Publishers in price war over digital readers
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 09/28/2012 -- A price war among digital publishers that has driven down the cost of some popular e-books to 20 pence has writers worried about the future of the industry.
Sony has offered a 20-pence promotion this summer, and Amazon.co.uk has followed with matching discounts. Sony’s most recent addition is James Herbert’s bestseller Ash. The horror novel joins The Expats by Chris Pavone and Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville on the list of e- book discounted by at least 97%.
Digital bestsellers tallied by both Amazon and Sony include Monday to Friday Man by Alice Peterson in third place, Peter James’ Dead Man’s Grip at seventh and The Expats in ninth. All are steeply discounted, and Peterson’s is a 20-pence promotion. The value of sales of digital fiction rose 188% in the first half of this year, the Publishers Association said.
James said that the e-book promotion caused sales of his thriller to surge up to 20,000 a week. He said that his earnings haven’t been affected by the discounts. “I’m still getting royalties as if it were full price,” James said.
Still, he said the ultra-low pricing could be risky over the long run. “What’s worrying is that the 20p price point sets a precedent,” James added. “The public starts getting used to paying even less.” His biggest fear is for independent booksellers.
Although a few authors like the discounts because they believe sales will increase, most writers are worried about the constant pressure to cut prices, said Kate Pool of the Society of Authors.
“Authors have fought long and hard to ensure that copyright property protects their fundamental right to control and profit from their creations,” she said. “If books are perceived to have almost no value, that fight seem Pyrrhic indeed, as are the chances of professional authors, of even the most sought-after books, let alone those which are highly researched or costly to produce, making a living from their writing.” The head of the society, Lindsey Davis, a historical novelist, said she objects to the 20 pence promotion because it undermines writers’ ability to make a living.
Sony officials said they are aware of authors’ concerns but argue that discounts are an effective way to draw in new readers.
Peter Shea, Sony Digital Reader Services general manager, also notes that not all books are available digitally. “Offering exceptional prices on e-books that people want to read is an engaging way to help curious readers experience digital books, perhaps for the first,” Shea said.
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