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Old 03-27-2019, 02:05 PM   #46
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I understand wanting a better deal, I just don't understand someone thinking they're entitled to one.
Yep. These diatribes lose me at, "It isn't fair!" However can it not be "fair" to charge whatever the market will bear? And keeping in mind that pricing algorithms are complex? Since when have some goods not had higher profit margins than others?

We're not talking life-saving drugs here. It's a non-necessary, highly fungible product with a lot of free and cheap alternatives to the one book someone absolutely must have at the price he considers "fair." Do they bring the same expectations to the grocery store?
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Old 03-27-2019, 03:38 PM   #47
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I once got a flight from London to Melbourne via Auckland that was priced lower than the the London-Auckland leg (of the same flight) by itself.

I worked for a company that imported watches and parts from Japan. In some cases it was cheaper to import a whole watch and pay a watchmaker to remove one part than it was to import that part by itself.

(Edit: I also have a collection of bicycles that I bought because it worked out cheaper to buy a complete new bicycle and use it for parts than to buy the parts.)

I just pre-ordered a three-book omnibus priced lower than one of the books contained in the omnibus. I also recently bought a seven-book omnibus that cost less than any two of the books in the omnibus. (Omnibus and individual books both by the same publisher.)

None of this makes any sense if you assume that price is based on cost of production.

Last edited by GeoffR; 03-27-2019 at 07:08 PM. Reason: bicycle collection
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Old 03-27-2019, 03:52 PM   #48
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None of this makes any sense if you assume that price is based on cost of production.
So what do you attribute it to? I understand the pricing in some industries where I've worked or had a lot of experience as a customer, but have never really understood the factors behind book pricing. What I do know today, is that most--but not all--types of books I read regularly, usually the ebook version is somewhat cheaper than the cheapest paper version.
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Old 03-27-2019, 04:51 PM   #49
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So what do you attribute it to? I understand the pricing in some industries where I've worked or had a lot of experience as a customer, but have never really understood the factors behind book pricing.
I don't really know, I can only make guesses:

With ebook omnibus editions it might be that the individual books are available in New Zealand as paperbacks, so the ebook prices are based on the usual discount to paper price, whereas the omnibus is not available in a paper edition and so is priced by a different formula.

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What I do know today, is that most--but not all--types of books I read regularly, usually the ebook version is somewhat cheaper than the cheapest paper version.
Yes I have a similar experience, at least when comparing the New Zealand ebook price to the New Zealand paperback price, the ebook is usually quite a lot cheaper. But it seems to be different in the US, where the ebook is often priced the same price as the paperback or even a bit higher.
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Old 03-27-2019, 04:57 PM   #50
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Every book I buy is brand-new to me. Whether it's E or P; backlist or new-release. When a book was first released doesn't really matter much to me and what I'm willing to pay for it. Time doesn't make a good story worth less IMO (and the story is the only part of a Book I care about). Of course I'm not looking to convert my extensive "Already Read" library to digital either, like some are. I understand wanting a better deal, I just don't understand someone thinking they're entitled to one.
For me, I'm willing to read either paper or e-copies. When an older book is available at a used book store for two bucks or less, I hope to find an ecopy for somewhere near that price. So age of the book is a factor for me, and size is also a factor. I have a hard time paying seven or eight bucks for a decades old book that's a couple hundred pages or less, when I can get a more recently published 800 page novel for the same price. Not that it is my right to get it cheaper, it's just a factor when I'm deciding what I'm willing to pay.

I plan to pay the full $13.99 for the next Mercy Thompson book when it arrives in May. But I'm not willing to pay $13.99 for Watership Down, a book that is pushing 50 years old and that (if I didn't already have a paper copy) I could find in the quarter bin at a lot of used book stores. That's not the norm though, I don't see many older books priced that high.

