Tonight I logged on to Amazon.com to order Chris Guillebeau’s awesome book “The Art of Non-Conformity”, since 3 separate people recommended it to me in the past week. The first choice I was confronted with – Kindle or Paperback?
What is wrong with this picture???
It costs $10.17 to print a new copy of Chris’s book on dead trees, bind it with glue, put it in a box, and drive it across the country to my door in a gas burning mail truck driven by a real human being.
The Kindle Edition delivered instantly over the internet costs $12.99. WHY?!
Because Penguin Publishing says so, that’s why. In fact, if you click on the Kindle price, you’ll see the following note:
This price was set by the publisher. Amazon actually goes out of the way to tell us that Penguin has specifically mandated higher Kindle prices for many of its books. It’s called “agency pricing”, which means the publisher (Penguin) sets the prices for Kindle Editions, not Amazon.com. Paperbacks are not subject to agency pricing, which means their prices are set by the retailer (Amazon) and fluctuate with market supply and demand. We can see the same situation with lots of other popular Penguin books, for example (not affiliate links):
- Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help” – $9.00 in paperback, $9.99 on Kindle
- Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” – $10.17 in paperback, $12.99 on Kindle
- Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” – $9.38 in paperback, $13.99 on Kindle
There are plenty more examples you can dig up yourselves. The bottom line is this – the content licensing industry is broken. Consumers want cheap, clean, instantly delivered digital content, and publishers are holding prices artificially high. The days of paper, vinyl, and cellulose are coming to an end. What practical reason is there to make the far less environmentally impactful digital version artificially expensive? Oh right, it’s to protect classical business models and supply chains that don’t work in a digital world.
This is a telling microcosm of how broken the content licensing industry is as a whole (books, music, movies), as well as how much work still has to be done to adapt content creators’ business models to the digital age. I hope it happens quickly.