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Old 02-22-2010, 10:06 PM   #1
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Backlash against Author Douglas Preston

I saw this on Teleread and was surprised no one had mentioned it here yet.

An article on io9 mentions the backlash thriller author Douglas Preston has received because of his comments about e-book pricing and windowing. He was already getting backlash from readers (such as one-star reviews on Amazon) because the e-book edition of his latest hardback Impact was delayed. But then, in an article on the Macmillan versus Amazon fight, Preston complained about the "sense of entitlement" of consumers. Since then, he has received even more angry one-star reviews, many of which mention his comments in the article.

Since the backlash, Preston has retreated somewhat. He put an open letter on readers on the front page of the Preston/Child site where he says that authors don't have the power to influence publisher issues. He also told io9 that he thought the his recent comments were "pretty stupid."

So what do you think? Is this too little, too late? Not enough? Still annoying because he is still a fan of windowing? It looks as if the one-star reviews really did have an impact (heh heh) on at least one writer. But do you think other writers will end up responding in this way, apologizing for statements they made about the issue, etc.? And what about the publisher?

Sigh. I hate it when authors bite the hand that feeds them. (Those darn readers, wanting to get bargains!) But I'm still going to buy the upcoming Agent Pendergast novel.
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Old 02-22-2010, 10:11 PM   #2
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I am a fan of the duo Preston & Child.
As individuals, I'm not impressed.
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Old 02-22-2010, 10:18 PM   #3
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It's a double edged sword.

Author's don't want to bite the hand that feeds them. But they're writing as a career and they don't want to see their profits go down if hardcover sales are dropping as people buy the $9.99 ebook the same day.

So I really have no problem with putting e-books out a while after the hardcover to maximize sales of it first. Customers do have a sense of entitlement that they should be able to get a cheaper ebook version day and date with the hardback etc.

People are just selfish by nature. Customers want to save as much money as possible, and get what they want for a cheap as possible and as quickly as possible. We all want to make as much money in our careers as possible etc.

And it goes so far as people call other's selfish when they try to protect their incomes. Tell authors to get a day job so they can sell their books for less in the new e-book world and other types of comments I've seen on here.

I really feel for the authors in this. I'd hate to be anyone writing books, making music, making movies etc. in this era of moving to digital content. They're faced with rampant piracy and on top of that the paying customers want to pay MUCH less than they were before to say get a book on release date since it's now digital as well as in hard back.

Look, I won't pay more than $9.99 for an e-book. But I also have no problem having to wait a while after launch. I always waited months for paper back editions in the past, I see waiting for a cheaper e-book edition just the same. Let them make money on the hardbacks, and wait for the e-book or paperback if you want to pay less to own a copy.

I just don't see the big deal, and it is an sense of entitlement to expect to be able to get a $10 or less e-book version the same date as the release of the $20-30 hardcover edition. You either paid it or waited for a paper back in the past, why does it HAVE to be different with e-books? If some authors/publishers want e-books out at $10 the same day great. But we shouldn't expect that IMO.

Last edited by dmaul1114; 02-23-2010 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 02-22-2010, 11:16 PM   #4
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I wouldn't mind it so much if they'd release the ebook on the same day as the hardback, even at the hardback price....and then take the ebook price down with the paperback release. What I hate is not being able to get the ebook AT ALL, if it's delayed. Some authors I like enough to pay hardback prices for ebooks just to get it faster. (For example, I paid over $21.00 last year for Dana Stabenow's Whisper to the Blood in ebook on the same day the hardback was released).
Another pet peeve is things that have been out in paperback since oh, say, 2004, and they're still charging $17.00 for the ebook.
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Old 02-22-2010, 11:48 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by phenomshel View Post
I wouldn't mind it so much if they'd release the ebook on the same day as the hardback, even at the hardback price....and then take the ebook price down with the paperback release. What I hate is not being able to get the ebook AT ALL, if it's delayed. Some authors I like enough to pay hardback prices for ebooks just to get it faster. (For example, I paid over $21.00 last year for Dana Stabenow's Whisper to the Blood in ebook on the same day the hardback was released).
Another pet peeve is things that have been out in paperback since oh, say, 2004, and they're still charging $17.00 for the ebook.
Exactly! What is so hard about charging the current lowest price for a pbook for the ebook? Initially that would be the hardback price. It would then go down to the paperback price, once the paperback was released.

How is this anything but a win-win situation? The publishers get more sales. The consumers get the ebooks they want, when they want. If they want them sooner, they pay more for them.

And ditto on the pet peeve. I want a book published in 2003 that I can buy for $4 used ($0.01 + $3.99 shipping) but I would have to fork out $16.06 to get it in an ebook. What sense is there in that?

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Old 02-22-2010, 11:58 PM   #6
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Agree 100% with that.

E-books should cost about the same as the physical book. When it's hardcover only, charge the hardcover price or close to it. When it goes to paper back, lower accordingly.

The problem is you still get posters on here bitching that the e-books should be cheaper since they don't have to print a physical copy, ship it out etc. etc. and thus it costs less on their end.

