Penguin Publishing Sucks

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Initial post: May 31, 2010 9:31:29 PM PDT
Pecos Bill says:
I just wanted to express my heartfelt desire that Penguin Publishing go take a long walk off of a short pier.

The Kindle version is finally out! This completely paperless electronic format costs MORE than the paperback and MORE than the hardback.

With that in mind, I hope that Penguin Publishing can find the time to screw themselves. They certainly seem to enjoy screwing their customers.

I will not buy this book until the Kindle price is less than the paperback price. I hope the author will consider an alternative publisher in the future, perhaps one whose head is not up their posterior and realizes that it is no longer the year 1810, and that perhaps it is time to get with the modern era.

I would say something dramatic like how I will avoid purchasing from Penguin Publishing in the future, but in truth, that will probably happen incidentally every time I run across a grossly overpriced electronic book -- it will probably be from Penguin Publishing.

Posted on Jun 1, 2010 6:00:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jan 4, 2011 12:03:02 PM PST
Star Gazer says:
I can fully understand Penguin's desire to make $$ on the novels they publish. That is the business they are in. However, for weeks the hard cover was being sold for $9.99 on Amazon and when the Kindle version came out it was $12.99. I would think that they would make more money selling an electronic version for $9.99 vs. a hard cover version for $9.99 since the production / shipping / storing of the hard cover book would be much more than an electronic file. That being said, I will NEVER pay more than $9.99 for ANY electronic book and I would suggest that ALL Kindle users do that. If we don't pay excessive prices for electronic media, then they will learn not to charge excessive prices.
I have been waiting to read Changes for a long time now, but I will conintue to wait until the price drops below $10.00.

>>>> Edit 1/4/2011
The Kindle version of Changes is still $12.99. I have since visited my library and read the book, along with Side Jobs. (Actually, I read Side Jobs first the the last story in that happens after Changes, so I had to read Changes before finishing Side Jobs) Again, I will not pay over $10 for an electronic book and I will not be purchasing Changes or Side Jobs at any price because I have already read them. I am finding I missed visiting my local library and I am sure I will be using them more than my Kindle if prices stay high.

Posted on Jun 1, 2010 8:06:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 1, 2010 8:10:17 AM PDT
I'd just add some food for thought here.

First off, at $12.99, and having already borrowed the hardback from my brother and read it, there is no way, NO WAY, I'm am going to fork over thirteen bucks for this book.

But I DID download the sample portion to take a look at it, and here is what you get - or rather what you do NOT get - for your thirteen bucks.

1) No cover art. My brother in law did the whole "register your address in England and download the European version" thing, and that version it does indeed have cover art. But I guess for the rest of us Americans, who are trying to exactly play by the rules, Penguin is just saying "screw you."

2) No chapter markings: Oh, you DO get a linked table of contents, but the chapter markings at the bottom of screen are missing. I love those because you can tell how much longer a chapter is, and if you want to keep reading until the chapter end or not. Also, I like using the kindle five way to jump back and forth from chapter to chapter.

To be fair, this may be due to the fact that I only got the sample chapters for the Kindle, but maybe not. Again the European version DOES have these chapter markings.

3) No text to speech: This is also something that is handy. It's not the quality of a real actor read audio version, nor should it be since you're not paying for it. But when your driving or something, it's handy. Again, Penguin, in it's inexhaustible paranoia about losing audio sales, is happily screwing us for thirteen bucks.

So, in the end, for $12.99 Penguin will happily sell you a file that comes in just barely, JUST BARELY, above the level of a plain text document.

Oh yeah baby, I'll be buying a lot of Penguin books in the future - not.


Posted on Jun 2, 2010 12:05:13 PM PDT
H. H. Steele says:
I have to agree with all 3 of these posts. Y'all haven't said anything I haven't thought. One of the selling points of the Kindle is that the books for it are usually cheaper than the hard copies. It's a point that I bring out when people ask me about the kindle.
Seems to me that with Amazon's buying "clout" they need to start looking out for their customers and get the publishers to realize just who is contributing to their bottom line every quarter.

