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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    niltiac (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 12:23am

    I think the snarky tone of the post and the comments is unnecessary and missing the point.

    There are genuine arguments on both sides.

    Here's a revolutionary idea: How about we let publishers set the wholesale price and retailers set the retail price?

    You guys are all acting like Amazon is the good guy here, but they are protecting their vested corporate interests just as much as publishers. Amazon wants low prices for e-books so it can sell Kindles.

    Publishers should have a right to set the wholesale price for e-books, just as they do with printed books. There's nothing to stop Amazon selling at a loss - that's exactly what big box stores did for the Harry Potter books - but it's unlikely they would choose to do that for every book.

    We don't really know what the market price for an e-book is because it's never been tested. Amazon decided that e-books should cost $9.95. As no one has ever experimented with other prices, we don't know whether some e-books would sell at higher (or lower prices).

    I suspect the reviewers on Amazon were reacting badly to the lack of availability of the book as much as anything else. And Amazon is just as much to blame for that as the publisher. The publisher would have likely made the e-book available if they'd been allowed to set the price they wanted. Consumers could choose not to buy but until the e-book goes on sale at $14.95 we're not going to know. I'd like to base any assessment of price strategy on actual sales rather than the online ranting of a subset of Amazon reviewers.

    And the author is right - consumers do have a sense of entitlement when they *demand* low prices. They have a right to vote with their wallet and if prices are really too high, no doubt prices will fall. It's supply and demand.

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