1. friendly_meese
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    friendly_meese Member

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    ePublishing setting the price of ebooks

    Discussion in 'Publisher Discussion' started by friendly_meese, Aug 11, 2014.

    Someone recommened I buy a specific novel and read it, so I got the Kindle edition. It costs an insane $14. Who set the price of this ridiculously overpriced midlist book in order to kill its sales? Who, in general, sets the price of trad-pub ebooks?
     
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  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it is published by a publishing house, the publisher generally sets the retail price.

    If it's self-published, the author set the price.
     
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  3. friendly_meese
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    friendly_meese Member

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    It's commercially published and there is also a print edition available. Why would any publisher in their right mind charge $14 for a midlist ebook? Isn't it guaranteed to kill sales?
     
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  4. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    I say all works should be free.
     
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  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is kind of the point. Imagine that you have built a fortune for the last 100 years on printing books. Printed books used to be people's only options for reading, so they needed you. Now, they have another option: to download ebooks. The bulk of your business operation is completely unnecessary for that. Therefore, the thing that has built your fortune no longer gives you an advantage in the market. You now have to compete with businesses that specialize in distributing digital content: something that you are not good at.

    So what do you do? You talk to other people who have built their fortunes on printing books and you convince them that you all face the same problems. You all agree that if ebooks become the dominant way to acquire information, then you will have no way to compete in the market, and none of you will be able to make a fortune any longer.

    As a last-ditch effort, you all agree to keep ebooks just expensive enough that people still have a reason to choose printed books over ebooks, and they stay in the habit of browsing bookstores, building their home libraries, etc. The last thing you want is for them to get comfortable with ebook readers and the cloud.
     
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  6. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it's getting sales via word of mouth, it must be worth the dough:agreed:.
     
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  7. friendly_meese
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    friendly_meese Member

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    I don't want to derail my own thread, but daemon's post made me think of something I have lamented for two years now. Back in 2012, I flirted with self-publication and, as part of the closed universe of self-publishing, obtained quite a few free-of-charge, promotional copies of self-published books, as well as paying the 99 cents that the vast majority of the rest of them cost. I was disheartened by the miserable proofreading, severe formatting problems, and often substandard writing of most of the self-published ebooks I read. Self-publication should not be treated like a license to release unprofessional crap because all that does is give self-published books a bad name and kill the market for it. If that market weren't pretty much dead, then having responsible, quality authors self-publish would be a good way for authors to set reasonable ebook prices and counter the negativistic gouging of publishers. No amount of rearguard action can stop printed material from becoming obsolete within the next 20 or 30 years and being completely replaced by electronic documents. Publishers who try to delay that are just cutting their own throats--but so are irresponsible self-published authors who pay no attention to basic quality.

    Okon: the book was recommended to me by another writer because she thought it was similar to a novel idea I had shared with her. If I hadn't been conducting research on my own writing I never would have paid that insane price for it. I mean, it's well-written and enjoyable to read, but $14 for an ebook novel sounds like a 22nd century price after inflation has done its thing for another hundred years, not for today.
     
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  8. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh my god, yes. It is a slap in the face to people who care about using technology to improve the world when the technology is not taken seriously because it is primarily used to distribute crap.
     
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  9. friendly_meese
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    I'm guessing the biggest problem is that self-published authors are acting as their own de-facto publishing companies. They are their own publishers often without having the knowledge and experience of how to be a publisher, and very often they act as their own marketing, publicity and sales departments. Good writers rarely have the head for business needed to be effective publishers or the talents needed to be their own effective marketers, publicists and sales staff. For this reason, self-publication will likely always be problematic. Small publishing houses that do not have marketing, publicity and sales staffs of any kind are not a solution, while publishing companies that are big enough are simply not numerous enough to offer millions of writers a fair opportunity to be published--not to mention that there aren't enough readers for books published by all those writers to sell well. With the youngest members of society rarely reading anything longer than a tweet, and members of most fora considering any post longer than two paragraphs automatically to be "trolling" because of its length, I'm wondering whether both traditional publishers and writers aren't shovelling poop against the incoming tsunami. I feel very gloomy about the future of writing right now and am almost glad that I'm scheduled to have that fatal heart attack at age 54, a mere five years from now.
     
