Saturday, August 9, 2014

My Appeal to Writers for Lower Audio Book Pricing

   So...Amazon and Hachette Publishing have been having a big battle. The cynical side of me thinks that this is essentially two big companies fighting over a bigger piece of the publishing pie. Amazon want's a bigger piece of the pie so they want e-books to be priced low so more people will buy them and read them on the Kindle. Hachette wants the price high so they can sell their paper books where they get a bigger slice.
   Below I've included a link to the letter for you to read if you like. It's Amazon's appeal to writers to side with them in their desire for lower ebook prices. Maybe you'll feel inspired and join the email campaign against Hachette's e-book pricing policy. I found it interesting reading. My favorite paragraph was: "...e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger."
   Yeah, I mostly side with Amazon in this argument. But I think Hachette inevitably is just hurting itself, so in the end I see this as a problem that will eventually resolve itself. If I were an author under contract with Hachette I'd be writing a letter telling them that I think they are being greedy and narrow-minded. But I'm not, so I don't really care too much. I might be hurt as a reader if I want to read one of Hatchette's books, but then I'll just go find something less expensive to read. I have lots of good books to choose from.
   But here is something I don't hear discussed: lower audio book pricing. I'm an Audible subscriber and so I get books at a reduced price; but if it weren't for Audible the only audio books I'd listen to would be what I could check out from the library. And why are the audio books so expensive? Sure, an actor must be paid to read the book. There is usually a producer, a sound studio, technicians, and editors. Expensive, right? Maybe, but it is a non-recurring expense, and is it really much more expensive than what is paid to editors and artists and printers for a paper book? Anyway, arguing that the extra expense of producing the audio book makes it more expensive falls apart when you compare audio book prices to movie prices.
   Take Divergent by Veronica Roth, for example. On Amazon the Divergent audio book price (CD) is $12.33 and the movie price (DVD) is $15.96. The movie budget was $85 million. I have no idea what the audio book budget was, but I think it's safe to guess that it is a statistically insignificant fraction of $85 million. And for the newest book in the series, Allegiant, the audio book price is $20.59--well above what will be charged for the movie version when it is new.
   So that's my thoughts on audio book pricing. Let me know what you think.
   Here is that link to Amazon's letter I promised. A Message from the Amazon Books Team. Enjoy.