The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 125): Panel Discussion of eBook Pricing

In episode 125 of the Hugo Nominated SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester asks our irregulars to weigh in on: eBook Pricing!

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10 thoughts on “The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 125): Panel Discussion of eBook Pricing”

  1. How many books is a “high print run”? And how many author’s have such a run? It is my belief that most authors are “mid-list” and only justify a big print run over years (which inventory accunting, tax laws and the like kills these days).

  2. The price of a book has shifted over the decades/centuries. It will continue to shift and change. So has/will the industry itself. The flaw the major publishing companies are falling into is a belief that the industry as it is/was now is how it has always been and “should” always be.

    Has nobody mentioned that none of these companies are losing money. NONE OF THEM. Profits may be down, but they are still raking in millions of dollars in profits. Profits are after the money given to authors. Profits are after overhead. Profits are after all the other expenses. So why am I subsidizing executive profit sharing by paying the same for an ebook as I do for a hardcover? Please…these companies cry poverty when they are not poor.

    Take Hachette – their profits were down in 2010 mostly b/c of a decline in sales of the Twilight books. Not b/c people were buying cheaper ebooks. Not b/c of ebook pricing. They said in their own press releases that it was largely b/c people had already bought all the Twilight books and they weren’t seeing massive explosion there. And they still made a 250 million Euro profit. PROFIT.

    This all gets to these companies just refusing to adapt to changes in what the public is willing to pay for entertainment items. The recording industry failed to adapt that people wanted to download individual tracks of albums…and didn’t want to spend $20 on a new album. So people went to the only other avenue…Napster. Napster gave the recording companies the chance to settle…become a subscription service with ads…accept smaller profits, but still profits. Instead, they sued and won. And people, who had decided that music needed to cost less…scattered to the winds. And in the end…what has the recording industry had to do? They’ve had to accept that the price of a digital copy of music is less than what they’d like – itunes and other services have more or less been able to dictate pricing to them b/c they came to them at a point of absolute weakness. And they didn’t make that mistake a second time when streaming services came along…instead…this time they learned their lesson and accepted a share. They accepted that the public’s pricing wasn’t theirs…and the choice was accept a smaller piece of the giant pie, or else accept none.

    B/c people WILL go elsewhere. That is the lesson the publishing companies are failing at. People don’t want to spend the prices they’re charging. And if you don’t accept that your pricing has to evolve…it will be forced upon you.

  3. Interesting discussion. Myself, I don’t necessarily mind paying $13 for an ebook, but at that price point I won’t stockpile like I do with paper books — I’ll just buy it if it’s the book I’m actually ready to start reading.

    The other issue at the moment, I think, is that if you buy a Kindle or a Nook, you’re pretty much locked into Amazon or B&N (or buying direct from publishers, which I think is more trouble than most people are willing to go to). If you have a Nook, it doesn’t matter how much better the Amazon store experience is — you won’t be able to read anything from the Amazon store. Or conversely, I see the new Nook Glow and think, “Hey, that’s kind of a cool idea,” but because I already own a Kindle and have spent a not-insignificant amount of money buying ebooks from Amazon, I’m not going to get the Glow because none of my books would move to the new platform, at least without jumping through all kinds of hoops.

    1. @Joe: “The other issue at the moment, I think, is that if you buy a Kindle or a Nook, you’re pretty much locked into Amazon or B&N (or buying direct from publishers, which I think is more trouble than most people are willing to go to). If you have a Nook, it doesn’t matter how much better the Amazon store experience is — you won’t be able to read anything from the Amazon store. Or conversely, I see the new Nook Glow and think, “Hey, that’s kind of a cool idea,” but because I already own a Kindle and have spent a not-insignificant amount of money buying ebooks from Amazon, I’m not going to get the Glow because none of my books would move to the new platform, at least without jumping through all kinds of hoops.”

      Assuming the work is not DRM’d, Calibre will translate from one format to another. Or you can read the book in Calibre. Or you can download Amazon’s free reader to your Mac or PC and read it there. There is no ‘one-click’ translator, but you can translate from one format to another.
      http://calibre-ebook.com/ (It’s free.)

