Thursday, August 4, 2011


Sure, the books were 2-3 years old. But they were hardbacks. By Janet Evanovich, Brad Meltzer, Patricia Cornwell, and even some Frank Herbert Dune books.

What's more, the shelf above them had $3.00 hardbacks by similar best selling authors.

This is what happens when the big publishers send out a hundred thousand books and they don't all sell right away for twenty-five dollars. Out of all the money poured into making a print book, it gets down to three dollars and then finally fifty cents.

There's something wrong with this picture. Three dollars, much less fifty cents, won't pay the costs of shipping. No wonder the traditional publishers are quaking. No wonder ebooks are paying their bills (partly because the royalties traditional publishers assign authors for ebooks are pitiful).

The publishing model used for years and years and years is sadly out of whack. Though some people say it's cheaper to print fifty thousand or so books the regular way (even if they get scads of returns) than it is to print a thousand or so POD books (on demand books that won't be returned).

I can't see it. I'm wondering whether, when the publishers get through scrambling, they can't find a better way to print and distribute their books. I hope so.

Not that I'll turn down a book for fifty cents. If it's one I want to read.


  1. Lady Cheryl

    I know we sing from pretty much the same hymn sheet these days on this - but lordy, I have to agree.

    One of the 'problems' with new writers breaking into mainstream books is the publisher view that 'it's not worth us doing a print run less than X, and we don't know you'll sell X'. On the one hand, they're right. They don't know. They really don't. But it's getting harder and harder to accept that POD, where every book you print is a book that's sold, is so much less an economic and business viable. Never mind e-pub.

    The arguement for the bookstore is instant satisfaction. You browse the shelf, you see something you like, you take it and pay for it. If you browsed the shelf, saw something you liked, and then had to go put an online order in and wait N days, the instant gratification is gone.


    Yes, there's a but :-).

    what if? What if the store had a POD machine there?Or two? Or three? Or...

    I'll be frank and say I have no idea how quickly a properly set up POD printer can produce a book. And yes, the benefit is more to a publisher than to a store (typically the store takes no risk, because it can return unsold product). but what if you walked in, browsed, picked your books, went off and had a coffee, and came back a little later and walked out with those books?

    E-pub is already easily adaptable to this model. Yes, you can download online. But you can take camera negatives into a store and walk out with digital copy. There's nothing to stop stores loading customers' ebooks in store as well as online.

    People will still want paper. And I've nothing against that. I think it's unlikely the experience of the camera film industry (manufacture of film has dropped dramatically, with some suppliers ceasing entirely) will be directly repeated in book production soon. But the model is, I agree, to my eye broken.

    At one point the publishers held the whip hand. If they didn't publish, the writer had no other place to go. They are no longer the only game in town, although they still control a lot of money, a lot of publicity and a lot of business-contacts. So the game isn't won or lost - but the game is most surely in play.

    Or so I think. But then, I'm an...

    Idiot :-P.

  2. I've been waiting for the POD machines to pop up in coffee shops for years. They're expensive but as technology gets cheaper, they may be affordable.

    For years, I thought they'd be the wave of the future. Now I'm not sure how big a part they'll play but they'll definitely be there.

    And you're no idiot!


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