Blogger Confession: I am a consumer in the world of books!

Posted April 13, 2012 by Felicia S in Blogger Confession / 21 Comments


I am a book consumer of epic proportions!

NOTE: What I am about to “rant, ponder, think out loud about* is just my opinion.

Who am I? I am a consumer of books in epic proportions.  Seriously, I spent $2500 on books (eBooks and paper) last year. It was an almost 50/50 split on the type of books I bought.  Not all of my eBooks were bought from Amazon though a majority were since I am a Kindle owner.  Not all of my paperbacks were bought from first run books stores (Barnes and Noble, Indie Bookstores, etc.) though a majority were since I like new books.  I have bought eBooks directly from publisher websites and I have bought paperbacks from Half Price Books.  I try to be supportive of authors and publishers BUT my bottom line is to get the best possible bang for my buck!

So? It means that I look for the best deal for the product I want to buy.  If that means I end up buying the book from Barnes and Noble because I have a coupon, Target because they have an automatic 20% off the cover price, Half Price Books because I got lucky and the book I wanted was there, or Amazon/Smashwords/Pub Site because the eBook version is cheaper– the end venue matters very little to me.  I think I am pretty representative of how most of America shops these days.  We want our dollar to go further especially with entertainment items.  We need to know that we got the best deal there is.

Why I am giving these facts? All this week I have been following all the articles being posted about the DOJ ruling.  I have read hundreds if not thousands of comments on those articles.  Some of the comments have amused me, others angered me, and others had me completely flummoxed. I didn’t comment on any of the articles because it would have ended up being a rather lengthy comment.  In the end, I would rather blog about it so that I can talk to my friends about it.  Especially since that is who reads this blog anyway.

My Thoughts: Can I just say that I think the Publishers biggest mistake in all of this is not having better Public Relations.  They have left us consumers to piece together the information through articles and quite frankly the dollar amount on the screen.  They have also came across very whiny and angry about “public perception” of eBooks and pricing.

While the DOJ ruling isn’t about the Agency Pricing model, that seems to be what everyone is talking about. The actual ruling is about whether the Agency Pricing model was put together by the Publishers in an underhanded way.  Whether that ends up being proven or disproved is up to lawyers. I am going to tell you how I see it as a consumer and if I am misinformed then really that is on the publishers!

A couple of years ago, I started seeing articles about big publishers and Apple agreeing to terms where they could set the price of eBooks.  No one could undersell Apple. Some very big companies were working together to control the marketplace (perception or reality I guess that is still being determined).  That means there was zero point in shopping eBook prices like I do paperback prices because there would be no price differences between marketplaces.  As a consumer, that made me a bit weary.  First, I am not an Apple fan girl.  I don’t like the over-exaggerated pricing structure they have about almost everything in their arsenal.  I was really worried what that would mean to eBook pricing.  Would I be stuck spending the list price for every eBook I wanted to buy in the future?  Even though in the paperback world I did not.  I was angry! I was mad! I wanted more information and it seemed like the publishers/Apple took the stance of you just have to accept it. Seriously, I didn’t read anything from them telling the consumer not to worry, this is for the best, and this is why?  It was just the sound of crickets and a sudden $12.99, $13.99, or gulp $14.99 price on some of the books I wanted.  Worse than that, in the first few weeks I saw a book’s price change 3 times while it appeared that the publishers were trying to find their “sweet” spot for selling.  What does that have to do with list price? SQUAT.  That has to do with finding the point that would sale. I don’t ever remember seeing the list price in the back of my paperback magically change from $7.99 in the span of 3 days. Still nothing from the publishers in terms of informing the public. Might have done them some good and they might not be in the mess they are today if they had been just a wee bit more communicative with the public.

Personal Note: I need to add that I have never understood how they decided that coupling with one Big Bad Wolf to take on another Big Bad Wolf was going to help them from a publicity stand point.  I am just going to say it–hire some PR and Advertising people.  Listen to them!

