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fivetoesten
10-01-2012, 07:41 PM
This just doesn't seem right.

How a third of bestselling ebooks cost MORE than the same title in hardback (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2211022/How-bestselling-ebooks-cost-MORE-title-hardback.html)

Torgo
10-01-2012, 07:57 PM
This just doesn't seem right.

How a third of bestselling ebooks cost MORE than the same title in hardback (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2211022/How-bestselling-ebooks-cost-MORE-title-hardback.html)

Maybe it doesn't seem right, but there are good reasons. I've been over at Amazon posting basically this on the comments for 1* reviews of the price (EDIT: of the new JKR), because it rather annoys me. Here's the first reason: printing and delivery costs have almost nothing to do with the retail price of a book.

Printing and distribution are cheap. They usually amount to about 10% of cover price. This book probably cost about a pound to print and to get into shops. Most of the money the publisher needs to make up has been spent on paying JK Rowling her advance (which will be enormous) and on editing and marketing it. The publisher's spent 90% of their costs before it even becomes an ebook or a print book, and then they're paying JKR presumably double royalties on the ebook edition, and paying the taxman VAT they wouldn't have to pay on the hardback.

Have you ever wondered why a hardback has twice the RRP of a paperback? It's not because the slightly heavier boards are made of platinum or blessed by the Pope. It's to maximise profit from people who want to buy the book earlier than the paperback edition - fans - and people who see extra value in a hardback first edition - collectors.

When the paperback edition comes out, the price on this will drop to match it. The only reason it's 12.99 at this point is to protect sales of the hardback edition, which has a higher margin for the publisher. It's exactly the same predictable price/format windowing people have somehow not seem fit to complain about until now in terms of paperback editions; which reveals a common misconception that the cost of a book is about the physical materials used to produce it. Again, it's not.

Here's the other thing: ebooks do often cost more than hardback books in terms of what the consumer pays. But only the former is under the control of the publisher. Little, Brown put The Casual Vacancy out at 20 in hardback and 12 in ebook. The fact that retailers then choose to slash the hardback price to, say, 9, is nothing to do with anyone except the retailer.

veinglory
10-01-2012, 08:01 PM
I think retailers should include ebooks on discounts, but you cant make them.

When it comes to selling ebooks and print at the same base price, I think it could be argued either way.

Torgo
10-01-2012, 08:06 PM
I think retailers should include ebooks on discounts, but you cant make them.

When it comes to selling ebooks and print at the same base price, I think it could be argued either way.

Where the ebook is agency priced, the retailer can't change what it retails for. Amazon's now-standard tactic in response is to cut the price of the print edition to less than the agency ebook price. This then leads to a flock of 1* reviews complaining about greed and how downloads should always be cheaper. These will clearly be in breach of Amazon's reviews policy, but they will never be removed; it's intended to punish and bully authors and publishers.

victoriastrauss
10-01-2012, 09:15 PM
Where the ebook is agency priced, the retailer can't change what it retails for. Amazon's now-standard tactic in response is to cut the price of the print edition to less than the agency ebook price. This then leads to a flock of 1* reviews complaining about greed and how downloads should always be cheaper.

Exactly. It's about competing retail models: agency for ebooks, wholesale for print. If you look at the list prices of the books, rather than the prices they're being sold for on Amazon, you'll have a better basis for comparison.

- Victoria

leahzero
10-01-2012, 10:16 PM
Where the ebook is agency priced, the retailer can't change what it retails for. Amazon's now-standard tactic in response is to cut the price of the print edition to less than the agency ebook price. This then leads to a flock of 1* reviews complaining about greed and how downloads should always be cheaper. These will clearly be in breach of Amazon's reviews policy, but they will never be removed; it's intended to punish and bully authors and publishers.

This.

But we can't really blame uninformed consumers who don't realize that Amazon is deeply discounting the print version, while being unable to touch the ebook price.

Either way, Amazon wins...again.

Torgo
10-01-2012, 10:20 PM
This.

But we can't really blame uninformed consumers who don't realize that Amazon is deeply discounting the print version, while being unable to touch the ebook price.

