It’s My Blogiversary, And I’m Having A Tantrum About Greedy Publishers

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Today is my 2nd blogiversary. On this day, 2 years ago, I published my first blog post, little knowing how many lives I was going to ruin. (Chiefly mine, because constantly thinking of things to give out about gives me very little time to do anything but eat unhealthy food, and make obscene gestures at Dublin Bus drivers who drive past me at bus stops.)

But I thought, seeing as it’s My Day, that I would think of something I would like to have, as a kind of present, if you will. But the thing I ended up thinking of is something I can’t have, and I’m very angry about it. It’s ruining my blogiversary.

Go On, Then: What Are You Complaining About Now?

I have a special place in my black heart reserved for maddening things. It is populated mainly by tangled earphone cords, pushy book marketing, that chafing on your thighs which comes from an ill-fitting pair of tights, and traditional publishers who don’t offer what I’m going to call multi-format book bundling (i.e. all of them).

It's My Blogiversary, And I'm Having A Tantrum

I’ve used this lady to illustrate anger so many times, I’m becoming concerned for her safety

Publishers just don’t get it. It’s like they roam helplessly about their offices, muttering “Kids today. They want so much stuff. But it’ll ruin us! Special offers will bring us doooowwwwn!”

Multi-format book bundling isn’t about giveaways. It’s about sense. I’m talking about giving book buyers the choice to buy both a paper and a digital version of a book together, for a tiny bit extra. It’s not a big ask. We’ve already bought the book: we’d just like to have a choice regarding the way we read it.

How Do You Read?

Look at this scenario. I currently employ a multi-formatted approach to reading. My preferred format is the paperback. My second favourite is a mini Android tablet with a Kindle app, which has pretty colours and allows me to hop onto the internet whenever I feel a burning desire to look something up. I also have a Kindle Paperwhite, for reading outside. And finally, I use the Kindle app on my phone, for days out and about, when I’m only going to be able to read for 10 minutes at a time and I don’t want to cart a heavy book around.

It's My Blogiversary, And I Am Having A Tantrum

I usually read wearing a false moustache and standing with one leg in the air, but this photo’ll do

50% Extra Free (ish)

There’s a whole untapped market out there for people who have bought stuff, and for a little bit more money, they would like some more stuff. They are willing to pay money for this more stuff. And the book world just isn’t making us the right offer.

The music and film industries cottoned on to the ‘Special Edition’ notion a long, long time ago. For a couple of extra quid you can get extra tracks; interviews; DVD extras; a fancy gold case, or a signed picture of Elton John’s dog. And people buy into this. Superfans, mediocrefans, and grannies looking for a present for a taciturn teenager. It’s an easy sell: you’re going to buy this thing anyway. Why not pay a tiny bit extra and get lots, lots more?

But not books. They don’t want to give you more in the book world.

Given the choice, I’d read paperbacks all the time. I don’t like the fact that eReaders make it hard to flick back to previous pages easily. I also don’t like the fact that it takes unreasonable effort to have a quick look at the book jacket or blurb when in the middle of the book.

But nothing can beat the fact that I can be reading a book on my tablet, then find myself at a loose end on the bus on my way into work and pick up where I left off on my phone: so ebooks are winning the day on average, even if I’d much rather curl up with the paperback. Because the Kindle app allows me to be both a bookworm, and a functioning taxpayer.

It's My Blogiversary, And I Am Having A Tantrum

A sneer of publishers (true collective noun), upon hearing that once again I didn’t get what I wanted

At present, book publishers are treating each and every format of a book as a separate purchase. But if I’ve already bought a copy of the book, I don’t see why I can’t get a special edition which comes with a one-off code for a digital version too (and maybe even something tantalising, like a bonus chapter; a few illustrations; an author interview, or a retelling of something from another POV) for just a fraction more. A euro. A dollar. £1.79p. Whatever. Depending on what the DVD extras are.

