Tag Archives: chad post

Cheap eBooks: Good or Bad?

As I idly requested last week, Chad has more fully explained his thoughts on pricing Open Letter’s new ebooks at $4.99 for a limited time. Essentially, his argument is two-fold:

1. that too-cheap ebooks (i.e., full-on novels for less than $5.00) promote an idea of books as disposable entertainments; but,
2. that cheap ebooks can provide a kind of “advertising” for a small publisher like Open Letter, helping move people up the ladder to the $13.00 paperbacks

I do think there’s something to the idea of ereaders promoting an idea of books as disposable, though I don’t think it’s overly related to price. My own take is that our culture is sufficiently awash in remainders, garage sales, huge library booksales, used mass market paperbacks, etc, that we’re already rather comfortable with getting a real book for $1.00 or $2.00. Sure, 99 cent ebooks with further promulgate this idea, but I think it was already pretty fixed in the mind of your average book lover pre-ebook.

But then there’s the actual ebook product, something I’ve discussed on this site before. As much as I’ve gotten used to reading books electronically, I just can’t get my brain to consider it an ebook a real book. If I really like an ebook that I’ve read, I’ll want to go out and buy a “real” copy. It’s interesting to note that I don’t have this same kind of dichotomy with bound galleys and finished books (even though, theoretically, the galley isn’t actually a “real” book since there will be subtle differences between it and the finalized, printed book). Clearly, to me, this is something to do with having a printed thing to read versus having a bunch of computer code that will be displayed as a book in the presence of a certain device.

But anyway, I think Chad’s idea of using ebooks as loss leaders sounds about right, and I like how it essentially gives primacy to the printed book as the final repository of value, both for a reader and for a publisher. Maybe in the end low prices will be what saves us from a world without printed books.

Chad Post’s BEA Experience

Chad’s writeup on BEA 2011 is both tasty and nutritious. It’s very a very upbeat portrayal of the annual show that, in many ways, is the pulse of the industry, and I think that’s a good thing. The last thing Chad is is a bullshitter, and we book people need something to be feeling good about.

There’s all kinds of interesting and possibly useful information at the post, but I’ll pull out this point on the profit margins of bricks-and-mortar bookstores:

7) Bookseller Data: I’m not sure this is good exactly, but I was able to attend the ABACUS Data discussion featuring financial data from a wide range of bookstores. I could go on and on about this (again, longer post later), but basically, this study broke down how much bookstores spend on Cost of Good Sold, Advertising, Salaries, etc., as a way of providing benchmarks and trying to puzzle out what things made some bookstores more successful than others. Bottom line: the profit margin for the top 30% of bookstores was 4.7%, the “profit” margin for the middle 40% was 1.6%, and it was -15.3% for the bottom 30%. This is all terrible, but it’s nice to see real numbers-in part so I can use these in my “Intro to Literary Publishing” class, and in part because we need to be as realistic as possible.

Not sure what’s up with Chad retroactively striking those last two data points, but at the very least 30 percent (and perhaps as much as 70 percent) of these stores are doing well enough to stay in business. That’s great news, because if you look around I doubt you’ll find many industries where currently 70 percent of the retail outlets are making it. I would have guessed much less for bookstores.

And, in my opinion, bricks-and-mortar stores are beginning to get their juice back. We’ve gone through the portion of things where stores that we’d never thought would die have died, and I think there are some very viable options for the ones that are still with us.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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