Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction => Fantasy Book & Author Discussion => Topic started by: Overlord on May 21, 2012, 03:23:36 PM

Title: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Overlord on May 21, 2012, 03:23:36 PM
So, someone asked me the other day: 'How much do you think a book is worth?'

The amount: £8.99 popped into my head because this is typically what I pay in WH Smiths or Waterstones, but I regularly pay around £5.00 on Amazon or Play if I see something I like - older titles I even (hate to admit it) pay £2.81 - £4.00 on occasion.

But, when I thought about that, it is actually not a lot of money. I mean, I tend to put about 10-15 hours into a novel, so on that basis I'm paying around £0.70 an hour or something - which doesn't feel like a lot of money seeing as how much I like books.

So, what do you guys think about the pricing of books? Are books priced well at £8.99, is this too cheap or do you find them too expensive and go to Amazon / Play? I'm interested to know :)
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Hierath on May 21, 2012, 03:26:30 PM
Are we talking paperbacks? £6.99-8.99 seems reasonable.  I'd probably balk at paying anything over a tenner for a normal paperback.  Depends how thick they are, I like a lot of pages for my money!
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Lor on May 21, 2012, 03:29:10 PM
I generally feel that, since the author has put so much work into the book, and it has been valued at whatever price is on it, then that is the price I should pay. I work hard for my money, and I like spending it on things I enjoy, so I am quite happy to pay retail for books.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Phil Norris on May 21, 2012, 03:31:15 PM
I'd say anything up to £10.00 for a paperback is acceptable, hardbacks I'd expect to pay between £15.00 and £25.00 depending on the title/author.

Now if you're talking collectables, like something by Subterranean Press, who knows? I noticed GRRM posted about a ASoIaF Subterranean collection on ebay a while back, five titles and bidding was at $3,450 with still a considerable time to go.

  
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Mazarkis on May 21, 2012, 03:34:40 PM
Interesting topic. I have long been flummoxed by the willingness of people to spend $14 at the cinema while objecting to book prices. Movies are typically 90-100 minutes long while books provide hours of entertainment. I have come to the conclusion that the "price by hour" idea you present means little in the scheme of things.

I don't know what books are worth--some would argue they are worth only what somebody would pay for them. And the expectation of cheap books has never been greater.

As my sister is a journalist I think often about the devaluation of writing.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Lor on May 21, 2012, 03:37:40 PM
Interesting topic. I have long been flummoxed by the willingness of people to spend $14 at the cinema while objecting to book prices. Movies are typically 90-100 minutes long while books provide hours of entertainment. I have come to the conclusion that the "price by hour" idea you present means little in the scheme of things.

I don't know what books are worth--some would argue they are worth only what somebody would pay for them. And the expectation of cheap books has never been greater.

As my sister is a journalist I think often about the devaluation of writing.

I'm more likely to begrudge the £7 for a cinema ticket than for a book, but it seems I am in a minority. People deserve to be rewarded for their work, and as you said books provide hours of entertainment, surely they are worth a little more?
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Noona on May 21, 2012, 03:38:22 PM
I think it's strange that people seem relatively happy to pay £15 or so for a trip to the cinema, yet seem to complain sometimes at paying £8 or £9 for a paperback. (Edit: just seen Mazarkis post this comparison too, I feel validated in my thought patterns :P)

From what I've seen I think, generally, people would be happy to pay £7.99 for a regular paperback if that was how much they cost everywhere, but if they can get it cheaper in Tesco or on Amazon then they will. The net book agreement, broken a few years ago, used to mean that books couldn't be discounted but there were downsides to that, but without it it means that supermarkets can sell them as loss leaders or at cost.

Personally I'm happy to pay for books, if I can get hardbacks I often will - I think it's worth it. I'll pay full price to keep bookshops on the high street too, and also for the convenience of having the book "right now" over "3-5 working days". I pass no judgement on those who buy books as cheaply as they can though, because times are hard.  

I think it's worth remembering though, when thinking "oh, I can get this cheaper on Amazon," that £7.99 or £8.99 isn't a markup, it's rrp, so don't feel badly toward the bookshops that are charging that :)
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: THElewisdix on May 21, 2012, 03:41:59 PM
If I'm going to spend any more than $6(US) on a book then I'm probably going to buy it in print form, and generally won't buy an ebook for more than that.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: AnneLyle on May 21, 2012, 04:19:23 PM
I'm OK with the current prices, though I admit that I balk at paying more for an ebook than a paperback, particularly if it's DRM'd, because that severely limits my purchase's lifespan. I still have paperbacks I bought as a teenager, back in the mists of time - will I still be able to read the ebooks I bought last year, decades hence? I suspect not...