But it seems as though traditional publishers believe that if they give me 2 differently formatted copies of a book, they’re losing 50% of their potential sales, or something.

Is Logic Too Much To Ask For?

I’m no more likely to hand over my 2nd (alternative format) copy of a book than I am to lend that book to a friend: that is, it’s the same probability. They’ll lose no more sales than they would in the normal course of events, where books are sometimes borrowed and lent between readers, and there isn’t a damn thing they can do about it, unless they’re going to sue the entire world.

So I don’t see any reason why I can’t get any book I buy in more than one format if I choose. The only reason I can’t, is because publishers won’t provide it. And it’s really, really, really annoying. Hence their position in the darkest corner of my book-loving heart. I want something. They won’t let me have it. It’s my party. And I’ll cry if I want to.

Anyone else out there think this is a missed opportunity?

  59 comments for “It’s My Blogiversary, And I’m Having A Tantrum About Greedy Publishers

  1. July 9, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Tara, you’re talking about the same folks who fought Amazon for the right to charge 10 or 12 dollars for an ebook. They think we owe them more than it’s worth twice. When an ebook and a paperback of the same book cost the same, the ebook buyer is subsidizing the whole print industry. It’s insane. Do you really think it’s wise to argue with the insane about a bundle that would lower their return?

    Liked by 3 people

    • July 9, 2015 at 10:55 am

      I suppose my point is that bundling would create new, previous unrealised sales, rather than cannibalising existing sales. I’m not going to buy 2 versions of the same book for double the price; but I might pay a little extra for 2 versions. I realise from John’s point above that he’s probably going to buy 2 versions of the same book, but that would ruin my argument, so I’m going to pretend that didn’t happen. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. July 9, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Yeah. And what about staggered dates? (No, no, not that kind of date — PUBLICATION DATES). I just bought the new Deborah Moggach. Why? Well, I always buy the new Deborah Moggach. I wanted it in paperback, so the guv’nor could read it after me (or before me, if that was her wish). But I can’t have the new Deborah Moggach in paperback till some time next year. What I can have now is the hardback or the eBook. I didn’t want a hardback (I’m not a library, though I do have well-worn marble steps) and I wasn’t happy to wait till next year so I bought the eBook, which means the guv will either have to buy her own or go without. WHY couldn’t I have the paperback at the same time as the hardback? If the argument is that people won’t buy the hardback when the paperback is also available, the answer would seem to be simple — stop publishing hardbacks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 9, 2015 at 10:56 am

      That is incredibly annoying, John. I’m going to think about that now that I got the other one out of my system. If I don’t get a new injection of ire on a regular basis, it is possible that I might keel over.

      But on a more important matter: you have marble steps? How decadent. Did they come with a free temple?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. July 9, 2015 at 10:55 am
    • July 9, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Ah, but they didn’t beat me to it, Karen, because not only does it apply to limited titles, but it also only applies to print copies bought from Amazon: in my case they’re not offering me any titles at all. Plus Amazon still wants to charge $2.99 in most cases, which is still a full e-book price, when you think about it. Now, if they were talking an even $1, and got the big publishers on board, and it was available somewhere else than Amazon, we’d have something to blush about. It’s a start, but not there at all yet.


  4. July 9, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Many happy returns (to this and other well-argued spittle-speckled posts), Tara!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. July 9, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    That’s why I give away my ebooks, if you’ve bought the paper version. I feel it’s the lease I can do for my loyal fans (hint hint) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. July 9, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Oh, but I missed the most important bit of the post: happy blogiversary, and many, many happy returns!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. July 9, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Something I’ve never considered. You make some decent points. I know my wife is more likely to buy the perfume that includes lotion, a little bag, and some bubble bath for a few bucks more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 9, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      It’s all down to feeling like you’re getting value for money, or a good deal. It’s not always down to the price of just one thing. It feels like the book world is backward here.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. July 9, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I really don’t get the fiscal ‘geniuses’ in the publishing industry over the Hardback then Paperback 6 months later (or whatever) ploy. If you put the eBook out at the same time as the hardback then OF COURSE eager but impoverished fans are going to get the eBook. So when the paperback eventually limps out 6-12 months later – surprise, surprise most people, even rabid fans, aren’t too interested in getting it!
    Even big-time authors of fiction titles must feel the pinch here, and surely the numpties in the sales/marketing department of the Big Four publishers ought to be able to work out that selling mostly eBooks is an eye-watering white elephant of a loss leader? Words fail me – almost.

