah that's cold, but it's business.

I don't blink about paying $20 on a book that has been recommended to me from trusted sources. (If I have the funds, otherwise I put it on the list.)

Why does the format matter? More than half the things I see posted about E-books is whining about the price. So much is said about how less valuable the ebook is so it should be lower price. Each format has its value. Hardbacks are more durable and are generally more collectible. Softbacks are more portable and have less perceived value so people are more willing to take them outdoors or into the bath. They are also more comfortable to read for some people. E-books are more convenient, instant delivery, accessible on any of your devices, carry a whole library with you all the time. What ever happened to paying for convenience? How did that become less valuable? Is paper and ink really that big a deal?

Posts: 1895 | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'll be the last person to argue that writing isn't a business. It is. We're in this to make money. Everyone wants to be rich.

I will say this, though. Overall, ebooks by published authors do seem to be awfully expensive. And increasingly, gone are the days when you could browse the used book section at your local bookstore to find a good novel cheaper than a bottle of water.

Is this the publisher's problem? No. Should they care? I suppose as long as they sign enough Harry Potters and Twilights that make millions of dollars, then once again, no, they shouldn't care.

But look, at the moment I'm in a stable job paying relatively decent and can afford 20 bucks on a book I only heard of today. Ten years ago, this wasn't the case. Again, should the publisher's care that a decade ago, I wouldn't have been able to take this narrative journey? No. But as a writer, and a lover of words, and lover of fiction, I can't help but lament the fact that ebooks published through traditional means are quite expensive for those who can no longer find cheap alternatives. A book for 1 dollar on Amazon is still going to cost shipping and handling. But there used to be a lot of really cheap ways for someone who loved reading to find and take a chance on a new book without having to have stable employment.

Look, these are books, not sneakers. Marking up the price to maximize profit just seems so...tasteless.

[ January 10, 2014, 05:19 PM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RyanB
Member
Member # 10008

 - posted      Profile for RyanB   Email RyanB         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Have you rented any movies lately and compared digital vs. Redbox?

Redbox is $1.50 per night. Amazon is $2 to $5 for 24 hours with new releases being on the higher end.

And how much do the movie producers make from that Redbox rental? I'm not sure but it's certainly a smaller percentage than the digital rental because Redbox is extremely inefficient compared to digital rental.

On the surface it doesn't make any sense. The digital rental is a huge win-win for the consumer and the producer. And yet it costs twice as much for no other reason than the movie owner decided on that price.

The Redbox price is tied to the price of buying the DVD/Blu-Ray. They can't raise the price of Redbox without raising the price consumers pay for the disc.

So in spite of the insanity of the Redbox/digital paradox, movie owners want the price of a single viewing to stay higher, in the $3 to $5 range.

Physical media and the loophole of the First Sale Doctrine can't die quickly enough for them.

Posts: 222 | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Uh, let's not encourage pirating on this forum, okay? (Even hypothetically.)
Posts: 8523 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I can't vouch for Kindle pricing...a stroll through a few used bookstores---not the online book market---might turn up a copy or two...but also Amazon-dot-com says it's available in print form from them.
Posts: 8717 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
History
Member
Member # 9213

 - posted      Profile for History   Email History         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I can't vouch for Kindle pricing...a stroll through a few used bookstores---not the online book market---might turn up a copy or two...but also Amazon-dot-com says it's available in print form from them.

With used hardcover copies as low as a dime.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/1582882932/ref=tmm_hrd_used_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=used&sr=&qid=

Posts: 1471 | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Both the college and municipal libraries hereabouts have the novel circulating. A quick check at WorldCat lists the nearest libraries to South Korea with copies in Taiwan, Thailand, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. I guess interlibrary loan is out of the question.

Project Gutenberg and archive.org have ample public domain classics but few novels or short stories more recent than 1923 due to copyright respect.

For a novelist, a course of study regarding contemporary fiction methods might begin with the early Realists. Realism is a function of contemporary tastes and sensibilities, part of Modernism, Postmodernism, and current Romanticism expression. The kernel of Realism isn't so much true to life realism as emphasis on recreating in written word an illusion of reality; in other words, mimesis. Mimesis is in high vogue at present. Studying Realism writers, their creative writing and literary criticism could take a struggling writer's game to new heights.

