(Before I get to today's post, I want to take a moment to thank all the men and women who have given their lives in the service of their country. Tomorrow is Memorial Day here in the U.S. I tip my hat and offer my sincerest thanks and prayers to those who have served, those who are currently serving and to their families and loved ones. Thank you.)
Anyone who has a Kindle, or who has been following the never-ending saga of the Agency Model proposed by certain publishers, knows that Amazon and Penguin Books have finally come to an agreement. The terms of this agreement haven't been released. All we know for sure is that Penguin books published since April 1st are finally appearing in the Kindle store. Oh, we know one more thing -- a number of these books have prices that aren't just surprising, they are absolutely unbelievable.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is now available as an e-book. Now, my first question about this is that it is advertised as the "Centennial Ed. HC) edition. Well, last time I looked, a book on the kindle was made up of nothing but a bunch of electrons and was not -- could not -- be hard cover. But it gets worse. The Kindle version is listed at $27.99. Yes, that's right, $27.99. Now, I have to wonder what Penguin Publishing was thinking when they set this price since the school & library binding version is $14.88, the tpb is $15.82, mmp is $9.99, the audio version is $23.07.
Okay, maybe this is just a fluke and Penguin hasn't completely lost its corporate mind. So let's look at some others. The Help by Kathryn Stockett has been out for almost a year and a half. That means it is out in paperback at $10.20. The Kindle version -- $12.99. According to Kindle Nation Daily, this is $3.00 more than it had been offered in the Kindle store prior to the Agency Model blowup. (Check out the KND post. It has a lot of good information not only about the possibility Penguin is giving Apple preferential pricing but also how we, as consumers, can let our voices be heard.)
Jim Butcher's Changes, which is offered as a hard cover at $10.95 by Amazon is being sold as an e-book by Penguin for $12.99. This is $3.00 more than the paperback price announced for the same book. (In fairness, I'll note here that the pb won't be out until next year.)
One more example: Sue Grafton's U is for Undertow has been out since December. I can buy the hard cover from Amazon for $18.45 -- less than that if I buy from one of the Amazon associates and not Amazon itself. Yet, if I want the Kindle version, I'll have to pay $14.99. This is almost twice as much as they will be selling the pb version when it comes out later this year.
To be fair, this oddity in pricing isn't reflected in every Kindle book being released by Penguin. Sarah's No Will But His is listed at $9.99 for the Kindle and the tpb is being sold for $10.20. That is reasonable for an e-book being released at the same time (relatively speaking) as the tpb or hard cover.
If you think Penguin is only trying to slow down the sale of e-books, think again. In my opinion, to kill those sales, check out this article. Penguin's David Shanks says this about e-books: "more than 90%" of the business was still in paper. "We need to protect as long as we can the apparatus that sells physical books." While I agree that we need to promote bookstores and find a way to let them remain in business -- especially the independents -- you can't put the genie of e-books back into bottle, no matter what the publishers want.
To me, this paragraph sums it all up: In the end, while Prichard spoke of ours being "one of the most exciting times," Galassi [Jonathan Galassi from Farrar, Straus and Giroux] spoke of it being a "scary time".
Unfortunately, it is scary for all of us, and for authors in particular, because of the way publishers are burying their heads in the sand and, on the whole, refusing to adapt to new demands and desires from their readers, new technology and changing times.
So, what is your tipping point on prices for e-books. How much will you pay and why?