I think people will pay more for a DVD or cinema ticket because they know that movies cost tens of millions to make - a book, by comparison, costs tens of thousands.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Elspeth Cooper on May 21, 2012, 04:28:57 PM
Last time I bought a cinema ticket, you could get two, two cokes and a jumbo bucket of popcorn and still have change from a tenner. Man, I feel old.

Book pricing is about OK for me now - I'm happy to pay £10 for a trade paperback (they just look soooo nice on the shelf compared to MMPs) and for authors/series I really really like I'll pay for the hardback, even if it means I can't read it in bed (Tad Williams, To Green Angel Tower, I'm looking at you).

I don't buy ebooks unless I can't get them any other way, so I can't really comment about ebook prices, although I object to arbitrary and restrictive DRM, and I object to e-editions priced higher than the equivalent mass-market paperback, especially if I can't move it from device to device as it suits me (which is where paper books score: infinitely portable, requires no special equipment beyond standard fitment of two eyes, and invulnerable to EMP in the event of the ZomPoc).
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Mazarkis on May 21, 2012, 04:44:44 PM
But Anne, WHY do movies cost so much to make? In part, it's because the people who do the CGI and the acting and so on are valued (in fact, the least valued person in the equation, from what I understand, is the writer). It all goes back to what people are willing to pay for certain types of work.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Mazarkis on May 21, 2012, 04:45:39 PM
Just want to emphasize that I'm not some grumpy author sitting in front of my computer, whining because nobody wants to pay a lot of money for my book :) It's just a thing that interests me.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: AnneLyle on May 21, 2012, 05:12:08 PM
But Anne, WHY do movies cost so much to make? In part, it's because the people who do the CGI and the acting and so on are valued (in fact, the least valued person in the equation, from what I understand, is the writer). It all goes back to what people are willing to pay for certain types of work.

Very true - Hollywood values writers far less than print publishing. But we're talking here about the customer's perception of the finished product.

Also, I think a lot of readers would be shocked if they knew how little authors get per book. Most have no idea that half the retail price goes straight to the bookseller, or that most of the rest goes to pay the publisher's costs.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Mazarkis on May 21, 2012, 05:35:57 PM
Right--I'm just interested in what creates those expectations.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Gothos on May 21, 2012, 06:24:42 PM
Never been to fussed about book prices. Although I prefer to pay a decent price for a book as I know that money goes into paying the authors (who deserve it) and the publishing industry who could use it.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Ashes on May 21, 2012, 06:53:21 PM
It depends. If I'm having a wander around a brick-made shop I normally pay more for books, like 8 to 10€  (I'm in Spain) for a paperback. But if I'm on Amazon I stay between the 3 to 6€ for a paperback because I buy alot at once.
But if it's a book that I really want, like any future book published by Abercrombie, Brett or Weeks I will happily hand over my debit card without cheching the price.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: WordTipping on May 21, 2012, 07:31:33 PM
Books are art, they have no value beyond what you are willing to pay.  So to me, they start at $0.  Some books I wouldn't take even if free.  Others, I have been perfectly content to spend north of $100 and do so frequently.

Philosophy aside, I think $8 for a paperback is a great deal for the value in general when compared to other forms of entertainment.  That statement though only holds value in the context that I am a reader.  But, given the issues w/ piracy, there is a significant portion of the reading public that disagrees with even $8 as a starting price.  Lastly, given the people who don't read but are perfectly willing to drop $60 on a new console game, books have no market value for significant portions of the market.

I think moving forward, publishers should figure out ways to get more money out of people who are willing to spend it and lower the costs of their standard products.  In the digital age, the single price methodology for paperback, hardcover, etc is leaving money on the table and hurting audience growth.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Funky Scarecrow on May 21, 2012, 08:19:18 PM
In the bluntest possible terms no more than £10 for a paperback and no more £20 for a hardback. I'm not going to enter the ebook discussion, since I hardly bother with ereading (I can count all of the books I've read electronically without taking my shoes off).

Is my stance on what a book should cost backed up by reason, logic and a deep rooted understanding of publishing? Is it chuff, it's capricious and arbitrary, but books tend to evoke emotional rather than logical debate. As inflation continues upwards and the recession continues biting I'm sure I'll end up having to fork across more than a tenner per paperback at some point in the near-ish future. Certainly before we enter the high 20-teens, I'm guessing.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Ros on May 21, 2012, 08:21:01 PM
Books should cost something. There's an unfortunate trend towards giving books away for free, at least in electronic form, as a way of generating buzz. When I come across that it makes me wonder, why is the author so desperate to drum up sales that they'll give away months of hard work? Is the book terrible? Or did they dash the thing of in a few weeks, thinking it wouldn't matter?

