From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Readers Respond to Penguin’s War on Readers

Thanks to the many Kindle Nation citizens who have written in with their perspectives on Penguin Publishing’s recent, colossally misguided pricing war against readers in general and Kindle owners in particular. Here are a few responses that I wanted to share with you:

Plano Soprano put it this way:

I bought The Fountainhead for my Kindle a few months ago at 8.99. On what planet is anyone going to pay THREE times that amount for a book that’s been out for how long? 50 years?

Penguin’s pricing can only result in lowered sales for their books (particularly since you can buy used copies of ANY book for much less on Amazon Marketplace). At what point will their authors AND shareholders wake up and wonder why sales are down?

Wait until the contracts expire next April for all those publishers who happily crawled into bed with Apple. Wait until they realize they’ve been had by a man who has no interest in saving them from the evil discounter Amazon; he’s interested only in the profitability of Apple. In the meantime, Random House has reported that ebook sales are one of its few bright spots in a dismal economy where people aren’t doing a great deal of discretionary spending. By this time next year, I predict that heads will roll at the Agency 5.

Kim said:

Maybe (hopefully) it’s a case of the Penguin not knowing what they are doing. “Storm Prey” by John Sandford is $14.99 in both Kindle and ibook form.

I tend to boycott ANY Kindle edition priced higher than its paperback version.

Kindle Nation contributor Tom Dulaney shared these thoughts:

What it God’s name was I thinking?

After 2 years in a Kindle-induced fog, buying armloads of ebooks 25% over my usual price point, your reports today snapped me out of my profligacy.

Even when I made big bucks, I never bought hardbacks at full retail.  In fact, I rarely bought hardbacks, even at the B&N; 30% member price.  I always waited, drooling I must admit, for the works of my very favorite authors to appear in paperback.  My price point was $8.00.  Maybe, when loaded, I was a cheap SOB, but that was me.  On rare occasions, I might have sprung for $14 at Sam’s club, but that was an impulse buy.

That says nothing about my regard of the authors, which is high, or my estimate of the “intrinsic worth” of the book. 

For over two years, I’ve been flagrantly spending 9.99–a full 25% over my price point–for three times as many books as I normally would buy, because of the Kindle.

Whoa.

I think the whole paperback industry was built on the backs of cheapskates like me.  We were a market worth the effort.

Now, living in reduced means, I from this day vow to be sensible once more.  I can wait for Sandiford, Patterson, DeMille, Preston, Kellerman, et al, like I did before.  Great authors, I love them, and hope they all make wads of money.  I will ante up about $8 a pop to contribute to their wealth, but my wild and crazy days of spending 9.99 is overindulgence.  I have come to my senses.

Tom Dulaney

From Yondalla, who usually writes about foster care and teenagers on Thoughts from a Fostering Family:
Dear Penguin Publishing,
You are losing my business, and that is not a good thing for either of us. I have had my Kindle since the Kindle2 came out. That would be something like 15 months. I have spent over $1000 on Kindle books. The previous year I spent less than $100 on books of any kind. The Kindle has turned me into an impulse buyer.
Last spring I had a bad few days with my asthma. Going to the bathroom was a struggle. So I indulged myself. I looked for some light reading on the Kindle and I found your Gaslight Mystery series. At the time they were $6.99 each. I bought all nine of them in the course of three days.  Next I bought the entire Sookie Stackhouse series, which led to me purchasing the Harper Connelly series. I bought a couple of multi-author anthologies solely because there was a Sookie Stackhouse story in them.  Then I downloaded the first chapter of Mistress of the Art of DeathI enjoyed it so much that I bought the whole book, even though it had been out an entire year and was still $9.99. I bought the sequel to that one too. Somewhere in there I found Women of the Otherworld, and bought most of those on Kindle (the others I got as audio books for a trip). I did the math, and on those books alone I spent over $350. At least one-third of my book budget is going your books!

Now, I know I have bought other Penguin books on the Kinde, but these series are particularly important. This spring there was a new book in the Gaslight, Sookie Stackhouse, and Mistress of the Art of Death series. I had all three of them on pre-order for my Kindle. Then you had your renegotiation with Amazon and I have cancelled them all. They are on my “hold” list at the local library. I debated the new Gaslight book, Murder on Lexington Avenue. It is $11.99 and I kept taking it on and off my list. I did not debate at all about A Murderous Procession (Mistress). It is a mind-boggling $17.99, making it $0.76 more than the hardback.  I checked the earlier books in that series. In those cases the Kindle version is more expensive than the paperback). Now Waking the Witch (Otherworld) is about to come out and I am going back and forth about spend $12.99 on it. Women of the Otherword series contains some of my favorite books, but there a few that are less compelling. Maybe I will just wait and see what the reviewers say and then decide.
So, have I established my position here? I’m the kind of customer you want and you’ve lost me. Do you want me back? I want to come back. I really, really want to. I love knowing that when I wake up one morning a book I have waited for will be on my Kindle. I enjoy teasing my friends who read the same book about how I always get them first.
Getting me back is simple. Of course, returning to the policy of introducing books at $9.99 would work, even if you “windowed” them, charging more after a month or so. Of course, you could get me back by selling pre-orders at $9.99. At the very least you must never, ever price the Kindle version higher than the paper one. When you do that, not only do I not buy the book when it is new, I don’t buy it ever, on principle.
Please reconsider your pricing. I want to buy your books.
Yondalla
Long-time Kindle Nation citizen and    Mary McManus sent in this comment:

Maybe this is off topic since these are not bestsellers, but Penguin’s Ayn Rand books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged carry the same ridiculous price of $27.99 in both the iBook store and the Kindle Store. Am happy not to like Ayn Rand at this point, but what is THAT all about?

And from Western Nation:

I get the distinct impression that the head honchos at Penguin are Luddites and would prefer that ebooks just disappear. Hmmmm…they need a wake-up call, obviously. I love my Kindle, and so do the thousands and thousands who have their Kindle. Penguin will be losing ebook sales from this individual. How many more trees will be sacrificed because Penguin wishes to price ebooks out of the realm of reason?

Rick A. wrote:

Have you seen the new Penguin prices for The Fountainhead (Centennial Edition HC) and Atlas Shrugged (Centennial Ed. HC)??? This is serious- $27.99 each, when the mass market paperbacks are $9.99!!

And they are called (wait for this) “Centennial Edition HC”. First of all, the books were NOT written in 1910. Second, this is a KINDLE edition not HC (Hardcover)!!

Actually, I think this pricing is a good thing. Now hear me out. This is of course, ridiculous pricing to the extreme. BUT, it really shows what Penguin is really after- TO KILL EBOOKS. This is just stupidly overplaying its hand, and it will backfire on them big time.

To my mind it is analagous to the 1984 controversy- It is so outrageous and ridiculous and heavy handed, that it will blow up in the faces of the Agency 5 publishers!!

And our job is to keep stoking that fire to show them how stupid, shortsighted AND GREEDY they really are.

Frequent commenter Anonymous had this to say:

Don’t publishers realize if they are going to war with Amazon/Kindle readers that they will lose the war. I refuse to purchase e-book that is more expensive than the hardcopy. iBook carried one book I wanted weeks earlier than it appeared in for purchase. On a good note, this is forcing me to look at other publishers and authors which is a good thing! Vote with your $$$ and the publishers will eventually take note.

There are dozens more, but we’ll leave it at that … for now.

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