Earlier this week I came across a blog post by Rose Alexander regarding the price of books and was surprised to find myself mentioned in it (thankfully not in a bad way). As the post asked for comments I decided to comment. However what started as a comment became almost a blog post in itself and as I don’t often dip my toe in the water of blogging as opposed to reviewing I’ve decided to reproduce it here (with spelling errors amended).
First of all thanks for your kind comments on my blog. As I opened up this blog to read your post on pricing I wasn’t expecting to see myself in the piece, but it was a nice surprise. I’m sorry that the book that caught your eye was on the pricey side and I’m lucky that as a reviewer I can occasionally get to read books that are not immediately affordable. Given the way that e-book pricing is going though I would say you were unlucky.
When I started reviewing via NetGalley I won’t deny that part of the attraction was the accessibility of pre-publication books that I wouldn’t be able to buy on publication due to cost. Even waiting for the paperback is not an affordable option at £7.99 when I average 80-100 books a year. The other option would of course be the library, as my small branch on average only holds about 20% of the books I read then that involves reserving, and very often joining a long waiting list. So outside of my review books I rely on price drops and charity shops (although the latter of course affords the author no income).
As I was always looking for bargain books for myself I set up a Facebook page to share my Kindle ‘finds’. These were quality books (in my opinion) on promotion, either free or costing 99p. That figure was based on the fact that I could either buy it for that price or reserve at the library for £1. So it was the cheapest way for me to access my reading. Does that mean I think that the book (and therefore author’s blood, sweat and tears) is only worth 99p no it doesn’t, it just means that if the publisher decides to offer it at that price I’d be an idiot not to buy it. I should say that because I spend a lot of time doing this you’d be surprised at books that I’ve picked up free.
What I have noticed recently though is far more books being offered on pre-order and even on publication at 99p. These are quality books, written by mainstream authors and I’ve reached the stage where I don’t request these books to review anymore as I’d rather buy it to read at my leisure than get it ‘free’ (I use the word free advisedly, when you spend 4-5 hours reading it, writing a review and posting it across Amazon and social media, it seems more of a fair exchange – even if the review isn’t necessarily favourable).
So the ‘problem’ as I see it has been created by the publishers. Offers and promo pricing has for many books become the norm. If a reader is constantly seeing books offered at 99p they start to expect it. The disconnect between 99p for an e-book and £7.99 for a paperback doesn’t help the balance either. It might be worth adding here that even at 99p, at least the author is getting a percentage which isn’t happening if the book is being bought via a charity shop or borrowed from the library as PLR doesn’t amount to much.
What would be interesting would be to see the split between e-sales and physical sales for a book. If the e-sale is creating the hype (and some e-books are now regularly published before the physical copies) and that interest results in more physical sales then maybe there’s a logic too it that we don’t see. That might at least make the pricing more palatable.
Ultimately the old adage applies, an item is worth whatever someone is prepared to pay for it, but while publishers continue to almost loss lead titles then I can’t see the pendulum swinging the other way. If e-books were offered at a standard £3 or £3.50 it would still represent a 50% saving on the paperback and still only equates to a cup of coffee (though I don’t buy those everyday either). That I feel would be a more equitable compromise for authors while still keeping the price low for the reader.
Anyway this is not so much a comment as an entire blog post in itself so you might see it repeated soon on my own page! Good luck with the book.