Monday, February 1, 2010

Print is Dead


So I don't really believe print is dead, but is it dying? I dunno. The iPad won't kill it, that's for sure.

I was at Borders this weekend, browsing with no intent to buy (my favorite bookstore mode), and just felt the general sticker shock of a $25 hardback novel. I love stories...I love writing...I love reading...

I just can't see shelling out $25 for a book that I'll probably only read one time.

Before you throw your cuppa coffee at the screen, let me explain. I read a book: great. Then what happens? I put it on a shelf. If the book was amazing, I'll read it again. If not, it collects dust. A lot of dust. Then I move it to dust the shelf. Repeat or donate to the library/Goodwill/Salvation Army where it gets marked for a quarter and moves down the chain.

I love the feel of a hardback book. I love the ragged edges on nicer models, the grain of the paper under my fingertips. Don't start me on the smell. And stories? Yes, I love them, too. Being frustrated about a $25 price point is not disrespect for an author. How much do you think he/she makes out of that $25? It's disrespect for a broken system...a system that is too big with too many hungry parts...parts that force the price.

Maybe I'm cheap. I don't grudge dropping 10-15 bucks on a trade paperback, so what's with $25 on a hardback? (I don't buy mass market. It kills my eyes.)

Do books cost too much? Is this how we've arrived at publishing consolidation and layoffs? Will authors ever get a fair shake? Am I a whiny putz?

In the age of multimedia choose your own adventure, can the $25 book compete?

Thoughts, witticisms, perspective please?

19 comments:

mylefteye said...

You think $25 is expensive for a hardcover? Hmmm. Makes me wonder why I've been paying around £18 (around $29 at today's exchange rate) for my books all these years. :)

I started collecting books in hardcover in my early twenties, when I had a lot more disposable income. I've had to curtail my biblimania these past few years, but I still plump for hardcovers over any other format when I have the choice.

Will I ever embrace ebooks? I can't say. I swore I'd never swap my CD collection for a digital one, but I have waaay more music on my mp3 player now than I have in my CD racks.

Neal Asher has just posted about the dead tree format and ebooks. It's particularly relevant to him as he's published by Macmillan, who have of course just become embroiled in the Amazon.com face-off. http://theskinner.blogspot.com

Jeremy Kelly said...

I almost always wait for the paperback. And $25? I've seen them for $35-40. No way. Paperbacks, for now.

Aaron Polson said...

Michael - I understand why people want the books--like I said, I love the smell, feel, etc., but I just don't have the cash. When something comes along, say an affordable collector's edition of something classic, I'm all over it. I just won't try a new author for the hardcover cash. Maybe I'm stingy.

Jeremy - The book I remember was $25. It was thin, too. I know the cost goes up, up, up.

Robert said...

Depends on whether or not it's a favorite author. There are some authors whose books I do buy when they first come out in hardcover. Then there are others who I either wait for the remainder hardcover for 6 bucks or pick up at the library ... or wait until the library book sale and hope to be lucky enough to grab it for 2 bucks.

But yes, you are just so friggin cheap ;-)

Barry Napier said...

I only buy brand new hardbacks if it is either a)Mr King's new books (which if you get them at Target are around $18 - $20) or a specialty book (I just spent $27 on a historical/bio kinda thing about SETI). Yes, I think hardbacks are too much...paperbacks, too now that they are going the way of $10 a pop. You'd think the whole e-book craze woulda taught the publishing industry a lesson...

Rebecca Nazar said...

I buy used hardcovers on very rare occasion. I bought a Steinbeck collection for ten bucks. I felt awful in a way. This guy's stuff is priceless, yet affordable, which makes me happy and sheepish at the same time.

The only book I purchased at full price was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Oh, nope, that's not right. I asked for it at Christmas one year.

I love my local library. They do all the purchasing, organizing and dusting for me.

Aaron Polson said...

Robert - No matter how cheap I am, I'm buying your debut, first run.

Barry - Anytime you can discount a book 40-50% (like the Target price), there's a little fat to trim.

Rebecca - Aren't libraries wonderful like that?

Natalie L. Sin said...