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  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Publishers and self-publishers set the price of their books to what they feel will be their best advantage--to meet their goal.

    There are plenty of discussions among self-published writers of the payoff for setting a price of 99 cents vs. $2.99 or $5.99 or even free, balancing readership vs. income and how it will affect other titles they have released or will release.

    Publishers do the same thing. They set a price of $14.99 for an ebook for a reason. Many readers may not agree with that price, and that's their choice, and their choice will impact the publisher's decisions moving forward.

    Publishing houses have costs: paying editors, for example. Sometimes they have editors that are paid per project, but many are part of the payroll with benefits and such. So you have editors and layout/cover design, they do pay for artists for the cover art. They have marketing and sales folks and fixed costs such as rent for office space and computers and utilities. Then, they pay the authors, while working to make a profit. Odds are their prices will be somewhat higher than a self-published author.

    The self-published author often doesn't work full time at writing. Most do what they can on their own to cut back on expenses, but hiring editors and an artist to do the cover art can be key to putting out a quality self-published work. Many self-publishers cut corners, and often the results show in the quality of what they publish. But with fewer expenses, and more control, the self-publisher has flexibility to set the retail price under that of works released by a publishing house.

    I think it was John Scalzi that recently indicated (not an exact quote, just the gist of what he wrote on the topic) that it's hypocritical to say that ebooks should be really inexpensive, far less than the price of a physical book because they're less expensive to produce/deliver. You don't have to print or warehouse or deliver via truck. Since it costs virtually nothing to send electrons, the price for the ebook should reflect that, and be very inexpensive. He pointed out that people spend far more than what something costs to deliver all the time. Ordering a soda at a restaurant, for example. What does one pay compared to the cost of it?--that was the hypocritical point. (I should note that I often order water when dining out, but not always, and cost is a factor in my decision.)

    Just like wines, of which there are great varieties and brands, and the price a consumer pays can be from a few dollars a bottle to hundreds or more, I imagine ebooks are and will continue to be the same way. And if $14.99 ends up pricing a book out of the market, such that no one (or very few) will purchase it, the price will drop. Heck, if it sells like there's no tomorrow at $14.99, then expect the price to rise to $16.99. Just like a self-publishing author, the publishing house is going to do it's best to balance revenue with readership to its best advantage.

    That's my two cents on the topic (well, maybe more than two since there's a lot of words expressing it :) )
     
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  11. friendly_meese
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    friendly_meese Member

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    I don't like paying $1.94 for a cup of Starbucks coffee that cost Starbucs 5 cents to make, either. So no, I am NOT a hypocrite. I resent gouging everywhere it happens. You've presented one of the silliest arguments I've ever heard to justify gouging by publishers: that other businesses gouge as well. It's like saying a murderer should be acquitted because other people have committed murders before.
     
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  12. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    That cup of coffee costs Starbucks a lot more than 5 cents to make. It might cost them 5 cents for the ingredients, but that's all.

    @TWErvin2's point was that the cost of making a book isn't limited to the cost of printing it - that's just one cost, and it's a long way from being the biggest. 'Cheap to deliver' is not the same as 'cheap to produce'.

    That aside, there's plenty of reasons why they may be pricing that eBook expensively. Maybe it's because it's aimed at a small niche, and with a limited number of possible buyers it makes more sense to price for those people committed to having it rather than going for mass sales. Maybe it's because they're setting up perceived value for a later discount. Maybe they've tested a few price points and find this one makes the most money. There's plenty of dumb reasons they could be pricing it that high too - it's possible they're just peevishly attempting to train people into paying more for books again, and that battle was lost a long time ago - but it's not necessarily a bad idea.
     
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  13. friendly_meese
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    friendly_meese Member

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    .Compare the price of this book to an initiative like NextIssue, which charges $14.99 a month for access to electronic editions of 115 different magazines, some of whch are weekly. One month's worth of print issues of all those magazines would cost nearly $500, but NextIssue doesn't gouge on that basis, and it seems to be profitable. There are indeed progressive people in electronic publishing, and it is with them that the hope for the future of the written word lies.
     
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  14. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    One can only be swindled or overcharged (gouged) if they choose to purchase what is deemed to be overpriced, especially when it's a purchase of choice and not of necessity.

