Random House Publishing, why do you suck so hard?

At B&N.com, the first four books of The Song of Ice and Fire (written by George R.R. Martin, published by Random House) are being sold for $29.99. At our local Costco, the first four books are being sold in paperback for $19.99. I called B&N to see if they could price match, and they said they were very sorry, but the e-book pricing was set firm by the publisher and the couldn’t do anything.
Here’s the kicker: There’s also a four-book box set of The Song of Ice and Fire available at B&N for $19.78 new/ $18.87 used. Random House Publishing is pricing the e-book versions (which cost less than $1 apiece to produce) higher than their paperback versions. Here’s a quote from the NYT regarding e-book pricing:

Now let’s look at an e-book . . . (with Apple) the publishers will set the consumer price and the retailer will act as an agent, earning a 30 percent commission on each sale. So on a $12.99 e-book, the publisher takes in $9.09. Out of that gross revenue, the publisher pays about 50 cents to convert the text to a digital file, typeset it in digital form and copy-edit it. Marketing is about 78 cents.
The author’s royalty — a subject of fierce debate between literary agents and publishing executives — is calculated among some of the large trade publishers as 25 percent of the gross revenue, while others are calculating it off the consumer price. So on a $12.99 e-book, the royalty could be anywhere from $2.27 to $3.25
All that leaves the publisher with something ranging from $4.56 to $5.54, before paying overhead costs or writing off unearned advances.
That link goes on to indicate that publishing companies have purposely made ebook pricing comparable to physical copies out of a desire to slow the trend to e-books. I’m angry. On one hand, I want to buy these books because I like George R.R. Martin, and I want to support him. On the other hand, I’m getting really tired of publishing companies shafting consumers, authors, and the industry in general. Unfortunately, I can’t shaft the publishing company without shafting George R.R. Martin.
I wish George R.R. Martin could offer an e-book file through his website, but given some of the stuff I’ve read about publishing agency contracts and how they treat digital content, I’m fairly certain he’s not only unable to sell his work digitally now (on his website, for full author profit), he may never be able to (depending on the how the contract was negotiated and when). I think I’m going to see if I can get the general range of royalties a best-selling author would make on each format, and buy according to whichever format is most likely to get him a higher percentage. 
I’m all conflicted about publishing companies right now. This is how I look at the whole thing:
    • Ebooks are less expensive to produce, take up less space, and should cost less.

 

  • Authors do need advertising, which has traditionally been taken care of by publishing companies pimping their work to bookstores, libraries, and at conferences. This is why the cost of a physical book is so high; it’s both the cost of printing, the potential lost profits if the printed volume doesn’t sell, and the cost of advertising. With ebooks, the first two concerns are essentially moot. The third (author visibility) is often achieved through self-promotion (twitter, FB, blogs, G+, etc.) and good old word of mouth (LendMe, anyone?), although publishing companies can still make themselves useful in this regard.
  • I still like physical books, and I will still buy physical copies of books I truly love (and even own in Nook form already). But now that I own an e-reader, my go-to is an ebook.

 

 

I am not alone in this mindset. In college, one of my professors surveyed our college class on what type of books they preferred reading. I’d like to note that this was a small-town college in a rural area, and the students ranged from age 18-60+. I’d also like to note there were about 30 students in the class. Only 5 students (all older women) indicated they prefer physical books; everyone else fell into two groups: From ages 18-29, they indicated a preference to reading on their computer, phone, or e-reader. From ages 30-59, the prevailing opinion was, “I don’t care. Whatever is easiest and least expensive.” Although this is a small sample, I do believe it is reflected in the current growth of e-readers and ebooks, and rather than attempting to slow/ stop the trend, publishing companies need to change with the times.
Of course, I’m not the only one to say that, and we all know what the real problem is: Corporate stupidity. Some companies are so mired in the past, so weighed down by levels of corporate bureaucracy and legalese, that they are not merely unwilling to change with the times, they are actually unable to. Some authors, literary agents, and critics have opined that publishing companies will survive (in some form) this shift from physical book to e-reader. I am not so certain, and I fear in their flailing death throes, they will take down booksellers with them.
Advertisements

this place

So, on the one hand, I love love love our new place. It’s great to live in an actual city again, with a variety of choices regarding coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, and clothing stores. I adore the multitude of parks and recreational choices. I love the fact that 2 minutes from my house is a road that, if I turn left on it, I enjoy scenic vistas and winding roads, while if I turn right, I’m in town in less than 5 minutes. I love that my husband’s place of work is a 20 minute walk, 10 minute rollerblade, or 2 minute ride/ drive away. I adore the buslines. I’m ecstatic about living so close to family and friends.

