We recently wrote about how author Douglas Preston made the following comments in the NY Times about ebook pricing
"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.'"
We were among those who took offense at the comments, which suggested not an "entitlement" feeling from the American consumer, but from an author who didn't want to listen to what his fans and potential customers were telling him.
Of course, it looks like the backlash got even stronger following that quote in the NY Times. Robert Ring
alerts us to io9's coverage, saying that after the NYT's piece came out, Preston's book started getting one-star reviews on Amazon
, with many people mentioning the NY Times quote as a reason not to buy the book.
Preston and his co-author put out a note on their website
trying to calm people down, and when he spoke to io9, basically admitted that his original comments were a mistake, saying that his readers have convinced him that ebooks should be cheap. However, given that, he still feels there should be release windows, that put out the more expensive physical book first:
I think my comments were pretty stupid, to be frank. They came after a long month of being attacked by Kindle owners who blamed me personally for the fact that my publisher delayed the Kindle release for four months. I was frustrated and said some things to the New York Times reporter that did not reflect my actual views on the subject. I have been hearing back from many readers, some supporting my comments, many more criticizing them.
I think most readers feel strongly that an ebook, which they can't pass along to friends, can't add to their library, and which comes with DRM attached, should be considerably cheaper than a real book. And I would have to agree. The real question is when this cheap ebook should be made available. Studios don't release cheap DVDs the day a feature film is released, publishers don't release the cheap paperback the day a hardcover comes out. I'm not sure why consumers should expect a cheap ebook on the day of publication either.
Kudos to Preston for admitting his mistake, though I'm sure plenty of his fans and potential customers won't like the windowing suggestion either. Hopefully they can convince him that holding back what your fans want is almost never a good business model and has a high likelihood of backfiring. If publishers want to sell more expensive hardcover books, they should focus on making sure that the scarce value people get for the physical book is that much greater than the ebook version. That is, rather than limiting how you can connect with fans, publishers should focus on creating positive reasons why fans would want to buy the physical book.