A Brief Rant on Economics

OK – I am far from an expert in all things money. I seem to be especially bad at making it from my books. But I can have opinions as a consumer of books, dang it!

This isn’t an effort to educate indies, most of whom seem to be doing things more or less correctly, even if they undervalue their books. This is going to be a disbelieving rant, aimed at a specific title and a specific “Big 5” publishing house that I can’t believe *bleep*ed up this badly.

First – The Title:

Hell Week — Maggie Quinn: Girl vs Evil series, Book 2, by Rosemary Clement-Moore

This book was published by Random House, under the imprint press of Delacorte Books.

Second – The Story:

I had the privilege to meet Rosemary Clement two years ago at the Sirens: Women in Fantasy conference, and then again last year. She is such a hoot, and her books are crazy-fun. They can be roughly put into the same category as Meg Cabot’s Mediator series (but are even better). I have purchased and enjoyed several of her books, but only from the Conference bookstore itself, happy to pay whatever price they ask to support both the Conference and the author.

Well, after Christmas, I decided to use some of the money I received to buy the sequel to Prom Dates From Hell. Being a heathen (and even more importantly, a bibliophile who has -300 shelf space), I prefer to own books on Kindle/Nook formats. So I tripped off to Amazon to buy the eBook.

Third – The Shock:

HellWeek

OK. If you don’t get it – the Kindle price is 9.99. The Paperback cost is $0.91 less IF YOU BUY IT NEW FROM AMAZON. Or there are the options to buy it Used or New from 3rd party sellers, starting at $4.00 (0.01+$3.99 s/h) for “Very Good” Used, and $4.53($0.54 + $3.99 s/h) for brand new from a company out of New York.

…. *speechless hand motions that look like strangling Random House for screwing her friend out of sales*

*Deep breath* OK. If you STILL don’t get it, let me break it down.
There are a few different types of people in this world:

-Those who like their books perfect and pristine, and will buy them new no matter the cost. This includes people who want to buy something that can easily be signed and turned into a collectable;
-Those who just want to read books, and so will buy them as cheaply as they can so they can afford more of them. This also includes people who want to buy a commodity that they can later resell;
-And those who REALLY can’t afford books, and so they go to the library.

There’s not much publishers can do to capture the business of the third crowd, other than cultivate and promote the kinds of authors who develop such rabid fans that they would rather go without food than a copy of the book they love. Rosemary could be this kind of author, IMHO. And there’s not much publishers can do to alienate the first group, other than to price their books in the ridiculously expensive range. Then again, I’ve seen collectors dish out ridiculous sums of money for special books before, so *shrugs*

But publishers seem to believe that that first set is their ONLY clientele. They completely miss the second set… the ones who WILL BUY directly from the publisher, if the cost is right, or will buy the book used, if not. And that is where eBooks come in.

Contrary to most Big 5’s expectations, eBooks are NOT competing with first-sale paper books. People who want paper books will buy them no matter what. What eBooks are competing with are SECOND-SALE books. The ones that earn publishers jack-and-sh*t, because they already made their $9, so now the book is exchanging hands at a fraction the cost and eroding the sales of new books.

Which is only one reason the above pricing scheme is INSANE. eBooks are PURE PROFIT for the publishing company. There is no overhead for server space – Amazon is absorbing that cost. There is no customer service – again, Amazon. If there is a printing error, the cost to fix it is uploading a new version, not recalling and pulping thousands of paper copies. There is no return of unsalable stock, no books damaged in shipping, no warehouses, no packaging, no shipping carriers, NO RISK. And also, NO USED COPY TO COMPETE WITH YOUR OWN PRODUCT.

The eBook should have been a minimum of $2 less than the Amazon Paperback cost. That would still have been more than used, more than buying new from a third party retailer that doesn’t have a stupid contract with RH to jack up the cost, but enough that it looks good to someone who just wants to click a button and buy the *bleep*ing book.

After weighing my options, I bought this book as a paperback, new from a third-party. It cost me $6.98, with no s/h, because I wanted it from a closer vendor than NY. Rosemary – and Random House – still got their cut, and I hope I bump into her again this next October to get it signed. But if I hadn’t known the author, I would have gone to the library, and flipped the bird to any “Publishing House” that would screw their author – and their clientele – like this.

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