Henry James was a stalwart of the Realists. The Turn of the Screw, 1898, is James' best known and critically acclaimed creative work, a novella. It is a masterpiece of artful implicature and ambiguity. It's free at Project Gutenberg as well as a sampling of James' short stories.

His narrative voice is rather stiffer than contemporary sensibilities favor, tending toward the Victorian or Gilded age sophisticated voice, creating an open aesthetic distance though narrative distance is somewhat close; however, the illusion of reality James develops is today's ideal.

Posts: 5101 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Uh, let's not encourage pirating on this forum, okay? (Even hypothetically.)
Deleted above.

quote:
With used hardcover copies as low as a dime.
Plus 3.99 shipping and handling.

quote:
For a novelist, a course of study regarding contemporary fiction methods might begin with the early Realists.
Believe it or not, it really would be for pleasure reading. Learning from it would be incidental.
Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pyre Dynasty
Member
Member # 1947

 - posted      Profile for Pyre Dynasty   Email Pyre Dynasty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
20 bucks today is dinner for two at a fast food restaurant give or take. In some places it's a movie ticket for one. There are still plenty of thrift stores, my local one gives me five books for around four dollars. (Less than that for YA/MG which is what I enjoy most.) I have two good friends who are librarians and they pretty much have to stand in the street and scream at people to get them to come in and borrow books for free. Garage sales can sometimes find five bucks for a box of books. People I know give each other the books they've read. I've known one book that went through ten people. Yeah, that's less possible with e-books, but that doesn't change the fact that the author/publishers should get paid for their work.

Business is a negotiation between the consumer and the consumed. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) It is the business's job to convince the consumer that the value of the product is worth the price they're asking. Maximizing profit sounds tasteless when you are thinking about wolf of wallstreet style stuff. But it is less tasteless when you read posts like this one http://www.jimchines.com/2014/01/2013-writing-income/ where a guy with nine novels in print, with advances for three more, can't quit his day job. The idea that art should be above money is a relic of the aristocracy.

That's why it bothers me when people complain about paying fast food prices for gourmet meals. I want you to realize that just said you want "to find a good novel cheaper than a bottle of water."

Posts: 1895 | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
But it is less tasteless when you read posts like this one http://www.jimchines.com/2014/01/2013-writing-income/ where a guy with nine novels in print, with advances for three more, can't quit his day job.
The author of "The Travels of Jaime McPheeters" is dead (24 September 1912 – 30 September 1998), so the money isn't going to him. Whatever financial struggles he had in life are a mute point now.
Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
History
Member
Member # 9213

 - posted      Profile for History   Email History         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Pyre Dynasty:
Maximizing profit sounds tasteless when you are thinking about wolf of wallstreet style stuff. But it is less tasteless when you read posts like this one http://www.jimchines.com/2014/01/2013-writing-income/ where a guy with nine novels in print, with advances for three more, can't quit his day job. The idea that art should be above money is a relic of the aristocracy.

True, yet when the truth is that very few professional writers can live off their writing alone, I see two choices:

(1) suffer while you push yourself ceaselessly striving to become one of these few--and knowing the odds are very long;

(2) accept you need support yourself and your family via another career, and then write for "art" and more importantly for "enjoyment". If you happen to make a sale or get a book deal: Great!. If not, not.

This is why I always feel like I am on the outside looking in when I read successful author's blogs/emails on how to make a career of writing, or about courses on making a career of writing. Advice and lessons on writing well for the love of writing is of greater utility to me.

Anyway, such links as the one Pyre D posted above affirm my belief that writing should be for joy and, if you desire it, "glory" (as one pro-author who teaches at a college told me). Dreaming for big money is just that--a dream.

It would be nice to have my work read. That, I think, is my goal; but even that has caveats. I'm not inspired to write for markets simply to see my name in print.*

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob
* (of course, that means I mostly likely will not be) [Wink]

Posts: 1471 | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Robert Lewis Taylor fathered a daughter and a son and had five grandhildren. Proceeds from his writing go to his estate that benefits them.

