Marsha Canham's Blog

May 17, 2012

While I’m in the mood to vent…

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 2:05 pm

I refuse to pay over $30 for a hardcover book. If I had an elaborate library, all wood panelling and oak flooring, thick Persian carpets and mood lighting, floor to ceiling shelves that vanished up into a dome-shaped gothic-type cathedral ceiling with gilt and frescos…then maybe. Maybe then I could afford the luxury. But I have three bookcases that hold, at the most, a few hundred books. One of those bookcases is dedicated to research books and another divided between photo albums and the collection of cow knick knacks my cousin has bought for me over the years. (She gives me cow stuff for Christmas, I give her pig stuff) The other bookcase holds my “keepers” most of which have been hardcovers collected over the years. I have most of Wilbur Smith’s books in hardcover, and most of Michael Connelly’s. I have my original edition of Patrick Denis’s Auntie Mame which was, if memory serves, the first hardcover book I bought when I was back in high school. I have some collector editions on Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn, and James Stewart. A few others that I was given and read and enjoyed enough to keep.

The last Michael Connelly book on Amazon.ca was $29.99…a nosehair under the $30 high tide mark, but I thought that was cheating, so I bought it as an ebook instead.  On Amazon.com it was only $27.99 when it first came out, and I guess if I had waited  almost a year to buy it, I could have ordered it for the current $15.98. The .ca version is down to $18.88, but again that’s after almost a year. He should be coming out with a new one fairly soon and my eyeballs will roll to the back of my head again.

The price, to me, is outrageous anyway. It’s fiction. It’s a book. Most people read it once, shelf it, and run a duster over it once in a while. Diehard collectors will likely grit their teeth and buy a favorite author…or at least they have in the past, like me…but with the economy in flux, bookstores whining, lawsuits popping up against price fixing, and a Kindle or iPad reader in every purse or briefcase…I’m willing to bet a good number of those diehard collectors are going to start thinking the way I’m thinking…it’s just not worth it anymore.

Plus…and here’s the real reason for my gripe.  Twenty years ago both the U.S. and Canada went through a terrible recession. There were all kinds of circumstances that caused our dollar to drop like a rock  and for a while, the exchange rate was atrocious. It cost us $1.46 to buy $1.00 US if we were travelling into the States. Conversely, US visitors only paid the equivalent of $.60 for something that would cost them $1.00 at home. Tourism boomed up here, and Hollywood North was born as moviemakers shifted a lot of productions above the 49th parallel. It didn’t take publishers long to realize they were losing .40 on the dollar with every book they shipped and sold up here and thus the dual pricing on books, paperbacks and hardcovers, was born. Up to then there was one price printed on the spines of books, and I’ll use my own first edition of The Pride of Lions as an example. $4.95 for the paperback. One price both countries.

Through A Dark Mist, which was released in 1991, had the first dual pricing on the cover. $4.99 US, $5.99 CAN. There was grumbling, but with the exchange rate varying by as much as .05-.10 every month, the higher price was justifiable, because, after all, everything was printed in the States and shipped north, so it stood to reason the publishing houses were losing money.  Zoom forward to 1997. The exchange rate was still high, but nowhere near the .46 it was at the beginning of the decade. That was the year The Pride of Lions was reissued by Dell in paperback. The US price was $6.99, the CAN price was $10.99. Four bucks difference.  Zoom forward to present day, the paperback is $7.99 at Amazon.com (Kindle edition $10.19!!!!!), and  $10.99 (reduced to $9.89) at Amazon.ca (where there is no Kindle edition available so we have to order ebooks from .com, which makes NO sense whatsoever but that’s fodder for another vent)

The last half decade at least, the Canadian dollar has hovered around par with the US dollar. Not long ago, we were worth more. Point being, the recession that justified the four dollar difference in price has long gone but the prices have remained as if there was still a .46 difference in our dollars.  I would be curious to see, if and when Amazon.ca starts selling ebooks, if the price for a cyber file will be significantly higher up here than down there. I suppose publishers have to make their shylock money somewhere, and ebooks are the new golden egg…ergo the price fixing shemozzle they are currently embroiled in.

