Soliloquy on book prices (or How I Learned To Love eBooks)

Picture of full book shelfYou know how sometimes things you’ve been reading/talking about kind of merge? That happened to me this morning. Somewhere I read about author earnings and the cost of books. Somewhere else I wrote an article about the power of the franchise in writing and that led me to the Thrawn trilogy and mention of a book where Grand Admiral Thrawn is an important, though rarely visible, character and that led me to dig out that very same book. Troy Denning’s Tatooine Ghost, to see if I still thought it was as good as I remembered.

I’ve also been re-reading one of my favourite books, McDevitt’s Slow Lightning. It’s face down on the desk beside me as I write. And the sticker with the price is waving at me.

I bought the book (a 5×8 paperback) in about 2003. It cost AU$19.95 from Readers Feast in Melbourne. Same for Tatooine Ghost.

Wow, I thought, glancing along a row of paperbacks on a shelf (just one row). There’s over $400 worth of books there. At least, that’s what I paid for them. They’re worth squat now. And as for that glass—fronted cabinet behind me, the one full of hardbacks… Then I thought some more and wondered if these prices were from before the Big Row about book prices. I don’t recall the details, but it was all about the excessive cost of books in Australia. So I thought I’d check the current price of some of those books.

I used Dymocks online store. It’s a well-known chain of Australian book stores. I shopped at the bricks-and-mortar stores in several of Australia’s capital cities. Here is the listing for McDevitt’s A Talent for War. It’s one of his earliest titles, from 1989. I bought it for $17.95 around 2002-3.

ATfW

And here’s Tatooine Ghost, copyright 2003.

TG

So then I had a look on Amazon to see what the prices were there.

A Talent for War and Tatooine Ghost, mass market paperback on Amazon is US$7.99 – allowing for the exchange rate, that’s still less than AU$10. Slow Lightning (sold for who knows what reason in the US as Infinity Beach) is reduced from $7.99 to $5.87.

Okay, the next obvious question is what’s the price of the ebook? Answer: there isn’t one. Not for any of those titles. McDevitt’s other books are there for kindle. I can buy them on Amazon Australia for $11.99 (ouch). Oh. Except for the latest release, Coming Home. That’s $16.99, thanks very much.

There are two things you can take from this Sunday morning limited investigation:

  • we pay a helluva lot for books (and every other thing that’s imported) in Australia.
  • $4.99, which is what I charge for my 100k+ word ebooks, isn’t a bad price.

I might not have the market power of Jack McDevitt or EL James, but I like to think I write an entertaining story with proper grammar and spelling. I’m not saying you won’t find a typo. But I promise nobody ever says, “oh my”.

2 thoughts on “Soliloquy on book prices (or How I Learned To Love eBooks)

  1. Julia Barrett

    Ain’t it the truth? My books have value in my heart. But that’s about it. I donate quite a few books every year – gradually culling my collection.

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