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Rome Is Burning…Pull Up A Chair

March 31, 2010

Just as I was getting ready for bed last night, I saw this post tweeted by Jane from Dear Author.  In a nutshell, retailers are being forced to end their loyalty and rewards programs as regards e-book purchases.  I had seen something about this regarding Kobo, which I’d never heard of before last week anyway, but I was SHOCKED to find that Fictionwise is discontinuing the Buywise Club, of which I am a member.  Way to notify your customers Fictionwise (as in, they didn’t, other than posting a link to this announcement–which you have to DIG for because you’re actually trying to BUY a Buywise Club membership:

The Fictionwise Buywise Club can no longer be renewed and new subscriptions are no longer available. All existing Buywise Club members may continue to use their benefits until their memberships expire.

– The Fictionwise Team

It’s all Apple’s fault.  According to D.A., they are

determining a price range for books so publishers aren’t truly able to set their prices independently. What publishers are doing is engaging in retail price maintenance, forcing all retailers to price the books exactly the same. Further, this won’t increase new entrants into the market because small competitors can’t afford host/serve the books themselves which is what they would have to do now that the “Agency 5″ are requiring the digital distributor and the retailer to share in a 30% commission.

As a newb to the ebook thing, I find the whole thing very confusing.  But here’s what I think it means: Ebooks from these Big 5 publishers (and I can’t even get a definitive list on who they ARE–HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon and Schuster, and I’m not sure who else since Random House is being sensible and opting out of this insanity) are going to be set at a price point of $12.99 or higher.  Oh and of course those insanely priced ebooks are going to be covered in DRM because the price itself doesn’t punish the consumer enough.

I’m sorry, but they are smoking something if they think I’m going to pay such a price for an ebook.  I wouldn’t pay Amazon’s $9.99 Kindle price either, even if I had a Kindle.  I top out around $7 in terms of what I’m willing to pay for an ebook–the same thing I’d pay for a brand new paperback.  Now if this lunacy was actually about making sure that the AUTHORS got more royalties from ebook sales, I might consider making a select few purchases to support my favorite authors.  But naturally, that’s not the case.  In fact, it appears that the authors are getting even less of a cut from ebook sales than they do from the hardback and paperbacks.  Apparently publishers don’t grasp the concept that without the authors THEY HAVE NO PRODUCT.

In our lousy economy, people, for the most part, cannot afford $12.99 for an ebook.  Actually, that aside, most people can’t afford an ereader either.  But a lot of folks seem to have them anyway, even if it’s just their Smartphone.  So this insane price point (which is insane because you do not have the costs of paper, printing, warehousing, etc. that go into determining the price of dead tree books), is only going to promote piracy in a Robin Hood kind of mentality.  And the losers here are NOT going to be the publishers.  It’s not going to be the retailers.  It’s going to be the authors.

So I make a few predictions as a result of this stupidity.

1) Ebook readers fall into two camps: those who eschew paper entirely  and those who supplement their dead tree book reading with a new toy.

2) The anti-paper people are going to seek out alternative, more reasonably priced reads.  These will include books from Random House and Harlequin (both of whom aren’t going with this Agency pricing model) as well as a plethora of indie and small publisher reads.

3) The supplemental readers are going to seek out the same books as number 2, and for all those big house authors they want to read, they’ll purchase the paperback, get it from their library, or the local used bookstore.

4) The people who don’t already HAVE an ereader are probably going to decide that their money is better spent on the latest Xbox 360 or PS3 game and aren’t going to join the club to begin with.

My proposal is that we find a way to elevate the reasonably priced reads from independent and small publishers.  Let’s start a Twitter hashtag #indiEreads on a particular day of the week (just like we have #followfriday) and we, here at ATFE can put up a weekly transcript of everyone’s suggestions of the cheap e-books that are worth our hard earned book buying bucks

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2010 7:59 am

    The “Agency 5” are Hachette (Grand Central, Orbit, Forever), Penguin (Berkley, Ace, Roc, Jove, Signet, NAL, Putnam), Macmillan (St. Martin, Tor), Harper (Avon, Avon A), and Simon& Schuster (Pocket)

  2. March 31, 2010 8:11 am

    Without the authors, they have no product.

    And without the readers, they have no customers.

    I have never before seen anyone try so hard to destroy their own business. It would be quicker and less painful if they just burned it down.


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