Sunday, January 2, 2011

New year's resolution - no to $5 or less ebooks.

Hi all,
My news year's resolution is not to download any ebook that is priced below $5. This includes any book requesting a donation.
A lot of my posts last year were about the potential for free and ridiculously cheap ebooks to destroy the publishing industry, so I will only download ebooks where the author/publisher has said that they deserve to make some money out of their efforts.
Forget all this crap about selling huge numbers of $1 ebooks, it won’t work. Not when there are millions of free ebooks (2.5 million on google books, 50% of the Kindle bestseller list) and tens of thousands being sold for $1 or less. And you can ditch the argument that cheap downloads worked for the music industry. (Did it?) Novels are a completely different commodity. Consumers can consume 100’s of downloaded songs a year, whereas the average consumer purchases about one book a year (which many will not even read). The quantities purchased don’t compare.
Oh, I hear you say, but when books are cheaper, they will buy more. To do what with? If many males are having trouble reading one book a year, why will they buy more. It’s not like music, where you can listen to hundreds of songs a day. There is only so many books a person can read in a year. I have hundreds yet to read on my shelves, so I have no intention of filling up my Kindle with lots of ebooks, even if they are free, that will forever remain unread.
So I intend to make a stand. I will also continue my policy of buying from Amazon and other international online stores, only when I can’t get the book from an Australian supplier. Yes, it will cost me more, but I want the Australian publishing industry to survive. I want to read Australian authors. I want Australian authors to make some money.
So are you with me? Or are you just going to follow all the ridiculously optimistic writers who think that they will be the exception, that their novel will somehow stick out from the million of free ebooks, and who think that Amazon, Google, the Book Depository and Apple give a stuff about Australian authors or the quality of their writing.


Ninja said...

Well, with regard to the second part, that of not shopping at online stores unless necessary, I have to say that I don't think I'll be changing my own practices. By buying at stores like Borders it only encourages their obscene pricing policy.
I happened to pick up a book from bookdepository that was just released last year (in paperback) for just over $6. How much would a place like Borders charge? Why should I encourage that? If they don't offer something different, and they're not competitive on price *why should they not fold*?
In other words, if an Australian author is on Amazon, great, why not buy there? If they don't stock all Australian authors, then there's your reason for small local stores to exist - to sell product that you can't get elsewhere. But don't bother selling what I can get elsewhere at a third of the cost.

Ninja said...

(minor correction, it was $5.69 from my order history as a preorder, current prices for Oz can of course be found at for 9780330478861 )

Graham Clements said...

How much would the author and publisher had made from that $6 book? Most authors are paid a royalty which is a percentage of the selling price. Generally the cheaper the book, the less they get.

Amazon has the advantage of operating as a warehouse and not having to build stores to sell its product. It also does not have the GST. That's one of the main reasons books are dearer in Australian bookstores.

If you are a writer, I hope you don't have plans to have book signings and launches in Australian bookstores in the future, because soon they won't exist.

Australian bookstores generally promote Australian authors. Amazon doesn't. It just sells books. It couldn't give a stuff who the author is. My local bookstore actually has books from local authors in it.

I would not be going into Borders either, because they arent Australian, and from what I've read they are failing here.

Anthony J Langford said...

I dont think any Australian author expects to make any money doing what they's a shame, but only a few can make any money out of it.. if they expect otherwise, they're deluded...

It's a terrible shame, but the onus of supporting local writers should not be left entirely to the public... Publishers, book stores etc have responsibility too.. Why would'nt people go overseas (online) or into international stores when we are being to ask to pay a ridiculous amount for a book..? Someone's pocketing all the extra cash and it ain't the author.. It's called being competitive..they need to change the way they do business..or theyll lose it.. adapt...

Graham Clements said...

They only real way they can compete with Amazon and the Book Depository is basically to close up shop and start an online business in China. So no more bookstores in Australia. No more Readings catalogues full of Australian authored and published books. Australia does not have the market to compete on price. If all people care about is price than they can say goodbye to the Australian book industry. That is unless the Australian dollar collapses against the greenback, which could happen when the Republicians gain control of the US government, slash spending and drive their economy into a depression. Leaving China without its biggest market, and Australia with no one to sell its mining exports too.

Ninja said...

// It also does not have the GST. That's one of the main reasons books are dearer in Australian bookstores. //

GST is 10%. Australian stores sell the book for 20$-30$.
The same argument is currently being raised by Harvey Norman etc that they lose sales to overseas because overseas (smaller) purchases don't have GST - but the same problem exists. Even with GST added, the price disparity remains quite large.

You mention Australian authors not making money on writing, but I wonder if the problem applies equally to other countries? Would bookstores in Europe, UK and the US close down because people there can also just buy from Amazon and Bookdep?

I think you're too pessimistic, Graham *laughs*
I've said it before, but you should write a cyberpunk story in a near future dystopia... a bleak corporate, culture-free society swimming in information overload with barely a creative idea per billion people. Hell, the protagonist could be someone who struggles to find a way to express that creative spark ...

Graham Clements said...

Hi Ninja,

I am not sure how bad the effect of cheap ebooks will be on European and US markets. What they do have is much larger markets so an author can hope to sell many more books to their home market at a reduced price. But if ebooks continue there reduction to zero then US and European authors will not be making much money out of writing.

I went and saw Cory Doctorow on a number of panels at Aussiecon. He is one of the leaders in pushing online publishing. He published his first novel for free online and now sells his hugo nominated novels in print. He said at Aussiecon that he was looking for other ways to make money out of books other then the selling price of a paperback or ebook.

I read in The AGE the other day that because Amazon is not physically linked to any state, it has been getting away without paying sales tax. So no wonder other bookstores are finding it hard to compete. As sales tax makes up about a third of state income in the US, the states are not happy, and some of them have recently been presenting Amazon with $100 million dollar sales tax bills. They are also trying to change the laws. If successful, then Amazons and probably Apples books will substantially increase in price. If at the same time our exchange rate was to drop to historical levels, amazons books would not be so attractive.

I went and saw Cory Doctorow on a number of panels at Aussiecon. He is one of the leaders in pushing online publishing. He published his first novel for free online and now sell his hugo nominated novels in print. He said at Aussiecon that he was looking for other ways to make money out of books other then the selling price of a paperback or ebook.

As for being overly pessimistic, every time I see an author, many who have not done any research, comment that they are unsure about buying from Amazon, or how cheap ebooks are, I usually have joined the debate. I have also joined the debate when an ebook author says how cheap their ebook is. So far, none of the authors/writers have come close to convincing me that ebooks will not wipe out the publishing industry. A few of these ebook authors, like Scott Nicholson agree with me. Others are now expressing their doubts about the wonders of ebooks.

Other reasons bookstores charge more beside the GST are they have to pay rent on their bookstore, they have to pay customer service staff, and they can't force publishers into offering huge discounts. To expect bricks and mortar retailers to compete with online retailers on price, as many people have suggested in the current debate, is ridiculous.