    I prefer paperbacks on the selfish premise that the print stays where it’s put and it’s ‘flickable’, but the weight factor kicks in heavily ( 😛 ) for eBooks that I’m wanting on ‘read on the run’ basis. How hardbacks still exist at all for most contemporary fiction of any stripe is beyond me (apart from ones collected by long pocket superfans…) – is there some back-handed scam going on here because it looks like nobody’s getting much out ‘quality’ publishing schedules apart from those cheapskates who wouldn’t buy print anyway?

    Oh – & Happy Blogiversary m’dear! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 9, 2015 at 3:24 pm

      Thanks, Jan! I just celebrated with a new spreadsheet. It’s got lots and lots of really tiny font numbers in it – my absolute favourite.

      I agree that making an ebook available at the same time as a hardback is a silly idea. A sizeable majority of the sort of bookworms who won’t wait for paperbacks must have eReaders these days anyway. But I wouldn’t think that ebooks are a loss leader – after all, they cost nothing in terms of printing or distribution.


    • July 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Shows how much I’m motivated by profit margins – lol I guess I’m stuck in the mindset of ‘a percentage of not very much in the first place’ isn’t worth the effort 😛 But as the big boys ePrices are that much more than the indie market can ask for, I guess it must make sense overall somehow, although you’d need a lot of big-hitter authors to get the bucks in – and they’re the ones that get the Hardback/Paperback deals mostly anyway? It’s a weird world and I’m just glad I’m not in this game for the mazuma… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 9, 2015 at 5:41 pm

        There was somebody in it for the money once, but I think he was killed off.


  9. July 9, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Happy Bloggy Day!!!
    I wish I could get into reading books on my iPad, but I can’t. I think I am too set in my paperback ways. I like your idea though, and as somebody has already mentioned, Amazon are making a half hearted attempt at it – so I think it will probably happen, and one day we will be able to buy a book bundle.


    • July 9, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      I hope you’re right, Scarlet. In fact, why stop there! In the future, everyone will be dressed by robots who play the audio version of the book you’re reading as you don your titanium makeup. Mmmm. The future. My favourite. 😉


  10. July 9, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Happy anniversary! 😀 And I agree with you. It would be useful to be able to bundle. (Also, I really want to know if Elton John’s dog signed the photo … ;))

    Liked by 1 person

  11. July 9, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Oh, what a conundrum! Though a slightly different one for traditionally pubbed books as opposed to self-pubbers. I’ve now heard it twice mentioned (once here in your comments) about ebooks and print books of a title being the same price, but I, personally, have never seen that. In all cases of which I’m aware, the ebook has been less, sometimes by quite a bit. So I’m not sure if the “same price” issue is an anomaly, or I just haven’t noticed. Could be. I miss a lot.

    As for timing of formats, I dunno… I never typical buy “just out!” books, so by the time I get to them, they’re in all available formats. Both times I’ve (self) published, being the rebel I am, I put both the ebook and the paperback out at essentially the same time (limited only by how quickly, or not, CreateSpace got the print book up). I never even thought about “staggered dates.” Clearly that’s what the cool kids do.

