Marsha Canham's Blog

March 2, 2012

Did Random House learn nothing from the demise of Borders?

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 8:26 pm

So I was wandering through Amazon this morning, digitally of course, checking how the freebie promotion for Through A Dark Mist was going (Free for two more days! Get your copy now while the getting is good *s*) when I happened to notice the new and odd pricing for my Scotland trilogy, The Pride of Lions, The Blood of Roses, and Midnight Honor. For the past few months since authors have been uploading their backlists at reasonable prices, from $2.99-$4.99, RH had significantly lowered their prices to stay in competition. All three of the Scotland books had been priced around $4.99.

So this morning, when I saw POL priced at $10.14, and the other two at $11.27, I thought it surely must be a glitch in the Amazon system, which happens occasionally.  Imagine my surprise when articles started appearing about Random House’s new pricing policy. I’ll quote one of them here:

Random House Raises eBook Wholesale Prices Significantly


Random House announced their library ebook pricing, effective as of March 1, which will dampen some of the enthusiasm for the house’s commitment to the “unrestricted and perpetual availability of our complete frontlist and backlist of Random House, Inc.” in ebook form. The new prices, which librarians tell The Digital Shift represent up to a tripling, are calibrated to “bring our titles in price-point symmetry with our Books on Tape audio book downloads for library lending. These long have carried a considerably higher purchase price point than our digital audio books purchased for individual consumption.” The new price structure for library wholesalers is:

New hardcovers, “for the most part” are $65 to $85.
Titles available for several months, or generally timed to paperback release, move to a range of $25 to $50.
New children’s hardcovers are $35 to $85.
Older children’s titles and children’s paperbacks are $25 to $45.

eBooks were already sold to wholesalers at prices close to the print retail price. A library ebook sale of an expensive hardcover like Robert Massie’s Catherine the Great, for example, now wholesales for $105–which is actually 10 times what Random House receives for the individual consumer sale of the same ebook, agency-priced at $14.99, and yielding them $10.50. A lower-priced harcover, like Anne Rice’s THE WOLF GIFT, yields a library ebook wholesale receipt that is more like 8.5 times the yield of a single consumer ebook sale.

Random House says their “new library e-pricing reflects the high value placed on perpetuity of lending and simultaneity of availability for our titles. Understandably, every library will have its own perspective on this topic, and we are prepared to listen, learn, and adapt as appropriate.” They say elsewhere, “We believe that pricing to libraries must account for the higher value of this institutional model, which permits e-books to be repeatedly circulated without limitation. The library e-book and the lending privileges it allows enables many more readers to enjoy that copy than a typical consumer copy. Therefore, Random House believes it has greater value, and should be priced accordingly.”


Seriously?  With a bazillion indie books being uploaded daily, most of them priced around the same as a good cup of Starbucks coffee…RH is raising prices to nearly double what they were a week ago?  The price for a paperback copy of The Pride of Lions is only $7.99, so why would anyone download the ebook for over $10???

I don’t know exactly what brought around the demise of Borders, but they were the only store that didn’t have a dedicated reader. Barnes and Noble came out with the Nook, Amazon had the Kindle… Borders scratched their…uh…heads and wondered why their sales were falling way behind.

Now Random House is doubling, and in some cases tripling their prices for ebooks. Does that make sense in any man’s language? Even bean-counterese?

Please, dear readers, do me a LARGE favor and DO NOT BUY any of my Scotland books. If sales drop below a certain number, I am entitled to request the rights back, and when I get the rights back, they will, like my other backlist books, be reissued at coffee-cup prices that everyone can afford.

Some things just make you shake your head.

And, as it happens, next week is Read an Ebook Week in Canada…our Parliament even said so *s*.  So check back here on Monday for some coupons.  Check out the official Read an Ebook website too.





  1. This stuff makes me crazy, too. I’ve gone to try out a few authors lately (Rob Thurman comes to mind) only to find the kindle price higher than the paperback. WTF?

    I’m willing, for authors I really want to read, to pay the same as paperback, but not more.

    Random House is really shafting their authors with this one.

    Comment by Sheri Hart — March 2, 2012 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

  2. Hey Chick!

    WOW?! Sometimes wonders never cease! Thanks for the heads up, and let’s spread the word!
    I swear I want to punch someone sometimes, and I’m not a violent person!!!


