18 March, 2012, Price-point Dilemma

Electronic books are too freaking expensive. That's been my opinion for years, and I've had absolutely no reason to revise my estimation. In fact, if anything I've been too soft. This was seriously brought home to me recently when I started searching for electronic books to get and discovered that the vast majority of them are more expensive than the actual honest-to-god dead-tree paperback versions of the exact same books. What the fuck? I mean, really. What the fuck?

Sure, I know maybe just a little about the costs that go into a book, but the one thing I know for an absolute certainty is that electronic books don't have anything resembling the overhead that goes into their dead-tree brethren. In fact, they've got even less of an excuse to be so much more freaking expensive than the dead-tree versions because the pricing structure is far more favorable to the publisher. When you have to give slightly more than half the cover price to the bookstore, you have to charge a little more to cover your costs. However, when you get to keep more than two-thirds of the cover price, there is absolutely no reason to charge more than when you get less than half.

Makes me sick. Makes me physically ill. It's price gouging. It's taking advantage of the audience. It's not supply and demand. I'm sorry, it's not. You're not stuck with too much or too little inventory if you don't hit the pricing sweet-spot because there is no physical inventory to have too much or too little of. It's charging what the market will bear, pure and simple. It's the reason why books from famous authors cost more; even though, there is absolutely no fucking reason why the famous author needs more money. They're already fucking rich. The publisher is fucking rich. They could cut the price. No reason to charge so much just because the people will pay. I don't mean "can" pay; I mean "will" pay regardless of whether or not they "can" afford it. Have a heart you fucking rich bastards and be nice to your audience who don't necessarily have the disposable income to spend on your shit. You do realize that some of your audience are choosing your shit over things they need, right? They're not all as rich as you, you slime-coated, flee-infested, shit-encrusted leaches.

Sorry. I get a little worked up on this issue. Name-calling is rude, I know.

I should also clarify that most bookstores give more than two-thirds of the cover price to the publisher. I can think of one bookstore specifically that gives slightly less than two-thirds, which is still more than less than half. Dead-tree costs more for the publisher to produce than its electronic clone. Remember that. Also, keep in mind that the publisher gets two-third of the cover price not necessarily the sale price. It all depends on who is offering the discount.

But, I digress. Electronic books are freaking expensive. Publishers are charging what the market will bear, and there is only one way to fight it. Don't buy the book. Sucks, I know, but it is the only tool we've got for bringing the price-point down. Example, I recently looked up the most recent electronic book of an author I like with the full intent of buying it. Then, I saw the electronic price was $12.99 while the hard-bound price was only $15.84. That's right. The all but zero cost to produce version was almost as expensive as the hard-bound version, and hard-bound books are expensive to produce. I swear, it made me so angry that I almost shit-a-brick. No, not really, I hear it's an expression the kids are saying or more likely used to say. But, it did make me angry. Very, very angry.

Oh, and I did not buy the book. Sorry, author I really like, but you're just going to have to go without one insignificant to the point you'll never even notice sale because you couldn't be bothered to stand up to your publisher and point out that you were, in fact, rich enough that you didn't need to gouge people so much of their own hard won currency for the book. What's that? Contract, you say? Hands tied, you say? Well, fuck you, I say. You're rich enough to hire lawyers to renegotiate your fucking contract, I say. But, I digress.

Oh, and you're not subsiding your publisher's less successful authors. Sorry, you're not. Publisher's just getting rich, too.

Which brings me around to the somewhat uncomfortable point of my rant, and really, I thought this entry was going to be another really short one. Figured I would only manage about a paragraph. I guess I just get far more worked up about the price of books than even I realized.

The whole reason I brought this up in the first place is that I am major-league wrestling with the idea that I'm not charging enough for my own electronic books. Crazy, I know. Whole reason I'm ranting and raving and shit. I'll try to explain, and this whole revelation I'm trying to reconcile might take a bit to explain.

There are a whole lot of public domain electronic books floating around out there. There are a whole lot of badly edited, poorly constructed, and cheaply put together electronic books out there. Oh, and by "cheap," I mean "shoddy." Not that they didn't cost a lot of money to produce. Although, I suppose I could say that a half-decent layout designer is not cheap, but it's still less expensive than all of the production staff and materials needed for a dead-tree version. Oh, never mind. I'm not going off on that tangent again.

My point being that a lot of public domain stuff that someone really didn't bother to put a lot of time, energy or effort into assembling doesn't cost much. These public domain electric books range from free to a buck ninety-nine. They probably go higher, but the ones I cruised all tended to top out at $1.99.

So, I realized something as I was cruising electronic books. I was mentally pooh-poohing anything that cost a buck ninety-nine or less. Obviously inferior, and all of that. I wasn't considering them. I wasn't reviewing them. I was dismissing them out of hand.

It was enough to smack my mind upside the head. Make me wonder if my books are in the cheap-ass junk yard at two ninety-nine a pop. I mean I want to charge three bucks for my electric books. It just feels like a good price-point to me. Cheap enough to be an impulse purchase. Not so cheap it isn't worth putting on your credit card. My reasoning, anyway.

Ideally, I figure it would be cool if I got a dollar a book. That sounds sane to me. Sounds reasonable. So, even two ninety-nine makes me nervous because I get more than a buck out of the deal. Doesn't seem right to me but I was weighing my whole impulse purchase versus too cheap for the credit card thing.

But, I've started to worry that two ninety-nine is still too cheap. That I'm relegating myself to the auto-assigned pathetic and not worth it bin of people cruising for books. People not even realizing that they've thoughtlessly assumed my books are crap because the electronic copy is in the no editorial or design effort range. And, it's enough to make me wonder if I need to raise the price, which promptly makes me want to throw up.

Books are expensive. People don't have lots of money. I don't feel right charging more than is reasonable. Most electronic books are way out there on the unreasonable scale. It's not right. It's not fair, and the thought of raising my price in the hopes people might take my work more seriously just makes me itch all over. I don't like it. Don't like it one bit.

That's my dilemma. I've been a tempest in a teapot over this for going on two weeks now. Raise the price. I know I'm going to raise the price. I've got myself around to that idea, I think. Pretty sure. It's going to go up. Still fighting myself over how much. At least a dollar. Price is going to go up by at least a dollar. Maybe even two, but that's it. $4.99 is the top. Anything more makes me so mad I just might spontaneously combust.

One argument I've used with myself to raise the price is that I can offer sales if I raise the price. It doesn't have to be permanently $4.99. I can do discounts, sales and whatnot. I can't really do that with a cover of $2.99. At least that's what I'm telling myself. This may work. This may be the deciding factor. I can lower the price if I raise it. Yes, crazy, I know. Makes my head hurt, but it might be the solution to my dilemma. Time will tell. We shall see.

copyright © 2012 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved