All of the pricing issues I’ve been discussing lately involve self-published material by essentially unknown authors. This brings me to Harper’s recent decision respective of e-book pricing for its “name” authors. Without getting into “agency pricing” and the litigation involving the Apple price-fixing suit that spawned the phrase, Harper has settled and is going to be using its previous “agency” pricing model, which means its list for major authors will not be discounted. Hence, a $27.95 B&N retail, for example, will be the same everywhere, unless a retailer chooses to discount a title as a loss leader.
This makes complete sense to me, and I applaud Harper’s executives for sticking to their guns. But then I read that the publisher is going to demand its e-books be sold for $14.99. Do Harper executives ever shop at Costco? Irrespective of their personal buying habits, if a reader can afford fifteen bucks for a digital copy of a blockbuster, won’t a large segment of those people gravitate to the hardback version? I know I would, especially if I believe I’m likely going to find the book at some point relatively early-on at Costco or some other major discounter for what has been a $16 price tag. Perhaps the Harper mindset is that the high e-price will indeed drive book buyers to B&N and other brick-and-mortar retailers for a $27.95 purchase. But I don’t see it.
What I perceive to be of enormous importance, and which wasn’t discussed in the material I read, is that there was no mention of the paperback price, which is generally at the $17.95 or $18.95 level. This, for me, really confuses asking $14.95 for an e-book. And there was zero mention of the way Amazon Prime’s lending program would apply. This begs these two questions, what does Harper receive for a borrowed book on Prime, and what will the author end up with? I have to assume no Harper book will be accessible via Prime, and if this was discussed and I missed it, I apologize. However, this is more rhetorical than anything else and won’t apply to subscribers unless they are signed by a Harper imprint.