Monday, May 09, 2011

E-BOOKS Vs. PHYSICAL BOOKS Vs USED BOOKS

Richard Bauman is a Sharing Writer today with an opinion on e-books. Before you hit him hard on buying mostly used books for which the author gets no royalties, please read this through. It may be just what you need to get you onto the e-book and e-reader track. And, shoot.  Leave a comment. Tell him what you think!  I mean, really. SHOOT.  He wants to know. I want to know!



By Richard Bauman



Have you read an ebook lately? Probably you have. Were you happy with the price you paid for that ebook? Chances are not so much. If you thought it was overpriced—it probably was—especially when you consider you probably could have bought a “used” copy of that book for a fraction of the price of either the ebook or a new print version of the book.


I’m an author, and of course I want people to buy my books. New books; freshly printed books, or ebooks. On the other hand, I rarely buy new books. I buy used books, even recently published and popular books, fiction and non-fiction, usually for no more than ten percent of their original selling price, very often a lot less than that. Places like half.com, amazon.com and numerous other websites make it easy to buy used books. But I haven’t yet found a website selling “used” ebooks.
The skyrocketing popularity of ebooks is well documented. There are a gazillion websites where you can gather all the glowing statistics about ebooks sales verses physical books. There’s a lot of flux, though, about the price of ebooks verses physical books. Some say ebooks and physical books should be priced the same, others (like me) believe ebooks should be lower priced since production costs, including shipping and handling, are lower for ebooks than traditional books.
In any discussion about ebooks pricing verses pricing for physical books, one part of the book market that seems to have been ignored by publishers, authors and even readers is used books. That is a mistake. By pricing ebooks at or near the price of physical books publishers/authors are losing sales. Because many book buyers will purchase used books rather than new books, regardless of format, and thus authors and publishers make zero dollars from the books (the used ones) we buy.
The author of a traditionally published book might get 20% of the book’s selling price in royalties. Often royalties are based on the book’s wholesale price, not its retail price. And bookstore shelf life of a new book is short. If it doesn’t sell quickly and sell well, it will probably be a remainder book in less than a year. Remainders and returns don’t put money in the author’s pocket.


Once a book’s been read, it might get donated to a thrift store or library sale, or put up for sale on half.com or Amazon.com. The book might be given to a friend or relative. No matter where it goes, on the book’s second and subsequent change of hands the author and publisher get zilch. For authors and publishers of traditional books it’s a one copy, one sale, one money making opportunity.

Now, if publishers and authors produce ebook versions of physical books, there’s the potential for bigger sales, and more income for them, provided they sell the books in price range that entices frugal book buyers to shun secondhand books in favor of the ebook version.

Here’s an example of how wise pricing can mean more sales and more income for publisher and author. Gordon Kirkland is a humor writer. He’s a great wit, and I’ve read several of his books. As I’m writing this the print version of his book, I Think I’m Having one of Those Decades is for sale on Amazon.com for $17.95. Even though I really enjoy Kirkland’s sense of humor that’s way more than I’m willing to pay for his book. I checked half.com, and I can buy it used for 78-cents. A no-brainer, I’ll buy the used copy. But wait. On amazon.com there’s also the ebook version of the book—for just 99-cents. Only twenty one cents more for the ebook than for the used book. I’ll take it. Hold on, it gets even better. That seventy-eight cent book will actually cost me $4.27 thanks to $3.49 for shipping and handling. And I’ll have to wait a week or so for it to arrive in the mail. What should I do? Spend more than $4 for the used paperback, or 99-cents for the new ebook I can download and start reading instantly? Talk about a no-brainer.

If I buy either a new or used print version of the book I get a physical book that I can keep or give away, donate to thrift store or library sale, or even sell on Amazon or Half.com. I’ll take the 99-cent deal. The thrift store and friends lose out, but I make out, and so does Kirkland.

I can hear publishers and authors crying tears as big as light bulbs that they’ll make less money if they lower the price on ebooks into to the used book range. Will they?
I deliberately used Gordon Kirkland as an example, because he recently lowered the price of many of his ebooks on Amazon.com to 99-cents. According to his posting on his Facebook page, he’s not only making more sales, he’s making more money at 99-cents than he did when the ebooks were priced higher.


An example of a pricing strategy, in my opinion, that works against the author and publisher is for the book The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It’s a terrific memoir, one of the best I’ve read. Today, on the Barnes & Noble website, you can buy the new paperback version for $9.36 plus $3.99 shipping (total 13.35). The ebook version is $9.99. On the other hand, at half.com I can buy a used copy for $1, plus $3.49 shipping. If the ebook version was priced in the $4-$5 range, I believe the author and publisher could sell more ebooks, and make more money, and at the same time see fewer sales going to the used book marketers.


Ebooks are hot products right now. They aren’t a fad, and no doubt will be a major form of book sales going forward. The enthusiasm for them will be lessened, however, if publishers and authors don’t pay attention to the used books market and its impact on the sales of new books. When people like me, with a wide streak of frugality, see they can still buy used books cheaper than they can a new e-book, that’s what we will buy. On the other hand, if publishers and authors will price their e-books into the price range of used books and their inherent shipping costs, they probably can sell a lot more e-books to people like me.

~Writing opinion today is Richard J. Bauman. Author, Awe-Full Moments: Spirituality in the Commonplace, http://www.richardjbauman.com/

---- Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

Search This Blog