And some of that is true. So the e-book can be priced less than the hardback--at a level that the publisher and author get the same cut they do out of a hardback sale. And then drop prices when the paper back comes out accordingly.

But many expect e-books to be $9.99 from the get go when the hardcover comes out, due a sense of entitlement or whatever you want to call it, and that's the problem that get's authors and publishers riled up.
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Old 02-23-2010, 12:04 AM   #7
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At this point, I'm usually just grateful if I can get it in ebook at all! Oh, sure, I'll shop around to get the best price, but I have no problem paying more to get the ebook at the same time as the hardback if it's an author I really like. If it's not an author I really like, I can usually wait til the paperback comes out and the (hopefully) corresponding drop in ebook price.
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Old 02-23-2010, 12:25 AM   #8
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Well, I wouldn't pay hardcover prices for an inferior book that is riddled with errors. But if they commit to providing the same quality of book, and to actually matching the print price and lowering it over time as the paperback etc. comes out, then in principle I would not object to 'hardcover prices' either.
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Old 02-23-2010, 04:07 AM   #9
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As I commented on the teleread thread - Preston made the elementary mistake of feeding the trolls, which is not a good idea, though probably just the result of a little naivety. The internet is full of people with an inflated sense of their own self-importance, and the best thing to do is to tackle their arguments obliquely rather than trying to combat them head-on.
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Old 02-23-2010, 07:47 AM   #10
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Windowing doesn't bother me particularly. I almost never buy new hardbacks, and used to wait (more or less patiently) for the paperback to appear. I don't mind waiting in the same way for the ebook, as long as it's priced at or below the paperback (it should ideally be a buck or two less, but I've almost given up on getting that fair a shake from most sellers). What really gets my goat is publishers who expect people to pay a premium for the ebook when the paperback has been out for months. In cases like that, I'll scan the paperback myself, if it's something I really want in an electronic version.
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Old 02-23-2010, 08:10 AM   #11
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I also don't have a problem with windowing - publishers can do what they like, and I suspect that they don't do this much because they want all the revenue possible when the book is released. But if it works for them, that is fine with me - I hardly buy hardcovers anyway, so I don't feel like they owe me my format of choice right out of the gate.

Personally, I think they should scale the ebook price with the market price for the available text, in whatever paper format it can be obtained, with maybe a discount for savings on distribution. The text had better be the same though, not some second-hand thing with typos.

I can understand publishers wanting to limit electronic sales because they fear piracy, or whatever. They will just lose sales, and when the e-friendly publishers start making money, they will change (of course, if ebooks are a losing business, they will languish, no matter what anyone says).
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Old 02-23-2010, 08:40 AM   #12
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And some of that is true. So the e-book can be priced less than the hardback--at a level that the publisher and author get the same cut they do out of a hardback sale. And then drop prices when the paper back comes out accordingly.
This may be acceptable now because ebooks are a small fraction of sales, but when ebooks make a considerable part of the market (like we all hope they will), it won't be acceptable any longer, because it will mean that ebook sales are supporting pbook costs.
This is a transition stage. Then the publishers that will thrive will be those who have done their homework and restructured their companies.
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Old 02-23-2010, 09:18 AM   #13
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I'm all for the windowing as well, if someone wants to pay a premium to be one of the first people to read the eBook that is completely up to them, they should not be forced to wait because of the format they choose to read it in.

As for Mr Preston, even though he shoved his foot in his mouth and upset quite a lot fans I'm not so sure it is fair for people to express their displeasure by rating the book lower. Yes, most of the people have explained why they are giving it a single star but automated trackers and probably quite a few potential buyers don't read them - they'll just see a low rating and move on. Until there is way to rate the author separately from the books, people should post a message expressing their displeasure, send them an email, tell all your friends, certainly don't buy the book, but let the literary content of the book stand on its own.
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:09 AM   #14
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As for Mr Preston, even though he shoved his foot in his mouth and upset quite a lot fans I'm not so sure it is fair for people to express their displeasure by rating the book lower.
This. That seems like dirty pool to me.
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:17 PM   #15
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This may be acceptable now because ebooks are a small fraction of sales, but when ebooks make a considerable part of the market (like we all hope they will), it won't be acceptable any longer, because it will mean that ebook sales are supporting pbook costs.
This is a transition stage. Then the publishers that will thrive will be those who have done their homework and restructured their companies.
Yep, down the road it will be more of an issue to try to do that.

Personally, I'd just scale the prices with whats available in print at the time. I see no real need for e-version to be cheaper than the current print versions.

I'd have no problem paying hardcover prices for an e-book while the hardcover is the only version out, and the paper back price for an e-book once that version is out in print.

Of course, as others noted, they need to make the e-books identical and not full of typos and formatting errors etc.

Otherwise, I get the same value, more or less, out of an e-book since I mainly only read books once. I'm honestly even willing to pay a tad bit more to not have to hassle with getting rid of the physical copy after reading it.

If its one of the few books I want to keep and have around to re-read over the years, I'll pick up the best hardcover edition. But otherwise it's e-books for my leisure reading, and I have no issues with pricing windows, prices about the same as the current print version etc.
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