Sunday, December 27, 2015

Price Insanity

I've tried.  I've tried and tried to understand the pricing of ebooks by traditional publishers, and for the life of me, I can't.  Go onto Amazon and look at the price of almost any ebook published by one of the Big Five publishers and you'll start wondering what the hell they're thinking.

The impetus behind the pricing of most books is the cost to create them.  You have to buy paper, run a press, buy ink, bind them, etc.  With an ebook, however, you simply have to upload a file.  So why do traditional publishers still want to charge $12.99 or more for a book that has almost no overhead?  The only thing I can think of - the only thing - is that they want to protect their hardcover sales.

If that's what they want to do, I think they're failing miserably.  Sure, it might have an effect if something comes out that you really, really want to buy - maybe you've been dying for the newest Stephen King book or want to check out James Patterson's latest - but those are the exception to the rule.  Most people browse books they barely know but sound intrigued by.  By not reducing the prices of ebooks, they're losing market share and potential profits when people scoff at paying those prices.

Perhaps I shouldn't be even bringing this up.  After all, the less people want to buy traditional books, the more they'll give indie a chance.  Indie books are usually priced far more reasonably, around $5.99 or so, and give people less sticker shock.  Are the traditional houses really this stupid?

I think the answer is yes and no.  I don't think they're intentionally stupid, but that they have no regard for a changing market due to the perceived nature of their monopoly.  Let's be real - traditional publishing doesn't consider indie a real threat to their market.  Since there's less competition with the consolidation of so many houses, traditional publishing figures they have things locked up.  Of course they're still losing money and can't seem to find the formulas that once worked 25-35 years ago, but they figure that's a glitch rather than any flight from what they have to what indie offers.

Here's a newsflash to traditional houses(but one they won't listen to):  people are not going to pay the same for a downloaded version of a novel as they will the hardcover version.  Despite what you think, they're not stupid.  The public knows you don't have the same overhead, even if you still have to pay for editors, secretaries, and cover artists.  Words on a screen aren't perceived as valuable as a book in the hand, yet publishers refuse to accept this reality.  Maybe that's why traditional publishing is dying.  It may take a while, but even a 75 year old in a wheelchair can live another 20 years...they just won't necessarily be a fun 20.

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