The duplex itself is fantastic. It’s a cozy little 2-bed, 1-bath, with a sort of comfy retro styling that takes me back to the house of my childhood. Even the appliances are the familiar sort my parents had while I was growing up, and I love it.

We live in a cul-de-sac, too, which is awesomely fantastic — no worries of cars racing to and fro like at the old place. Our old house was surrounded by businesses that were constantly broken into, and the cars were regularly prowled; this residential neighborhood doesn’t have those issues.

So in almost every respect, I adore this place. There is one tiny, irritation, but it’s so pointlessly ridiculous that it doesn’t really matter.

it’s sunday

Today is Sunday. Every now and again, like a bolt out of the blue, I remember what Sundays used to be like, and I am suddenly, abruptly, deeply grateful for where my path in life has led me.

Sundays used to be 3 long hours of church, followed by scripture study and home teachers. Sundays used to be itchy nylons or too-hot tights, dresses that never seemed to fit quite right and either slid up too short on my thighs when I sat down or hung, long and hot and heavy, over my calves during the summer months Sundays used to be nice shoes that pinched after several hours.

Sundays used to be rushing around the house, everyone trying to get ready, and slipping shamefacedly into church 5-15 minutes late. They used to be feeling guilty because I couldn’t afford paying tithing and my rent, feeling unworthy because I was angry or irritated with my dad or sister or brother (or late, husband or son).

They used to be sitting in the foyer, bouncing a crying infant on my hip, feeling frazzled and tired and stressed out, trying to listen to the talk and figure out what I could fix for dinner that night and smiling politely when some female ward member came up right when my son fell asleep and tickling him under the chin while enthusing, “What a cutie!” — and walking away to let me deal with my again-crying son.

They used to be a chore, and I felt guilty and horrible and awful and certain that I was doing something wrong, that I was wrong, because I didn’t manage it all smoothly and sauvely. Because I didn’t have my family at church 5 minutes early; because when it came to rent or tithing, my faith wasn’t stronger than my pragmatism.

Because when I heard the exact same testimony every first Sunday of the month (I just want to say . . . I know the Book of Mormon is true, and I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of god. I had personal witness to this just this last week, when a ward member came by in my time of frustration and doubt and helped me, and I knew the church was true and god will always provide.). I would find myself nitpicking the testimony — You can’t know, my mind would whisper. You believe. You have faith. There’s a difference between knowing and having faith. 

Then I would feel guilty and wrong and out-of-step again, because I was certain no one else in the congregation nit-picked the semantics of a testimony. I would tell myself, “This is why god doesn’t witness to you; you don’t have enough faith.” And I would pay my tithing because it was faith-building, and we would be late on our rent and overdraft our account.

Then, in the next F&T meeting, someone would talk about how they had paid their tithing and not had enough for groceries or bills or something, and how a stranger/ friend/ family member had come to their assistance without being asked or told about the situation, and how god will always bless his children if they pay their tithing, and I would think about our overdrafted bank account and my husband working two jobs to pay the bills, and I just wanted to cry.

They were guilt-ridden, miserable years, where I constantly felt like a failure; like no matter how hard I tried I would never live up to these impossible standards; like I was a failure in god’s eyes. I would come home upset and stressed out from dealing with a wiggly infant for 3 hours, from having to carpool to and from church, from the discomfort of my church clothes, and my husband would be asleep on the couch. He would be in his suit, having arrived home from work, gotten ready for church, and realized that there was only 20 minutes left until it ended.

We would bicker and argue, and the day would be spent in a distant, frustrated silence, both of us feeling neglected and misunderstood.

Now when Sunday comes, it’s my husband’s day off. We go have family time together, now. We go fishing or crabbing or camping, or go to the beach or a museum or restaurant. We laugh and joke and play, and we’re closer as a family for it. I wear dresses if I feel like it now, not because I have to. I sleep in on Sundays and wake slowly and naturally, with my husbands arms curled around me and his face nuzzled in my shoulder blades. On the first Sunday of the month I eat breakfast, like I do every day — no “fasting” (re: starving myself) and dealing with the migraines I’ve suffered since pregnancy whenever my blood sugar drops too low.

I love Sundays now. Now they’re a family day, a day to relax and recharge, a day to appreciate the world, my family, and my life.