The average royalty for fiction books is 10 percent of publisher gross revenue, not cover price. A twenty dollar book on average amounts to $1.30 per copy. The distributor takes on average 10 percent of the sale price. The end bookseller takes on average 30 percent of the sale price. The 60 percent remaining goes to the publisher for production, material, and operating costs. Dozens if not hundreds of people earn part of their wages and salaries from their work.

The actual net profit for many traditional publishers is on the order of 2 percent or less. If anyone is getting rich from publishing it's the executives of the Big Six Sister conglomerates, who may only earn a tenth of a percentage point or two from each sold item but their volume runs into billions of items, profits from degree of scale.

Agents earn ten percent or more even after the writer dies, so long as the product remains on the market and earns royalties.

No one in this business does it for the riches. From writers to editors to publishers to truck drivers to bookstore clerks, it is a labor of love. That a few manage fabulous wealth from it is remarkable. But why them and not others? Because their products appeal to enormous audiences.

Posts: 5101 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
The 60 percent remaining goes to the publisher for production, material, and operating costs.
But here's the rub. This is an ebook. Yes, there is some amount of money that goes in "producing" an ebook. But unlike a physical book, it's probably mostly in formatting. There's not a factory of workers who have to crank out physical copies, and there's not actual space in a warehouse that has to house physical books. There's no bulk shipping from one place to another. There's no protective wrapping from the elements. The book has already been published, and it's already been edited.

To me, the only reason that makes sense as to why ebooks like this are overpriced is so that physical books can remain competitive. Publishers are trying to dissuade consumers from going all digital by overpricing ebooks, which is weird since all of the money is going to the publisher anyway, whether we but a paperback book or an ebook.

I am not an expert, but I find it hard to believe that the amount of labor that goes into producing an ebook isn't mostly a one time deal, and so can't be compared to the amount of labor that goes into producing physical copies of the same book, which has to happen again and again when supplies run out. To me, this is apples and oranges when it comes to pricing.

And once again, in my opinion, this book is only so expensive because it's probably assigned reading in academic settings, and publishers tend to overcharge student textbooks.

Before I made this thread, how many of you had even heard of this Pulitzer winner, and when was the last time you heard it spoken of? This is a random book that probably only students and book lovers seek out. And if it was truly out of print, and finding copies required a dedicated search, then I could understand why it'd have a premium price.

But this is an ebook that's going to downloaded wirelessly to my ipad. If for some weird reason a 1000 people in the next hour decided to download this book, how much physical effort would be required of either the publisher or Amazon? But this would be radically different if, today, a thousand people decided to walk into a bookstore to buy this book. Because then the price is taking into account workers, and managers, and rental space, etc. And then there's limited supplies, and more books will have to be produced, which means money to factory workers, etc.

When it comes to actual labor, I don't see the comparison to justify the price.

Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Digital publishing is a different revenue model than print. Server, software, maintenance, administration, and Internet service costs take the place of printing and binding. Just because a digital product is not per se a physical product doesn't change costs much.

One advantage different from traditional publishing models is remaindered returns do not happen with digital distribution. Though print copy remainders amount to as much as 40 percent of production run, they are a built in cost.

A single day print and finishing run for a mass market paperback is 50,000 copies. Publisher orders less, individual copies cost more. Publisher orders more, no price break advantages. Until copy orders run into hundreds of thousands and justify that level of bookmaking technology.

A 2,000 copy print run of an average trade paperback amounts to about $5.00 cost per copy. The W&IotF anthology falls in the 50,000 copy range and costs about a $1.50 per copy to produce.

If 50,000 copies are produced at a cost of $1.50 and 30,000 sell at $7.00, the wasted production is more than recouped. However, W&IotF anthologies sell through at better than 95% with few remainder returns.

On top of those considerations, online booksellers support all the uncounted, low-performing millions of self-published works with online titles that do sell. That is the same model of traditional print publishing--a few support the many. If high volume title online sales didn't pay for the entire operation, there would be no place to publish any one or millions of no- or several-copy selling self-published works.

A digital product is almost as costly to publish as a print product. The actual physical bookmaking is not the cost of consequence, rather the wage culture and self-perpetuating literary culture are the significant costs.