Posted on Jun 2, 2010 11:04:53 PM PDT
C. Brown says:
I think Amazon tried, but they ended up blinking first. The only message sender with clout is the consumer; Amazon couldn't do it for us and besides they have their own agenda (e.g. to be the VHS of the ebook formats, also obnoxious but that's the breaks). If WE cave and are willing to spend more than paperback/hardback prices for e-books then the publisher(s) will continue to set them that way.

Even some of Penguin's authors, including Butcher, publicly labeled Amazon as the bad guy here. I don't think authors are going to change publishers because readers complain. They will likely only change publishers when their income is affected, as the publishers would only change their practices ditto. Will enough consumers refuse to buy ebooks at these prices, to make Penguin less obnoxious in their price-setting? I'm skeptical, but one can only hope.

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 5:29:07 AM PDT
Tnafbrat says:
What I would really like to know is the actual breakdown of who gets how much .... say out of $13, how much goes to Amazon, how much to the publisher and how much does the author really get. I talked to one author who was being "offered" 8 cents on each book ... even at $9.99 ... so Amazon and the Publisher gets to divy up $9.91? ummm that's not right for the author. I don't think they ought to up the price 2 to 5 dollars just to give the author 2 cents more, they ought to give the author a bigger cut period and decrease their cuts..... after all, without the author .....

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2010 6:28:37 AM PDT
Caroline Luu says:
When Amazon first launched the Kindle Platform, it promised that authors would receive 35% of the selling price. It's well known that authors are underpaid for the content that they provide. However, with the launch of iBooks, giving publishers more power, Amazon has had to change the breakdown of what happens to the revenue.

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 7:08:08 AM PDT
I believe that authors e-publishing to Amazon at $9.99 or less and enabled text-to-speech now get 70% if they meet the basic criteria, up from the previous 35% (a very recent change).

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 7:45:01 AM PDT
Matt says:
So, if Amazon is the bad guy here, and Penguin Publishing is faultless and would LOVE to provide an electronic copy for my reader, I am sure they've got it for sell at another e-book distributor for a reasonable price. Right? I mean, surely if Amazon is screwing people over that badly some of the other, hungrier ebook sellers are going to cut better deals, right?

Hmm.. same price at BN. Well, they're big too. And twice the price at ebooks dot com. It's beginning to look like Penguin Publishing is just a stagnate publisher refusing to believe there is a market in ebooks worth considering. Well, I've read all the Dresden books but the last (overpriced) one. I picked up a series that Amazon had given away the first two, similar to Dresden (The Hallows) and consequently bought every one of those. I buy a lot of other genres and read voraciously. I will not, however, fork over more money for a product that costs less to produce and distribute. If you're so angry at Amazon, Penguin, just tell us where to go to get things at a more reasonable price?

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 12:40:02 PM PDT
Pecos Bill says:
Great point, Matt.

I see no way that Amazon can be the bad guy here when the Barnes and Noble price for "Changes" in eBook format is also $12.99.

I have full respect for capitalism. I understand wanting to match maximum price to maximum demand for maximum profit. That's how dad did it, that's how America does it and its worked out pretty well so far. But charging more for the eBook than the print book is, I think, bad business and I believe it has more to do with declaring an irrational war on the eBook concept than anything to do with profitability.

I've bought every other Dresden book on the Kindle for $5.59 - $9.99. Curiously, looking back, I see that some of the prices have since gone UP.

I bought Blood Rites for $5.59, Jun 10, 2009. It currently lists at $8.99. Fie to you, Penguin! $9 for the eBook of something that came out 6 years ago? Do you not LIKE making sales and promoting your authors?

I hope Jim Butcher is at least reaping the benefits (if there are any). It's going to be harder to recommend his books to friends if they are significantly more expensive than so many other good authors.

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 1:17:37 PM PDT
Beanbag Love says:
As I said on another thread, I have seen several paperbacks recently released listed at the same price on e-book. So, I have become very picky and choosy. I don't buy either the e-book or the PB of those releases. I will get it used PB or from the library or I will buy it on e-book when the price goes down.