    Comment by Bookworm — March 2, 2012 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

  3. Borders closed for a lot of reasons, none of which have to do with ereaders. First and foremost, since 1981 the US justice dept stopped enforcing anti-trust laws. This has enabled those fuckers at Amazon to break all the rules. Arm twist publishers into giving them steeper discounts and predatory pricing. No bookstore, Borders, B&N, or Dark Horse Books can compete against such predatory pricing. We also pay more to compensate for Amazon’s big discounts. Amazon has been losing money on book sale for a while. But it is part of their strategy to eliminate competition. Both Borders and B&N are struggling with the high costs of rentals. Frankly, Borders might have been able to come out of bankruptcy if their landlords had been willing to work out a deal. They weren’t

    Amazon is losing money on book sales. Has been for a long time. But its goal is elimination of all competition. Despite ebook sales, B&N is hurting now. You can expect to see stores closing. Frankly, I don’t think an Amazon monopoly is good for anyone. I bought Connie Brockways latest novel even though it is an Amazon publication for the store. Then the fuckers priced at below my wholesale costs. As much as I love Brockway, I wont’ buy another damn book published by Amazon.

    Print books are too expensive. Have been for a long time. This is due to an idiotic outdated practice of over printing books and then destroying the returns. Price books reasonably and people will buy more print books. It is that simple. Overpricing e-books won’t solve the problem.

    E-books are here to stay. I can go on and on about the good, bad and evil aspects of ebooks. However, the best aspect of ebooks is the opportunity to read out of print books and authors without contracts. The worst in my opinion, is that they are ebooks. Sorry. I still love print.

    Comment by flip — March 2, 2012 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

    • flip… I thought about censoring the “F” bomb out of your comments, but figured hey, everyone is entitled to an opinion, regardless of the language *S*

      I suppose it depends what side of the fence you’re standing on. To us authors, Amazon has resurrected careers that might otherwise have languished in obscurity…yours truly included…for years to come. Amazon may be trying to establish a monopoly, but that will never happen. What they are doing is what every business does…undercut the competition. Grocery stores do it all the time but I don’t hear one chain being called a fucker over another just because they offer milk at half price.

      I understand how book stores are suffering…but that has to do with the price of print books as much as the upsurge in ebooks. And I’ve said for years and years that publishing houses had to change their practice of overprinting books and destroying them after barely a month on the shelves. No business can stay in business these days if they destroy half their stock…and factor in that destruction from the outset when they fix the price for their product.

      They are also losing more and more authors to ebook because of their accounting practices. Amazon pays monthly. Period. They don’t hold back reserves against returns. They don’t hold our money for six months, twelve months, twelve YEARS in some cases. Some of my backlist books were selling in dribs and drabs for the past ten, fifteen years, but I haven’t been paid a cent. Presidents, VP’s, editors, sales personnel, clerks, accountants at publishing houses get paid every two weeks…authors get *statements* every six months, most of them without a cheque attached.I would challenge anyone to try to live that way. You can’t budget for food, for a mortgage, for clothes for your kids because you have no idea if you’re going to earn anything in any given six month period. My ex-stupid was a teacher way back when we were first married (spit, ptooey) and I found it nearly impossible to budget for anything when he was only paid once a month! Try it at once every six months. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple..they pay every month.

      I feel bad for independant bookstores because they’re suffering from the continual increase in book prices. But don’t be putting the entire burden of blame on Amazon, or any other ebook distributor for that matter. As much as the bookstores are hurting, the authors are being treated like real people for the first time in a loooooong time.

      Comment by marshacanham — March 2, 2012 @ 9:27 pm | Reply

  4. Hi Marsha,

    This is yet another fine example of how little control an author has over her published work.
    Good luck in getting your rights back on all your books.

    Comment by Phoebe Conn — March 2, 2012 @ 10:19 pm | Reply

    • I’m trying, I’m trying *s*. And if no one buys the Scotland books at RH prices, I may succeed. *s*

      Comment by marshacanham — March 2, 2012 @ 10:30 pm | Reply

  5. I NEVER buy un ebook that is priced higher than a mass market. I found this practice extremely stupid.

    Comment by Susana — March 2, 2012 @ 10:45 pm | Reply

  6. Just think how affordable this makes your eBooks!

    Comment by Regan — March 2, 2012 @ 11:35 pm | Reply

  7. OMG! What are these people smoking and why don’t they share? Really, talk about removed from the economy, let alone their customer base. Amazing they’re still in business. I guess Jeff Bezos will soon take care of that!!

    Comment by Karen — March 3, 2012 @ 12:49 am | Reply

  8. I so hope you get the rights back to your Scotland series – it was one of the best series I ever read! I think is crazy that RH expects people to pay over $10 for a book that’s not a new release! With that said… I’m still patiently waiting for your 3rd book in the Dante series….

    Comment by Cory — March 5, 2012 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

    • Thank you Cory, and I agree wholeheartedly about the pricing. Its ridiculous to pay more for something that requires no paper, no printing, no delivery trucks, no warehousing, no store shelves, no salespeople…

      And I thank you for your patience in waiting for Gabriel’s story. It’s almost ready. Almost *s*

      Comment by marshacanham — March 6, 2012 @ 12:28 pm | Reply

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