But back to hardcovers. James Patterson. Here’s what his new one is going for at Amazon.ca

Formats

Amazon Price New from Used from
Hardcover CDN $15.00 CDN $15.00 CDN $21.88
Paperback CDN $28.25 CDN $13.04
Audio, CD, Abridged, Audiobook CDN $17.54 CDN $11.42 CDN $14.80

and from Amazon. com

Formats

Amazon Price New from Used from
Expand Kindle Edition $0.00
Expand Hardcover $16.76 $10.79 $13.59
Paperback $14.12 $15.36
Expand Audio, CD, Abridged, Audiobook $16.49 $15.99 $11.95
Expand Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged $21.95 or Free with Audible 30-day free trial

Note the hardcover price is *reduced* from $27.99 US. and $29.99 CAN.  And those are Amazon prices. Walk into a bookstore and you’re likely paying the full price on both sides of the border. The price that jumps out at me here is the $28.25 CAN for the PAPERBACK. Hello?????  Does that come WITH the Koolaid????? Patterson doesn’t even write the damn books himself anymore, he has a team doing it for him. That, combined with the ludicrous pricing, is sheer hubris on the part of the author and the publisher.

Publishing houses want to stay in business? They’re sure going about it the wrong way. They’re pissing off authors left and right with their price fixing, their unfair accounting practices, their contracts that have the nerve, in some cases, to lock up rights for “any form of distribution that may be thought of in the future”  and yes, that’s an actual clause in an actual contract. One company created a subsidiary of itself so it could sell books to the subsidiary, call it a foreign sale, and thereby justify reducing the author’s royalty percentage from 50% to 3%.  They expect us to trust their numbers when they give us no recourse, no way to audit or check them, no access to their accounting systems.

Amazon, a huge company by any man’s measure, manages to update sales hourly, specific to each damn book. And they pay monthly from all of their subsidiaries in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Britain.

Computers, folks.

Instant information.

Publishers have it at their fingertips, but they’ve been so accustomed to getting their own way for so long, they’ve become archaic and obsolete and if they don’t shape up soon and change with the times, their worst fears will come to pass.

 

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16 Comments »

  1. Sorry, hate Amazon. They are breaking the laws and getting away with it. OTOH, the $30.00 price tag is outrageous. Paper and book costs went through the roof since the 90s and the advent of the big box retailers. Publisher would intentionally over print. Big boxes would have huge displays of the newly released bestseller. Then a month later the unsold “bestsellers” would be sent back to the publisher to be destroyed. Insane practice. Like the music industry, publishers have priced their product beyond the means of the average reader. More importantly, they do stupid things like cancel a series with a steady and loyal following of readers. Why? Numbers were not big enough. In today’s world, they can publish just the right number of books and continue to make money.
    But amazon and exclusively ebooks are not the answer. First of all, amazon really pressures its authors to have a free title on a fairly frequently basis. This helps sells kindles. Not necessarily good for the authors. I had a kindle app on my smartphone. I download free books. I not going to buy an ebook unless it is an author I really love and I can’t get the book any other way. Rachel Gibson has two new books this month, one exclusively ebook and one print. The ebook is $6.99. I am buying the print title only. Amazon has twisted the arm of publishers to give them seriously deep discounts, which the independent have to pay the difference. Then in clear violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust, amazon prices its recently released bestselling books at wholesale or less.
    Ebooks are here to stay. But print books will have a longer life. A print book can last for centuries. They get passed on and resold. There is a whole group of readers who can’t afford new books or ereaders. But they can buy used books. We need to keep print alive for everyone.
    Publisher do need to wise up. They need to stand up to amazon and sue its ass for anti-trust violations. But more importantly, publishers need its mid-list authors. They need to lower the costs of books. They need to quit looking for the mega bestsellers and try to publisher a great variety of good books by good authors.

