walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

a bit, alright, a helluva lot more about e-books

Beginning with a link, forwarded to me by R. (he actually sent me the yahoo finance version, but it is this article):


Consumers of e-books are not happy about the publishers "successfully" raising prices, er, moving to an agency model. Various consumers are interviewed complaining about specific instances of books which in paper form are remaindered but are still charging more than $9.99 online. Publishers "argue that new e-book shoppers will welcome the chance to buy digital editions at a level significantly lower than the typical price tag on a hardcover book."

I understand we won't know what the next wave of adopters are going to think of the agency model and its prices in practice (because, after all, we don't pay some "agency model"; we pay a price). Here's where I start to get annoyed, because this is a publisher and he is patronizing me:

{quote begins here} “There are people who don’t always understand what goes into an author writing and an editor editing and a publishing house with hundreds of men and women working on these books,” said Mark Gompertz, executive vice president of digital publishing at Simon & Schuster. “If you want something that has no quality to it, fine, but we’re out to bring out things of quality, regardless of what type of book it is.”{quote ends here}

I'm going to segue away from the NYT article at this point, but I may come back to it, depending on just how angry I'm still feeeling about Mr. Gompertz and his ilk. I have plans for Mr. Gompertz and his ilk.

Recently, I posted about putting together a spreadsheet of my most recent 12 months of book purchases, half of which were from imprints of the big 6, of which Simon & Schuster was not in the top 3 for my purchases, nor is it in the top 3 for market share, which I posted about separately. I can't speak to "quality" -- I can speak to whether I like it well enough to buy it, and whether other people do, too, and Simon & Schuster presumably cares about that. Might be an incorrect presumption, but hey. Oh, and they don't do that great on the NYT bestseller lists, either. Someone might want to point some or all of this out to CBS at some point.

Earlier than that, in a comment on another post about the very rapid transition to e-reading causing major problems for trade publishers, my friend P. suggested that if the publishers jack the price to try to slow that down they risk having some e-publishers come in and eat their cake. At the time, I was skeptical. Ignoring for the moment the fact that many name publishers are locked into long term contracts, it's so hard to take that big step away from the security of the big 6 after having worked so damn hard to get there that it was difficult for me to imagine that could happen en masse.

But P.'s remark stuck with me over the ensuing weeks, and I keep arguing with it in my head and I keep losing the argument. Really, the only question is whether I can successfully find books that satisfy my reading desires through sources other than the big 6. I've made big changes in my reading habits before when I became dissatisfied; there's no reason I couldn't make big changes again. And if I can find enough books that I like to read from somewhere other than the big 6, my spreadsheet matched against big 6 market share suggests that in general, the rest of the market could, too. I am not unrepresentative.

I have read e-published books without a print edition. The most recent example was _Liberating Lacey_, which I discovered through a favorable review over on SBTB. I knew, in general, about Ellora's Cave and Samhain. I knew that e-publishing did more than just romances, but I wasn't sure how to go about finding it. A little googling found a directory of "legit" e-publishers (they pay royalties and don't demand cash from the author to subsidize publication):


But wandering around epublisher websites wasn't inspiring me. However on one website (forgot which), one book was listed as having one an Eppie, and that reminded me that there had been epublishing awards for a few years now, which I had forgotten.


From this link, you can look through 10 (and 1 more of nominees) years of Eppie winners, in recent years including nominees, and finely sorted by genre (and subgenre). Yes, erotica remains a big component -- if you shove something to the margins, it'll be the first to adopt a new way of doing things, because they aren't as bought into (or sold out to) the old way. But there's a lot to go around. Many recent winners and nominees are available on the kindle (with favorable customer reviews) for under $5; more for under $10. I bought 5 and I'm not done shopping. That's just the first cut -- many of these books are by authors who have written a lot, so if I like one or more, I've hit gold. This gets me some sense of which epublishers are picking what kind of work, and that's helpful, too. And I'll start to get a sense of what the review quality is of people who have already made the switch to e-published fiction. And they're out there:


If you read a lot, and the library isn't getting it done for you, and you're strapped for cash to support your habit, $5 and under is compelling.

That's what I was going to write about, before my dear husband sent me that NYT article, in which Mr. Preston (yup -- I've mentioned him before) says:

“The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing,” said Douglas Preston...It’s this notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something.” (I left out the big about Wal-Mart, because really, Preston is making himself waaaayyyy too rich a target here.) Perhaps, after I've read my recent purchases (or, alternatively, decided they are too awful to continue with), I'll have a better understanding of why Mr. Preston deserves more money than, say, Kate Willoughby, Marie-Nicole Ryan, M.J. Fredrick, Phoebe Matthews or Shannah Biondine. The good news for me is that at least those authors have decent odds of meeting one of my first cuts for spending time with a new author: woman?

Mr. Preston goes on:

“It gives me pause when I get 50 e-mails saying ‘I’m never buying one of your books ever again. I’m moving on, you greedy, greedy author.”‘

Nice to know you're paying some attention, Mr. Preston. If you don't have anyone buying your books at any price, you may be looking for a new gig. Then again, perhaps you've made your nut and could just retire and do whatever it is retired people do (me, I spend it reading, keeping small children alive -- things like that. I understand some retired people have time for golf.).

There's some discussion about how other things compete for the book-dollar, altho, sadly, no one mentions beer. We must have lost all the beer-or-book people long ago. Then a comment about piracy, and limited time-budgets. Publishers are all happy that _they_ get to experiment with price points, which is basically the point at which I realize _they are morons_. They _seriously_ think they're going to find a better price point than _Amazon_? Ah ha ha ha ha ha. Oh, that's really funny. It gets better.

{quote begins here}“We may introduce a book at $14.95 for a year and then move the book to $9.99 when we would have put out the trade paperback edition,” said Dominique Raccah, chief executive of Sourcebooks, an independent publisher.{quote ends here}

I didn't recognize Sourcebooks, but I was prepared to cut them some slack -- they're an indie, and I had a general policy in place before the Macmillan v. Amazon showdown that indie and academic publishers got to charge more on the premise that their markets were smaller. So I went to their website to find out what they sell.


The good news is the first 8 books appear to be relatively recent publications. The less good news is that as you continue, there's a shocking amount of Georgette Heyer in the top 25. I _love_ Georgette Heyer. I really do! Possibly my favorite romance author of all time, despite the complete and utter lack of sex. But she has been dead for decades. Worse news: several other titles are spinoffs/homages/sequels to Jane Austen's works. Yeesh. Also, more than one baby names book. Good luck, Sourcebooks, with your pricing experiments. You clearly have a theory about who your market it. And let's just say, it's not me.

At the end of all this ranting, I maintain some of what I said earlier:

(1) The publishers taking the hit for raising prices for e-books to a more stable level is good for Amazon. They don't get blamed, and they get to actually make money.

(2) A lot of readers who were paying hardcover prices aren't going to give a rat's ass about $9.99 vs. $13.99 vs. $15.99. Even if they could get it cheaper in paper (remaindered or used or whatever), the convenience of not having those stacks of books to dispose of may just keep them paying what the big 6 choose to charge, as long as it is not significantly more than commonly available discounting on the hardcover at the time of release -- that could lose them some customers.

(3) I still don't know how hard it's going to be to find e-published only books that satisfy my reading desires. But I will soon.

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