      1. Yeah, I know there are was around most of these things if I really put my mind to it. I’ve used Calibre to translate files into Kindle format (from publishers who only sell in EPUB) and I’m certain most or all of the people involved in these discussions are more than capable of doing the same thing. But I think most average consumers, once they buy a Kindle or a Nook, are going to be pretty much locked into the ecosystem, at least until we get something closer to the music business, with non-DRM’ed files and a single universal format or format-agnostic third-party devices. (My attitude might be different if I actually had some kind of smart phone and could download multiple reader apps. But even then I wouldn’t necessarily have everything in a single list.)

  4. So many things…

    I thought of so many things while listening…

    1- I would like to congratulate Obama for finally coming around to Dick Cheney’s position on gay marriage.

    2- Baen is using the “crack dealer” business model. They will give you the first taste for free (either through their free library or through various CDs they have distributed over the years -available online at Fifth Imperium- sure you may have to format them but it takes 10 secs in calibre), and they keep their standard product very reasonably priced…but if you have to have that hit right NOW, they will sell you an ebook (err eARC) before the release date of the hardback for many titles, but it will cost you…

    I am surprised that more publishers havent decided to go “baen” and cut out Amazon and others from the ebook supply chain…after all is amazon (or B&N, or etc) really necessary for ebooks? other than functioning sorta like a poor man’s marketing?

    3- “All money has to flow to the author” is very problematic, and it is becoming very dated. Sure in its context it is a nice piece of advice, but way too many people dont understand that context. So they apply it to everything. Which is a mistake.

    What authors, or really anyone producing and selling something, is the dedicated buyer. If that takes the author shelling out money (for marketing, editing, or travel), or giving away product, then that is what must be done. Look at the webcomic model, most give away their “product” everyday but they make their money by having people willing to buy ancillary things, be it hard copies of the comic, or plushies, or whatever. Of course they have to have a good number of dedicated followers to achieve prosperity. But that is true in any business.

    I guess what I am saying, is that authors probably need to dump the idea that they can sit there and spit out words and expect the money to only flow one way. They have to become business people. (note I am not saying that authors have to give away all their writing, but they cant view using “free” as something that cant lead to money)

    The world is a dog eat dog place, and the lazy dog on who does nothing but sit on the porch waiting for somebody to feed it after its master has died will either starve or become breakfast.

    4- Patrick’s tractor analogy…yeah, welcome to the world of agriculture finance.

    5- Amazon has pulled more than 1984 from people’s kindles, and there were other issues involved with them cancelling people’s accounts (and subsequent loss of access to stored ebooks)over non ebook issues. I also dont like being locked into a propietary format. Those things caused me to not trust them…In other words, I feel that Amazon’s business model has been draconian enough I should see Pamela Hensley in a bikini on their “about us” page…

    6- Finally, an ebook is worth whatever a person is willing to pay for it. Same as a dead tree…

  5. A good episode. As someone who has both self-published and traditionally published I may be a bit closer to some of the topic you guys discussed. A few things to mention.

    * As to “doing both” – sounds great in theory but in general publishers don’t like authors releasing any books that aren’t with them – it doesn’t matter if it is with another publisher or through self-publishing so the authors have to be VERY careful about the language in their contracts related to non-compete, next title options, and author warrantees.

    * I don’t think I’ve ever seen the “publisher” set the price higher than an ebook – what generally happens is a hardcover is priced at $25.00 the ebook is set at $13.99 and then Amazon discounts the hardcover to say $12.99. The publisher has no control over what discount Amazon applies. Now that being said…I don’t think ebooks should be priced more than $9.99 (unless it is an omnibus).

    * It was mentioned that we are still in the same place we were two years ago – but I don’t think we are. If you follow the kindle epic bestseller list it runs about 50% self-published authors and 50% traditionally published authors. This was definitely not the case 2 years ago. Also we are seeing migration both ways in the self/trad routes. People like myself, H.P. Mallory, and Anthony Ryan are signing with traditional, while others like Terry Goodkind and Brandon Sanderson are doing some self-publishing.

    * I think the “future” will be in the hands of the hybrid authors. Those that do both traditional and self-published works. Traditional releases are priced higher and have long lead times, but an author can easily slide in a few self-published works while the traditionally published ones are making it to their time in the editorial calendar. I’m not a fan of the $2.99 or $0.99, but my self-pubished books sold well at $4.95 and $6.95 and at that price they should pull in a nice set of “new readers” that will then eventually want to try out all books of the author if they like them.

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