    Comment by flip — May 17, 2012 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

    • Amazon definitely does NOT pressure it’s authors to have a free title. If anything, we have to jump through hoops to get a title to go free and the only way to do it is to get Amazon to price match a competitor. Authors who put their books into the Prime Select program only get to drop their price to free for 5 days over a three month period. It is solely the author’s choice whether to go into that exclusive program at Amazon or not….and into the exclusive program at Barnes and Noble. Nook First requires exclusivity too, but I don’t hear anyone complaining about that or charging them with anti trust violations. And Apple? An author can only upload an ebook to Apple if they do so via a Mac computer…I’d call that exclusivity too…otherwise they have to distribute through Smashwords.
      Print books may last for centuries, but the author only gets a one time payment on that book. Ebooks will last forever and each time it’s downloaded the author or his or her heirs will get paid for their work. Sorry, but I can’t bring myself to feel sorry for publishing houses and I support ebook publishers all the way *s*

      Comment by marshacanham — May 17, 2012 @ 2:49 pm | Reply

      • And here’s another thought for Independent book stores. Times are changing. Why not set up a computer in the corner of the store where customers can buy ebooks? You can set up your own online ebook store, Offer authors a fair, comparable rate to upload to your server and sell through your store. Others have done it online. Why not inside the actual book store? Just a thought.

        Comment by marshacanham — May 17, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

    • Good authors should take advantage of giving an occasional free or discounted book – that is how I discovered Marsha Canham. I got Through a Dark Mist for free on my Kindle and have paid for every one since then. And loved them all! If I had to pay full price for an author I didn’t know, I probably wouldn’t get it.

      Comment by Persk — May 22, 2012 @ 1:47 am | Reply

  2. Loved the blog and everything you said is soooo true!!! This coming from a woman with 7000 books in her house. I buy used and more than a year after the book is released. I hate the author doesn’t get the money, but who can afford any of them when they first come out.

    I also have several friends who live in Canada who are published. I’ve always thought there shouldn’t be any difference in anything but the shipping for the item. The extra price hike is bullshit!
    Teresa R.

    Comment by Teresa Reasor — May 17, 2012 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

    • LOL…well said, Teresa! I try not to swear when I’m being author-like, but dammit sometimes it just pops out.

      Comment by marshacanham — May 17, 2012 @ 5:57 pm | Reply

  3. I gave up on B&N when my email was phished and I changed my email for my Account. I now have 1500 or so Nook books floating in a cloud somewhere because all they use is email to check your account. I buy my paperbacks from Walmart (5.99) for the newly released and get great used ones from Goodwill for $1.06. I’m on fixed budget and much as I wish I could get hardcovers it would have to one of my Holy Grail authors for me to buy one. I even stick in my toes for the Trade versions. They take up too much room and when I buy a book it stays on my shelf. Now I use my Kindle Fire for free and reasonablly priced books and have found authors of good books I never would have heard of before.

    Comment by Margaret S — May 17, 2012 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

  4. Can’t come soon enough to suit me–publisher’s demise, I’m talking about. I’m tired of their having every advantage, while authors and readers have NO advantage. i guess what brought it home to me–and pissed me off the most–was that soon after I received my first Kindle for my birthday last year, a new book was released by one of my fave authors. She’s one of the top best-selling authors on the planet, mind you; and is making a gazillion dollars which pleases me. But I feel fairly certain that even she is not getting her just dues from her publisher…but I digress. The hardcover edition of her book was released for 22.95US; Amazon was not able to discount it for the e-book version.

    I did NOT jump right on that. Why? Because I had been buying her new hardcover books at Costco for years for less than $13.00US. And, sure enough, on my next Costco run, there is was…for 12.90. Why would I be paying $22.95 just to read it on my Kindle? Do I have STUPID stamped on my forehead? Nevermind, don’t answer that, because, apparently I/we do, cuz they are still doing this BS. Only, as Marsha points out so eloquently, they are doing it even more egregiously now by INCREASING the re-release of author’s backlists on e-books.

    I used to feel a little bad about the demise of print media–of newspapers of publishing houses. Now? I still have some regrets about newspapers, because I’m an old broad who loves her newsprint-ridden paws at the breakfast table every morning. It’s just not the same for hubby and I to read the paper via our smartphones. I mean, what’s the fun in NOT haggling over the front section?

