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Are we cheapening eBooks? Setting The Publishing Industry For Failure?

First, we heard of cheap eBooks, then there was the flurry of £0.99p books followed by free books. Ok, whilst some are cheap(er) for a limited time, some remain so as a ploy to sell more books. But I wonder is this the best way forward.

According to John Locke, author of ‘How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months‘, he believes this is the best way to position his self-published eBook titles against traditional and/or big publishing houses although his paperback versions are within the regular price bracket.

After reading his book, I see the merit of what he and many other authors-turned-self-publishers are doing. Moreover, a number are doing really well in comparison to those published by traditional publishers.

However, the authors-turned-self-publishers in me struggles with this risky concept. If you are lucky to sell a few hundred copies, even at cheap prices, you are quids in. But what if you don’t become a bestseller overnight or at all? How do you make money off writing/publishing? And when a savvy online book buyer looks at your £7.99 eBook but is quickly distracted by the latest £2.99 offer waved in their face (thanks to technology), that decision is made for them.

Asides that, when I am considering making any form of purchase (e.g. clothing, household goods, etc), I adopt the policy that cheap is NOT cheerful. I have a tendency to flee from anything with a bargain-bucket sign/price as I believe you get what you pay for. Translating this concept into the book-buying world, could this strategy be giving the wrong message about the value of the craft of bookmaking and productions much less the content? Are we (authors, publishers and everyone else in between) setting ourselves up for failure? Are we grooming readers/buyers of today and the future to expect low cost or ‘no cost’ books?

I feel we have to go back to the drawing board. Agreed, advances in printing, digital books and a drive for environmentally friendly production processes alleviate a lot of the previous costs of producing a book. And yes, we can pass on the savings to customers but FREE or £0.20p according to a recent article in the Guardian, the discounts are…(err, how can I put it?) outrageous!

But my mind goes back to John Lockes concept and if I’m being honest, as a fellow self-publisher, I feel it may be the only option self-publishers may have to get their feet through the door and try to compete in a very saturated market.

I honestly don’t know what the solution is but perhaps we need to go back to the drawing board and consider the impact on the industry, long term.



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