Crimes in Book Pricing

I must say that in the last year or so I have come to have a lot of problems with the pricing of books in general. The retailers and publishers have a lot to answer for. I have just gone along with everyone else in assuming that it just cost a lot of money to publish physical books and ship them to the store etc and then the store needs to make a decent profit to pay for their employees and floor space. In the last year though as digital editions of books have started to come out the prices in general aren’t reflecting any savings to the end purchaser. I leaves me wondering at the truth of statements made by publishers as to why they charge as much as they do for books. If we are no longer paying for the printing, the physical paper, the shipping and the retail floorspace and salaries of the sales people then what are we paying for.  In the case of authors it is fairly criminal how little they get per book. One author I spoke with was getting royalties of only about 3% and in my opinion getting ripped off royally. Amazon right now is selling their books at around 30 dollars a copy and they are getting about 1 dollar per copy. If they published their own digital edition through amazon it could sell for half the cost and still get 5.25 a copy.. a 500% increase in profits. Or they could setup their own website and self publish from it using paypal and keep all the profits minus fairly minor expenses. It could published in PDF with the file locked to keep it from being easily copied. The simplest method would be to just have a link on the website that took you to paypal for payment and when the author got an email showing receipt of payment they could email to the purchaser. A little more difficult up front would be to set it up so that when they paid, it redirected them to a download page. As to loosing revenue doing this because it would be possible for people to give copies of the book away without paying for them. Well that is true. However it is not the problem you might think. Baen as a publisher has sold and given away full unencrypted copies of all the books they publish, in digital format, for years now and according to them it has not hurt sales. They say it has actually increased sales overall.

I own my own IT company and deal with the technology to do all this daily and I am a rabid reader and collector of books both digital and physical. It only takes me a couple hours to make a copy of a book with a scanner. Do I do it often? No. Do I pass copies of digital books around to others, not unless it is ok with the author or publisher or it is out of copyright. I’m a moral person. I think that the majority of people out there are moral people that will for the most part respect your rights. There are for sure some people that are not this way and they are going to make copies and pass them around or get them for free, however the percentage I think will be fairly small. There won’t be the desire to go to the work of scanning or trying to find an illegal copy when there is a legitimate copy easily available at a “reasonable price”.

I have followed the evolution of the digital era in multimedia with a lot of interest over the last few years. The major publishers of music and books are going to and are already taking major hits as bands and authors start self publishing their material. Gradually a generation of technically savvy people are growing up and learning how to use technology to their advantage and breaking the traditional sales cycle where you had to have a publisher, a middle man and retailers to sell your product.  Authors such as the one I spoke with have the potential to sell their books in digital form for between 10 and 15 dollars and probably increase their sales while making 1000 to 1500 percent more profit per sale. If you are an aspiring author you could sell your books on your own website, on ebay, on amazon and on several other sites that you can sell your books through. The percentage that amazon or one of the other digital book retailers will take from your sale will vary from around 50% to 65% of the sales price from what I have seen. Ebay would get you for about 10% or so between the sale fee and the transaction fees for paypal. Selling through your own website using paypal would end up I think in the 4% range. Usually there is nothing to keep you from selling through all these venues simultaneously.

There is also the option to use some of the services where they print on demand (physical book) and ship your book to the purchaser directly. A quick google search brought up multiple hits, one of which is that would allow you to sell your books through amazon at about 15 bucks a copy and still get a royalty between 5 and 6 dollars a copy. There were multiple other vendors doing this also that I didn’t look at. If you are currently published then you will be contractually bound most likely not to publish a paper edition  untill your agreement ran out with the current publisher. However digital editions should not be an issue. At least I would hope not.

The two products you need to easily create your digital editions would be a decent word processor such as MS office or the free program openoffice at, the free program mobipocket creator from and Adobe Acrobat 9 professional for about 450 dollars. My advice on Adobe Acrobat is to pick up an older version used or new on ebay for half the cost or less. There are pdf products out there that will do what acrobat will do for much less or even free but I have found acrobat to be much easier to use than them and unless your a bit of a geek about this stuff you would be better off to stick to acrobat.

The user forums on amazon have a lot of authors talking and sharing information on self publishing and how to format and convert books to digital form.

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