Flash forward to last year where I guess either the publishers were feeling the heat to communicate with the consumers or the EU started poking around the “price-fixing” allegations.  We started seeing very poor articles about “eBooks cost just as much to manufacture and supply as paperbacks”.  Nothing I read really made me go “OK that’s why” and really most of it made me scratch my head.  I am lucky that I have friends in the industry that could explain some of it to me but in the end, the general consumer doesn’t get that information.  Even with the cleared up information, the logic seemed a little screwy to me.  Basically, I got that a book had a ton of elements to make it from Point A  to Point B.  There was the authors cut, royalties, marketing, editing, administrative costs, publicity that all factored in.  I got that part BUT here is where the Publishers failed to make a clear case for the pricing structure. I assume (and I am probably wrong) that initial group of cost points are all taken into consideration when the baseline cost point for a book is noted.  These costs should be factored into every book sold. In fact you should give Authors more of the cut but that is just my opinion.

Here is where the publishers lose me (the consumer) in their explanation of eBook pricing.  The book (that magically wonderful thing) is formatted and sent to the printers for paperback distribution where the publishers evidently have this part down to a science because according to them this cost exactly the same as formatting and distributing an eBook. Huh? What? Paper, Ink, Equipment Maintenance/Upkeep, Equipment Purchase Price are exactly the same as formatting a file (which yes I realize there is an application cost, coding cost, people hours associated with this too). I work in IT, we are constantly hearing how we need to go digital to save on the bottom line. In fact, almost every consumer hears this a 100 times a day in their daily life. So we are ingrained with the idea that digital saves the bottom line.  So in the end, I am guessing a lot of consumers thought this very thing when reading the eBook pricing explanation:  “I want to know why when I share a file through printing it out it doesn’t cost me the same as sharing one through email?”  I am simplifying by using this as an example but honestly nothing a publisher has submitted to the public has broken down their reasoning behind pricing of eBooks.  It is almost like they have gone out of their way to either say “you are too stupid to understand” or “we aren’t quite sure either”.  I am going to assume they aren’t just saying “Shut up and take it! You want the book you will pay whatever we say”.  With this limited bit of information, I am not convinced about their ideas behind pricing eBooks.  So if you can’t explain to me why you are pricing your books the way you are then at least explain to me why I can’t use a coupon towards an eBook? Huh? What? Does not compute!  “We want competition in the marketplace for the consumer.”  I understand that agency pricing model gives you more of a competition behind the scenes which might lead to savings on my end BUT so far it hasn’t!  You are not making your case Mr. Publisher.

Flash Forward to Today where we have tons of Authors and Publishers upset over the DOJ ruling and what that means for them.  I get that!  I really do!  As a consumer, I am really kind of thrilled to see where it goes.  We have got 2 years before we really see how this plays out.  I imagine that some form of the Agency Pricing model crops up again but it will be on a publisher by publisher basis. I think we will see more established authors going the independent route.  I think you will see more independent authors in the marketplace.  I think that the consumer will be given more choices.  I know the publishers are threatening that this is bad for us (not really the PR stance I would have taken “threaten the person that buys my product”) but I am not convinced.  It will be interesting to see where it goes from here and what the bottom line ends up being.

Before you ask, yes I fully plan to take advantage of eBook pricing in the meantime (over the next 2 years) so that in case the publishers drive book prices way up I am stocked up to wait it out.  That, Mr. Publisher is also something you should take into account.  Now might be the time to come to happy medium with your buying public.  I know right now you are focusing on the resellers and how to “out-fox” them but I would spend a little more time on the public.  Let use know, in clear non-argumentative terms what you are going to do to keep us buying your product.  You have a unique opportunity to take some lemons and make a kick ass lemonade.  We want to support you and we want to support authors.  We also want to save money!  So now the ball is clearly in your court.  Choose wisely your next play!

Note to Barnes and Noble: Use this 2 years to tie your Nook Business into your membership awards card.  I think it will do you a world of good!

Felicia S
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21 responses to “Blogger Confession: I am a consumer in the world of books!

  1. You rocked this piece girl! I feel quite strongly about all of this and have been following it almost as closely as you.