Even at 10 percent royalty a writer earns actually the largest individual portion of a book's revenue. Everyone else earns a few tenths percentage points at best.

Given a clean novel manuscript of average length ready to go to press, layout and design would take me about eighty hours. That's rare though. Editing for nonconforming format and nondiscretionary mechanical style issues at least doubles the time on task more often than not. Converting a manuscript to book format with industry-standard production values requires a highly skilled skill set that deserves commensurate compensation. The average hourly wage for skilled bookmakers according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics office is $36.00. 160 hours amounts to $5,760.00. Half that for a clean manuscript: $2,880.00. I don't yet charge that much though: $25.00 per hour.

Fortunately anymore, since publication design output is digital formats to begin with, a print edition and a digital edition develop from one layout.

[ January 11, 2014, 12:14 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 5101 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well okay, look. I have never worked in a medium to large publishing house, and so I can only draw upon my own experience to make sense of this.

As I mentioned in the past, I self-published back in 2002. One Hour It took about a year to produce the book, from when I first sent it to an editor at a local university, to when the actual physical copies of the books rolled up to my parents' house. Now, I've never forgotten how much this basically cost me, as I carried the debt of that venture up until 2009 when I finally made the last payment.

From postage, to editing, to having the Word doc formatted to a proper program, to setting an order of 3000 books at 4.50 apiece, to getting it copyrighted and an ISBN number, to having a website built, to getting 3300 books printed (because, as they explained to me, they just couldn't stop the machine on a dime at 3000), to having the books delivered on an 18 wheeler, the total cost of this was around 18,000 dollars. And this price doesn't include the year, 2003, in which I actively promoted the book, which involved setting up book signings throughout the Southeast U.S, the cost of gas (though back then it was less than two dollars a gallon), to staying in motels/hotels, to food, to promotional copies, etc.

In about 2010, I decided to put the same book on Kindle for sale. You know how much that cost me? Nothing. It's as simple as uploading a file. Kindle Version

Now, I realize that, for a medium to large publisher, there's always more steps involved. More steps, more lawyers, just more. And not being an expert on their process, but having gone through the publishing process myself on a small scale, I find it almost impossible to believe that the costs are even close.

Extrinsic, you sound quite reasonable in the defense of the price tags of Kindle ebooks, but this:

quote:
A digital product is almost as costly to publish as a print product.
I say this totally respectfully of what's obviously a difference of opinion, but this is too hard to believe. There's so much more work that goes into producing an actual object than digital content. And yes, I only published on a small scale, but I do have an idea of costs when it comes to this, and there's just no comparison.

And if it's truly similar in cost for big publishers, I have to believe this is a result of waste, and doing what hospitals do when they charge twenty bucks for two aspirin pills.

Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Put a business-world cost on all your unpaid project expenses if you hadn't the benefits of preexisting, gratis, or benefactor support: product development, warehousing, transportation, marketing, and operating costs like building and furnishings, vehicle maintenance, utilities, permits and licenses, office space and supplies costs, etc.

Sure, the Kindle publication was a once and done deal, but all that other background expense has a distributed cost factor in the publishing industry.

[ January 11, 2014, 08:35 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 5101 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Meredith
Member
Member # 8368

 - posted      Profile for Meredith   Email Meredith         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Nathan Bransford had a post about this some time back. Most of the cost of a traditionally published book or ebook is the same--editing, cover art, etc.

That said, with rare exceptions, I can't see why an ebook should cost more than a paperback (which bears the same costs). And except for extraordinary circumstances, I won't pay more than the price of a paperback for one.

Posts: 4377 | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RyanB
Member
Member # 10008

 - posted      Profile for RyanB   Email RyanB         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
[QUOTE]
To me, the only reason that makes sense as to why ebooks like this are overpriced is so that physical books can remain competitive. Publishers are trying to dissuade consumers from going all digital by overpricing ebooks, which is weird since all of the money is going to the publisher anyway, whether we but a paperback book or an ebook.

That used to be the case, but it's not any longer. Think of the advantages of digital for publishers.

