Blurring ‘Our Dignity, Our Value’
“The biggest issue is one that will be difficult for us to recover from…the degradation of our worth as creatives.”
Last month, when I led a round-table discussion at Berlin’s Publishers’ Forum, our topic was “Re-Thinking Ebook Sales and Understanding the Consumers.” But what drew the biggest response was book pricing.
“The consumer,” one of our publishers said, “is in perpetual confusion. No way to understand what a single book costs or how to value our authors’ work.” And at the influential publishing house Bastei Lübbe AG, executive board member Klaus Kluge is calling book prices “staggeringly low” in an interview with Sabine Schwiering Tert at Boersenblatt.net.
In the UK in January, Penguin Random House CEO Tom Weldon told my Bookseller colleague Benedicte Page: “”One of the biggest challenges in 2016 will be e-book pricing: how do we maintain the value perception of our quality content and maximize revenues across all formats for both authors and publishers?”
A year later, Webb can see clearly now. Here’s what’s happening on a daily basis to authors’ work in the marketplace:
It's awesome when people brag about how cheaply they got your novel for. NOT. They forget we make our living this way. AKA starvation diet
— Heather Webb (@msheatherwebb) March 19, 2016
When we chat about it, she tells me, “I’ve been noticing this group of readers who troll all the author Facebook pages and websites, Goodreads, etc, for giveaways and they never buy books. They don’t have to. Makes me a little nuts.”
She’s not alone. If we triangulate our German associates’ concern for the “confusion” in the readership about what a book costs today with a nod to London’s PRH chief Weldon’s worry at the highest corporate level with Webb’s lament as she writes, “We can’t lose sight of what’s truly important,” then something bigger than “perma-free” and the per-page-view payouts of Kindle Unlimited comes into view.