And a funny thing happened when I started to implement this plan. Life was happening while I was buying and reading so many books. So, yes, publishers will be making a lot less money from me in the future. And I'd say that I am the epitome of the average customer. We'll see what happens, but I don't think it's going to be pretty for the publishers.

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 5:53:39 PM PDT
It's interesting. My understanding is that on a paper or audio copy of a book, the publisher sets a flat price that the distributer/bookseller pays the publisher for the book. What that distributer/bookseller then charges the consumer is based on what they think they can do price-wise and make money. Obviously, Amazon figured out that you can sell a heck of a lot of books at 9.99, which most people think is reasonable for a hard-back or best-seller. And it builds loyal customers. However, some publishers have recently forced an agency model of pricing for e-books. (You'll see on the Kindle listing that the price is set by the publisher) The publisher sets the price. Amazon and other booksellers have no choice but to charge what the publisher requires. And the publisher can do whatever they the consumer and to their long as we both put up with it. And....they can force turning off the text to speech. They think for some reason we should spend extra for that. Or buy the 30 -60 dollar audiobook. NOT. They seem to forget that there is software for PC's out there that turns text to speech for the visually disabled. By turning it off on the Kindle (and any other reading device that may want to do this) they are, in effect, making sure that the visually impaired CANNOT read ebooks on an ereader. I'm waiting for the class action lawsuit on this one. So, bottom line, Penguin and the other publishers need to know just how torked they are making their customers.

Posted on Jun 5, 2010 10:25:40 AM PDT
SueBee says:
I would like to add my voice to the chorus. I will never pay over 10.00 for an e-book. Never. I will buy the hardback from amazon or costco (great prices). Then I will let all of my friends and family read it for free. Then I will re sell the book on amazon for a penny. Penguin if you are reading that means you have lost money. If I had purchased for my kindle, it is impossible for me to share the book because I don't share my kindle.

Posted on Jun 9, 2010 1:19:40 PM PDT
For the curious, this is what happened:

1. For normal books, publishers set the suggested retail price (only a suggestion) and the price at which they sell it to distributors. The distributors set a price at which they sell it to retailers, and the retailers set the price at which they sell it to customers. Everyone gets some profit in the middle.
2. Amazon came around and started buying books from publishers at distributor prices (generally about 50% of the suggested retail price) and selling directly to customers, since they are sort of a combo of distributor and retailer. This means they get to undercut other retailers and still make more profit.
3. Kindle comes out and lets Amazon do a similar thing with ebooks. Since publishers were not up to speed yet on the whole ebook business, Amazon still had to pay the publisher the same for an ebook as they would for a physical copy of the book, but they got to set the prices at $9.99 (losing money in the process, since they had to pay the publisher 50% of the MSRP for books otherwise available only in hardcover), which helped them move Kindles. They understood that many people wouldn't adopt the Kindle without that price incentive, and that the customer realizes ebooks are less costly to produce, so they were willing to take this loss.
4. Publishers become more aware of the ebook business and get it in their heads that the $9.99 price point hurts the business. They want to set prices higher so that customers will be trained to believe ebooks are just as valuable as physical books, despite the reduced production costs. They believe this so strongly that they are willing to _make less money_ on their books in order to _raise the price_ the customer has to pay (70% of $12.99, which is the publisher cut under the new model, is less than the $13 which would've been the publisher cut under the old model for an ebook of a $26 hardcover).
5. Apple came out with iBooks, and in their agreements with publishers set up the "agency model," which ties ebook prices to the publishers' physical print edition MSRP, puts most books in the range of $12.99 to $14.99, and splits the sale 70/30 with the 30% going to Apple. They also put some clauses in there requiring publishers to adopt the same model with any other company they allowed to sell their ebooks. Publishers jumped at the excuse to renegotiate with Amazon.
6. Amazon tried to fight it; even though 30% of $12.99 gives them more money than they were making on a lot of $9.99 ebooks (remember they were losing money on them), they know that it will hurt Kindle sales. Penguin was the last one they tried to hold out against; when Penguin pulled availability for new ebooks this year, they countered by reducing Penguin hardcovers to the $9.99 price, but it wasn't enough. Amazon overestimated its clout; Jim Butcher even pointed out on Twitter that Barnes & Noble sells 4x as many, and Wal-Mart sells more than 10x as many, copies of the Dresden Files books as Amazon.
7. Here we are. Changes is available for the Kindle now but at $12.99, with the price set by the publisher, and presumably the 70/30 split. Amazon's last meager bit of defiance is the little note making it clear to customers that they didn't get to set the price.