- lower cost distribution.
- more convenience for customers (so you might buy more books).
- no print overruns (printing too many books).
- no used copies.
- finally those pesky libraries can go away.

The last two are the biggest by far. There are billions of used books for sale on the cheap. That and libraries put pressure on the market for new books. Why would I pay $15 for a new release when there are thousands of great books I could get for less than a dollar? That "hardcover" better be incredible.

The only problem is that people have to be trained to pay the same price for a digital copy that they would pay for a physical copy. If that were true, publishers could easily triple their revenue.

But it's not true, partly because Amazon thought it was in their interest to drive prices down. (Of course, there was also something in the human psyche that told people the digital copy was worth less.) Also it's clear that digital is coming and no one can stop it.

In other words, that $20 price is part of a pricing strategy to increase prices across the board.

Posts: 222 | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I don't know what role inflation has played in the pricing these days, but, years back, before there was Kindle or Nook or even online websites, I was told it cost just pennies to produce a regular, print edition book---as an artifact.

So one can draw the conclusion that the price of a book has everything to do with what goes on at the publisher and distributor. (No doubt the writer is involved somewhere.) I don't think anything much has changed in this modern era.

Posts: 8717 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thank you, Denevius.
Posts: 8523 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Reziac
Member
Member # 9345

 - posted      Profile for Reziac   Email Reziac         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Meredith:
Nathan Bransford had a post about this some time back. Most of the cost of a traditionally published book or ebook is the same--editing, cover art, etc.

I find that hard to swallow. Yeah, the prep work costs the same. But once there's a finished edition, there the costs end. An ebook has almost no cost to store or reproduce, and very little cost to distribute. No need to buy space on a bookstore chain's shelves. No damages loss, no remainders, no returns. No warehouse to buy/rent/insure. Website development and bandwidth typically already handled by distributors like Amazon. Where's the cost??

quote:
Originally posted by Meredith:
That said, with rare exceptions, I can't see why an ebook should cost more than a paperback (which bears the same costs). And except for extraordinary circumstances, I won't pay more than the price of a paperback for one.

To me they're worth about the same as a used paperback (which nowadays is typically around half cover price). If I have to pay more, I'll scrounge a hardcopy, which at least serves as its own data backup. It's not my job to triple the publishers' revenue, and I'm much too far from rich.
Posts: 742 | Registered: Dec 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Meredith
Member
Member # 8368

 - posted      Profile for Meredith   Email Meredith         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Then there's this about the (somewhat stagnant) publishing industry from Hugh Howey.

http://www.hughhowey.com/dont-anyone-put-me-in-charge/

Posts: 4377 | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Meredith:
Then there's this about the (somewhat stagnant) publishing industry from Hugh Howey.

http://www.hughhowey.com/dont-anyone-put-me-in-charge

Oh my!? And the digital age climbs out of infancy. Howley left out deconstructing London as the European English language publishing megacenter. I'm heartened to a degree that Howley sees more publishing business done through telecommuting. I could not stand working in large metropolises. They give me horrors. And the overhead bleeds the profits and fiscal growth dry.

As more people flock to the countryside for less expensive lifestyles, no less rewarding and enriching, can city-state megatropolises be doomed to become ghetto wastelands? Is the urbanization age's demise on the horizon? Is Isaac Asimov's Solaria in the future sooner than we can imagine?

[ January 11, 2014, 11:41 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 5101 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pyre Dynasty
Member
Member # 1947

 - posted      Profile for Pyre Dynasty   Email Pyre Dynasty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
If Taco Bell came out with a food transporter that could give you your food in seconds from ordering right in your home people would be willing to pay a premium for that service. If you could have a taco straight from your phone at any moment that would be worth a little more. People already pay more for delivered pizza than they would in the restaurant. (Even with free delivery there is the tip to consider.) Convenience has value. How do gas stations pull off charging more for their milk/candy/frozen burritos? Why do people even like Valet parking, much less pay for it? People get a book in a second, free delivery, if they leave their reader at home they can pull it up on their phone right where they left off. Somehow this make people feel like this is convenience they should pay less for.