I do really hope that publishers are paying close attention to the price points that people purchase the most books at. When I get an ereaderIQ note about a book that I'm following for $1.99, I don't even think about it, I just buy it. $2.99 is almost as much a no brainer. I'll happily drop $5.99 for a book thats part of a series that I'm currently reading. Much higher than that and I'll usually go find something else to read.
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Old 03-27-2019, 06:16 PM   #51
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Yes I have a similar experience, at least when comparing the New Zealand ebook price to the New Zealand paperback price, the ebook is usually quite a lot cheaper. But it seems to be different in the US, where the ebook is often priced the same price as the paperback or even a bit higher.
From what I've seen, what you noted is true in the US, esp with the most popular books. Just for interest, I'll list a few of the less popular genres that I read, where I've seen the ebooks typically cost less. I don't have a good explanation for why these break the common pattern, though.

* Non-fiction works in genres or subjects that have less mass popularity or a smaller, niche audience. Two of this type are philosophy and theology. Nearly always for the books I read of this type, the ebook version is cheaper. Recent example: the excellent Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy: Kindle $28.99, new paper $42.97. Even some books in this category that would have a larger audience, for example the nonfiction works of C.S. Lewis on subjects like literary criticism, philosophy, or even some of his popular works on Christian theology, the ebook prices in the Signature Classics editions are often lower than the cheapest paperback editions, though not by much.
* Classic fiction works. Shakespeare, Dickens, et al, basically famous literary authors whose work is now in the public domain. To be clear, I'm not just talking about cheap or free editions like at Gutenberg, or even those 0.99 cent Kindle editions. I'm talking about better quality editions, with annotations, improved page layout, maybe even scholarly apparatus or introductory essays. Take Shakespeare's Complete Works, ed. Jonathan Bate, by the Royal Shakespeare Academy. Kindle $19.99, hardcover $50, no paperback version. That is a great cost savings. And more often than not, I see the ebook form of other quality literary works to have more reasonable pricing than the paper form. Just this morning, I saw a complete, modern nicely laid out version of T.S. Eliot's complete works, with notes, that's about $7 less for the ebook version than the most widely used hardcover edition (again, no paperback version of that edition currently available).
* Recipe books--at least the type we buy--always seem cheaper as ebooks.
* Technical books in computer science or programming. For these, at least the ones I read, the ebook form is cheaper nearly 100% of the time.

Overall, I don't have a lot of complaints about ebook pricing. Sure, getting a good deal is nice. But if it took some work for somebody to ensure that all those complex character dialogues, notes, etc, are properly linked and laid out in the ebook version of Shakespeare, I'm delighted to get all that goodness and only have to pay them $20 for it. Versus $50 for a hardcover edition that I cannot search, cannot annotate, cannot easily copy/paste passages into other apps, etc.

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Old 03-27-2019, 06:30 PM   #52
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Versus $50 for a hardcover edition that I cannot search, cannot annotate, cannot easily copy/paste passages into other apps, etc.
Will never get updated for free, will never get replaced for free if I misplace it, will slowly deteriorate over time, ...
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Old 03-27-2019, 06:59 PM   #53
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People can talk about value all they want, but it is also about costs, and ebooks cost far less to produce and provide than physical ones, and I'm not on this world to feed the fat cats.
Then I hope you buy all your electronics used. Because silicon valley executives make a heck of a lot more than book publishing execs. (Just as middling hardware engineers make a heck of a lot more than middling book authors.)

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For contextual purposes, I will also note that I don't care if someone else got a better deal than me on the same car.
I mostly agree with your approach in this thread but can't go that far
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Old 03-27-2019, 08:25 PM   #54
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My understanding of the data is that an ebook, on average, costs slightly less to produce than a pbook. Not "far less". The vast majority of book production costs are not printing.
Production is the part of the cost where the closest parity exists.

How much does an ebook cost to warehouse, how much does an ebook cost to ship? Tell us about personnel detailed to walk a shipment of ebooks through customs.

It is disingenuous to suggest those factors cause the balance to somehow shift in favor of ebooks costing as much as pbooks.