I almost always prefer paperbacks, and not just for the price. Hardcovers are HUGE, in the hands and on the shelf. Of course, the price doesn't help. Maybe for short story collections, which have a greater chance of being reread.

Danielle Ferries said...

Depends on the author. Some I buy in hardcover, others in paperback and I while I love to browse in Borders and other bookstores here I'll go and buy the book from discount bookstores or order from The Book Depository - competitive prices and free postage. I'll never stop buying books though and can't bring myself to buy Kindle or any of the other e-readers.

Brendan P. Myers said...

Not sure it's rotating and different for everybody, but I got:

"You might also like . . . I broke my kid."

I remember that one. Brought a smile to my face.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I like the feel of hardcovers as well. They feel solid, real in my hands. I am beginning to get the feel for trade paperbacks, as long as they have a quality cover on them (thicker than the paper inside). I read a few paperbacks. They serve their purpose, but I still prefer the hardcover to them.

I usually buy the on the remainders shelves when I buy books in the brick and mortar stores. You want to know a little secret- I don't feel bad about it either.

Alan W. Davidson said...

I prefer a paper copy in my hand as opposed to downloading. I only buy the hardbacks at Chapters if they are on sale. I like the trade papaerback format and can usually get them at a good price at Costco. I think you're correct that the system is broken and needs a certain 're-adjusting.' Great post.

K.C. Shaw said...

I prefer MMPBs, but I'll buy hardbacks for certain authors. I totally think hardbacks are too expensive--but so is everything these days. As bang for the buck, even a hardback is a pretty good deal. I'll spend close to $25 to see a movie (ticket + popcorn and coke) and once I've seen it, I can't see it again without paying again (and the popcorn/coke leave nothing but regrets). At least with a book, I can reread it or sell it or give it away. Still too expensive, though.

Aaron Polson said...

Natalie - That's my preference for the trade paperbacks: not too huge, not too tiny. Cost is okay.

Brendan - I'm glad he's fixed now (well, not FIXED, but you get the idea). The "you might also like" feature is a little random. Not sure I'm going to leave it up there.

Jamie - I wouldn't feel bad about it, either.

Alan - I think we (people in general) are just moving away from books. I don't want books to make themselves obsolete before their time (by creating prohibitive pricing practices).

K.C. - True. Especially about movies. Maybe that's why (putz that I am), I usually just buy the DVD or smuggle my own popcorn into the theater. Heh.

Benjamin Solah said...

We pay much more for books in Australia. Perhaps up to $40 Australian for a hardback. $20 is about standard for a mass market paperback.

This Digital revolution is moving a bit slow for my liking. I think I want the death of print to be over and done with so I can get on with reading and stop worrying how we're meant to be doing it.

Andrea said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels this way. I will take a printed novel over ebooks/audiobooks any day which is why I have over 100 books sitting on shelves collecting dust as I type this.

I think $25 is a bit steep for a hardback. I'd pay that much for a novel around 1,000 pages or so, but not so much for one over 100. I usually buy used books. These days it's a lot cheaper to buy a book that looks new versus one that is new.

Aaron Polson said...

Benjamin - Books are different than other entertainment in a variety of ways, and they outlived wax drums, phonographs, records, cassettes, CDs...I think they'll always be here (despite my post title). Books can coexist with digital, just not in our current system. Everything is overpriced (when you look at how much the "content creator" receives).

Andrea - Hmmm...you have something there, re: used books.

Cate Gardner said...

I spend too much on books. The thing I hate most is, I buy the hardback because I can't wait for the paperback to come out and then I don't read it until the paperback is released. Doh! And I've just shelled out $38 on a signed, very intriguing, small press book.

Moths starve in my purse.

katey said...

Yeah it definitely depends on who the author is. I shelled out for the Harry Potter books because I wanted to collect them. If it's a nice edition of someone I dig, I'm on it.

But man, in most cases I wait for paperback. Honestly, hardbacks are heavy... and I'm like 5 feet tall and not all that bulky. I can't read that crap in bed, it kills me!

I'll always prefer paper books. But I love ebooks for letting me buy more, cheaper, and store them more effectively. (When they're not that important, of course) :D