It’s a funny thing that when I write articles about book pricing inanities that plague our publishing industry, readers invariably think I’m just blowing off steam. They tell me how awful it is that I can’t afford the books I want to read, and they ask if I live near a library, or they offer to buy me books, or they tell me about obscure used bookshops where I can find great bargains. I guess they consider it beyond the realm of imagination that I could be writing these articles because I think I can actually make a difference.
In fact, I know that we — industry observers who are angry about the various ways our publishing conglomerates fail to innovate — will eventually make a difference. I wish more of my blogger compatriots would speak out about dysfunctional book pricing practices, and I’m glad that Kassia Krozser of Booksquare has written an article about the Harry Potter phenomenon that neatly exposes the flawed logic behind hardcover-first book pricing:
Do not assume that customers creating shopping lists. “Okay, hardcover spotted. Check. Make note to purchase this in paperback one year from today.”
Staggered release windows are so last century. We want it all now, baby, we want it today. Why, as books are competing with so many other forms of media, would the publishing industry want to create a vacuum where one needs not exist?
That’s exactly right. Look at it this way: we live in an age when great new songs cost one dollar each. And our book industry is still pushing $30 books (or else you can cool your heels and wait a year for the paperback).
Modern book production techniques can easily — easily — handle simultaneous first edition printings, and this is the way all important books should be released to the public: hardcover premium editions for libraries, collectors and anyone else who wants them, and affordable editions for regular consumers at the same time.
The current hardcover-first model is self-destructive and prima facie just plain wrong. If somebody would like to defend the hardcover-first model, please do, but I don’t think a reasonable defense can be made.
So I’m glad too see Kassia’s article, and I hope other bloggers and vocal book readers will speak up about this as well. We are all so often so indignant, but here is something worth being indignant about.