The ongoing conflict between Hachette and Amazon over e-book pricing has highlighted some of the glaring differences of principle between traditional publishers and the world of electronic distribution. In the most simplified terms, Hachette wants e-book prices to be fixed at a minimum price that is near the hardback release price. Amazon wants the e-book prices to be lower to reflect the much lower cost of production and distribution of an electronic book format.
Bearing in mind that the publisher has control over the timing of the release of the e-book, paperback, or audio format of any book, this is not a matter of competing formats. It has more to do with the perceived value of a commodity, to wit: a product is viewed as less valuable if it is less expensive and more accessible. That is well and good if you are trying to control the value of an item that has no inherent value–such as a diamond. Let the diamond sellers of the world continue to manipulate the market into paying outrageous amounts for as long as people let them. This is about knowledge, and that is worth more than diamonds.
To be very clear, this post has transitioned into the portion that is entirely based on my opinion. Let no one walk away feeling that I have misled.
I am a self-published author. The majority of my business has always been through Amazon. My position in this matter is not based on a loyalty to Amazon. It is grounded in my belief that the success of a book should be measured by the number of readers touched by the story, and not the number of royalty dollars earned per copy.
Some authors, like any other group of people, prefer to focus on financial gain as a measure of success. Amazon has addressed that in their latest communication:
“We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99.”
I highly recommend this particular paragraph in the Amazon message.
I can attest to this. Once I let go of the notion that the price of each unit mattered somehow, I found that unit sales increase more than made up for the difference. I got what I truly wanted: more readers.
I imagine that the authors contracted with Hachette’s divisions at the former Time-Warner Publishing and Hyperion never set out to publish with a big house solely so they could have a greater audience. If that were the case, Hachette would not need to be so concerned about money.
I can’t see the point of protecting a perception of exclusivity in the value of a book. It’s not in my makeup. I’m not condemning those who do, but I simply don’t see things that way. To me, a person is worth more than a dollar. The story is worth nothing if only few can afford to access it.