If you’re one of the people chomping at the bit for the e-book release of J.R. Ward’s Lover Mine or Charlaine Harris’ Dead in the Family and had it pre-ordered for your Kindle, it looks like a pricing dispute between Penguin and Amazon is going to get between you and your favorite vampires. Four days ahead of the release of Lover Mine, the latest installment in J.R. Ward’s “Black Dagger Brotherhood” series is still not available for Kindle, at all. (And if you religiously read these books, you know that they’re akin to crack cocaine and the idea of waiting one extra day to read them is horrifying and appalling.)
While the sight of an e-book at a higher pricepoint than a physical book isn’t entirely uncommon, it looks like Penguin is holding readers hostage until Amazon caves and gives them the opportunity to gouge readers, many of whom no longer purchase ink and paper books. Very little official information is available regarding the dispute, but perhaps the most telling is the absence of e-books that have been available for months for pre-order on Kindle. Users report an e-mail from Amazon announcing that orders for the books had been “canceled.”
Lover Mine is set to be released on April 27th, and Dead in the Family will be released on May 4th. Both books are priced at $9.99 on Amazon, an amount most e-book readers would happily pay for their most wanted upcoming books. Why are the publishers satisfied to accept that pricepoint for paper books but not the much cheaper digital versions? (Apparent answer: because they’re greedy bastards that don’t want you to find out if John Matthew ever finds Xhex.)
It seems the pricing dispute really got legs on the morning that the iPad was unveiled. The New Yorker has an account with a villainous Steve Jobs out to ruin everyone’s reasonably priced e-book fun:
Jobs, circling the room, stopped at one of several tables piled with iPads to talk with Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal’s personal-technology columnist. Onstage, Jobs, demonstrating how Apple would sell books, had selected Edward Kennedy’s “True Compass” and clicked on a “buy” icon with the price $14.99 next to it. Why, Mossberg asked, should consumers “pay Apple $14.99 when they can buy the same book from Amazon for $9.99?”
“That won’t be the case,” Jobs said, seeming implacably confident. “The price will be the same.” Mossberg asked him to explain. Why would Amazon increase prices, when consumers were buying so many books? “Publishers may withhold their books from Amazon,” Jobs said. “They’re unhappy.”
Although Amazon seems to be on the more consumer friendly side if the debate, many consumers are still ranting about their Kindles now being useless. One user on the Amazon forums sums up the general feeling amongst e-book consumers currently being screwed over by the dispute:
I too had Lover Mine pre ordered (since Feb)and just found out that it was canceled. The same thing happened with Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy book 5). I am SERIOUSLY p*ssed!!!!! Check out my screen name. Guess who my fave BDB character is. I have been waiting for this book, this one specifically, for what feels like forever. Here is the discusting irony; I want this book so bad that I will go out and pay full hardcover price for it on April 27. It kills me that I will be giving the publishing co. exactly what they want, but thats how bad I want it. And thats what they’re counting on. I feel like I’ve been backed into a corner. Hate this crap.
And though some users plan to purchase the hardcover version, many more are already swapping plans to download torrents and use a complicated workaround method to read the books on their Kindles or iPhone Kindle apps. At the end of the New Yorker piece, a literary agent predicts how the pricing dispute will ultimately resolve:
No matter where consumers buy books, their belief that electronic media should cost less—that something you can’t hold simply isn’t worth as much money—will exert a powerful force. Asked about publishers’ efforts to raise prices, a skeptical literary agent said, “You can try to put on wings and defy gravity, but eventually you will be pulled down.”
Perhaps the most dismaying thing is that for their bad behavior, the publishers will probably be rewarded. Amongst the very gabby adherents of the paranormal romance genre, repurchase of a book in e-book format after being loaned or picking up a paper copy seems to be common. If you’ve made the switch from regular to e-books, you know that switching back would be like going back to dial-up from broadband. Many e-book users read in the dark, and have acquired other habits that are hard to break related to e-book usage. If you’re a disgruntled fan, are you quietly going to buy two copies, or will you dig in your heels and wait for the torrent?