    Are you indicating that there should be a 'fixed markup' for all products? A specific profit margin allowed, otherwise it's gouging? Might not one author's books be deemed more valuable than another author's, based upon the quality of the story? Might not Starbucks coffee command a higher price because it's of better quality than Speedway's? Of course, just like the book, the taste/preference for coffee isn't the same across the board, so the perceived value isn't the same for everyone.

    You choose to be gouged (Starbucks coffee)? Okay, if that's what you call it. Others may choose to be 'gouged' by purchasing a $14.99 ebook. But that was neither my argument nor my point. My point was that businesses, in this case publishers and/or self-published authors, will charge for their ebooks whatever they believe will benefit their needs the most--sales, readership, profit, whatever. And attempting to set ebooks apart, subjecting their cost based upon how much it costs deliver it? If so, such outcry should be consistent across the board, or it's hypocritical--as I paraphrased what author John Scalzi had said. Complain loudly about the price of Starbucks coffee, or soft drinks served at a restaurant. But if you still buy them, there's little reason for those establishments to lower the price. Complain about overpriced ebooks. But if readers choose to buy them at that price, there's no motivation to lower it.

    If the publisher earns more, those profits can enable more books being brought market, and the author earns more, and will probably write more books. Again the balance between the price and readership at that price, vs. another retail price.

    In truth, there is no reason that an ebook can't (or even shouldn't) retail higher than a print edition, other than being determined by what the reading public is willing to pay. While I don't agree that an ebook should, maybe the reader is paying for the ease of delivery and convenience of having it immediately and more readily available wherever they happen to be, as opposed to having to have physical access (and carry around) a print edition. Plus, how much easier is it to search and book mark and highlight an ebook as compared to a print...
     
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  15. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What you're suggesting is being attempted (or close to it) with the recent KindleUnlimited initiative or effort. Exactly how it affects readership or how books are read or consumed and how authors/publishers are reimbursed is yet to be seen. I think the unbalanced exclusivity required by self-published authors and small press publishers has been discussed elsewhere, and this feature may have an impact on the failure or success with both readers, and also with authors of all types.
     
  16. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    But that's an entirely different business model, catering to a different customer in a different niche. The only similarity is they both involve words.

    An equivalent thing for a publisher would be having you pay some amount every month, and then having access to everything they've published and everything they will publish while you pay - and crucially, you pay every month whether you read anything from them or not. That's a perfectly valid business model and it'd be interesting to see a fiction publisher try it, but comparing the price of that to the price of a single-sale eBook doesn't make any sense.
     
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  17. friendly_meese
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    I don't think small and medium publishers would actually try a subscription model themselves. There could, however, be room in the market for distributors who have several publishers as sources of new reading material and then funnel availability to readers in a way similar to NextIssue's funnelling of magazines. Of course, Amazon, being the spitefully ruthless predator that it is, would quickly move to crush any such initiative by anyone other than themselves. But enough publishers, writers AND readers are angry about the System of Dr. Tarr and Profesor Fether at Amazon to make alternative distribution avenues potentially profitable. Heck, if I had a few million bucks lying around, I'd be hirng a market research firm this second to see whether I could set up such an operation and have it survive.
     
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  18. Krishan
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    Scribd has recently moved to something like the model you describe. They have a greater number of magazines and reference books than they do fiction titles, but it still looks pretty good.
     
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  19. friendly_meese
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    I checked out Scribd and didn't find any magazines, but did find a wide variety of publications that include academic papers. It's $8.99 a month for unlimited reading with a 30-day free trial, so I'm currently enroled in the trial and shall make a decision within the next 28 days. If I like it I'll let people know.

    Zinio has a related model, but they don't charge for membership. Rather, you pay a reduced rate to subscribe to individual magazines. There are magazines available through Zinio that NextIssue doesn't offer, such as Smithsonian Magazine and Writer's Digest (the latter being only $15 a year through Zinio).

    The best part of these services for me is that all three have apps for Win 8.1, Android and iPad/iPhone, so they can be accessed through an app. The bad part is that NextIssue doesn't offer desktop software so a tablet, phone or Win 8 are required.
     
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  20. Australis
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    So, you'd be happy to work in slave labour conditions?
     

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