More Lost Ebook Sales

Here’s yet another story of a lost sale. These are starting to pile up. Book publishers take note. I heard an interview with Gary Taubes on episode #153 of Skepticality and I was interested in his new book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It. I went to see if it was available for the Kindle and what the price was and guess what, it’s yet another one where the Kindle version is priced higher than the paper edition. I know some of my friends say that when that happens, they just buy the paper edition. Not so for me. It makes me angry enough that I buy neither one.

Let me reiterate that Gary Taubes did this podcast interview, I heard it and got interested in his product which is part of why he would spend his time doing the interview. I got all the way to the purchase page and I have a surplus of credit in my Amazon account. The only thing that stood between me and the “Buy it Now” button was Knopf’s pricing policy, and they fucked it up. As always, I’m not jonesing for things to read. I have over 100 unread books on my Kindle. I didn’t buy this book and really, I’ll never miss it. Instead I’ll read something else, and in all likelihood, I will never think about this book again.

Publishers need to understand how tenuous this window is where they have my attention, they have my willingness to buy, they have me where they need me. If you don’t convert at that point, you won’t forever. In some cases, you’ll do worse than not convert – you’ll begin to build up brand contempt. Knopf didn’t just not get my money, they twigged on my radar as a vendor to be avoided. Think of the last few books you read. How many of them could you even name what publisher put it out? The only recognition individual publishers are getting from me lately is as bad actors. That’s not what you want.

Also, to head off the highly predictable asshole comments (like, 100% of the time I’ve made these lost sale posts) this book is not available from anywhere in my county’s library system. People always reply with “just check it out of the library” which I find dickish and aggressive when you don’t have any idea whether a book is actually available for any individual. If you have a well stocked library system with all of these books, good for you. Horry County, South Carolina isn’t as well stocked as you.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

4 thoughts on “More Lost Ebook Sales”

  1. Skip says:

    Note – I agree with you here on general principles, and I do exactly the same thing (and I also have over a hundred books to be read on my kindle). However, in this specific case, they’re not quite doing what you thought you were doing. If you look at the paperback release you’ll see that it’s a preorder, not available til December 27,and the $8.95 hardcover has a $4 shipping charge. So I guess you could save four cents that way.

    But I’d have reacted the same way, for slightly different reasons – I won’t pay more than $10 for an ebook, period, and I won’t pay more than about $6 for one that’s currently out in paperback. I try to make a habit of snagging a sample, though, so I can go back sometime in a year or so, if I’m still interested, and see if the publisher has had a sudden attack of sanity. Usually that doesn’t happen, though.

  2. Alsatia says:

    I 100% agree with your decision not to buy the book for the reasons you gave. If printing costs only constitute a percent or two of a book’s price, why won’t they price ebooks that much lower??

    At the risk of being an ass, as a public librarian I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t at least mention that most public libraries have an Interlibrary Loan service. ILL borrows items from other library systems so users can get their hands on things even if their local library collection doesn’t have them. Sounds like you’re a voracious reader, though, so you may well already know about ILL. Either way, feel free to pointedly *not* ILL this title. Screw Knopf and save ILL for something awesome and obscure that’s out of print.

    (Yeah Knopf, take that! Readers & librarians won’t even touch your poorly priced ebooks as dead trees via ILL. Bwahaha!)

  3. Roxy Rogers says:

    Yes, agree! The consumer-driven window of, “give me what I want, when I want it, in the format that I want it and at the price point I want it” is nowhere on traditional publishers’ radar. Given the antiquated business models they’re still using, is it any wonder they’re over charging? I’m of the opinion that the dinosaurs cannot evolve fast enough to avoid extinction without re-engineering to a reader-driven model.

    I, too, am having sticker shock these days when I look to download on my Kindle. I find myself balking above the $7 price point, but have tons of $3-4 ebooks. I simply can’t bring myself to pay more for an ebook knowing the entire business model being used by trad houses to produce them is grossly inefficient. Their model is designed to compensate multiple middle persons, rather than to streamline process and pay the authors… nothing new. And, worst of all, still expecting the polar opposite of consumer-driven to fly in this economy. Epic fail. I’m just not buying the story anymore. Literally.

  4. I had e-book sticker shock in the other direction recently; quite a pleasant surprise. My co-writer recommended “Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel” by Lisa Zunshine. I went to Amazon and found this:

    Hardcover: $48.31
    Kindle: $1.99

    Kudos to Lisa Zunshine and Ohio State University Press!

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