The conversation hasn't changed since I registered here
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Old 03-27-2019, 08:55 PM   #55
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Ah but when I buy an ebook I'm using my ink and my page (i.e. the ereader) so why should I have to pay more for the ebook version than I would if I were to buy a paper and ink version of the same book? That's the main crux of the problem for many of us I think.
I agree that it makes sense for ebooks to cost less than print books but we live in a capitalist system and free enterprise works by letting sellers try to get the highest price they can and buyers try to get the lowest price. Hopefully things level out. It doesn't always work and sometimes when it does work sometimes it takes a while. It does work a lot of the time though and that's about the best we can hope for.

Ebooks are still pretty new as mainstream and the publishers are resisting them with high prices. Their goal isn't so much as to make a lot on ebooks as to make us buy print books. Their problem is that if we all buy ebooks at lower prices they'll start making less money and nobody wants to make less money.

My hope is that this will level out in time as ebooks become more common.

An interesting parallel to this can be found in Booth Tarkington's 1919 Novel "The Magnificent Ambersons" when cars were just beginning to be popular and how they were resisted. It's a fascinating story. It's also the second ever Pulitzer Prize winner and it's well worth reading.

By the way, you can almost see another parallel in early online communication, in the days before the internet. When I bought my first 300 baud modem in the 1970s Ma Bell charged $50 a month surcharge simply to connect a modem to a phone line. Anyone caught not paying had their phone service disconnected permanently. I never knew this to happen to anyone but the phone company's literature made it very plain. I also never knew any private individual who paid it. There was no easy way for the phone company to tell.

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Old 03-27-2019, 09:01 PM   #56
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[QUOTE=asleyam;3824868If I buy the print version I get to own it. If I buy the ebook I get to borrow it, I don't actually 'own' it. Unless I misunderstand the whole legal thingy of ebook buying.[/QUOTE]

That's really just an illusion. In today's world if you buy an ebook you realistically own it even though you may not legally own it. When I get a book I make a backup and there's no way anyone could ever take it away from me.

Publishers and lawyers tell us that we're just buying licenses to read and that's legally true but it's also meaningless. If I buy it I own it for all practical purposes and they can say whatever they like.

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Old 03-27-2019, 09:07 PM   #57
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If you buy into an author and especially a series, things are not so easy, especially if an ongoing story and each book is an incomplete part of an ongoing whole. Take the author I have already mentioned, Robert Jordan. His Wheel Of Time series really needs to be read as a whole.
I don't read books that don't stand up by themselves. When I'm done with a book I'm done with it. If I have to remember something about it for another book I'm just not interested.

I realize that this means my way of looking at prices applies more to me than to you.

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Old 03-27-2019, 09:21 PM   #58
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I began buying paperback books in the mid 1950s and I just went to an inflation calculator to see how things have been going. In 1955 most new paperback books were 15 cents in Houston where I was living. Quite a few were a dime. A very thick book might have cost a quarter.

According to the inflation calculator 15 cents in 1955 would be $1.41 in today's money. However, paperbacks cost a lot more than that today.

So I think the bigger disparity is in the price of books in general. They've gotten way more expensive than inflation can account for. Compared to that the difference in ebooks and print books is small.

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Old 03-27-2019, 10:34 PM   #59
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We are rehashing this yet again. There is nothing new in this discussion, and people's views, including my own, have not changed.

I'm going to address the original Question posed. The Big 5 not only have an idea, but they have a strategy. They certainly do have a clue. I don't like their strategy nor do I agree with it. I think at times they have behaved stupidly, getting involved in the ebook conspiracy perhaps the most conspicuous of them. After taking control of prices through agency, they did experience some problems, and still seem to be experimenting with prices. However, they have extensive backlists which they can now monetise thanks to ebooks and POD. It's taken a while, but they have made great progress in making these titles available again as ebooks. They do indeed seem to charge high prices on some backlist titles, but then they do seem to be experimenting with these prices. I haven't looked personally but I would not be surprised to see a repeat of their strategy with new releases, where a just re-published backlist book is priced high initially, with later reductions. It is fair to say that some Big 5 pricing is actually competing with Indie pricing, but not when a book is newly released or re-released. Competitive prices come after a time or during sales. Certainly Harry's example of Dick Francis books for about $US5 are competing directly with Indie titles, and there are many more.

