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Old 03-08-2010, 12:49 PM   #1
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Publishers' Pricing & Release Delay Tactics - An Individual Response

Like many readers, I use the NYT Sunday Book Review to get suggestions/ideas for ebook purchases. And like many readers, I am experiencing the onslaught of publishers' new tactics in the ebook market. Here's how it played out for me (and the publishers) on Sunday.

I noted 4 titles that I decided were interesting enough to purchase:

1. The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight - available now at $9.99.
(Houghton, Mifflin)
2. This Book is Overdue - available now at $9.99 (HarperCollins)
3. Angelology - $15.37 preorder for 03/09/10 release (Viking)
4. The Infinities - $13.65 available now (Knopf)

Result: The first 2 books are sitting on my Kindle, and Houghton & HarperCollins get my cash, and my appreciation for the $9.99 pricing.
The last 2 books go into my "future buy & read slush pile" - no cash to Viking or Knopf.
Plus - next week's Book Review will have more selections to tantalize me. So any books hapless enough to end up in my digital slush pile will most likely never generate any revenue to their publishers - now or ever.
There are just far too many good reads available at $9.99 or below for me to ever consider paying publisher-set digital pricing. Multiply this scenario by 52 weeks per year - just for me - and the amount of potential lost revenue to publishers mounts up. Multiply this amount by the number of angry readers ... it could be interesting.
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Old 03-08-2010, 01:36 PM   #2
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You could say the exact same thing for the hardcover vs paperback delays. For the exact same reasons.

Also FYI, Macmillan's CEO claims they will release new ebooks at the same time as new paper (HC or paperback). So I expect if that approach works out, this will likely be a non-issue for the most part moving forward, except for the authors who refuse to allow any ebook editions.
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Old 03-08-2010, 06:44 PM   #3
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People keep making the "hardcover vs paperback" comparison for this pricing model but I don't think it's valid.

When you pay a premium for the hardcover version, you get a premium "hardcover" version of the book. It comes with a slip cover. It's more durably bound. The page format is larger. It's superior in every way to the paperback.

Yet, when I pay $15.00 for an e-book right now, it is the exact same version as the $10 version available three months from now. Exactly the same.

While I understand that the publisher may offer a book early at a premium, my complaint is that the publisher's idea of the value of that early release is out of whack, seeing as the release versions are identical and have the same value. At least, when using the hardcover-paperback model as a comparison.
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Old 03-08-2010, 07:38 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jament View Post
People keep making the "hardcover vs paperback" comparison for this pricing model but I don't think it's valid.

When you pay a premium for the hardcover version, you get a premium "hardcover" version of the book. It comes with a slip cover. It's more durably bound. The page format is larger. It's superior in every way to the paperback.
I prefer paperbacks for casual reading. They're smaller & lighter, which has always been more important to me than durability. (How many times am I going to read that novel anyway? If I'm going to re-read it enough to wear it out, why not just replace the paperback every couple of years?)

When I have the option of both at the same price, or almost the same price (bag of books for $4, or .50 for paperbacks & $1 for hardcovers at yard sales), I choose paperbacks. I wouldn't pay *more* for paperbacks--but if the two were exactly the same price, I'd want the paperback most of the time.

Ebooks, being even smaller and lighter than paperbacks (yaay!), but lacking nice covers, and having absolutely no prestige value (lawyers can't show off the wall of fancy ebooks), have always seemed like a paperback replacements to me. I expect to pay paperback prices for them--here's the most compact, efficient way to get this data from the author into your head, no pretty packaging included.

I have no idea why publishers think they should be equivalent to hardcovers in market value. (Maybe it's a tech thing. "Only readable on expensive computers or expensive other devices; ergo, must be a niche luxury item; overprice like hardcovers.")
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Old 03-08-2010, 08:12 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jament View Post
People keep making the "hardcover vs paperback" comparison for this pricing model but I don't think it's valid.
Au contraire, it's entirely appropriate.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jament
When you pay a premium for the hardcover version, you get a premium "hardcover" version of the book. It comes with a slip cover. It's more durably bound. The page format is larger. It's superior in every way to the paperback.
Not really. It's more rugged, but it's heavier, bulkier and more expensive. Slip covers are just another thing to lose or damage. Hardcover's "superiority" depends entirely on personal preferences.

More importantly, it's really just a thin veneer over demand-based pricing. You're not really paying extra because you're getting a better product; you're paying more because the book is new and is in high enough demand to justify a higher price. I suspect the cost to print and ship a hardback is a fraction of what the general public presumes.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jament
Yet, when I pay $15.00 for an e-book right now, it is the exact same version as the $10 version available three months from now. Exactly the same.
Yes, except demand is lower.

This type of demand-based pricing is not in any way unique to books. Half-Life 2 was $50 or more when it came out; you can now get it bundled with 2 modules and 2 other games for $20. Audio, video, games, electronics, clothes, food, art... When demand is high, price goes up; when demand is low, price falls.

Demand-based pricing is the norm, not an unethical exception. Take a Macroeconomics 101 class one of these days, if you don't believe me.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Elfwreck
I have no idea why publishers think they should be equivalent to hardcovers in market value.
Actually, as far as the publishers are concerned, they're slashing initial cover prices almost in half. It's just that retailers are usually absorbing a lot of that cost.