So. If we boycott and don't buy these until they drop in price, Penguin won't even blink. ebook sales in general are a drop in the bucket of book sales right now, and they won't even notice losing a few more of them to people upset about the pricing. And they certainly won't bother to check discussions on Amazon. The only way the prices will change now is if customers start getting very vocal directly to the publishers themselves. That is the hidden meaning of Amazon's message about the publisher setting the price. "Take the complaints to them, our hands are tied."

"If eBooks Are the Future, Do Publishers Have a Plan?"

"Apple's Prices for E-Books May Be Lower Than Expected"

"Amazon Cuts Prices in Tiff With Penguin"

Tweet from Jim Butcher (@longshotauthor)

Posted on Jun 9, 2010 1:43:45 PM PDT
Matt says:
I would also point out that this is the same sort of mentality that occurred in the recording industry. They saw digital audio as a threat, and tried to make it as inconvenient as possible for the customer to get audio in a digital format. Imposing that kind of attitude toward your most eager fans is exactly why the "RIAA" and all its associates gained a very negative public image and piracy became socially acceptable. They are "the enemy" in many music lover's eyes. I am feeling the same sort of bitterness towards book publishers, who I had never even given much thought before. If book publishers are not careful, they will induce the same sort of rampant piracy of their products. It is sad to see it all devolve into chaos, when it should have been a wonderful new concept.

Posted on Jun 10, 2010 11:39:30 AM PDT
Pecos Bill says:
Good sum-up by Matt.

This isn't really Penguin vs Amazon or iBook vs Kindle. This is the publication industry versus the concept of digital publishing. The movie industry is going through similar things -- being highly protective of their old style media and making it difficult to (legally) obtain (reasonably priced) digital copies of their stuff. It's the same thing the music industry went through before finally relenting and offering unprotected music for a reasonable price online.

The real winners will probably be independent publishers. The old dogs are trying to keep old technology relevant while the public wants to move on. It's a great opportunity for small names to take off. A hungry public will end up trying new things since they are unable to (legally and reasonable) acquire their old favorites.

I thought an interesting footnote of the digital music revolution was, say, Weird Al vs Lars Ulrich. Weird Al had been fading out slowly for a long time but used digital media and the ability to get his music out for free to stage a comeback. He realized people see a video on YouTube, like it, and end up buying his collections online. It's no coincidence that he got back into the spotlight shortly after MySpace and YouTube became mainstream attractions. Lars Ulrich fought against this trend tooth and nail. This did not endear them to fans or help sell CDs or increase the popularity of Metallica.

Authors like Jim Butcher just find themselves caught in the middle of a battle between new media and old dog publishers.

It's like when refrigerators and freezers got invented. Once upon a time there was big business and a lot of jobs in cutting ice out of frozen lakes and shipping it to be sold in warmer climates. Once freezers got invented, that business faded out. Everyone involved in the ice shipping business had to go find something more productive to do than chopping ice out of frozen lakes. The publishing industry is at that crossroads now. They're still trying to chop ice out of frozen lakes while the public moves on the better methods.

There's no question of where this trend is going. The only question is which authors will stay in their igloo with the ice choppers and which will step forward and move with the times.

Posted on Jun 12, 2010 3:12:49 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 28, 2010 11:51:41 PM PDT
Beanbag Love says:
@Ethan: Thanks for the rundown and especially for including Steve Jobs's part in all this. Like he gives a hoot about the e-reader app for iPad. Ibooks means nothing but a chance to hurt device competitors. Legal but scummy. Obnoxious enough that I'm thinking seriously of replacing my aging Mac with a PC. I'm stuck with my iPod and iTunes, but I can't think about giving Apple money without my gag reflex kicking in.

