J.K. Rowling's New Book Already Garnering One-Star Reviews--From People Upset Over The Price

13 comments
News, J.K. Rowling, eBooks

J.K. Rowling's first book for grown-ups, The Casual Vacancy, hits stores today (though that's predicated on the idea that adults weren't reading the Harry Potter books--clearly nonsense). 

The book is barely out and it's already earning one-star reviews on Amazon, though not over the content. People are upset about the price. The hardcover edition retails for $35 and is marked down to $20.90. But the eBook is priced at $17.99. Here's what one reviewer had to say:

I would like to read, but the price is way too high! This is a review of the worth of the product in my opinion, not a review of the writing. Others should do the same if they believe the price is more than it should be for an e-book. Currently $17.99 when this was written.

Some reviewers are also complaining about the Kindle formatting, though until some kind of real documented issue is made known, I'm going to assume those problems are user-related (UPDATE: Seems there are formatting issues, according to Gizmodo, and this isn't a case of people just not knowing how to work eReaders.)

Otherwise, for reference, the book clocks in at 512 pages (I'm only a few chapters in, but so far it's pretty good). 

So, $17.99 for an eBook. And $35 for the hardcover! Are those prices too steep? Is the publisher being greedy? Would you pay that much for a book, in either format?

And is it fair for people to leave reviews on a book they haven't read yet? 

Discuss!

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Comments

Ryan Parker's picture
Ryan Parker September 27, 2012 - 8:19am

That definitely raises the question of whether you should review a product that you haven't purchased (probably not?), but then is there a better platform for frustrated readers to voice their concerns (probably not as well).

That being said, is the publisher being greedy? Yes. Will people still buy it? Another yes.

For the hard cover, I can (kind of) understand the reasoning for the price. It's supply and demand, that there are only so many (albeit millions) of printed copies. But for the digital copy, where there is an unlimited quantity, that is not the case and there for no true justification for the higher price.

Personally, I'll probably hold off and buy it when it shows up in used book stores en masse or wait until the digital price goes down.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break September 27, 2012 - 8:29am

If you have a problem with the price, voice it directly to the publisher. Every publisher has some kind of "contact us" link or customer service department for exactly these types of things.

"Reviewing" a product based on price and price alone is exactly how Amazon reviews have come to be so unreliable. It's a dick move and people should know better.

I wouldn't write a bad review of a movie just because I thought the ticket price was too high.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia is reading The Iron Council, by China Mieville September 27, 2012 - 8:47am

Mine is being shipped to me from Amazon as I write this. I'm very curious. The Harry Potter phenomenon was 'way overblown in my opinion, but it did get kids (and others!) reading, so it's definitely good. I know if I had been a kid when these books came out, I would have loved them. I might have even been spotted standing in line at the bookstore with my wizard hat and my wand. That's just the kind of nerdy kid I was.

jbeemills's picture
jbeemills from Denver, CO is reading The Raven Boys September 27, 2012 - 8:54am

If I was in love with the author, I would gladly pay $13.99 for the eBook. Anything higher than that is getting silly and the customer is going to see through it. It's the publishers right to post that price, but the fallout is going to happen. People are going to be pissed off! Commenting on the price is fair. It's a product and part of what makes up value is price. Even if a book I had already read and adored was posted at that price, I would be annoyed. That's not the going rate for books these days and we don't need that kind of manual inflation in this economy. If you want a review on the actual story, you might have to go somewhere like GoodReads or a book blog where it's not actually for sale, which is probably smart anyway. This will probably be the most pirated book ever and will do nothing for the publishing industry's perceived reputation for being a dinosaur who really doesn't get ecommerce.

rmatthewsimmons's picture
rmatthewsimmons from Salt Lake City, UT is reading I just put down 'A Game of Thrones' after 6 chapters....Couldn't do it. September 27, 2012 - 10:11am

I can't say I'm a fan of e-books in general. Perhaps I'm just old school and like to have the physical thing in my hands. Plus, they seem so temporary.

I do think it's absolutely idiotic to give a book a low rating based on price, espeically when you haven't actually read it. If it wholely sucked as a piece, than that's a different story. But I get the impression, especially in my line of work, that everyone expects a deal-even if they haven't earned it-and if they feel like they're getting ripped off then they will complain to no end.

I say if you think it's too expensive-don't buy it. Or wait until it goes on sale.

fourthall's picture
fourthall from Vermont is reading Five Points by Tyler Anbinder September 27, 2012 - 10:36am

The e-book price debate has always left me feeling uncomfortable. Many of the arguments for lower e-book prices are based on the assumed difference in manufacturing cost. Paper, binding, printing, etc – costing more than an all digital format.