At any rate, the answer is that it's a question of demand. Plus, many consumers are almost obstinately refusing to include shipping costs, sales tax, or costs of driving to the store (an obscure one of course) in their calculations, when comparing ebooks to paper.
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Old 03-09-2010, 01:21 AM   #6
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Kali,

I think your arguments are mostly valid about hardback pricing - with a couple of adjustments:
- used hardcover books appear to be priced higher than used paperbacks - and thus there is some "extra" perceived value to hardback
- Regardless of asking price, the public's perceived value of electronic media is LOWER than the same with physical media (for all media music, video, books, advertisement) - hence purchasing resistance when eBooks are not lower than the available physical media
- Residual value - there is little residual value to an eBook as I cannot readily lend it, sell it, or donate it
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Old 03-15-2010, 12:38 PM   #7
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Hard backs are not priced because of the value of the "hard back". It is demand pricing. If this were not true, then they'd release hardbacks and softbacks at the same time. Why else make the folks who prefer paper backs wait a year before being able to buy that version?

Why do movies not premier at the dollar theater at the same time the appear at the full price theater? Demand pricing.

People who will not pay more than a paperbook price for an ebook -- are no different than folks who never buy hardbacks in the first place. And yes, I'm one of those people. I never by hardbacks because of the price, and that they are huge.

Well, except for my most desired books. I will buy Tom Clancy or Harry Potter hard backs. Why? Because I want to read them so bad, I buy them right away. I don't want to wait a year.

It's the SAME thing with ebooks. All that's changed is Amazon has been prevented from turning the entire NYT Bestseller's into a loss leader for their kindle.

Lee
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Old 03-15-2010, 05:00 PM   #8
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Alright, let me ask this. For a book that normally retails at $16, what would you say is a fair price for the ebook version? Is $9.99 about standard across the board? Or can you justify charging the full $16 for the ebook? Or will ebooks always be about 2/3rds the price of their print cousins?
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Old 03-15-2010, 06:25 PM   #9
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For me -- $3 cheaper than the cheapest book price is my "feels right" price.

Lee
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Old 03-15-2010, 07:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jament View Post
People keep making the "hardcover vs paperback" comparison for this pricing model but I don't think it's valid.

When you pay a premium for the hardcover version, you get a premium "hardcover" version of the book. It comes with a slip cover. It's more durably bound. The page format is larger. It's superior in every way to the paperback.
Agree 100%

Publishers will get the message in their quarterly earnings reports for e-books. Just to rub it in, I suggest shooting a quick email to the publisher for every book you skip. Basically the OPs forum post sent to the respective publishers would do it.

If we all did it and they started receiving 100 emails a day from readers 'just sayin', they skipped buying an ebook from the publisher due to pricing, it would have an effect eventually. Sad for the authors, but hey if they want to scam consumers into 'leasing' DRMed e-books at high prices then they will fail. The market will see to that.
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Old 03-15-2010, 08:25 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by leebase View Post
For me -- $3 cheaper than the cheapest book price is my "feels right" price.

Lee
Ok, can you classify that a bit for me. What is "cheapest price" by your definition? There's only one place I know of that qualifies for "cheapest price", and that's Walmart, who sell books for 3/4 of SRP. (BTW, don't EVER sell a paperback book through them. They only give you 25c over cost on every book they buy from you, period. If you try to ask for more, they'll insult you by lowering it to 5c a copy. True story!) If that's the lowest price, then $3 less than that would be $9.99, or about 5/8ths of the SRP.

I'm merely asking so I know how to price my novels when I release them into the ebook stores.
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Old 03-15-2010, 09:17 PM   #12
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I'm not as concerned (within reason) with the price of an ebook as I am about the release schedule. Case in point, I started reading Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” series a few weeks ago. When I started, I was completely oblivious to the release schedule of about one volume per month. I quickly (for me, as I read slowly) went through all of the released titles, and found I couldn’t buy volume six.

AAARRGHHH! I WANT my WOT fix!

You guessed it, I’m now reading “Lord of Chaos”, OCR and formatting errors and all; and the publishers and heirs are out the ten or fifteen dollars I would have gladly paid!
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Old 03-15-2010, 09:28 PM   #13
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It won't bother me if Walmart is running a super sale on a book and I end up paying the same or a little more. Amazon - $3 is a good mark for me.

I like the $5 book price best. Love Baen for that. $10 for a NYT's best seller was a great deal. $15 doesn't bother me but it will likely be a cause for me to defer/delay a purchase. Not because I think it's somehow WRONG -- I just wouldn't pay $15 for most hard backs either.

Like everything else, price is a factor in my purchasing decisions. If Amazon were to drop their prices to $1 for ebooks, I'm sure I'd buy even more than I do now

Let's say the latest Honor Harrington book by David Weber comes out and it's $26 retail being sold for $20 "on sale" at Amazon and everywhere else. I'd probably pay $20 for the ebook because I'd want to read the book right away and I'd RATHER have the ebook than the hard back.

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Old 03-16-2010, 08:14 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wodin View Post
I quickly (for me, as I read slowly) went through all of the released titles, and found I couldn’t buy volume six.

AAARRGHHH! I WANT my WOT fix!

You guessed it, I’m now reading “Lord of Chaos”, OCR and formatting errors and all; and the publishers and heirs are out the ten or fifteen dollars I would have gladly paid!
BooksOnBoard has "Lord of Chaos" on sale
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Old 03-16-2010, 08:36 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leebase View Post
Hard backs are not priced because of the value of the "hard back". It is demand pricing. If this were not true, then they'd release hardbacks and softbacks at the same time. Why else make the folks who prefer paper backs wait a year before being able to buy that version?

....
If that's true then why not skip the hardback all together, print a cheaper paperback and offer it initially at a "premium" price?

The publisher makes more money that way.
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