It seems to me that for the Big 5 to compete fully with Indies they would have to price comparably without regard to print sales. A print book at $US13 or $US14 with the ebook version at $US5 is likely to lead to increased sales of ebooks and ereaders and increased use of reading applications on phones and tablets. This has the potential to emasculate or at least cause significant damage to their still very profitable print book business over which they exercise significant control. Yes, they are losing initial ebook sales, but may well be recouping many of them later when the ebook prices come down. Their real risk would seem to be rampant piracy whilst their prices remain high. However, whilst such piracy does occur, it seems that the vast majority of readers are prepared to wait, and their business model remains viable.

There are many factors that I won't discuss here, but I do believe that the print book business will decline over time, though it will remain significant for the foreseeable future and will likely never completely die. I once thought differently, but having looked more deeply at the whole picture, I think the Big 5 is taking a rational and practical, if somewhat cynical in some aspects, approach to its pricing. And a continually evolving one.
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Old 03-28-2019, 07:39 AM   #60
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We are rehashing this yet again. There is nothing new in this discussion, and people's views, including my own, have not changed.

I'm going to address the original Question posed. The Big 5 not only have an idea, but they have a strategy. They certainly do have a clue. I don't like their strategy nor do I agree with it. I think at times they have behaved stupidly, getting involved in the ebook conspiracy perhaps the most conspicuous of them. After taking control of prices through agency, they did experience some problems, and still seem to be experimenting with prices. However, they have extensive backlists which they can now monetise thanks to ebooks and POD. It's taken a while, but they have made great progress in making these titles available again as ebooks. They do indeed seem to charge high prices on some backlist titles, but then they do seem to be experimenting with these prices. I haven't looked personally but I would not be surprised to see a repeat of their strategy with new releases, where a just re-published backlist book is priced high initially, with later reductions. It is fair to say that some Big 5 pricing is actually competing with Indie pricing, but not when a book is newly released or re-released. Competitive prices come after a time or during sales. Certainly Harry's example of Dick Francis books for about $US5 are competing directly with Indie titles, and there are many more.

It seems to me that for the Big 5 to compete fully with Indies they would have to price comparably without regard to print sales. A print book at $US13 or $US14 with the ebook version at $US5 is likely to lead to increased sales of ebooks and ereaders and increased use of reading applications on phones and tablets. This has the potential to emasculate or at least cause significant damage to their still very profitable print book business over which they exercise significant control. Yes, they are losing initial ebook sales, but may well be recouping many of them later when the ebook prices come down. Their real risk would seem to be rampant piracy whilst their prices remain high. However, whilst such piracy does occur, it seems that the vast majority of readers are prepared to wait, and their business model remains viable.

There are many factors that I won't discuss here, but I do believe that the print book business will decline over time, though it will remain significant for the foreseeable future and will likely never completely die. I once thought differently, but having looked more deeply at the whole picture, I think the Big 5 is taking a rational and practical, if somewhat cynical in some aspects, approach to its pricing. And a continually evolving one.
It frequently surprises me when some posters assume the publishing industry is full of idiots simply because they don't want to join in a race to the bottom and make books a commodity. The publishing industry is constantly experimenting with pricing trying to find that point that maximizes their profits (which I suspect can vary quite a bit depending on the specific book).

It's a very interesting new world with ebooks and backlist. I do wonder what the real world data is for how sales have been changed by ebooks and audiobooks, but we aren't likely going to find that out unless individual authors decide to share that information. I haven't run across anyone actually doing it since Scalzi did it with Redshirts and Lockout, and that's been a while.

Last edited by pwalker8; 03-28-2019 at 07:42 AM.
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