I am so disgusted with all of this that I'm not buying Penguin new releases (except for three authors and I'm on the fence going forward -- that includes JB, unfortunately) and I'm looking for options to never buy from Penguin again. Used books dealers are raising their prices to suit the new higher demand, but you know what? I'll pay it because I'd rather the money go in the pocket of a guy/gal running a small business than letting these corporate bullies take advantage of me.

@SueBee: You've inspired me in my future boycotting plans. If I have to buy the new release I will make sure it gets as many readings as possible before I sell it back on Amazon for a very low price. Either that or I'll donate it to my library where it can be read again and again and again for free. If enough of us take that tack it will be felt by the publishers. That's a lot of $$ they could be getting if they'd just allow Amazon to set the prices according to the market. And BTW -- you'll pay whatever price you see fit, but to really make a difference, I think readers should focus specifically on all things Penguin.

Posted on Jun 14, 2010 8:46:53 AM PDT
I refuse to spend more than 9.99 on a book. The entire reason that I got a kindle was the amount of money that I spend per year on books would go down and I would have to use less storage space for my books. I buy and read well over two hundred books per year and now I have to find new authors to read since I will not be buying any more books published by Penquin.

I got my kindle in September last year and have purchased around 400 books so far (I haven't read them all yet) and was recently looking at a few more. I am still looking since the price is unbalanced on so many that I would like to have. My sister-inlaw buys them in hardcover so I am thinking that I will read hers instead of buying my own.

Thanks Penquin

Posted on Jun 15, 2010 3:26:26 PM PDT
NolaBelle says:
I've decided that I will not buy books from publishers (Penguin isn't alone in this pricing model) who set e-book prices higher than $9.99. Several authors I read are in that group. From now on, I will check those books out at my library (I've already paid for them with my taxes) or buy them from used book stores.

Posted on Jun 22, 2010 12:15:47 PM PDT
Terri Harris says:
I'm on board with not buying books over $9.99 as well.

Here's the crazy thing: the means and model for piracy is already established. Publishers are seriously tempting fate here- everyone under the age of 40 knows how it works, and people under the age of 30 accept piracy as a fact (to one degree or another). It ain't hard to imagine books going the way of music, and the reason it hasn't thus far is the love people who read have for authors, and the respect given the industry to date. Why tempt fate by pissing off your consumers like that? Judging by the music industry they WILL seek out other alternatives.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 24, 2010 2:02:10 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 24, 2010 2:07:39 PM PDT]

Posted on Jun 27, 2010 10:26:25 AM PDT
S. Gill says:
I've never sold a used book on Amazon before, but I posted a hardcover version of Changes today just so another sale could go through without the publisher seeing any profit. I never would have owned the hardcover version to begin with if the Kindle price had been in line with the hardcover price.

Posted on Jul 2, 2010 5:35:04 PM PDT
Jackie Lee says:
Penguin sucks Absolutely.

Posted on Jul 3, 2010 3:21:53 AM PDT
I would just like to say that I will never buy an eBook which costs more than its paperback. While I think it is very unfair to charge even as much as the paperback, I can understand that due to convenience and greed publishers (and Amazon). Sadly, I will also NEVER buy Changes in any other format or on any other device. I "own" the entire series (sans this book) on the kindle, and I was planning on continuing with the series. This will not happen until price is dropped (and preferably the publisher is changed). Who in their right mind would by this and such a ridiculous price?

Posted on Jul 8, 2010 1:36:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 8, 2010 1:36:22 PM PDT
Terri Harris says:
I ended up purchasing the audio version of changes, mainly because I already have an audible subscription, so it was one of my two-per month package. Otherwise I would never have bought it. Penguin does indeed suck.
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Total posts:  53
Initial post:  May 31, 2010
Latest post:  Jan 29, 2013

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Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12)
Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12) by Jim Butcher (Hardcover - April 6, 2010)
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