An article in the Sunday Times Culture magazine last weekend was entitled, How Piracy is Killing Creativity. I agree with many of comments the author, Jonathan Dean mentioned and his conclusion that if digital piracy continues, it will stop record companies, book publishers etc. investing in new talent. One reason he didn’t mention for the growth of illegal downloading is price. On launch, chart CD’s were often £3 to £4 more than the equivalent vinyl album they replaced, and for years were around £12.99, a big chunk of any young record buyer’s pocket money or income.
The same thing is happening in the book market. Faced with the same digital piracy problems as music, publishers are still overpricing digital books. The lowest price for a Kindle book is £0.00 and the ‘sweet spot,’ the price many observers believe will maximise profit and sales, is £3.49, so why do a number of large publishers insist on charging significantly higher prices?
To give you some examples, the book I mentioned in my last blog, Hausfrau is £5.69, The Girl on the Train, £5.69 and the new Jack Reacher from Lee Child, Make Me, £8.03. It is either blatant profiteering by publishers or blind ignorance at not being able to see past the higher price of a paperback, which we know is more expensive to produce. Behaviour like this does nothing for authors or readers, holding back sales of the book (unless you’re Lee Child), as many readers who would like to buy it, won’t do so as they think it is too expensive, and consigning new authors to the lower ends of Amazon sales charts and ultimately obscurity.
If big publishing houses can’t see the lessons from the music industry, they deserve the slow, lingering death being predicted, but they will be replaced by new nimble and market-savvy digital publishers, many of which are already out there, less hide-bound by the pricing strategies of the past.