Cader: Civilians Need to Be Educated about Book Pricing

When the publishers of #1 bestselling print book Game Change held back the e-book edition instead of issuing it simultaneously with the hardback, furious Kindle owners staged a populist revolt, assigning en masse a mere one star in their Amazon reviews.

Whether or not this tactic discouraged potential buyers from purchasing the book or influenced the publisher to change its scheduling strategies, it demonstrated how strongly Kindle owners feel about the timing and pricing of e-books. It also demonstrated that either they have no patience for the subtle and complex thinking of publishers, or publishers have not done a very good job of explaining the issues to them.

Michael Cader, publisher of Publishers Marketplace, thinks publishers could be doing a better job of demystifying their decision-making processes. “Publishing people who care about these pricing discussions need to get in the online forums and start issuing press releases and find other ways to address readers honestly about price,” he said in a recent editorial. “The price landscape, and shift to an agency model, is honestly baffling to most people and there are a lot of price myths out there.” He also criticizes the media for failing to accurately represent the publisher’s viewpoint.

The task is formidable, largely because Amazon has reinforced the sense of entitlement that many e-book buyers feel. Setting the prices of e-books and timing their release is not only subtle and complex, it is far from scientific. There are as many exceptions as there are rules. (Indeed, because of its timeliness and high media exposure, Game Change might have been a good exception to the wisdom of “windowing” e-prints). All that head-scratching, P&L calculating, market analyzing and soul-searching are no match for the simplicity of an Idea Whose Time Has Come – the one called “$9.99”.

Try to recommend high prices and postponed gratification to someone who wants his $9.99 e-book and wants it now. Amazon is losing money on every sale? Shrug. E-books are the equivalent of mass market paperback reprints? Shrug. The agency model will enable publishers to recover power they conceded to Amazon? Shrug. There are plenty of e-books selling for more than $9.99? Shrug.

Cader is absolutely right that the industry and media must find a way to overcome public misperceptions: “If these things don’t get said, forcefully and clearly, to the press, in forums, and directly to readers by authors and publishers, the messages won’t get heard.”

Richard Curtis


3 Responses to Cader: Civilians Need to Be Educated about Book Pricing

  1. Stuart says:

    If publishers agree to be 'educated' about DRM, geographical restrictions, formatting, (and formats), I'll agree to be 'educated' about pricing. Deal?

    Less sarcastically, it isn't just the media that deserves criticism for failing to "represent the publisher's viewpoint". The publishers viewpoint has been successfully transferred to ebook readers for pretty much the last decade. Most readers remain unimpressed, for some reason.

  2. michael says:

    I am tired of the $9.99 myth. I have bought e-books for my Kindle for around $15. Books such as Death Was the Other Woman by Linda L Richards and The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry.

    I buy both e-books and the dead tree books. I prefer graphic art and photo books in color and on paper. And there are books I want that are not on Kindle.

    I just don't have the budget to spend over $25 for one book. In the past I would wait for the book to hit the bargain bins or mass market. So $9.99 is more than I used to spend for a book.

    The problem is the Hardcover format has out priced its usefulness to the average reader. That is why the retail bookstore discount best sellers.

    I understand the costs of publishing and that people working in the business have families to feed, but so does the reader. In a world of discount shopping from Wal Mart to the 99 cent menu the reader is not eager to spend $30 bucks for one book.

    The funny thing is I buy e-books not for the price but for the convenience. I am tried of being buried in a sea of my beloved books, so overwhelmed I am unable to find a book I wish to enjoy again. With the e-reader my library is in my hand and any book I desire is a click away.

  3. Richard Curtis says:

    Re Michael's comment – maybe future book-buyers will divide their purchases between beloved print books they want to surround themselves with, and e-books they don't cherish and can read and vaporize when they're finished.

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