Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why is a 25 year old book $9.99

There was recently a discussion on about the pricing of books that had been out for a long time. Here’s the link if you want to follow the whole conversation.

Here’s the original question from the Redditor: 

I have read all of the great reviews for the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series by Tad Williams. I was interested in reading it, but I refuse to pay $9.99 on Nook and $7.99 on Kindle. Why is a 25 year old book as much money digitally as it is for a print version. I am really starting to get turned off by this practice and am considering only reading digital books under $3. It makes me feel like I am being ripped off.

Before I begin discussing this, let me be clear that publishers and/or authors can charge whatever they want for a book, and it’s up to readers to decide whether that pricing is fair. So, again, if you own the rights to something charge whatever you like. It is after all, literally, your business. 

Now that we’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, let’s discuss the actual issue. 

I think the answer to the question is quite simple. 
The book’s publisher is DAW/Penguin, and their logic for selling a 25 year old book in digital format for $9.99 is two-fold. 
Penguin has a lot of new releases that are also about $9.99, and they don’t want these new releases competing with older books that are priced around $3.00. 
Penguin and other large publishers do not want to condition readers to such a low price point. 

Both points are reasonable from the publisher’s perspective as they are a for profit organization. 

However, it can be debated if this is the best overall business model and it’s highly debatable if this is the best thing for the author. 

Tad Williams will soon be releasing The Last King of Osten Ard, a sequel trilogy to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Would it be such a poor idea to at least lower the first book in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn to $2.99 or what about packaging all 3 books for $12.00? As the book is 25 years old and a lot of fantasy readers are less than 25 years old, it might not be a bad idea to try to get a new audience into the books. 

That’s just my thoughts on the matter and what I would do if I was in charge over at DAW. 

It’s curious though that Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is currently number 15,645 in the kindle store and a self-published author by the name of Will Wight is number 4 in fantasy with his novel City of Light. 

I don’t know what that translates to in sales, but I think we can safely assume that not only is Wight making more money (at least in digital) but he is actively building a base of readers for his next book. 

Full disclosure, I haven’t read either book that I’m mentioning, so I cannot speak to their qualities, but it seems like that $2.99 price point is working to Mr. Wight’s advantage.