So there's a certain element of prestige pricing for me, especially when it comes to an author I've not read before. I expect new books to be at least £4, and if they're less I get suspicious.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: WordTipping on May 21, 2012, 09:26:55 PM
Is my stance on what a book should cost backed up by reason, logic and a deep rooted understanding of publishing? Is it chuff, it's capricious and arbitrary, but books tend to evoke emotional rather than logical debate. As inflation continues upwards and the recession continues biting I'm sure I'll end up having to fork across more than a tenner per paperback at some point in the near-ish future. Certainly before we enter the high 20-teens, I'm guessing.

Considering ~80% of all writers rarely sell more than ~5000 copies of a book and never payback their advances, logically setting a book price based on the actual cost involved would cause a steep increase in per book costs.  It is the success of the best sellers that subsidize new authors. 
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: AnneLyle on May 21, 2012, 09:36:23 PM
Considering ~80% of all writers rarely sell more than ~5000 copies of a book and never payback their advances, logically setting a book price based on the actual cost involved would cause a steep increase in per book costs.  It is the success of the best sellers that subsidize new authors. 

Actually, most books do make a profit for the publisher, albeit a modest one - smaller presses without big bestselling authors would go bust otherwise. Just because an author doesn't "earn out" (sell enough copies to cover the advance and start getting royalties) doesn't mean that the publisher takes a loss on that title.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Jeni on May 22, 2012, 02:41:40 AM
New books - especially new hardback releases, are expensive, for me.

I can't afford £20 for a book and I only ever buy hardback books if they are a present for someone (same with new release DVD's for me as well, actually) - and even then WHSmith in particular often have a half-price or similar value offer on hardbacks at some point during the first month of release, so I don't remember ever having to pay more than £12-£14 for one.
I find paperback books expensive at the moment too. Again, I shop around for offers and usually end up buying 2-3 at a time because it is more cost effective in the long run.
I have a Kindle and therefore get (almost) all of my e-books from Amazon - but I won't buy an e-book if it costs more than £5. This is because most of the books I buy overall are e-books, and if I really like a book I only have an e-version of, I will also buy the paperback version when I find it at an affordable price (be it either a second-hand copy from a charity shop/eBay/Amazon or a new copy on offer).

I don't think it's entirely fair to say that people should be willing to pay as much, or more, for a single book as they would for a trip to the cinema. I don't go to the cinema once a week, or even once a month these days, because I live in the middle of London and it's far too expensive to be a weekly habit. I do read on average between 1-2 books a week though, so even if all the books I read in a month are all e-books I will still be spending somewhere between £20-£45 each month on books. If all books were the same cost as a trip to the cinema (£25ish) I could only afford to buy 1-2 books a month instead of a week. And if that were the case, I would be extremely reluctant to take a chance on purchasing a new release by a debut author - I would end up buying books by authors that I am already familiar with because I would feel like I'd just chucked a lot of money down the drain if I didn't like the book!

Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: WordTipping on May 22, 2012, 09:21:12 PM
Considering ~80% of all writers rarely sell more than ~5000 copies of a book and never payback their advances, logically setting a book price based on the actual cost involved would cause a steep increase in per book costs.  It is the success of the best sellers that subsidize new authors. 

Actually, most books do make a profit for the publisher, albeit a modest one - smaller presses without big bestselling authors would go bust otherwise. Just because an author doesn't "earn out" (sell enough copies to cover the advance and start getting royalties) doesn't mean that the publisher takes a loss on that title.

I should have qualified what I said as to exclude small press as what you say is nominally correct.  But, I would not say a small press is profitable so much as they cover costs.  Various stats show that they work 50+ hours a week w/ no benefits.  The average book sells ~500 copies and the authors signed typically work a full time job.  So even in a small press setting the costs of a book are being subsidized to one degree or another by people's passions for the medium.  Link: http://www.iconicpublishing.com/publishing-stats/ (http://www.iconicpublishing.com/publishing-stats/)

The intent of my statement was primarily aimed at the "big six" publishers.
Title: Re: How much value do you place on a book?
Post by: Lionwalker on May 23, 2012, 08:14:26 AM
I will generally buy a book I really want to read no matter the price, although I have slightly higher expectations of books I shell out almost double the price for when I buy them in hard- or -trade paperback editions - this has to do with the price and that I'm buying them because I'm already assuming they're that good.

When I think of value though, I tend to not associate it with money. I think I could be a slight book-buying addict, in that I have difficulty passing any sort of bookstore without going inside and leaving with something. I value all my books highly, (as my gf frequently comments when I twitch uncontrollably from her folding the entire page in half to mark her place :) ) and when you think about the cost of a once-off movie (with popcorn, drink, etc) compared to a book you can read over and over again, I don't think the price is high at all.

I don't think you should look at the price of a book as something isolated, but rather comparatively. What else do you get for the same price? A couple of beers? A meal? forty miles? When you look at it in those terms, I don't think it is very expensive, especially when you consider the amount of time and effort (months if not years by the author, and then the editor's time) it took to produce.