The trouble with Kindles.

Or any other e-book reader, really.  It’s not the fault of the Kindle itself, but rather how some publishers are handling it.

Goes like this: I read recently an article about James M Cain that made me say, Hmm.  I’ve never actually read him, and this guy thinks that a couple of his books are downright amazing.  True, it’s the Atlantic saying that, but Hollywood made movies out of said books that are supposed to be really good, back when Hollywood wasn’t filtering everything for ideological bias.

So I decided to go look up The Postman Always Rings Twice on Kindle… and it’s ten bucks.  Well.  That’s… pretty expensive for the format, really.  What are my alternatives?  Well, see for yourselves:

So.  Ten bucks is too much for the text of a commonly-available-in-libraries book, even if it is instant access.  And almost six bucks ($1.63 for the cheapest paperback option, plus $3.99 for shipping) is too much for a takes-up-physical-space version of the same book sent to me three or four days from now, considering that I’m a little sensitized to costs after seeing the too-high Kindle price.  If the Kindle book had been five bucks, or even six, I’d have bought it already and be reading it right now instead of writing this post.  Instead, I’ve decided that it’s easier just to wait until the next time I’m at the library.

Shorter version: Random House Digital (who set the sales price) and other publishing companies are maybe not really understanding that their pricing structure may be costing them sales.  It may not be particularly welcome news to said companies that they should take popular expectations of price cuts for e-books into account; but, well, perhaps they should anyway.  I recommend the Baen Books model, which seems primarily interested in separating a reader from his money, instead of keeping the old publishing model as unchanged as possible…



  • William Teach says:

    Point taken, but, one can always find books like that for free on the Internet.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      William Teach: my problem with that is with the non-public domain books. I don’t object to paying something for them.

      VANDERLEUN: I think that the eventual price of an ebook is 99 cents, but I think that new releases can be realistically be expected to be marketed for more.

  • Patrick Thomas says:

    We do check out ebooks at our library. Sometimes we get on a waiting list, but I think if the costs went down, they could buy more licenses. I just wonder how well the used ebooks sale would do?

  • VANDERLEUN says:

    The natural price of all ebooks is 99 cents and it will be that across the board by and by.

  • Murgatroyd says:

    The “Nook” e-book version is ten bucks at Barnes & Noble, too. It seems likely to me that the prices are set by the publishers/copyright holders. They’re probably caught between the need to profit from the new format and the desire to protect their traditional ink-on-dead-trees business model.

  • BigGator5 says:

    I have to agree with Murgstroyd there. So Moe, you think $10 is too much for an e-book? What price do you recommend then?

    • Moe_Lane says:

      BG5: It’s not too much for any e-book, just this particular one. 🙂

      As a very rough rule of thumb: I think that it should be linked to how the book is already available. If Amazon is pricing a $25 new release hardcover for 15 bucks (which they often do), knock it down to 14 or 13. A regular $25 hardcover new release with no discount? $23 or $21. First printing of a mass release paperback? $5 Out of print? $2 to $5, depending on rights. Anything written before 1950 that’s out of print? Start bundling up five or more at a time and offer ’em for a buck. In general; the newer the book, the less flexibility that the publisher has in price (they’re also trying to move their actual print run, of course).

      I’m not married to these numbers.

  • William Teach says:

    But, but, but, paper books are bad for globull warming!

    No, seriously. I caught a Warmist making that case the other day.

    But, yeah, some of the Kindle and other e-reader books are overpriced, thanks to collusion from the book publishing companies. Can often purchase many paperbacks for lower prices than the Kindle edition, which is based on the hardback price.

    Though, I love finding books that would rarely, if ever, end up in the book store or library. I’ve bought tons for anywhere from .99 to $2.99, and well worth it.

  • countrydoc says:

    I don’t understand the publishers’ thinking here either. Look, they could make a killing putting out older books, which are currently generating $0, and charge $4-$5. $5 is much bigger than $0, or so I’m told. It costs them next to nothing, so its pure profit.

  • Skip says:

    countrydoc, one thing keeping them from doing that is in most cases they no longer hold the rights to the back catalog. Virtually every contract allows the rights to revert to the author once sales drop below a certain amount. So the smarter authors or author’s estates are releasing their own e-editions. But a lot of the time no electronic version of the text exists, so the work has to be scanned in and proofed.

    It’s a messy problem, and one I actually expect google to solve, tbh. Google wants everything to be searchable so I could absolutely see them providing a service to create e-editions of older works cheaply or free.

    As for the pricing – the big six publishers have basically no economic sense between them – the industry is collapsing and they’re just trying to hold onto a rearguard action for as long as possible. I fully expect at least one bankruptcy and maybe more in the next 5 or so years among them.

  • Murgatroyd says:

    Short-sightedness shouldn’t be underestimated, either. Ever hear of the IBM Displaywriter? It was a dedicated word processing system based on the 8086 CPU chip that hit the market in 1980 and was priced in the $10K-30K range. Less than a year later, a different group in IBM wanted to release the 8088-based IBM PC for less than $3K. The Displaywriter group tried to have the PC killed — they were selling several thousand Displaywriters a year! The PC had the potential to kill a very profitable product!

    They ultimately compromised by releasing the PC with a keyboard that wasn’t suitable for word processing — at least, not if you were a touch typist who expected a shift key where IBM put a “” key.

  • Murgatroyd says:

    Whoops — I intended that to read:
    … a shift key where IBM put a “>/<” key.

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