Author Claims $9.99 Is Not A 'Real Price' For Books

from the oh-really? dept

The NY Times is running an article about how publishers' recent attempts (mostly successful) to boost the retail price of ebooks may backfire really badly as consumers revolt. Most of it is not particularly new to regular readers here, but it does talk to one author whose book received bad reviews on Amazon after his publisher decided to hold off releasing an ebook, hoping that it would "protect" hardcover sales. The author, Douglas Preston, lashes out and attacks his fans, rather than being willing to admit that his customers are telling him something:
"The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing.... It's the Wal-Mart mentality, which in my view is very unhealthy for our country. It's this notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something.... 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.'"
So, what's a bigger sense of entitlement? The one where your customers tell you that you've priced something too high and that they're going to spend their money with others who are offering something at a price point they like? Or the one where you insist that books have to be priced high because you want them to be priced high? I'd argue it's the latter... Along those lines, $9.99 is a real price. Just because you don't like what the market decides a book is worth, doesn't mean that it's not a real price.

Filed Under: books, douglas preston, ebooks, entitlement, pricing


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  1. icon
    Justin Maloney (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:14pm

    What is a real price

    A real price is basically whatever the consumer is willing to pay for it (its perceived value). The debate comes when there is a difference between what the consumers perceived value and the producers bottom line. A producer normally (but not always) sets their bottom line at the total cost divided by the total number of units they want to sell (essentially break even). It all gets much more complicated than this as you argue about what constitutes fair costs to include and you then increase those costs by trying to increase the perceived value (promoting the product).

    Pricing is also a living thing, it keeps evolving - especially as perceptions of value and base line costs keep changing.

    The advent of ebooks makes things hard as printing and distribution are two major cost factors in working out your base line cost (and therefore what you think a real price should be). If everyone buys ebooks the cost is only lower if you never printed or shipped any paper copies, if you still printed then your overall costs are about the same. Encouraging people to ebooks doesnt help that much as you still need to print, and with printing its not a linear cost, doing 1/2 the number of books might make costs go up 4-5x.

    So thats why print companies hate it. Many authors dont like it because they may be locked into contracts with printers which ensure the printer doesnt lose out if the costs overrun... the author loses.

    So there are two sides to the story, and context to the comment about real price is important. Having said that, at the end of the day, consumers (and competition) decide if $9.99 is a real price or not. If it is then some authors will lose out for a while until they adapt to the new model.

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