    As a consumer do I expect you, Mr. Publisher, to give me a product for $1 – $2? NO! That's not what we're asking. Trying to price compare an ebook to a physical book is like comparing apples to oranges. They are in no way, shape, or form the same product. Same story sure, not the same product. So when I go to purchase an ebook and you're telling me I'm saving $8 compared to the print list price? That just makes me want to shake my fist at you. Why? Because when I go to the print book, you're certainly not making them charge full cover price there are ya?! It's maybe $1 more for the print version.

    Phew! Sorry about that. 🙂 My point is that I think all people as consumers want is to not feel like they're being fooled. Avon actually has a nice set up for their historical romances right now. (It could be on more lines, but this is all I have really noticed.) Quite a few of them, even as new releases, have price points of $4.99. It's not rocket science to figure it out and I hope this DOJ ruling will shine some light on that.

  2. Ruby

    I'm so glad I clicked on this, because I've been hoping to find some clarification behind the court case. I still don't think I fully understand what's going on, but you've definitely helped me get a head-start. I have a Kindle, and I adore it, but I don't actually purchase books for it that often. I do like being able to purchase hard-to-find and out-of-print titles on it, and when I seriously can't wait for a title, I'll go ahead and purchase it.
    One of the things that constantly frustrates me about ebook pricing is that ebooks have a lot of disadvantages, and should be priced accordingly. When you purchase an ebook, you're not really purchasing the book–you're purchasing access to it. When you purchase a physical book, it becomes yours in a way that ebooks can never be. You can loan any physical book. You can donate it to your library or give it to a friend, or sell it to a used bookstore. When I buy an ebook, it feels like I'm leasing it…I can use it, but it's never really mine. Which I, personally, think means it has lesser value.

    • thegeekyblogger

       I agree!  I think when you can't really "do" anything with the book it does "devalue" it.  You can't "own" it or "keep" it.  You certainly can't loan it.  I understand there is a certain amount of baseline price associated with a book but after that you really do need to price your formats accordingly.  I honestly think they make more off of eBooks for those reasons you listed.  Everyone who is reading an eBook copy (legal) had to buy it.  So it is pretty much a 1 to 1 (or at least 1 to account) copy!

  3. Regina Hott

    You crack me up!! I agree with you. Especially since I watched in ONE week almost all of BN's ebooks go from 5.99 to 7.99? Did they change the book? nope. I was just agency pricing – and those books never go on sale nor do they ever have promos or discounts. 
    I've been trying desperately to convert my massive physical library to an ebook library because hubby says I'm a walking fire hazard but at the rates they're changing prices I'mm just keep shopping indie's.
    To me? the absolute worst part is that I've crated ebooks in many of the different versions. Yes, it took several hours BUT come on! That book is paid for after 200 sales & there is no need to print more. so it's ALL profit. It just irks me to no end!
    Thanks for letting me vent doll 😉

    • thegeekyblogger

      Exactly!  Seriously I know people who self-publish and can tell me the costs associated with the strict file to distribution times/effort/costs.  I realize that part of the cost is the baseline put into ALL books but there is NO REASON EVER an eBook should be more than a paperback.  Never! Shouldn't Happen! Ever!

      I loved your vent!  It was way shorter than mine so you need to vent some more.  I realized mine was turning into a mini-novel so I shut it down LOL

  4. Erin F

    Perfect, perfect, perfect. And I'm right there with you on the book spending… even the 50/50 split between paperback and Kindle!

    I've set a firm rule of not purchasing any ebook over $5… $3-4 really if I can help it. B/c then, it just makes more sense to me to go and buy the paperback if I'm going to spend the same amount of money. Siiiigh… big business… it's sad that they completely lose sight of that they are still dependent on us consumers, instead, they are doing us a favor…

    • thegeekyblogger

       Oh I am glad I am not the only one who spends that much 🙂 

      I just think they either need to inform us better or expect backlash from the consumer.  I am not convinced they raised the prices for the reasons they said (based on what they allow paperbacks to be sold for).  I think it is more likely they wanted eBooks to go away.

  5. Love the rant. So perfectly done. 

    I also have a problem with the way the big publishers don't help out the libraries in ebooks too. I so agree that they aren't really doing a great job in public relations. I think that is why I tend to gravitate to the lesser known, smaller publishers in ebooks when I purchase. They don't seem to be going overboard in pricing, and seem to allow discounting.

