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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Cheap at Twice the Price?

E-Book sales fall after new Amazon Contracts; the article in the Wall Street Journal (and posted at The Passive Voice) examines the recent sales figures in the wake of the recent negotiations between the corporate giant and the major publishers.

All is not well, the initial results show a downturn in sales, with books from the big five averaging over $10 compared to all the other 2015 e-books marked up at $4.95.
I'm having to do a bit of guesswork here, working the calculation that the reaction to spending $5 as opposed to $10 is similar to that between £5 and £10 in GB pounds. I'll quite cheerfully dug into the pocket for a £5 purchase, but £10, calls for a bit of thinking about. It is possible to find e-books priced the same as hardback, and higher than the paperback. The latest top 100 on Kindle shows no books priced above $10.

The publishers have new contracts with Amazon, and appear to have succeeded in preventing Amazon from dropping the prices, but the customer is sending a different message. They are not happy with the new prices and are pausing before dipping into the pocket.

Exactly why the e-book sales have dipped is hotly debated by the commercial publishers, to attribute it to the price increase may be oversimplifying the situation. Lacklustre titles are cited, but there are those who admit the new higher prices are cutting into sales. Hatchette have seen their e-book sales drop to 24% of revenue, down from 29% a year ago.

Jeffrey Trachtenberg, who penned the article described the pricing of e-books as the Goldilocks problem for the industry. I agree, hitting the sweet spot is difficult and not just for  the commercial publishers, Anyone tasked with setting the price of a book faces the same question.

The physical process of book production; prepublication, printing, binding, shipping and storage but a certain price band on any physical book,  but the situation is not the same for an e-book, and there lies the rub. Expecting someone to stump up the same for a physical book and an e-book is pushing it, and the readers are voting with their wallets. The lower priced books are selling and the higher priced titles are left behind.

One unnamed executive is quoted saying that pricing isn't the issue, a good title will sell, whatever the price, but his words are countered by the comments on the post, The top of the list strongly disagrees and the followers take up the thread, arguing that the lack of "physical" properties involved in an e-book should bring the price down. One comment described the expectation of physical and e-books at the same or even closely priced was an insult to customers; and the thread goes on.

Until the secondary authors arrive, Ronald Luks' comment on his exposure to many great and good secondary authors he's discovered through Amazon reveals another angle, perhaps the most significant. The lower priced independent and self-published titles hovering around the $5 mark, and not just through Kindle and Amazon, but a host of e-book retailers across the Internet, Apple, Kobo, Feedbooks, Smashwords, you may have a couple of your own favourites to add to the list.

The playing field has been ploughed up, No longer the lush  sward enjoyed by the commercial publishers, the independents have been digging and sowing their produce, and some have gathered a bumper harvest and been snapped up by the trade. The rest of us continue to plough our own furrow.

It's about choice. $5 (or less) for a cracking good read from an author new to you, or $10 plus for the next best seller from an established name?

Cheap at twice the price? Chaucer would have gone with cheap at half the price, In his day cheap referred to goods and property, and cheap at half the price was 50% off.

An e-book for under $5, or even $3.99, without a 50% discount!. The big five can charge what they think is appropriate and I'll do the same, without insulting you.

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