Is It Time To Make Big Publishers Pay The Price?

Today I noticed that Jayne Anne Krentz's new one - "Copper Beach" is now out and about.  I love her work as Krentz and Amanda Quick, though I've never read any of hers as Jayne Castle.  I'd have snapped up her new one in a heart beat except for one not so itty-bitty thing -- the price. 

Ms. Krentz's "Copper Beach" is priced for ebook at $12.99 and the hardcover is $15.26.  That means that Penguin Publishing is selling Ms. Krentz's ebook for only $2.27 less than the hardcover edition.  Holy toadfrogs, Batman.  I adore the author's work, but that price tag is a big ole' stop sign for me.  Even if I had $12.99 to spend for the book - I wouldn't pay that price.  The cost for this ebook doesn't reflect economic reality in today's market given most consumer's budgets and it doesn't reflect how little ebooks cost to produce as compared to paperbacks - let alone hardcover.

In fact, the $12.99 pricetag is so high it feels like gauging.  That I wouldn't put up with even if I had a bank balance bigger than the combined wealth of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, every Arab Sheik and the entire Walton family.  In the present economic environment, Penguin Publishing's price scale seems far worse than mere greed - it feels evil.

I also think it's quite short sighted of Penguin to set their ebook prices so high.  Consumers have long, long memories.  In my neighborhood there was a hardware store that had been family owned and in business for many years.  Then during Hurricane Hugo the store decided to profit from the aftermath.  It decided to pad its bank balance at the expense of the people who'd kept the place in business for so long.  In the midst of disaster and destruction, the store charged outrageous prices for supplies, generators, batteries and even water. And the victims of the Hurricane got victimized again.  But the area recovered.  People rebuilt and hardware stores all over the area made a great deal of money - but not that store.  You know what happened to that store?  It went out of business and the victims became the victors. 

If Penguin would reduce prices far below what it could reasonably charge the company and its authors would make more money now and would make far, far more when we FINALLY recover from the present economic disaster.  Penguin could sell all its books for $7.99 or less and stamp each one with a note - something like - "We're all in this together and a link for a website."  At the site, the company could state that it had reduced prices to keep books affordable and that prices would increase when things improved.  You know what? The company that did that would find out that the most valuable business commodity is a loyal customer base. 

Ms. Krentz isn't responsible for what her publisher charges.  Sure, she makes money from each sale but the publisher and the vendor make far more than the author who doesn't get to decide the price.  That's a big advantage of being an indie author - all the choices belong to me.  I surely don't have a fan base of even 1/100th of Ms. Krentz's, but based on my experience I can say that the author would actually make a fortune if she got the rights to her back list and self published.  She could charge $3.99 or $4.99 per book and make more than she'd made on that books original advance, all the payouts and all the royalties - far more. 

Penguin's not the only publisher bilking the public, but it's the one I noticed today.  The mindset that allows a company to feel entitled to price an ebook so high is the same mindset that prompted my local hardware store to go for the gold and disregard the hardship being suffered by their devastated and loyal customers. 

Penguin and any company willing to re-victimize the victims of the current economic catastrophe should suffer the same fate as my local hardware store.  But you know what? We actually had to drive farther to pass the gauging  hardware store to go to another business. In an online world, it will be much easier to teach publishers the consequences of corporate greed and an unconscionable lack of empathy. And we won't even have to go out of our way to do it. 

Clicking "next" is easy and perhaps now would be a good time to put that into practice.