    • thegeekyblogger

       I was in a ranty mood yesterday LOL 🙂

      Oh I hate what big pubs are doing to libraries.  They really don't think about the consumer at all.

  6. $2500 on books? Girl, that is our trip to Scotland, right there!

    Thanks for educating me on all of this, Felicia. As a consumer, I want to get the best value for my buck too, and the thing that always makes me apprehensive about buying e-books is that you can't share them with friends or family, so why would I pay more for them? I'm failing to see how they cost just as much as the printed version and would definitely appreciate some sort of explanation.

    I'm like Kristin. At this point, I only use my Kindle for free eBooks and NetGalley.

    • thegeekyblogger

       I know right?  That is a trip to Scotland with a hop to Ireland almost 🙂

      If I factored in what I paid to go to conventions on top of that well I could stay in a castle in Scotland for at least one night LOL

      I think the pubs have done a horrid job at letting the buying public know what they are paying for.  I am about to have to buy a new AC Unit for my house.  I googled to find out all the information I could to see if the bids I received  were accurate/fair.  I do this.  I am a consumer.  I need to make informed buying decisions.  So far the pubs haven't released anything to make me feel "warm, fuzzy" about their eBook pricing structure.  Then again, I really do think they wish eBooks would just go away. They need to get over that!


  7. Awesome blogpost Felicia. I read some of those problems on Twitter, but being European, most of it went by me. Also, I don't often buy ebooks, I still prefer my paperbacks 🙂 But I am surely awaiting the outcome of this. And I do agree, give the authors more of a cut, after all, they spend the most time on the product 🙂 the books we love are their hard work and frustration and love.

    • thegeekyblogger

       Yes!  I think they get the short end from all of this period!  It will be interesting to see it play out!

  8. Great post! I feel the exact same way but don't think I would have been able to express myself as clearly as you. I hate the publishers attitude that the readers are dumb and what they are doing is for our best interest. I'm like you, I go for the best deal especially when buying ebooks. It's a shame that I can get a new paperback release at Target for 5.44 but if I buy the ebook, it's 7.99. What sense does that make?? So it's okay for the print to be discounted but not the digital copy? That is some warped logic. I know everyone thinks Amazon is the big bad in all this but IMO everyone is at  fault. The authors and the readers are the ones who are affected. Hopefully pubs will get their heads out their asses and see the bigger picture.

    • thegeekyblogger

       That is what I am hoping too! 

      I think there were a lot of big bads in the picture and they seemed to talk around the buying public.  They just kind of forgot that we existed in this whole mess. I am like you, I am not asking to go back to the reseller setting the price.  I am just asking to get the same buying experience for a book regardless of the format.  Plus, I am asking for more information but I doubt we will ever get that.  If you can discount a paperback, you should be able to discount an eBook.  It just makes sense to me but evidently I am a stupid consumer to think that. 

      I also think authors are going to get the short end of the stick.  They really need to fight for their rights from the publishers which is hard unless you have a long term contract.  They are going to need some big names to set the standard.  I really hope they are able to band together and figure out the business end.

      In the end, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. 

  9. Stella Exlibris

    Err.. I know I lived under a rock, but could you tell me what was the DOJ ruling, what did they decide? Thank souy!

  10. Did you take my brain this morning???   Because, girl, you NAILED IT!!!  Amen! Word! Testify!!!  You said everything I think and you made sense of what was going on from your educated-consumer point of view!

    I feel bad for the authors!!!  They're getting the short end of the stick ~ they should be shouting the loudest. At the same time, their reputations are stuck with their publisher's reputation, at least perception-wise.  And isn't that all we're going on anyways.  It isn't that we're dumb, with the absence of facts, what else do we have to go on???

    I stuck with paper books all along anyways.  I just got my Kindle as a gift and I use it for free eBooks and NetGalley ;P

    • thegeekyblogger

       I feel super bad for authors!  I do think they will get the short end of the stick in all of this if they are with a major publisher.  It is sad!

      I love my eBooks but for me it has always been where I can get the best deal.  If the price is across the board the same, I go with the eBook for storage purposes LOL I am running short on shelf space 🙂