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. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 12 Feb 2010 @ 1:27pm

    Used Bookstore Prices.

    Well, traditionally, if you read widely, you found your way to the local used bookstore, because that was the only place you could afford to buy five hundred or a thousand books a year. At that level, if you wanted to use a library, you had to read in the library, spending hours a day there, rather than checking things out. It was not unlike websurfing. You became a connoisseur of the edibles available in the library's vending machine room (eg. refrigerated bologna and cheese sandwiches, oh yum, yum).

    As someone noted, a good used bookstore (or, more precisely, a good small used bookstore) tends to be a clubhouse,

    http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20100208/1834278091#c438

    and one might add that a really good used bookstore/clubhouse needs a resident cat. One of my favorite places, back circa 1990 (Granny's Used Books, Springfield, Oregon), was presided over by a black Persian named "Booker." He had the customers perfectly trained to open the door for him when he wanted in or out. As an old used bookstore habitue, I am accustomed to being ordered around by cats, but I am also accustomed to the idea that most paperback books ought not to cost more than a dollar or two.

    Nowadays, all the better pre-1923 books are available for free, via the Gutenberg Project, or Google, or the Internet Archive. The author who noisily insists that everyone has to pay for his book gets into the awkward position of claiming to be better than Shakespeare. So prove it!

    When you read that many books, you don't adulate many authors-- you develop critical sense, like a publisher's reader, laboring away at the slushpile. I suspect that this is what bothers a certain kind of author. A curious point: a lot of these authors who spend a lot of time arguing about their rights have never been to graduate school. The thing about liberal arts graduate school is that you get criticized-- a lot. The basic course is the seminar. Each week, someone presents something, and they go around the table, with everyone else trying to tear it to pieces. It's a form of blood sport, or cage fight. The better public blogs are, in effect, internet seminars. Anyway, if you go through the mill, you develop amazing capacities of self-criticism.

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