If electronic is cheaper, and everyone pretty much agrees that it is they just disagree on how much, why not equalize the savings across the product line? Or better yet pay the creators (or their executors) more so they can afford to make more of the thing you like.

Amazon takes 30--65% of every sale on self-published e-books. They frame it as they are paying royalties, but you are really paying them for space on their servers and listing. (You actually also pay on top of that for the bandwidth it takes to deliver the book.) It seems free because the money leaves before it reaches your hand. Each book may not cost much for the upkeep, but the cost of keeping all of the books is pretty high when you think about hard drive burnout alone. A cloud computing engineer makes $100k a year and rising. A printing engineer makes $80k a year and dropping.

Amazon pushed for underpriced e-books so they could justify the kindle price tag. They made them a loss leader so they could get their digital shopping carts in most the backpacks in the country. Heck, I own two of them. They sold the idea of cheap books so well that people who value the written word have a pretty big hole to climb out of. That's all I'm trying to do here.

Posts: 1895 | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
legolasgalactica
Member
Member # 10087

 - posted      Profile for legolasgalactica   Email legolasgalactica         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Interesting point, Pyre Dynasty. There is a sense of building popularity with ebooks. And they certainly have their advantages in convenience, but also in formatting, mixed media, navigation, easy access for the blind and elderly, etc.

I've also often seen a lot more content and features offered with ebooks. For example, I value my digital scriptures much more than any of my print copies for ease of use and navigation as well as the convenience of not lugging around massive books all the time. The study helps are so much more powerful and useful. Highlighting, bookmarks and searchable "margin" notes are better than the stuff I used to do that ruined my books. But not only that, they come with additional books included: integrated study manuals, handbooks, instant access to monthly periodicals from my church, etc.

Why textbook creators don't go this route is beyond me, although it would be harder to justify the scam of rearranging info and graphics just to require purchasing the latest edition of something I don't want and use as little as possible for three months and want to offload the dead-weights asap afterwards. Of course they wouldn't have to because there'd be no resale of used copies so they could continue their gouging of poor students forced to buy their products.
On the same note I think digital publishers should do more to promote and utilize the incredible power of digital media to provide increasingly superior products compared to print.

Of course, I never was one to buy a boOK (or movie) for more than $10. I bought cheap/used ones of any format or (and this is by far the biggest), I went to the library. While I'd never foot the bill for an audio book, that is my favorite format and luckily libraries carry or can get most of those. (Most dvds too).

However, upon getting my first smartphone and with ebooks so affordable, I've bought more books in the last two years than I have my entire life (excluding the used ones I bought for pennies). For me, the convenience finally conived money ut of my stingy pockets. (I'll still never pay $20 for anything except, perhaps, an extended edition Hobbit or LOTR omnibus DVD.) But digital prices and convenience finally won over this reader to actually pay for his media.

I still balk at paying $4 for a 24hr rental of an old movie on Amazon Prime, especially after paying a monthly subscription when, with a little patience I can order a used DVD on amazon for $3-$8 which even with a few scratches, suites me just fine. I love redbox, but they rarely have anything good. And the idea that I should pay more to rent a new release through amazon than the cost of theater tickets here, is disgusting.

Posts: 164 | Registered: Jun 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I suppose at least we're in agreement that production costs of ebooks aren't what's driving these high Kindle prices.

Taco Bell is an interesting example, though, because it's convenient, yet it's much cheaper than making your own tacos at home from scratch (no box stuff), or going to a good Mexican restaurant for genuine Mexican food. I'm no economist, but I always thought that when production costs went down, price went down. Yeah, ebooks are convenient for me, but they're also convenient for publishers.

Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So, I finally decided to opt out of buying "The Travels of Jaime McPherson", and decided to get the more modestly priced (7.99), "Ready Player One", by Ernest Cline, which was recommended to me today. Supposed to be an excellent read.
Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pyre Dynasty
Member
Member # 1947

 - posted      Profile for Pyre Dynasty   Email Pyre Dynasty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Generally speaking the cost of production has little to do with the retail price. It's all about value. Think of antiques, the cost of production was paid a hundred years ago and yet they can warrant higher prices than similar modern furniture. That good restaurant probably doesn't spend much more than Taco Bell on ingredients, or pay its employees more, but they have superior recipes, a better reputation, and a more comfortable environment. They are more expensive because they are worth it. Producers often play their cost of production close to their chest so people don't complain too much about the prices. That makes conversations like this harder to have because we don't have hard numbers. It's also why I'm working on ways to move the conversation away from cost of production.

