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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

eBook Pricing Lawsuit: Win or Loss?

Like myself, many of you may have received an email about a credit given to your for eBooks you purchased that were deemed over-priced. A recent lawsuit against Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC, known as Macmillan (“Macmillan”), Penguin Group (USA) Inc. (“Penguin”), Hachette Book Group, Inc. (“Hachette”), HarperCollins Publishers LLC (“HarperCollins”) and Simon & Schuster, Inc. and Simon & Schuster Digital Sales, Inc. (“Simon & Schuster”) claimed the publishers conspired to fix and raise retail prices of E-books.

I read this and thought, "Well of course they did. Publishers have always fixed prices of books, why should eBooks be any different?" But the problem wasn't so much the fixing of the price as it was the price itself. You may have noticed eBook prices as high as $13.99 for bestselling authors. For sanity's sake, the paperback of that book cost the same. So of course, I balked at the price, and chose not to buy. As an author I'm a huge supporter of paying a fair price for a book because I know how much work authors put into them. But, when there is no overhead, no printing cost, and low distribution costs on eBooks, lower prices are warranted. I've made it a practice to never buy an eBook for the same price that I could get a paperback of the same novel.

On one hand I don't agree with the lawsuit. It seems as though there could have been a better way to get publishers to agree on a reasonable ceiling for eBook prices based off their length, distribution, and such. On the other, some of the prices were getting out of hand and pushing eBooks out of reach of many. After all, we don't want eBooks to go the way of movies and become so ridiculously over priced that people stop spending the money on them. Where do you weigh in on the pricing of eBooks?

10 comments:

  1. I think that was kind of the point -- to prevent people from buying the ebooks and instead picking up the hardcover release, where publishers are making a fortune on the sales. But I'm with you. I don't buy an ebook if I can get the paperback for the same price (or even less!) because I think it is ABSOLUTELY BOGUS, and even worse, the authors aren't even getting that great of a cut, either. Might as well just buy the paperback and do the advertising of carrying it around with me for what the authors are getting on ebook royalties. And if the ebook prices stay high, I'll continue to not buy them, and wait for the paperback release, which means that publishers aren't getting my money until MONTHS and MONTHS later.

    What I don't understand is why they don't include a code for the ebook with the hardcover release, if they want to drive sales to the hardcover -- then it's a 2-for-1 deal for readers. I also don't understand why the ebook prices don't drop significantly after a trade paperback or a mass market edition is released. ebooks shouldn't cost more than the cheapest edition of the physical book, imho, and in most cases, should not cost more than a mass market edition, ever.

    but I am not attached to my e-reading, or e-books at all, really. I still prefer to do the majority of my writing in print. So! Maybe I'm the odd ball in the system.

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  2. So true! And I couldn't agree more, eBooks need to be cheaper than physical books. It only makes sense.

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  3. It was done to hurt the eBook market sadly. I found it convenient to have a new book in my Kindle so I got a substantial credit in my account yesterday. Nice surprise.

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  4. LOL. All they're doing is pushing me toward my library instead of a one-click. Truth is, they're probably losing out on sales by being such duffuses, but I'm sure there are still people willing to pay the ridiculous sum. *shrugs* I think supply and demand will eventually even it out, and these publishers might actually price themselves out of the market eventually.

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    1. I have to agree with you. In this economy people don't spend lightly, especially on entertainment.

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  5. I love e-books. I don't have a lot of room to carry around a lot of hardcopy books (read that no room) so if I want to read it has to be a digital copy. That being said, I won't pay more than $3.99 for an e-book. Even if it's a book I really want. If it's more than that, I won't pay.

    I do think the lawsuit was good because price fixing ruins things for other people. Yes, I know they've been doing it for years. But times have changed and they need to change with them.

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    1. Agreed! If the industry doesn't change with the times, it runs the risk of being left behind. Myself, my cut off point is $7.99. I figure any more than that and I can just buy in it paperback.

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  6. If memory serves, this was the same lawsuit in which these publishers were allegedly colluding with Apple to fix prices via the iBooks store? As I recall, the pricing was never the issue, it was the collusion and giving Apple a "most favored nation" status whereby the publishers would not price books lower than they were priced in the the iBooks store. The net effect would have been the publishers giving Apple lower prices than, say, Amazon or any other online dealer. Assuming it is, the pricing was never the issue. It was the collusion that was the problem. If the market worked the way it should, ebooks would cost less than print books because of the things you mentioned. The issue is that the publishers don't want to lose what to them is an increased revenue stream.

    Prices will eventually even out. $10-15 is far too much for an ebook. ($10-15 dollars is too much for a paperback but that's a different kettle of fish.) My expectation is that they'll eventually fall to $5-10, with the upper range being for books the publisher doesn't expect to sell large numbers of. That's my feeling, anyway. The publishers will probably continue to be greedy and do the exact opposite and then complain that they can't make any money on ebooks.

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    1. I believe you're right, it is that particular lawsuit. I hadn't realized the full details of it, that does change things a bit. It isn't right for them to give anyone a lower price on the same merchandise, especially when we're talking about a whole different user platform.

      You're right about pricing, I think it will even out but I also agree that it will continue to be a sore spot for publishers.

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