UPDATE: This post has been refreshed from its original state. That’s what I get for taking Publisher’s Weekly at its word.
Anyway, mid-way through this piece I ask readers to suspend their disbelief – difficult to do when reading a post on book publishing, pricing and digital content, I know – and follow my argument as I use the information from the Publisher’s Weekly column slightly out of context but not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
Please add any comments that you think are helpful.
Apparently S&S will be releasing the 1000+ page novel on November 10th and then dropping the ebook on the market on December 24th. Timing is everything, I guess.
The Publisher’s Weekly piece also notes that the S&S will be charging $35 for the eBook, however some further research conducted at StephenKing.com indicates that the ebook will sell for standard Kindle-pricing.
Mr King asks his readers not to “believe the press reports that the e-book reader price for Under the Dome will be $35. This was the result of confusion from a press release from the publisher… It is true that you cannot order the book as an e-download until December 24th, but the physical book, which is a beautiful thing, you can pre-order for less than $9–so who’s better than us?”
So, pricing right? It’s all up in the air. Nobody knows what anything is worth whether it’s a brand spankin’ new hardcover or an infinitely replicable digital file. Are they both worth $9? Really? Are publishers seriously asking the public to swallow that crock?
But they’re trapped between the ruthless capitalism of dominant retailers at war with each other and the ruthless efficiency of the digital age.
Let’s say for example that the Great Book Pricing War of 2009 wasn’t happening and skewing this argument beyond proportion and let’s say that S&S thought that $35 for a hard cover was a fair price – which it is – and that $35 for an eBook was also a fair price – which is arguable to say the least.
I float this scenario forward for your consideration because I have heard book publishers say the very same thing – that a digital file should be priced at the same level as the physical product.
To me this notion of equal pricing for physical/digital looks more like a series of test balloons designed to reinforce industry fears than skillful marketing strategies for new books by some of English language’s most beloved authors.
Who gave the final OK on that pricing strategy and where is he/she getting their information?
It’s well documented that the last Harry Potter book – itself a hefty tome – was pirated and disseminated almost immediately upon release (in fact, an in-house perp at Scholastic did the job even before the book hit the shelves) and surely the people at Simon and Schuster are aware that this will happen here, too. I expect that this book will be seeded widely within 24 hours of officially going on sale.
I have documented the bibliographic zeal that Stephen King’s fans show toward his work online in my presentations on DRM and Free Content. I expect that a great majority will look at the cost of $35 for the hard cover version as a fair price to pay – and indeed many of the people who use P2P/torrent sites to download and share Stephen King’s books are dedicated enough to purchase the physical copy – and will see the same price for a digital file as incomprehensibly expensive.
This will certainly bear watching. I have to believe that this is some kind of Big Author Test of Current Market Conditions rather than a strategy that S&S expects to trot out for every new hard cover release.
Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol showed us something about this new digital/print landscape and the new Stephen King promises to yield even more data even if it seems that it will come at the expense of common sense.
But one must keep an open mind. Hopefully this publishing event will show us something new.