    And, finally, I’m sorry, authors, but I’m being forced in my retirement years–because of these greedy publishers, by the way, to do something I NEVER used to do. I ALWAYS bought my fave authors’ books so they would reap the earnings therefrom. Now? Publishers are forcing me to rely more and more on my local library. GASP!! So far, I’m able to limit that only to bestsellers that I’m interested in. But as the pubs continue to play their stupid games? My local library has this wonderful wireless lending program for my Kindle Fire that precludes my having to pay publishers’ stupid inflated prices. And for those of you authors who are able to acquire your backlists and subsequently e-print them? I say, you go, girls (well, mostly girls LOL). And, to help you out just a little, I’m gradually even buying duplicates of my faves–of my precious library of signed, specially notated old print editions. I still cherish those personalized print editions, but when they haul me off to the home, it’s likely that only my e-books can go along with me. ROFL OK; I’ll shut up now. Aren’t you glad? 🙂

    Comment by SurferGirl — May 17, 2012 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

    • Love it when you rant alongside me, Surfergirl LOL. But you raise an interesting point. Costco discounts books to the bare bone, but why aren’t bookstores up in arms about that? Why is it just Amazon wearing the Darth Vader helmet? Seems to me cutting the price in half for a new release would do more to harm independent bookstores than Amazon or Barnes and Noble having exclusivity for 90 or 30 days, yet they don’t get branded as Evil or wanting to take over the world.

      Comment by marshacanham — May 17, 2012 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

      • I agree with your question, LP. The difference may be….and I’m just guessing here, that Costco is a “membership” store, whereas Amazon is not. However, bottom line? They both exist for profit. It would be interesting, would it not, to be able to look over the books of the publishing houses to descern where the price is reduced by the publishers (the price for which they sell to Costco, I mean.)? Does it come straight off the top of pub house prices or is there, once again, fanagling (think I mangled the spelling of that!) to skim it right off of the author’s share? Hmmmmm.

        Comment by SurferGirl — May 17, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

      • Most book contracts stipulate an author’s royalties are figured out using the “net” price of each copy. So if a book is discounted by the publisher from $10.00 to $6.00 when it’s distributed to a bookstore or a Costco outlet, the 8% royalty is calculated on the $6.00, even though the cover price says $10.00. And if it’s discounted to $6.00 at a Canadian store, it’s considered a “foreign” sale, which cuts the rate in half again and sometimes even less. Aren’t they clever little bean counters?

        Comment by marshacanham — May 17, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

  5. I love your rants Marsha. They are really informative to us unpublished and struggling authors.

    Comment by Juliet — May 17, 2012 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Juliet. I seem to be on a bit of a tear these days, but I see a comment somewhere and sets off all the fireworks.

      Comment by marshacanham — May 17, 2012 @ 5:58 pm | Reply

  6. Amazon can be quite frustrating at times as well with their pricing. I have a Kindle and live overseas, I purchase my ebooks through the .com site and usually that’s OK. A couple of times though, and more so recently, it seems they are hiking up the price of an ebook specifically for overseas customers. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy spending 6.89 Dollars for your new book (which I liked a lot!!!) but skipped the short story because it was 3.49, which is a bit dear for 70 pages. A couple of days ago I accessed Amazon.com on a new device where I was not logged on yet and saw your short story was only 99 cents! After logging on to my account it was 3.49 again :-(.

    Does anyone know what is going on? A lot of the new releases I was intending to buy are priced considerably higher for ebooks than the Paperback versions for overseas customers only. If I am not logged on I can see the regular ebook price which is in line with the paperback pricing. So for a lot of the new books I am back to buying the physical book through my “local” Amazon site. A bit annoying really because I love my Kindle and reading books on it.

    Comment by Tina — May 19, 2012 @ 9:48 am | Reply

    • Tina, as far as I know it has something to do with delivery outside of the US. ie, taxes by the country where you order it. Have you tried Smashwords? They deliver everywhere and anywhere and to my knowledge, the price is what the price is. http://www.smashwords.com.

      Comment by marshacanham — May 19, 2012 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

      • Thanks for the tip Marsha. I see I would be able to read it on my Kindle as well – great. If the differences are due to taxes it’s really weird as they are not consistent across all books and it changes! I had e-mailed Amazon about this and guess what, I had a response today that I should be able now to purchase your short story at 99 cents. I just checked and it’s true! I do hope you get your part of the proceeds when they do stuff like this with the overseas pricing. Best wishes.

        Comment by Tina — May 19, 2012 @ 2:04 pm


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