Monday 22 August 2011

Death of a Salesman - Legacy Publishers and eBook Pricing

 Looking through the Kobo site, I noticed a strange thing - the prices are upside down.
As an example, Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Objective (Okay, it’s really Eric Van Lustbader’s work at this point) sells for $14.99 as an eBook.  In a world where the vast majority of self published eBook authors are trending towards the magic $2.99 price point, this seemed like a real kick in the teeth. Out of curiosity, I decided to check what a paperback would cost. Going to their main site, I was stunned to see that the paper back retails for $10.00 – 67% of the eBook price. On the face of it, this doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Then I remembered David Gaughran’s analysis in let’s Get Digital. The big publishers are trying to protect the sales of their physical books. That means you pay for paper, printing, distribution and sales outlet overhead even when you’re simply downloading a copy of the file off their server.

So, what does this mean for the major publishers? With the deep discounts on physical books and the prohibitively high pricing on eBooks, it doesn’t seem like much will be left for the author. How long before the Van Lustbaders of the writing world look at the money they could be making if they left the big firms? It’s not like they need the ‘marketing reach’ of the traditional publishing houses. They are already known brands. They could move their stories as eBooks far more effectively if they weren’t up against the pricing policies of their publishers.
Having worked for a company with yearly revenues of more than $35 Billion, I have witnessed some breathtakingly bad decisions. The logic may have worked within the confines of the decision, but it often failed to account for the company’s health as a whole. This may be happening now with the big firms. They think chasing everyone away from the lifeboats will save the ship but there really is no saving the ship – those lifeboats are their future. Maybe it’s not the final straw for the legacy publishers, but it could be one of the nails in their coffins.
How long before we start to see an exodus of major authors?

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