I’ve been hooked on ebooks since getting my first Kindle about six months ago. I love the convenience of carrying a whole library around in a device that weighs less than a novella. I love the fact that I can slip the Kindle into my very small shoulder bag and have something to read while I wait for a bus, stand in a queue or have a quick cup of coffee. I also love the fact that I can adjust the font size and read without my reading glasses [which I hate].
Yet convenience and portability alone would not be enough to keep me attached to my Kindle. The thing that really keeps me addicted is the price of the books that I can now read.
In my pre-Kindle days I would ration my reading to authors I knew because the price of books was so ridiculously high. $30 AUD for a book is a lot for someone who can devour two books a week. So I read far fewer books. And the big six traditional publishers are fairly and squarely to blame. Their greed has literally priced print books beyond the reach of all but the most die-hard readers. If they are in trouble now then they have only themselves to blame.
I have no deep, philosophical problem with the idea of profit but I do resent the kind of profit taking that goes hand in hand with price gouging. Not only is it greedy, price gouging is also rather stupid in the long term. Why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs? Or in this case both the goose and the goslings. Not only are millions of readers being ripped off but so are most authors.
In an environment where only the middlemen [the publishers and the retailers] reap the benefits something always has to give. Borders and Angus & Robertson have already foundered and the big six publishers will be next because demand is no longer matching supply. Readers are demanding access to books at a fair price and the ebook revolution is giving it to them.
Yet even now the big six publishers are trying to milk readers of their hard earned dollars by pricing ebooks at a ridiculous level. Why would any reader pay $20 for a brand new ebook when the paperback version can often be found at a cheaper price?
Think about it. The author gets the same tiny royalty whether their work is printed or digital but the publisher gets a whole lot more for a digital sale* than they would for the print sale because publishing an ebook costs next to nothing! No paper, no printing costs, no storage costs, no transportation costs, no cost of returns when a title doesn’t sell.
Traditionally these are all the costs that publishers have cited for the high price of print books. Now they are saying that printing is just a tiny cost and that it is the ‘other’ costs that make ebooks expensive. ‘Other’ costs? Such as? Well, apparently manuscripts have to be converted to a whole range of different e-formats and that’s expensive. Really?
Having talked to a lot of indie authors my reaction to ‘conversion costs’ is : BULLSHIT! Indies do conversions every day with far smaller budgets and yet they can afford to price their work at anything from 0.99c to the standard of $2.99! I’ll talk about quality later in this post.
Then the publishers cite the cost of marketing. Now to most readers this would sound like a fair cost because they do not know that only a tiny percentage of A-list authors get any marketing at all! These are the authors who are most likely to produce best sellers. Every other author must do their own marketing. If they can. Just like indie authors. There is one huge difference though. When an indie author makes a sale he or she keeps most of the profits. When a mid-list author makes a sale they still only receive a miserly royalty payment.
And now to the question of indie quality vs traditional quality. As a reader I can testify to reading some real stinkers from indie authors. Quite frankly there are a lot of snake-oil authors out there who dash something off in a month and slap it onto Amazon in the hope of getting rich from the gullibility of readers. There are also many dedicated authors who try their hardest but can’t afford a professional editor to massage their stories into shape. And then there are the wunderkind, indie authors who spend years writing their books, self-edit, get beta readers, self-edit again, scrimp and save to hire professional editors; all so that they can put their name to something good.
Yet these wonderful books are still priced at $2.99.
Since starting this blog and getting my Kindle I have discovered true gems amongst the indie offerings. These are books that old time publishers would have recognized as worth publishing. They are books that I would have bought even at a higher price because they are so damn good. Yet neither they, nor their authors are getting the recognition they deserve. Part of the reason for that is that these authors are not snake-oil salesmen. They do their marketing but they have integrity so they don’t ‘hard sell’. They don’t spam Twitter and Facebook and all the other social media sites with their advertising. They are genuine people who are dedicated to just one thing – writing.
So, the next time you’re looking for an ebook to read why not spend a little time and effort investigating the indie offerings. You can’t miss them. They’re the ones for $2.99 instead of $20. Even if you buy six of them for a total cost of $17.94 and enjoy only one you are still saving yourself $2.06. That’s almost the price of another book!
As a voracious reader on a budget I’m going to be spending 90% of my reading dollars on indie books. I’ll also be sticking pins into voodoo dolls named after the big six publishers. I really, really hate being ripped off!
* Apparently the big six publishers and Apple have been colluding in some price fixing by setting the price of ebooks themselves instead of allowing retailers to set the price. Given the legal controversy now raging over this price fixing I hope that things will change back to the wholesale model soon. At least the wholesale model had some relevance to supply and demand.