Sorry, this is kinda my hobby horse and I'm always looking for times I can refine my arguments. I wish you good reading.

Posts: 1895 | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Think of antiques, the cost of production was paid a hundred years ago and yet they can warrant higher prices than similar modern furniture.
Well, yeah. But wouldn't it make more sense to compare IKEA and Ethan Allen with price vs cost of production and convenience?
Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RyanB
Member
Member # 10008

 - posted      Profile for RyanB   Email RyanB         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It's all about supply and demand. For a commodity, if production costs go down then price will come down.

But books aren't commodities.

Posts: 222 | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Producers often play their cost of production close to their chest so people don't complain too much about the prices.
Hard facts would be nice, but they are probably "company secrets", meaning that the publisher wants to keep it secret so that they can charge what they can get away with.

I've been buying and enjoying ebooks since I got my iPad three months ago. It's just that 20 dollar ebook which sparked this mental rebellion.

Here's an article that attempts to explain ebook pricing. And not to be cynical, but it does sound like most of what we're paying for isn't the actual product, but lawyer fees as these publishers and sellers compete against each other.

Why the Apple Ebook Ruling is a Loss for Publishers, Authors, and Readers

Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Books *are* a commodity. A commodity is something that is bought and sold.
Posts: 8717 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MattLeo
Member
Member # 9331

 - posted      Profile for MattLeo   Email MattLeo         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
Books *are* a commodity. A commodity is something that is bought and sold.

Actully, RyanB has this right.

In business, "commodity" is usually understood to mean "undifferentiated" or "fungible" products. If I sign a contract to deliver a ton of winter wheat to you next month, it makes no difference whether that wheat comes from Farmer John, Farmer Fred, or Archer Daniels Midland. It's all interchangeable, because wheat is a generic "commodity".

If I sign contract to deliver 10 iPhones, and deliver instead 10 very similar Samsung phones, I have not fulfilled my contract. While iPhones are in the broadest sense "commodities", they are not "commodities" in the narrow sense of a generic product that can be obtained from any supplier.

Businesses are continually seeking ways to reposition their generic "commodity" products as unique and irreplaceable items ("accept no substitute"). This is because unique products are subject to less competitive pressure. This vase cost $68, no $10, because is has Jonathan Adler's name on it. If technology improved so that it could be produced for $1 instead of $2, the price wouldn't change in the least. But the same vase sold as a generic vase would get marked down to $9, or even bit less.

Books, I think, run the gamut from generic commodities (category romances) to items for which there is no substitute (e.g., a new Harry Potter novel). If there were a new Harry Potter novel coming onto the market, the cost of getting it into the consumer's hand would have no effect on its price.

Posts: 1459 | Registered: Dec 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'll stick with the dictionary definition here. Whether books are something else besides a commodity is another matter.
Posts: 8717 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RyanB
Member
Member # 10008

 - posted      Profile for RyanB   Email RyanB         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Matt and I are talking about an alternate definition of the word commodity. In the context of economics a commodity is product where the brand/source doesn't matter.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/commodity

Notice definition 1 vs. 4 under World English Dictionary (the second set of definitions.)

Posts: 222 | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ah, but here's another:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/commodity

Posts: 8717 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RyanB
Member
Member # 10008

 - posted      Profile for RyanB   Email RyanB         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
Ah, but here's another:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/commodity

The fourth definition is the one I'm referring to.

In the context of economics "commodity" almost always takes on that meaning. The Wikipedia article is pretty good:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity

It's an important concept to understand if you're marketing books. You want your potential customers to view your books as unique and not just another [insert genre] that's no better or worse than any other book in [insert genre].

Posts: 222 | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Is art a commodity? Literature arguably has commodification aspects for publishers and a class of commercial creative writers. An overall feature of publishing is only so much literature is in demand and so much of it is undifferentiated.

