I just read that term in a press release advertising some schmo as president of some company I’ve never heard of. The release was so poorly written I don’t even know what the company does. Not important right now.
There are so many variables in this move to digital books that it’s hard to digest. TUMS, please. Compounded with people talking just for the sake of talking about it, it’s hard to identify issues that should really be tackled now rather than later, when everyone is all hepped up about an idea and it turns out it has no legs because no one thought of it.
[Editor’s note: strong language after the jump]
Two things that strike me as important are pricing model(s) and bridging the technology/content gap. This post is about book pricing. When I get my head together on the other thing, I’ll post that.
A Book Pricing Model: Just a Proposal
I know this is coming from leftfield, but it’s at least a proposal that’s different than discounting or finding the magic price. Big Pharma prices its new drugs according to a complex formula of R&D budget, marketing budget, patent portfolio, sales volume and profit margin. Fair enough. Direct your attention to the patent part. A patent can be enforced for a finite period of time. When drugs come off-patent, generic manufacturers can file a Amended New Drug Application (ANDA) to make and market the drug in its generic form. Generic companies are doing quite well, thank you, and have the benefit of a sympathetic congress and loosened regulations under which to operate. What the fuck does this have to do with book publishing?
While I don’t pretend to be any kind of an IP expert, there is a valuable lesson that content-givers (new name for writers and artists?) can learn from industry in patents and the protection they offer. We have run roughshod over copyrights, as writers. Publishers are not our friends. They are business partners. And yet, we give them our blood and guts and consent to fuck with it for near infinity. What’s up with that? As owners of our own "patents," our content, we need to look at publishers as lessors of our property for a much shorter period than is widespread business practices today. For those releasing their own books, it’s like the generic drug model without having to pay the costs of an ANDA application and ensuing litigation.
We should also be considering this model as a foundation on which to build a pricing model: When books are hot, newly released and getting a lot of marketing–whether through publishers OR by independently released books–they should be priced higher. Simple. Every industry does it, even publishing right now. The difference I propose is that as OWNERS of our works, we take the motherfuckers back after a 60-90 day period, give or take. I mean, like, listen, Mr. Publisher, you have 60 days to sell the shit out of my book, after which you give it back to me, pay me my royalties, and fuck off until next time. The SAME should apply for books we release ourselves. Price it high in hot-season, then when you’re done with your initial marketing push and your book tour (even if the book tour consists of yours and the 5 towns surrounding you that your local bus line goes to), lower the price. Make it a competitive generic price.
I’ll wait for a publishing person to argue with me about how much to price these things at, numbers wise, so until I see the accounting methodology, I’m unsure anything needs to be priced more than $10. It’s a fucking book, not a piece of gold. Can someone out there do a comparative pricing model with the inflation built in as to how the price of books has increased over the past, say 75 years? Ok, 50 years? That’d be great, thanks.
Stay tuned for the Consumption Paradigms: PART II when we’ll discuss bridging the gap between what the technies know and do, and what the content-givers want and can provide.