Not All of Us Drink a $4 Coffee, Mr. Weeks
It looks like a debate on ebook prices is about to break out again, and there are a number of points I can make about this.
First, it stands as an example of why you shouldn’t make off the cuff flippant remarks on Twitter. Brent has probably turned off a few potential readers with his temporary doucheyness.
Second, the reader need not worry; this is a Hachette title. This publisher was one of the 3 that settled with the DOJ over the price fixing conspiracy and that means that the price will be coming down before the end of the year.
I’d like to try to understand where he’s coming from but the fact he clearly doesn’t grasp the obvious disconnect between the work he put into the book and its market value makes that kinda hard.
With most authors there would be a subtext here which you cannot see in the tweet. As a traditionally published author, Brent has absolutely no control over the price of his ebook. I’m sure you knew that on some level, but when you add it to the fact that he likely gets dozens of emails like the one he references, you begin to understand why an author in his position tweeted a flippant response.
On the other hand, I hope he doesn’t ever go on Amazon and check the prices of. If he gets pissy because a reader doesn’t want to pay $13 for an ebook he’s liable to go into a screaming fit over his backlist being available for under $4 a copy in paper. And those are new copies, not used.
The ebooks, on the other hand, are all priced at $8 each. That says a lot about the screwed up priorities of the major publishers, doesn’t it?
Hachette is getting almost nothing from the $4 paper books; they’ve probably been remaindered. But those $8 ebooks are earning Hachette better than $5 a sale. What’s more, since the ebooks cannot be resold each is effectively a final sale. With that in mind, you gotta wonder why Hachette isn’t trying to convert paper book buyers to ebook buyers. Even if it were priced at $4, the ebook is worth more than the paper book.
And let’s keep looking at the price of a $4 paper book; there’s another detail you cannot see. Most of those books on Amazon cost $8 after shipping. They’re being sold by 3rd part sellers, so this means Amazon gets to take a commission without having to handle the book.
Here’s the interesting part: Amazon makes $3 from each sale. That’s more than Amazon would make off of the $8 ebook.
I’ve never liked high ebook prices, but until today I never really understood what a stupid idea they are, and on how many levels. By propping up the paper book market, Hachette is both leaving money on the table and putting more money into the coffers of Amazon.
If I were one of their authors I’d be more pissed at that than I would be annoyed by a reader. I know which one would be costing me money, and it’s not the reader.