Saturday, May 23, 2009

The high cost of electrons

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence.
You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.

.....Abraham Lincoln

Amazon Kindle readers are balking at the cost of David Baldacci's latest book, First Family. As a reviewer, I don't have to worry about the price, but as a fan, I have to say that Mr. Baldacci's response that an E-book's lower price " not sustainable" is about as bright as saying that a paperback book should cost as much as the hardcover. In the New York Times article Carolyn Reidy of Simon & Shuster argues that “What a consumer is buying is the content, not necessarily the format.” Would that not also hold true for the paperback version? The content is the same, but the format is smaller and less expensive to produce, and it is cheaper. As an E-book that eliminates the need for paper and shelf space, should not the price be commensurately lower, especially when considering that the only cost for production is selling a file that is already formatted for downloading?

What the argument boils down to is revenue. If publishers don't make money, then authors don't make money and lucrative publishing deals won't be made or offered. Bigger prices mean the author will earn back his advance and the publisher will make money and be able to offer a best selling author another big, or even bigger, advance for the next book. It's a crap shoot that depends on name recognition and often fickle fans .

Which is worth more, a book that sells for $1000 that only one person will buy or one that sells for $1 that a thousand people buy?

When it comes down to numbers, it costs less to produce paperbacks and even less to produce an E-book and the price should reflect that. Granted, the E-book has a limited appeal to some people, but it took a while for record companies to realize that pricing a downloadable album or single at the same price as the disk and jewel case would not fly . . . and it didn't.

This is an issue that affects me as well since my novel will be released as a paperback and an E-book and will be available for Kindle and E-book readers. A lower price means more people will buy the book and, although the royalties will be lower, getting the book into more hands is preferable to the book being priced out of the market. I'd rather sell a thousand books at $1 than one book at $1000 because the thousand who bought will likely buy another thousand books when a new novel is released. The idea of 999 books being remaindered gives me nightmares of bargain tables stacked selling my book at a penny a pop. Sometimes greed must take a back seat to common sense. What authors lose in immediate revenue will be made up in numbers and those numbers translate to actual readers that put authors on the best seller lists, and that is a bankable commodity. Want to lose money, make sure to piss off the fans and they will find someone else's books to buy. What authors and publishers should focus on is a sustainable fan base. Publishers and authors will find it difficult to sustain anything when books are priced out of the market.

In the current economic climate books will quickly become a luxury item as the cost of producing hardcover and paperback books will continue to rise. Getting books into the hands of readers is the ultimate goal of every author and publisher. Making books affordable and immediately available is the only way to weather the economic storm.

That is all. Disperse.

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