You 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.
And here’s Tatooine Ghost, copyright 2003.
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”.
e-books should not be that much. It’s not like they have to print them out and ship them
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.