Supply & Demand in the Publishing Industry…

I’m not an idiot—although there are those who would argue the point—and I like to consider myself a marginally thoughtful human being.  I’m also not an economist, but as a thoughtful human being I sometimes have to wonder at the sorts of things we blindly excuse under the paradigm that business refers to as “supply and demand economics.”

By way of example, I’ve recently decided to go back and begin reading a number of what reviewers consider the top ten steampunk novels in existence today.  Arguably, the one at the top of the list or at least most consistently on those lists is “The Difference Engine” by William Gibson.  So, I decided to go pick up a Kindle edition and start reading it in the evenings.  Amazon is the place to go for Kindle in many respects, although they are “big business” and they suffer from what I consider “Goggle” disease when it comes to rankings and getting to tasty tidbits.

Anyway, ”The Difference Engine” came right up and I was stunned to see that a digital copy of a book released originally in 1990 in the U.K.  That’s twenty-two years ago, folks.  Kudos to the author for creating a milestone novel.  Props to the people who have hailed it as a triumph.

Random House is selling this 22-year-old novel in digital format for $11.99 in U.S. Dollars.

My response:  screw it.

I have absolutely no intention of spending twelve dollars on a digital copy of a book that is as old as this one and for which they’ve already made bank.  I don’t care how good it is.  I’d love to put some money into Gibson’s pocket… hell, we all like to get paid.  But that price for that digital book is highway-robbery, and simply because the book is showing up on all those lists and there is interest in steampunk these days… interest that is growing.

I’m an independent author (although I’d love to get picked up by an agent and publisher).  I know perfectly well that the very same title could make enough money to keep Gibson and his publishers in gravy if sold at $2.99… or even $4.99 or $6.99.  However, there is something fundamentally wrong with the notion that producers of books need to pad their coffers and pay for their New York real estate and pay off their share holders in this manner.  I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but making money is one thing–gouging people is something else entirely.

So, I’m going to order a $.99 paperback copy and read it later.  Frankly, I think we ALL should start doing the same.  Digital copies of fiction novels really shouldn’t be over eight or ten bucks, and that’s for the freshest content out there. If it’s 20-years-old, it better be somewhat less than that.

P.S.  If I sold the same number of copies of my eBooks even at $.99 as they’ve sold “The Difference Engine” I could retire… yesterday.  So what are we paying these prices for?    I guess what I’m trying to say is that as a marketplace we need to stop feeding other people’s greed.  Stop paying those prices, and they WILL go down.  We have ultimate control over supply and demand economics, and we’re pretty much screwing ourselves.




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