It's rare that I piggyback onto a Dear Author post. Usually, I just pop into the comment section or hop onto Twitter to chime in, but today's post struck a nerve for me. I'm just going to write my reaction in my usual, meandering style.
I'm reading the Clare Fergusson series by Julia Spencer-Fleming right now. Or rather, I WAS reading it. Until I went to buy the next installment and discovered that Minotaur has set the ebook price at $9.99. The rest of the series is priced at $7.99, but that particular volume is out of print in mass market. $9.99 for a book printed in 2006. I'm not paying that. I can afford to pay it, but I'm simply not going to.
What burns me, though, is the other readers for whom $9.99 is simply an impossibility. They aren't even going to get to the judgment call about rights vs value because they can't afford the $9.99. Books are luxury items, especially for voracious readers who have to budget what they can spend on them.
When I was a new mom on a very tight budget, I'd buy my favorite
authors, read the books, then resell them, loan them out, or donate
them. I can't do any of that, legally, with ebooks. Which is why I find
the high ebook prices for new releases so enraging. I can afford to buy
the books I want now, with no expectation of utilizing my First Sale
rights. But because I found tremendous value in those rights, because I
USED them, I refuse to pay the same price (or close) for a product that
doesn't have them as I do for one that does.
Well, what about the library, then? Don't we have those for the less fortunate?
My answer is this: have you looked around? Have you set foot in a library recently? Libraries were some of the hardest hit institutions in the economic downturn because many are locally funded. Of the largest general fund obligations in our county, the library and our museum were the ones slashed/closed.
And even if your library is financially healthy, there's no guarantee that they a) carry romance/mystery (mine carries the latter but not the former) or b) have a substantial ebook collection (again, nope).
It's no surprise then that for readers who haunt library used book sales, who trade favorite books with friends, hoarding their very limited book budget for those 'auto-buy' authors they can afford, the current pricing among the Big 5 publishers is not only cost-prohibitive, but downright insulting. Owning an ereader or other ebook compatible device is an investment on the part of the reader. It says "I care enough about books to buy a device, install an app etc that lets me read them." And many did so knowing that they can't trade those books in. They can't sell them. They can't loan them out (for the most part). In return, publishers have rewarded that initial investment by raising ebook prices across the board.
Pricing books at $9.99 or $12.99 for books tells readers that publishers and authors don't care if people can't afford them. They don't care if a large section of the public doesn't have access. They don't care that the very readers who are passionate about their favorite authors, who helped build an enthusiastic readership, are left out in the cold by these prices. In short, they don't care if people read their books. They only care if they buy them. Maybe that's not new, but it's a sad way to view a group of loyal consumers in the age of increased competition for both time and entertainment budgets.