Does the supply fill a need? Arguably, again, yes and no. Yes, a need for the social functions literature fulfills. No, arguably, no one needs literature in order to subsist.

What price art? Priced as a commodity? Priced based on appeals to emotions, or appeals in general? Tha actual physical product sans content is a commodity: print book in terms of paper, ink, boards is part of the secondary tier economy; raw goods processing into refined goods. For digital a commodity of bytes, quatenary economy; information--data collection, management, and distribution. Primary economy is raw resource extraction. Tertiary economy is service industry.

Art is not so easily commodified, at least because what constitutes art is highly subjective. Until an otherwise craftsperson or artisan is recognized as an artist, he or she is a tradesperson worker. Once he or she is acclaimed popularly or critically or both, the artist is ascendent.

One woodcraft artist nearby hereabouts asks for and gets top dollar for his wares. The wares have no appreciable qualities different from what an equally skilled artisan produces. Yet the artist's name recognition fetches a higher price. The demand for his wares is higher than the demand for the journeyperson's wares. Higher demand, higher asking price. The simple fact of the matter is his wares with his name generate buzz. Developing such a reputation is a writer or any artist's way forward.

How? The method has never changed throughout the literary opus nor art's opus. Excite emotions. A fine art painter's still lifes may succeed, if they express strong emotions. Many are little more than static portraits exhibiting skills and little else though. Candids of people, animals, and in motion pose subjects in tension. A fishing boat on anchor in a languid harbor probably doesn't evoke. A fishing boat approaching a buyer's dock, the boat's gunwhales skimming the waterline, the catch piled on the decks, the bow, the stern counter, waves lapping in over the side, crew pumping the bilges for all they're worth. This is people, animals, and in dramatic motion.

Posts: 5101 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'll stick with the basics---a commodity is something bought and sold. The high prices some art brings in are because the seller has found a buyer willing to pay a certain price. From that point of view it's no different than buying and selling anything, anything at all.

Whether it's something as mundane as a two-by-four piece of wood, or a crafted chair, or a baseball player's contract...or even one's services for set periods of time...it't still buying and selling.

Posts: 8717 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A somewhat old thread, but this headline I read today seems appropriate.

The issue seems complicated, but the bottom line appears to be that the prices of ebooks don't match their actual worth.

quote:
The money isn't coming from Amazon, but from book publishers. Five of them -- Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Macmillan -- settled a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice that accused them of conspiring with Apple to inflate the price of ebooks.

According to the lawsuit, back in 2010 the publishers saw working to set ebook prices with Apple, which had just released the first iPad and an accompanying iBooks store, as a chance to fight back against Amazon, which was aggressively cutting prices on its own ebooks to entice people to buy and use Kindles. (Here's a great summary of the case at the blog TidBITS.)

Huffingtonpost

quote:


Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Price-value philosophies are bound to different products different ways. A mass-produced consumer good that does not vary in any appreciable way across a spectrum, say canned soup, falls in a narrow price-value bracket. A limited edition serigraph print of soup cans by Andy Warhol has a much wider price-value bracket. Trading on name-brand prestige price-value is a goal for artists.

Where literary arts differ most from consumer goods, is they are both mass-produced and appeal-driven products. This exemplar novel's actual costs to reproduce are based on an economy of scale proportion. Yet the item is still a work of art. First edition, first print run print books that become widely popular become valuable collectibles, especially if personally monographed by the writer. No soup can ever can, though, unless signed by Andy Warhol.

Frankly, I don't see how an electronic book can be considered a work of art. The text itself, yes. Nor how to have one signed. Yet appeal is nonetheless a price-value influence. Say a publisher appreciates the degree of appeal and popularity of a work, and its supply availability. Not number of copies, but number of comparable products; say the writer only produces one novel every five or ten years, not four every year for a decade. Might the publisher pay more for acquiring that lower supply product for distribution? Yes. Royalty rate could go up from default ten percent to fifteen percent or higher.

Sure, early electronic publishing practices were rife with corrupt-seeming activities. The process sought head-start advantages, attempted to set overly infalated self-important price-value worth. The situation is settling out into a stable price-value point though. That's business.

Posts: 5101 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2