Either way, Amazon wins...again.

I don't blame them for not understanding the tangled economics of publishing... It's why, if I see one these days, I pop a comment on the review explaining what's going on.

What I do blame them for is writing a review of the price, usually when they haven't read the book. That's really not good behaviour.

Jamesaritchie
10-01-2012, 10:23 PM
I don't think steep discounts offer a fair comparison, or, for that matter, are good for anyone, except Amazon, in the long run.

James D. Macdonald
10-02-2012, 04:48 PM
Amazon is trying to burn down publishing so that they can rule the ashes.

Sam Argent
10-03-2012, 05:55 AM
I don't blame them for not understanding the tangled economics of publishing... It's why, if I see one these days, I pop a comment on the review explaining what's going on.

What I do blame them for is writing a review of the price, usually when they haven't read the book. That's really not good behaviour.

The colored part is my problem with ebook pricing. If it's too complicated to explain to consumers, why are they going to pay higher prices?

fadeaccompli
10-03-2012, 07:08 AM
The colored part is my problem with ebook pricing. If it's too complicated to explain to consumers, why are they going to pay higher prices?

I pay higher prices because I like having the immediate delivery, convenience (and light weight!) of reading the book on my phone, no shipping charges or need to travel to get the book, and less space in my house taken by books.

But I am one consumer; I'm sure opinions and reasons will vary.

Atarrin
10-03-2012, 07:49 AM
No matter the justification, if the eBook is not significantly cheaper, I'll go with the hardcover. Half-price Books doesn't give you cash back for eBooks.

JSSchley
10-03-2012, 08:42 AM
Exactly. It's about competing retail models: agency for ebooks, wholesale for print. If you look at the list prices of the books, rather than the prices they're being sold for on Amazon, you'll have a better basis for comparison.

- Victoria

Exactly. I hate explaining this to people. If a print book is being sold at or near wholesale, the ebook is going to either cost more or cost very close to the same price. We had this same problem with STEVE JOBS.

THE CASUAL VACANCY is $35. That's the price to compare the $18 (i.e., nearly 50% discount) ebook to. In a few months, TCV will fall off the bestsellers, and it will sell for significantly more than the ebook.

Now, I do think ebooks should be discounted, and significantly, and not because of printing. I think the publishers owe some of the gains for not having to worry about a 25%-40% reserve against returns, not having to pay a penny per year for each copy in the warehouse, and the fact that an ebook is an extremely limited format--you can't lend it to your friend in any real appreciable way, nor can you re-sell it. Those things, to me, warrant a discount...

...but in almost all cases, a significant discount off the list price of the book has already been given.

Torgo
10-03-2012, 01:34 PM
The colored part is my problem with ebook pricing. If it's too complicated to explain to consumers, why are they going to pay higher prices?

It's not too complicated to explain; we just haven't hitherto needed to. I now find myself explaining it a lot to people who have a naive conception of the pricing of cultural products.

It's an odd thing, a book - it's enough of a beautiful object that people tend to fixate on the physical side of it, more than they would with a CD or a cinema ticket. The money spent on intangibles is largely invisible where books are concerned.

Torgo
10-03-2012, 01:43 PM
Now, I do think ebooks should be discounted, and significantly, and not because of printing. I think the publishers owe some of the gains for not having to worry about a 25%-40% reserve against returns, not having to pay a penny per year for each copy in the warehouse, and the fact that an ebook is an extremely limited format--you can't lend it to your friend in any real appreciable way, nor can you re-sell it. Those things, to me, warrant a discount...

I agree up to a point. The limited rights package certainly, to me, warrants a discount. You're also right that we don't need to worry about returns or warehousing, reflecting the way ebooks diverge from print - it's great that, once you've made your setup costs back, there's no risk and little work involved in selling them. (The lower risk, though, tends to be counterbalanced by paying bigger royalties to the author.)

I'd be interested to try this: the ebook is released with the hardback, but the former is only available when you buy the latter. Some months later, the paperback is released, and the ebook is then made available at the paperback list price minus, say, 1; and perhaps a DRM-free ebook available direct from the publisher at the paperback list price.