    I would be more than willing to offer an ebook add-on if someone bought the print book. Buy the print book at full price, get the ebook for $2.99, or $1.99, or even $0.99 for a short time (I tend to buy ebooks that run higher than $2.99, so I’d personally have no problem with that price point). As of now, I don’t see how one does that at Amazon as a self-pubbed author. As for the big publishers? I don’t know what they think about most things, so I can’t offer anything to assuage your anniversary angst. I don’t know if it’s greed or desperation. Maybe a little of both; these are tough times in the book industry.

    But most importantly, HAPPY BLOGGING ANNIVERSARY!! You’ve wrangled more in two years than some people do in a lifetime of jabbering away, so there you have it. If I could upload a cake, I would. Or even a signed portrait of my dog. He’s lovely.

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 9, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      Very good points, Lorraine, but for me, psychologically, anything over 99c for a 2nd copy of a book I already bought is out of the question, unless I’m getting a lot more for it – such as illustrations, interviews, bonus chapters, etc.

      I’m glad your dog is lovely, though. I’ve heard Elton’s is a total diva.


      • July 9, 2015 at 5:54 pm

        I hear ya, Tara, and I’m sure you’re in the majority. I think because I (so well) know how little money most authors actually make for their work regardless of how it is sold, I personally wouldn’t mind paying a couple of bucks for another format. Additional materials, though, is an excellent idea.

        My dog is anything but a diva. He’s more like an Uncle Morris.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Jools
    July 9, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Happy blogiversary, Tara! I’m with you on the issue of paying again for different formats of a book. I read in ebook format when it’s helpful, and I audiobook all the time. If I enjoy a book in one of those ways, I like to possess the paperback. But I have to pay again! I do it, of course, but it would be great if one buy opened the door to the other formats. Won’t happen though, will it? Because there would always be people unable to resist the urge to on-sell their various versions!

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 10, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Thanks, Jools! I think this is a huge mis-read of the market. They’re losing out on a huge potential market by being overly protective of the old one. I don’t believe that on-selling would be any more of a problem than it is already, and you can’t on-sell a digital book anyway. Mind you, judging by the profitability problems in all the major publishers, it’s only a matter of time before they’re forced to think differently.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. July 9, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    Hmm, this is a new problem that I haven’t got around to worrying about. I read Middlemarch as both print and ebook and I found that very convenient when travelling – but the ebook was free. I think the Real Problem may be that the one book, when produced as print or ebook is regarded by the industry as two utterly different beasts with different ISBNs. I don’t think they’ll ever get their little heads round the notion that what is between the covers is identical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 9, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      If different formats do have 2 different ISBNs this would be a symptom rather than the problem… I’m sure they get it, they just don’t want to do anything about it! Rotters. I’ll never forget trying to read the trade paperback version of Bring Up The Bodies on a sunlounger in Gran Canaria. I damn near had repetitive strain injury after it.


      • July 10, 2015 at 12:12 am

        Wouldn’t the solution here be a base ISBN with a suffix to denote different (media) versions? Or maybe that’s too simple. Occam’s Razor, anyone?

        Liked by 2 people

      • July 10, 2015 at 8:15 am

        My hardback gift copy of Bring Up The Bodies is still waiting, unread on my pile, for me to start weightlifting at the gym.

        Liked by 1 person

        • July 10, 2015 at 8:57 am

          Ha ha! But I suppose that’s more about multi-tasking issues than multi-format…


  14. July 9, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Amen, Sister! Can I hear it from the back, now?


    Publishers need to realize (yes, I am an American. No, I did not misspell that. :-P) that they are losing, yes losing, purchases. Here is my example: I went into a local store to buy a copy of the movie “Paddington ” and I was ready to buy only the BluRay version, but there right next yo it for only a few dollars more was a box set with the BluRay, DVD, digital version and a cheap watch for $10 more. Any bets on which I walked away with?

    Most fun ten bucks I feel I have ever spent.

    The point is, if book publishers would put out the same effort, they would see an increase in profits with minimal effort.

