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ebook pricing

Books, Other People's Books

A tiny print book roundup with bonus complaints about ebook pricing

Noting this as I actually bought a couple of print books from Third Place the other day–things that fall into the general category of Authors Who Are Absolutely Vital For Me to Have In Print. The people for whom a lack of access to their books would make me sad, whether due to power outage or loss of reading devices or what have you.

The first of these purchases was In the Labyrinth of Drakes, Book Four in Marie Brennan’s excellent Memoirs of Lady Trent series. I’ve actually already read this and I did indeed love it immensely, but I definitely wanted the Lady Trents in print. And this one finally was available in trade now that the hardcover of Book Five is out.

Beren and Luthien

Beren and Luthi

Much more importantly, I acquired a hardback copy of the new Tolkien release, Beren and Luthien!

Y’all know my love of Tolkien, and you’ll probably also remember that I’m particularly fond of the tale of Beren and Luthien, which is hands down my favorite thing in the whole of The Silmarillion.

Relatedly, when Christopher Tolkien released the excellent Children of Hurin version of the other big tale from The Silmarillion–the tale of Turin Turambar–I nabbed that in hardback. I’ve said before how I had to have that in hardback just for the gorgeous illustrations, and out of general appreciation of the beauty of the work that went into putting that book together as an object.

So given all of these things together, you better believe I had to jump on the Beren and Luthien release.

Fair warning though to fellow Tolkien fans who may be covetously eying this release too: it is not cheap. (I got the hardback for $30.00, and while I could have gotten it for substantially cheaper at Barnes and Noble, I made a point of buying it from Third Place instead because local-to-my-house indie bookstores are love.) If you want that hardback and you’re more budget-pinched than I am, be aware you’ll get it for much cheaper on Amazon or with B&N, both of whom are showing prices for it around $18.

Likewise, the ebook is stupidly expensive right now. It’s clocking in at $16.99, and that price is the main reason I haven’t already nabbed this release as well in digital form. Do not mistake me: I will also be buying this book in digital form, because a) Tolkien pretty much would top the list of authors I require in both formats, and b) under no circumstances am I taking the hardback out of the house. But that price annoys me, as it’s yet another indicator of the return of agency pricing, and I have an ongoing gripe with the publishing industry seeming bound and determined to piss off digital readers by making ebooks as expensive as possible.

I’m genuinely torn, though, as to whether Tolkien is worth it to me to shell out for the ebook at that price anyway; if any author merits doing that out of all my favorites, it’s Tolkien.

Either way, the ebook edition will eventually be joining my collection too. And that’ll likely be the way I read it, just because I do most of my reading on commutes.

For now, that’s two additional book purchases to add to the tally this year, which has been quite small. (I’m actually trying to make an effort to put a dent in the backlog of books I actually own, doncha know.) 17 for the year.


I promise, folks, people are not abandoning their ereaders

I’ve seen a lot of articles going around lately like this one, trumpeting how paper sales are soaring and people are putting down their ereaders.

This is really not as simple as this article and others like it would make it seem, for a few very important reasons.

One, agency pricing has been reinstated by the major publishing conglomerates. I’ve posted about this in the past, but as a brief refresher, what agency pricing means is that publishers get to set the prices for their ebooks. On the surface this sounds like a good thing, since it’s a blow against Amazon being so fond of the 9.99 price point for ebooks.

The problem with this, however, is that this means that the major publishing houses now have bumped the prices back up for a LOT of new ebook releases. So we’re seeing a lot of titles coming out with price points like $12.99, $13.99, and $14.99, and sometimes even higher.

Of course the big publishers are going to trumpet print sales rising. It’s in their best interests to keep people buying print books. In fact, they’re specifically interested in getting people to buy hardbacks–because those are still the big things that rake in money for their coffers. They have far fewer fucks to give about digital than they do about print, because the hardbacks are still the things they want to make money on.

But you know what they’re not talking about? How indie digital sales are doing. Which brings me to point two: that this hype going around is completely ignoring the independent, self-pubbed digital market. I point you over here, at, where they’re talking about how there is a strong shift in ebook purchasing over to indie-published and Amazon-imprint-published ebooks.

There’s a real simple reason for this, and that reason is ebook pricing.

As a member of NIWA, I’m in a position to see a lot of my fellow indie writers experimenting with their pricing, trying to find a price point that actually moves titles. The vast majority of indie writers I know sell their titles for way, way cheaper than the big publishing houses do, because they’ve discovered that selling a novel for $2.99, $3.99, or $4.99 is going to get them way more sales than trying to sell at $12.99 or up.

Likewise for digital-first imprints, like Carina. There are reasons my trilogy with Carina sells for $2.99 for each of the three books, and that reason is that that price point has been regularly demonstrated to be way more effective in pulling in digital readers.

Dear Author and Smart Bitches both run regular features on their sites highlighting books that have gone on sale for $2.99, $1.99, or $.99, because the romance genre in particular is full of readers that burn through so many titles that they are eager to snap up books for as cheaply as they can get them.

And this certainly lines up with my own experience as a purchaser of ebooks. As y’all know if you regularly follow me here on my blog or on the social media sites, I buy ridiculous numbers of books every year (as documented on my gosh-i-have-a-lot-of-books tag. I’m very, very grateful that I have enough disposable income that I can in fact afford to buy all the books I want whenever I want them–but I do also have to exercise at least some level of judiciousness in it.

So I am very, very unlikely to buy a book at more than $12.99. I’ll make occasional exceptions, but if a new release I want comes out at that price or above–usually because the accompanying print edition has come out in hardback–then I am NOT going to get that ebook when it releases. I’m just not. I’ll be a lot more likely to buy it later when the mass market version comes out in print, and the accompanying ebook price comes down.

Because here’s the thing. I can either get one ebook for $14.99, or I can get three for $4.99. Assuming all the authors in question write a book that genuinely entertains me for whatever reason, that’s three times the amount of entertainment for a similar price. I and other power-buyers like me cannot ignore this. My income is good, but it is not infinite.

And when those cheaper books are books by indie authors, this is going to fly right under the radar of media sources that still only have fucks to give about what the big names in publishing are doing.

Point number three: sure, Waterstones stopped selling Kindles. But as The Digital Reader points out, this is less of a question of people abandoning digital reading in general, and more of a question of people moving towards reading on general-purpose tablets or on their phones instead.

See previous commentary re: disposable income. If you want to get into reading ebooks, it’s a very legitimate question as to whether you should spend your money on a device that does only one thing–or whether it would be much more cost-effective to get a general-purpose device like an iPad or an Android tablet instead. Or a large phone, for that matter. That way you can still read ebooks, and do a bunch of other things on the same device.

This is a particularly important question if you don’t have much disposable income to spare.

The overall takeaway I encourage you to get from this: if people are buying print books, awesome, more joy to them. Just please don’t make this all about “yay people are buying REAL books”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a digital book may not be in physical form, but I guarantee you, that book is every bit as real to its writer as a book that made it into print.

And for a reader who loves that book? It’s still every bit as real too, whether she read it on her phone or on her tablet or in a web browser.

So don’t sound that death knell for digital yet. It’s not going anywhere. Trust me.

Ebooks and Ereaders

Ebook postings now resuming!

Apologies for the hiatus on the ebook posts, y’all; they ran into a roadblock when Seattle got smacked upside the head with winter early last week, and then the holidays kicked in, so!

As of tomorrow I will resume the rest of the ebook posts, though! If you missed the previous ones, here are their links:

Come back tomorrow for Part 4: Do you want a dedicated reading device?