Brigid Alverson looks at how bookstore sales went up this year:
Why the sharp turnaround? ICv2 attributes it to the Borders bankruptcy and the subsequent liquidation sales…. What I take away from this is that books are too expensive. E-books and online sites like Amazon have been eating away at bookstore sales for years, but apparently you can increase sales of print books in brick-and-mortar stores simply by decreasing the prices…. From everything I’m seeing, sales of e-books continued to climb during that period, which suggests a tantalizing possibility: The market as a whole, print and digital, online and brick-and-mortar, could continue to increase, if only books were cheaper.
I’m with Brigid on often seeing prices on books higher than I’m willing to spend (with the very large caveat that I’m incredibly spoiled by getting some for free as review copies, which can set your scale at the wrong level very quickly). But I’d make a slight emendation to this. Based on seeing my local Borders liquidation sales, it’s not whether books are cheaper, it’s whether people *think* they’re getting a deal. People were walking up to the register with stacks of titles at the time. If you did the math, those books could be gotten cheaper at Amazon, but when they saw that 20% off (or higher), they wanted them more, and they were willing to shell out because they felt like a smart shopper taking advantage.
That’s one of the problems with ebooks. They feed that discount drive when you compare them to print copies. If the book is “worth” $24, but you’re paying $9.99, score! That’s what publishers don’t get when they make the argument that it takes the same amount of work to make a digital book as it does a print one. People would rather pay $10 for something marked $15 and 30% off than they would pay $10 for something that lists at $10. Digital books don’t have discounts, which is why people compare them to the print version prices and feel cheated when they’re the same.
One exception to that is DC’s 99-cent comiXology one-day sales. Those are smart because they feed that same “I need to buy it now to pay less” urge. I’m very curious to see what happens with DC’s digital sales for its new titles once the price drops after their first month of release.