I blogged a while back that Kindle books might be pricing themselves out of the market — see Will Kindle books Price Themselves Out of the Market? I noted there that if the Kindle edition is almost the same as the book I’ll just buy the book.
I thought that others would soon be noticing the rise in the price of Kindle editions and might feel the same way. I was half right. Others are definitely noticing and they don’t like it. But their response may not be to buy the book instead of the Kindle download, but to refuse to buy either of them. The latest Michael Connelly thriller, The Fifth Witness, is offered by Amazon at $14.28 for the hardcover, and $12.99 for the Kindle download. It seems an anomaly for the Kindle download to cost almost as much as the hard cover book. After all, after initial setup the publisher’s production costs are near zero. Economies of scale are enormous as downloads increase in number. One would expect a much lower download price would encourage more downloads, and that’s what the publisher would want because the profit margin just gets higher and higher. These are the sorts of productivity gains we are used to seeing in the electronics industry. Lower consumer prices coupled with higher profits for sellers and manufacturers. Everybody wins. I guess publishing is different. Or maybe it’s publishers that are different. [Some of this has to do with some sort of tug of war among publishers, Amazon and Apple. It’s too complicated for me to waste time trying to figure it out, and it’ll be settled by then anyway.]
Anyway, the response on Amazon to the Kindle price of Michael Connelly’s latest book is overwhelming and has cost Connelly dearly in the customer review ratings of his book. His overall customer reviews are only 2 stars out of a possible 5, but not because people who have read the book don’t like it. Au contraire. Most who have read it give it 5 stars. There are 43 five-star reviews. But there are 122 one-star reviews, almost all of them livid about the Kindle price. These reviewers seem to know they are unfairly making the author suffer for something he probably had no part in but they’re just mad and don’t care, at least not enough. They point out that this is the only way they can register their complaints and at least it will make the publisher suffer if sales are hurt. Especially the Kindle sales, and that has to be where a lot of profit resides.
Many people may have the first reaction that I had when I saw that this new book only got an overall 2-star rating from readers. I figured this was the usual case where a best-selling author takes a risk with something different or just falls down after a long successful run. Only by reading those 1-star reviews was I made aware that it was the Kindle price getting the bad reviews, not the author or the book itself. Some number of others will not go that distance.
I will register my protest by not buying the Kindle download although this is just the sort of book I would normally get that way. I won’t trash the book itself since I haven’t even read it yet. I will probably wait a few months when the hard cover will be available on the used market for about three dollars. Hope it’s not too long. I’m fortunate to live in a city full of used book stores, many kept in business by Amazon.