Publishers need to accept the concept of price points in Kindle.

Yes, I’m shouting into the wind. But this is my blog, so I’m exerting my privilege to do so.

The basic issue here is that, yes, most publishers want people buying physical books, presumably because they’ve spent a lot of money on the physical infrastructure necessary to make physical books. Unfortunately for them, we live in a time where adequate books can be published cheaply on-demand, and digital copies can be published more cheaply still. The publishing industry has been at war with Amazon for decades over this, and the best it’s been able to do is manage a slow, grinding retreat. And if Amazon goes away, I guarantee that smaller, more specialized e-publishing companies will rush in to fill the void*. The technology is here, and it will be used.

In the meantime: if you are a midlist author**, or you are the executor of the estate of a deceased author, you are leaving money on the table if you let the established publishers define your e-book prices. Here’s an example: WASP, by Eric Frank Russell. I’ve never read it. I hear it’s extremely good. I’m not paying nine bucks for it. If you’re in charge of Russell’s estate and you’re wondering why you never see the royalties for e-sales that you were expecting, that’s why. That book should be five bucks. Possibly four. It’d definitely sell better… which would be the problem, wouldn’t it?

I mention all of this against personal interest, mind you. I’m a self-published author who benefits from the artificially-high prices of my competitors (and hopefully future competitors). But we’re all bozos on this bus.

Moe Lane


*Or the global economy will collapse. But if that happens, the publishing industry will have other problems to deal with, like the effective end of civilization above the regional level.

**There are several authors who I will tolerate paying extra for their e-books. But that’s an all-that-the-traffic-will-bear kind of situation.

5 thoughts on “Publishers need to accept the concept of price points in Kindle.”

  1. Apropos of nothing,

    At a sparsely attended music show earlier this year (where I went to see the opener not the headliner), between sets the opener was selling his own merch – and he’s a guy with an almost 30 year career now.
    The cool bit was he had personalized flash drives for sale loaded with live recordings and other unreleased stuff.

    You’ve attended far more conventions than I, are authors doing this too, or should you blaze a trail?

    1. All of my books use Kindle Unlimited, which has been an unexpectedly nice revenue stream and one I have no intention of trying to get around. 🙂

  2. I now much prefer ebooks to paper copies. But one rule I follow is that when the Kindle version costs more than a new physical copy, I buy a used paper copy so the author and publisher get nothing. That’s probably unfair to authors as they don’t set the terms, but so it goes.
    Good for you on Kindle Unlimited. I don’t subscribe because the catalog is too limited. also, to be fair, I don’t quite read enough books to make it worthwhile paying the monthly fee. Subscribing could induce me to read more, but it would also nudge me to limit my book reading to books within the catalog, and I don’t want to do that.

  3. Wasp is a good book. Ready it a while back and have been looking forward to finding it and reading it again when I finish unpacking the boxes from the last move…. [He dodges how long ago that move was or when the unpacking might finish.]

    And yes, you are spot on with the fact that most e-books are overpriced. Especially back catalog of older authors. There is a tricky art to keeping interest in older material, and I think most managers of author estates lack the knack. At the same time, generating awareness is more difficult these days too. Browsing for books at Amazon is a VERY different experience than browsing through ye old bookstore. I am not sure how to bridge that gap.

    Publishing houses have cannibalized their market and sales so badly that I bet their internal metrics shows this is optimum. In other words, they have driven off so much of their natural audience, and communicate so badly with them, that dropping prices 20% does not increase volume by more 25% (the break point for equal revenue) in the short run. But that’s another rant on how the publishing houses blames their shrinking market on outside factors rather (which do exist) but refuse to consider their own contributions to the mess (which are at least as large).

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