2021-08-01

Dear publishers: No.

At dinner the other night a number of people were surprised to hear of the absurd phenomenon of digital (and DRM’d to boot) books being more expensive than print versions — not just paperbacks, but hardcovers. So here’s one example.

This looks like an interesting book. A bunch of folks I know on Goodreads have read it and rated it highly. I feel like it’s the sort of book that might be worth throwing money at, so I add it to my queue and off I go to look up the Kindle edition, prepared to buy.

Here’s a screenshot from Amazon from sometime in June.

$19.16? Is the publisher crazy? When I could buy the hardcover, with its lack of DRM and other nonsense, for ~$17.00?

But am I going to buy a huge heavy hardcover book when I set out to buy a weightless ebook in the first place? No, I am not. I doubt anyone would. If I wanted a hardcover I would have bestirred my butt to buy it from the store down the street. But I do not want the hardcover, because it is heavy and annoying and then I have to find shelf space for it once I’m done with it.

You know what happens in this sort of case? Every single time?

That’s right. I shrug, then I add myself to the end of the hold list at the library. I’ll read it in 397 holds (plus mine = 398) / 39 copies x 3 weeks = ~30 weeks when it turns up. Fine. I can wait. There are plenty of other books to read in the meantime.

I will not, on principle, pay more for pixels — especially DRM’d pixels — than I will for a physical book. And I will also not go out and buy a physical book simply because the electronic copy has been artificially made more expensive. For me, pricing ebooks to exceed the cost of a physical book will, 100% of the time, equal a lost sale.