Do Book Retail Prices Make Any sense?

So, I’m at my local B&N looking for something to read:

I see a new Brandon Sanderson pb, whom I like, called The Emperor’s Soul.

Take it down and look at it. Looks Like a 170 page novella/short novel. Price $14.99.

Right next to it is another Sanderson I have read previously: The Way of Kings. 1300 pages for $8.99.

WTF??

And yes I know I can do better at Amazon, but I was wondering the marketing theory behind stuff like this…

New book versus old book. What’s not to understand?

Was Emperor’s Soul a Trade Paperback (that is, about the width and length of a hardcover) and Way of Kings a Mass Market Paperback (much smaller than a TPB)? If so, that’s why. TPBs are more expensive than MM paperbacks because they are physically larger and sturdier, sometimes have better paper quality, and sometimes thicker/better glue in the bindings. Generally, the length and width of paper matters more to price than pagecount.

If they were both MM, or both TBP, I don’t know why the prices would be so different, unless possibly they were from different publishers.

(Credentials: B&N monkey for eight years, but no publisher experience.)

At least you’re not in Canada. We get to see the US/Canada price gap right on the back cover like this: $7.99 US/$11.99 Canada. And this at a time when our respective dollars are at par. It’s fucking infuriating.

I hate the new way that many paperbacks (especially non-fiction stuff) are the same size as the hardbounds and cost nearly as much. If they want to end the “paper” book business just announce it and quit fooling around.

I pretty much agree with this here fine statement.

Hah yeah. Although it does seems like the gap has been gradually narrowing over the years.

This analysis is a bit simplistic, I think. Because The Way of Kings was the same price when I bought it new.

Yep it’s a trade, but while bigger than the mass market, it is not one of the HB size trades.

And I still can’t get past the 170 pages vs 1300 page disparity, no matter the “higher quality.”

I can’t wait for more places to go digital. AI Programming Wisdom 4, $400.

Sure, as long as we get a discount over print. I love my e-reader, but as long as I can find dead tree versions of books for typically 50% less than the e-reader files, I’m not seeing the pricing upside of the all-digital book future.

When I was a kid I always thought this was some cool deal the US Government did to let us Americans get books cheaper. Not understanding exchange rates and all.

You may have bought a new copy, but you did not buy it at release when it was a hard cover for substantially more money was the only option.

Paper costs are a very tiny piece of the costs. It’s like arguing that longer albums or movies should cost more than short ones. I mean, one might have more value to you, but it’s not always the long one. I’d rather have 170 amazing pages than 1300 vomited out ones. (I have never read either book, so I have no idea of their relative quality here)

I think you’re doing the standard mistake of equating price to material costs. Rather, it’s more about supply and demand.

Books fall into categories that often dictate their release schedule, to leverage market segmentation. Often its: hardcover first, TPB second, MM last. Early adopters pay more. For example, the newer of your two books might not even have been available in MM form, at that time. It’s just standard microeconomics of trying to leverage a market segment with greater demand (early adopters) while still capturing the lower demand segment (those who would not be willing to pay more than MM prices).

On occasion, you will hear of publishers breaking a book into two volumes for the MM, when they published the hardcover as one. Perhaps that’s cost related, or it may be dictated by the physical limitations of the MM format.

The MM of Dances with Dragons by GRRM still hasn’t come out. In fact I don’t think any paper back version has come out yet. The damn thing was originally scheduled for last year but I guess the hardbounds must still be selling.

Here are some generalizations and oversimplifications:

If a book is still on the NYT Hardcover Bestseller list, don’t expect it in paperback any time soon. If the sequel (or the author’s unrelated followup) is just about to come out in hardcover, the publisher will probably put out the paperback version of the predecessor book just before or with a simultaneous release. Sometimes that depends on the publisher’s schedule, sometimes it’s how quickly the author can finish the follow-up*, sometimes they just wait about a year or so (or a year or so after the original hardcover falls off the Bestseller list, which depending on what deal the author signed with the devil could be a few years after original publication).

If the original book never sold well, if the author doesn’t write a follow up book, if the author goes with a different publisher, if the publisher is a small press, maybe there won’t even be a paperback version.

  • Like a J.K Rowling or a George R.R. Martin, who of course have sales figures wildly out of proportion to most authors.

Yup. Mass market releases of novels are harder and harder to come by these days, in part because publishers feel ebooks cannibalize those sales far more than they do the “prestige” formats.

I was under the impression that many consumers prefer trade size and mass market doesn’t sell as well as it used to. Plus, people feel the larger size is worth more, so publishers can charge more for trade. Bookstores would presumably prefer trade because they can make more money per linear foot of space. Trade might be better for authors, too, since trade books don’t get their covers ripped off and sent back.

Ebooks have cannibalized mass market sales. The numbers show that MM is being hit the hardest by the rise of ebook sales.