How To Win The Battle And Lose The War

Last year one of the biggest battles in publishing was between Amazon and Hachette over the pricing of books.  The big five publishers were playing hardball with their biggest retail and eventually the retailer ended up saying “meh,  do you what you want.” What the big  five didn’t realize that Amazon on was only responding to their customers and using price data based on customer purchases.  Well the numbers are in and the customers have spoken.

It turns out that Amazon was right and customers did not have such love of traditional authors and the Big Five’s books that they were willing to pay full price or more for electronic books.  This is good news for indie writers and Very Bad News for the Big Five.


  1. Francis W. Porretto (@FPorretto) · September 16, 2015

    At one time, I would have argued that the traditional publishers could get away with high eBook prices, on the grounds that an established writer’s fans would exhibit sufficient “author loyalty” to overcome the premium. Today it’s clear that that’s not the case…and I price my own eBooks accordingly.


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  3. Jerry Lawson · September 16, 2015

    When the cost of an ebook is the same (OR MORE!) than the paperback version – I’m much more likely to just get something else. There are very, very few authors I’ll pay paperback prices on for something I download, that the publisher didn’t print, stock, and ship.

    (Larry Correia, John Ringo, Jim Butcher come to mind immediately.)

    See, I KNOW how much server space costs. One e-copy of a book can be downloaded from a server hundreds of thousands of times. Hard drive space would cost maybe a couple of cents, including electricity, per ebook. (And that’s being generous. Remember, you don’t need space for a hundred thousand copies of an e-book, just a single copy. The books I upload to Kindle Direct Publisher run on the order of 300k each, with covers running about 150k. You can slap a thousand books on a 4-gb thumb drive with a lot of room left over. After the first copy of an ebook is sold, Amazon’s made back its storage and electricity costs – and everything above that is sweet, sweet gravy.)

    Bandwidth costs? It’s a negligible fee these days, but we’ll go for a price of maybe ten cents per. Royalties? As has been observed in many places, the accounting of sales and the paying of royalties by traditional publishers seems to be an arcane subject – but it’s pretty much a given that the percentage of the sales price the author gets is a whole lot lower than what the KDP program pays at the lowest tier for an ebook (35%).

    Administration, programming, ongoing system maintenance? I can see those as ongoing costs, which would add to the price of an e-book. But to the point where the ebook’s more expensive than a paperback? Oh, no. I’m not locked into what’s on the shelf of the bookstore, what the traditional publishers have decided to print. There’s a lot of independently published stuff out there – and if some of it’s not so hot then there’s a lot that’s REALLY good.

    So you’re right. They may have ‘won’ a battle – but the war’s lost for traditional publishers already.


  4. DSmith · September 16, 2015

    Exactly like the record industry with the transition from LPs to CDs. CDs were vastly cheaper to make, but the industry held the price line and even increased it. They screwed their customers. Then along came digital and the customers weren’t all that interested in making sure the industry got paid. Now the price has collapsed to near-zero with streaming service. People have shown they *will* pay for streaming. A little. And that’s what the market says music is worth. Sorry about that, music industry. You screwed your customers, and then they screwed you back. We’re all connected now, get it?


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