The error here is in assuming the cost is mostly in the printing of the physical book itself and not in the marketing, editing, writing, etc that goes into creating the product BEFORE it is printed. My understanding is that even with mailing cost going up and paper getting more expensive, the physical book is still a marginal cost compared to the entire expense. SO, it stands to reason that there wouldn’t be much of a price break.


The second issue I have is one of perceived value. This is entirely subjective. However, if an author is celebrated (as you can argue Rowling is) then shouldn’t they command more money (and therefore increasing both the cost and value of a product). A filet costs more than a burger. Why? It is normally agreed that it is both a better cut and a more enjoyable experience (sometimes at least). So it is OK to pay more for the filet. Even expected.


Why do we need to have every book at a $4.99 price point? At 512 pages it might take you 10 hours to read through. If Rowling has done her job (which she has proven she can do) – is it worth our $1.79 a hour??? I think so.

 

Aaron
@fourthall

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig September 27, 2012 - 11:51am

The error here is in assuming the cost is mostly in the printing of the physical book itself and not in the marketing, editing, writing, etc that goes into creating the product BEFORE it is printed. My understanding is that even with mailing cost going up and paper getting more expensive, the physical book is still a marginal cost compared to the entire expense. SO, it stands to reason that there wouldn’t be much of a price break.

Except that all those things still happen with paper books AND there are manufacturing costs, storage and shipping costs, etc. And with a paperback, there is a tangible value. If I have a paper book, and I want all my friends to read it, I loan it to them. When I am done doing that, I can sell it used or donate it to a used book store. With an e-book, I get the book, period.

I feel comfortable with ebooks priced about what paperbacks are priced, sometimes a little higher. I simply won't buy this book because, although I am interested to see what she comes up with for adults, I am not a Harry Potter/Rowling fan and I have no real reason to pay that much for an ebook, when I've got loads of ebooks (and paper books) from authors I do like that I bought for the price of a paperback.

 

 

ETA: And I don't believe the publishers are losing profits on the books they price at 9.99. I just bought a few Elmore Leonard ebooks at $10 a piece, and I seriously doubt they were priced that way because Leonard isn't a "celebrated" author.

Ben666's picture
Ben666 from Montreal, Canada is reading Scar Tissue, by Marcus Sakey September 27, 2012 - 1:39pm

I have a personal policy never to pay more than 9,99$ for an ebook. Any more than that, I'm actually going to walk to my bookstore and buy the paperback. Because you know. Kindle success is driven with low prices and second chances. When a big publisher comes in with its big dinosaur paws and stomps its ridiculous prices on there, I can't help but laugh. The Casual Vacancy is a bargain bin type of deal for me. 

Ben666's picture
Ben666 from Montreal, Canada is reading Scar Tissue, by Marcus Sakey September 27, 2012 - 1:39pm

I have a personal policy never to pay more than 9,99$ for an ebook. Any more than that, I'm actually going to walk to my bookstore and buy the paperback. Because you know. Kindle success is driven with low prices and second chances. When a big publisher comes in with its big dinosaur paws and stomps its ridiculous prices on there, I can't help but laugh. The Casual Vacancy is a bargain bin type of deal for me. 

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading September 27, 2012 - 3:04pm

The error here is in assuming the cost is mostly in the printing of the physical book itself and not in the marketing, editing, writing, etc that goes into creating the product BEFORE it is printed. My understanding is that even with mailing cost going up and paper getting more expensive, the physical book is still a marginal cost compared to the entire expense. SO, it stands to reason that there wouldn’t be much of a price break.

You know how much it costs my press to create an ebook? Not much. The price of a few copies of the paperback version in a store. You know how much it costs to print out a paperback version? Not much, either, but it adds up to a shitload more.

You only have to produce a single ebook, and it's easily replicated by whoever wants it. But a physical book costs more to print.

And to transport: shipping the book to various places around the country or the world. That costs money.

And there are prices to pay for storing the books with the distributors, for instance.

And then if people don't buy enough copies of the fucking book, the book gets pulped. Waste of money, waste of time. If people don't buy your ebook, boo-hoo. It's still there, still free, still instantly duplicable.

Sure, copyediting and marketing could apply to both products. But really, marketing an ebook can be very different to marketing a paperback. It will incur its own special costs.

Pearl Griffin_2's picture
Pearl Griffin_2 from Portland, Oregon is reading Les Miserables September 27, 2012 - 3:58pm

I've never bought an ebook before, but even if people are upset by the price, it shouldn't affect how the book itself is rated. And I agree with fourthall, when you buy a book, you're buying the work itself, not just a tangible product. You pay the same price for a digital movie as you do for a disc, so why should it be different with books?

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs September 27, 2012 - 7:49pm

People can make up their own minds based on price. Any review where the reviewer hasn't read the entire book (unless they gave up because it sucked) is worthless.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated September 28, 2012 - 7:01am

I wonder if demand is pumped up because of how popular she is, and that is driving up the price.