Should older books cost less?
Amongst the other angst I’ve seen out there about e-book prices is people being mad that a publisher will set the same price for a thirty year old novel as for a new one.
That’s an interesting concept to me.
I don’t know why an older book should be worth less.
Aren’t you getting the same value?
Isn’t, say, Stranger in a Strange Land* worth what the latest Star Wars novel is?
Books don’t decay. Oh, I suppose standards have changed…you might be less likely to get some swear words or sex scenes in an older book.
But is that really what sets the value of the book?
A used book, of course, is different. I don’t like that the spines may be broken or there may be writing in them or stains and such. Even a thirty year-old paperback which is very good shape has a limited lifespan.
But a thirty-year old book converted into an e-book?
Good as new!
Seriously…the download doesn’t have a shorter life expectancy when the book is older.
“But,” you say, “we pay less for a paperback when it comes out a year later.”
Yes, but I don’t think that’s just because it is a year old. It’s also because the paperback is printed in a cheaper, more perishable format. Hardbacks are expected to last longer (and have a better resale value) than paperbacks.
I’ve read people saying that they feel like the author and the publisher had time to make money the first time around.
Oh, but few of them did make money. Some did, but not a lot of authors.
Also, that’s something I see people do: they want to have their prices based on something other than the value to them. That’s not unreasonable, in one sense. If I knew it took somebody ten years to gather the data for a book, I might be willing to pay more for it.
But I would think the book would have more intrinsic value to me in that case as well. If it took ten years because the author was lazy and inefficient, then I don’t want to pay more for it.
There is that spoiler factor, I’ll give you that. There are some books where I want to read them as soon as they are released, so I don’t hear anything about them. Same idea for me as wanting to see a movie the first weekend.
However, isn’t that spoiler factor the same if the book is six months old as sixty years old?
How about books in a series? I think there could be increased value in being able to go right to the next book (or ten or twenty books) in the series without having to wait.
I just can’t see why older books are inherently deserving of a lower price than newer books.
Yes, of course, if they are really old, they are likely to be in the public domain, and then you can usually get them for free.
That’s a different situation, though. No royalty has to be paid, and the distribution costs for e-books are virtually nil. So, some people give those away for the good of the community, and others do it to up the value of their sites.
If I had to pay something for an H.G. Wells book, I’d be willing to pay the same thing I paid for a new novel.
I know Wells is good…older books have gone through the filter of time.
So, seriously, tell me, because I’m curious: why do you think older in-copyright books should cost less than new books?
* Stranger in a Strange Land has been recently released for the Kindle, but I’m not linking to it. I’m saddened that it’s been released by Penguin with text-to-speech access blocked. However, I’m happy to see that Glory Road by Heinlein is being released by Macmillan…with the text-to-speech available (that’s their company policy). Hmm…I just looked at several Heinliens…I saw another Penguin and there were several Macmillans…and at least one from Simon & Schuster (which also blocks text-to-speech). Oh, and to show you that they are still figuring this out, Penguin has two versions of the same Heinlein book. One is 294kb, the other is 349kb, although they both indicate 224 pages. That difference may be due to a cover, perhaps. The smaller file size version is SIX DOLLARS more. That’s right: you can pay $11.99 or $5.99 for the same book from the same publisher. The cheaper, larger file-size book says it is “Digest Size”. My guess is that they converted both of them, not realizing they were the same. The two source editions may be different prices, of course, This suggests that they convert the books pretty automatically…and I’m guessing that the age of the book isn’t part of that process. As a former bookstore manager, automatic pricing is…wow, I went through a number of adjectives on that! I’ll go with…um…inattentive.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.