I do the Industry News column for the RWA-WF group, and Dear Author is one of the sites I check for their publishing news links. I was there earlier this week, and somehow I ended up reading a review of Not That Kind of Girl by Susan Donovan. It was a good review. I’m already a Susan Donovan fan, so I probably would buy it even without the review. Since I was at the site, I started reading the comments. (Hmm, I’m beginning to see the reason my time management isn’t working. But, hey, it gave me a blog topic.)
The first comment was about the cost. After reading the review, the commenter went to buy the book. But she saw the e-version was $7.99, the same price as the paper version, and she desisted. From then on, most of the comments were about the price, pretty much everyone agreeing with the first commenter (including me). One reason is that this book is DRM (Digital Rights Management) protected, which means you can’t share it with another reading device that you own or with a friend.
Susan Donovan popped in and after thanking the reviewer, she said:
“I do want to say one thing about the cost of Kindle and e-books. Please understand that most authors are no longer profiting from the sale of their work in mass-market paperback format. Paper sales are down across-the-board. Because of the industry transition to e-format, e-books can account for as more than a quarter of an author’s sales. (That’s what I heard in September — it’s probably much bigger by now!) In essence, buying a novel at cover price via Kindle or other e-format version is the same process as going to a store and buying a paperback book in its physical form. By paying cover price, you are allowing the author to make a living.”
Dear Author reviewer Robin/Janet replied much better than I can. Here’s just part of what she said:
“Unfortunately, with DRM, I cannot sell, give away, lend, or otherwise share my ebooks, and in many cases, I can’t even do that between my own devices. I have lost DRMd ebooks that my current devices can no longer read, and when the (not)agency model went into effect, I was in the process of buying digital books I could not get fulfillment on.
So from your perspective, you want to get paid more, and from mine, I want the same rights for my digital books as for paper. Should we make each other responsible for those things? Obviously not. The publisher stands in the middle, coordinating all of this. As an author, you negotiate your contract for digital royalties, and as a reader, I have basically no recourse to protest IMO inflated ebook prices coming from traditional publishers except refusing to purchase (because traditional publishers do not view readers as their customers). Contrary to what some publishers seem to think, many of us will not buy paper when ebooks are too expensive. In fact, I offered my paper ARC of Not That Kind of Girl to no fewer than five people who were interested in the book, and all refused. For more and more readers, it’s digital or nothing. And with limited reader rights, we believe the price should reflect that.”
One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the comments is that prices are made up. The publisher charges what he/she/the marketing dept./whatever thinks people will pay. What the market will bear. As evidenced by the Dear Author comments, most readers won’t pay the same price for digital as paper. The market is NOT bearing it. Some publishers already recognize this. Others are refusing to see it. Eventually, I’m sure they will, but until then, it’s going to cost their authors money.
I thought I’d note that most self-published writers I know (including myself) do not have their books DRM protected. Every online retailer offers this, but we refuse for a reason. Readers hate it, and we want to sell books. Isn’t that what publishers want too? And if they think that the DRM protects books from being pirated, they’re sadly mistaken. But that’s another topic.
Where do you stand on this?