    Long story short, Tara; I agree completely

    Liked by 5 people

    • July 9, 2015 at 11:46 pm

      A perfect and most excellent point to illustrate this, Thomas, thank you! To put it in Big Bang Theory terms, bookworms are nerds: nerds like special editions: money is made from nerds thusly. It doesn’t take a degree in marketing to identify a gap in the market.

      Liked by 4 people

  15. July 10, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Now that I have ‘retired’ I have so little to worry about, it worries me. Where would I be without you to make sure I have previously unimagined horrors to stress over? You have such a logical thought process it seems like a flash of the blindingly obvious. This is clearly an area where indi authors could strike a win when they sell direct from their own web site, if only the VAT on ebook sales hadn’t been made so complicated thanks to EU rules…

    Congratulations on your anniversary, I look forward to another year of your unique views. X

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 10, 2015 at 10:06 am

      Some call them unique, Yvonne… others call the men in the white coats. 😉

      Glad to provide your retirement with a bit of tension! Not too much I hope…


  16. July 13, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    I suspect most publishers (certainly in the UK) saw digital books as a threat to their existence that had to be fought every step of the way, instead of assessing the likelihood of their success and sitting down with others to brainstorm how traditional publishers could expand readership for their authors’ books by taking advantage of new technology.

    They fought against self-publishing by rubbishing writers who went down this route, insisting self-published books didn’t go through the rigorous editing process of traditionally published books. From what fellow writers tell me, it appears very little of this rigorous editing now takes place anyway.

    Traditional publishers saw ebooks, then self-publishing as a threat to their very existence, and fought it rather than embracing and investigating the potential. They still haven’t raised their eyes and taken on board what the public wants…and nowadays expects.

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 13, 2015 at 11:14 pm

      Oh, I think they’re raising their eyes, all right! Right up! To be fair, though, most of them do have digital-only imprints themselves nowadays. They’re just not really thinking outside that box either, though, and they need to get ahead of Amazon and the others, not trot after them.


  17. July 15, 2015 at 3:46 am

    They were offering a free coffee at Barnes & Noble between 7 and 10am this morning for those who purchased the new Harper Lee…not what you’re on about, I know. But I don’t read on devices…and I only arrived there at 10 to 3 so loser all round.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 15, 2015 at 9:56 am

      A free coffee is still added value though Jackie, I’m all in favour of booksellers making an effort, whoever they may be. I’m sorry you missed out. Did you buy the book? The reviews are interesting. I must confess I feel fairly conflicted about how it came out.


  18. Alex Hurst
    July 19, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    YES, YES, YES. I WISH this were a real thing. It really is common sense. It’s sorta like CDs. You own the CD, but you can also burn that music to your digital library to put on whatever device you use for music. The music industry is sensible in that respect. Why can’t the book industry be the same? 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 19, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Wish I knew, Alex. It’s hard to feel sympathetic for the industry bemoaning the decline of the printed book whilst simultaneously screaming “YOU’RE BEING SO STUPID” in your head. And believe me, I’ve tried.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. August 1, 2015 at 9:58 am

    How weird. This post came out only three weeks ago and I didn’t see it in my WordPress reader!

    Had I read it three weeks ago I’d probably be a dollar millionaire* by now. Book extras; there’s a whole plethora of additional stuff that can be given away, accessible by the ‘password’ in the paperback/ebook, linking to the the exclusive content. Incredible. . . I’ll have to go down to the pub now and work out a whole new marketing strategy.

    *Argentinian dollars, which would mean my net personal worth hovering around the £70 mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 1, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Mine’s a pint of Guinness. Thanks Chris. Not with blackcurrant, though, that’s an abomination.

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 1, 2015 at 4:39 pm

        Drat. I’ve got a fridge full of blackcurrants at the moment. If you wait a couple of weeks I’ll have loganberries.

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 1, 2015 at 4:48 pm

          I don’t want loganberries either. Nobody likes knobbly Guinness. Just give it to me straight, for Blog’s sake.

          Liked by 1 person

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