Upfront, I’m not an economist, nor do I hold an MBA. But I’m fairly widely read in areas other than romance, and I did manage to stay awake and pay attention during my econ classes.
Now that my absolute lack of credentials is in place, here’s where my opinions and frustrations come in. Obviously. eBook pricing and publisher costs and all the associated legalese is still a hot topic, and it has been for probably the better part of a decade now. There are plenty of arguments on both sides related to costs and value. Dear Author has been covering this topic for a number of years and the reader discussions have typically been interesting and evenhanded. Some days though are more frustrating than others, and this was one of those days when a comment ostensibly made by the CEO of a major traditional publishing house stepped right into a discussion of whether or not we’re turning into a culture of buying instead of reading.
“The entire price discussion was brought on by publishers by themselves. There used to be a set progression and pricing structure of first releasing a hardcover, for bigger authors. If the reader was a real fan, they would pay the $25.00 for the book at a retailer. Then Amazon started discounting the hardcover edition to around 13.00 and sometimes even below cost. Next came the iPad and Apple insisted that publishers not be allowed to “window” the release of the book. This means that they had to release the ebook edition at the same time as the print book. This helped the huge book in ebook sales and caused the huge decrease in physical sales. In turn, this caused bookstores to closes and the cycle continues. It used to be the voracious romance readers or other category readers wouldn’t mind waiting for the book to come out in mass market. Even though most of the mass market books are now $7.99, they are discounted at Walmart, Target and other retailers too. There was never the complaint heard about overpaying for these books because ebooks weren’t available for $.99-3.99. There weren’t self published books competing for the reader’s attention either. The market has to settle out yet and it will still take some time for publishers to figure out how to handle pricing. But the price of the ebook has no correlation to the price of manufacturing. It has to do with making sure the publisher recoups their investment in the author.
CEO-Kensington Publishing Corp.”
To expound on that, the author, or perhaps more truthfully the actual story *IS* in fact a manufacturing cost. There’s no way around that. In order to have a business in publishing you actually have to have stories to sell. Now I’ve never been precisely certain if this is a direct labor or direct materials cost of manufacturing books, an actual economist would probably be a better judge of that, but to dispute that it is in fact not a manufacturing cost is asinine. The reality is that there are publishing costs, and there are costs involved that most readers don’t acknowledge, like the costs to create the different formats, the costs of dealing with all the different vendors that have distinctly different upload and digital management and maintenance systems, and all the additional computer and internet related costs. And this is the eBook costs that are on top of all the things that are done to and for the book regardless of what format it’s going to be published in. Things like paying the author, editing, covers, marketing, and probably myriad other things I can’t even think of. No, ebooks are emphatically not a zero cost item. The other side of the reality is that these are sunk costs either way.
“In a perfect world (okay, in my perfect world) there would be a separate section on Amazon or B&N.com for self-published e-books, maybe even separate websites. I truly believe that it would help the reader distinguish the books as well. Readers don’t purchase books based on who the publisher is and don’t necessarily care. As a result, they might not even know if they’re buying a book that was professionally edited versus one that was self-published.”