Box Sets and Bargain Books – The Cost of Cheap Books
Five years ago a four-pint container of milk used to cost about £1.80 in England. It was a fairly standard price in all supermarkets, with not much variation, just a few pennies either way. The price was going up steadily with inflation, but I was willing to pay it. Farmers were happy because they got about 40p profit. The supermarkets were happy because they made over £1.00 profit per sale.
Jump to now. Today that same amount of milk costs under a pound. I’ve seen it sold at £0.87 in one local supermarket. It’s great for shoppers – amazing, really – but the cost to the dairy farmers has been devastating. They don’t make enough profit on a pint to keep their businesses running. Some even lose money and go bankrupt. They can’t raise their prices because the supermarkets can buy milk from other sources. The result is the dairy industry is in serious trouble and production of milk will eventually stop being viable. The low price is destroying the business. It makes me feel guilty for buying the milk at such a low price. I never wanted milk to be as cheap as water. I’d be willing to pay more if it meant supporting the dairy farmers.
The book publishing industry is the same, with indie authors and traditionally-published ones struggling to earn enough money to live on. Or for a cup of coffee.
This week I checked out what was in the Top Ten in a category on a popular internet retailer. At number one was a box set of four novels for £0.99. (Over 900 pages.) At number two was another box set of four novels for £0.99. (Also over 900 pages.) At number three was a box set of ten novels for £1.99. (About 3000 pages.) That last book would no doubt been at number one if it had been £0.99. Absolute bargains for readers. But I can’t imagine the ten authors published in that box set are happy to have their novels sold for about twenty pence. By the time the publisher pays them, if they do get paid, I doubt they will earn a penny. For a novel.
As a reader I’m tempted to buy those books – but as a writer I am appalled. I want to know the writer earns something for their hard work. You just know a box set sold at a bargain price earns them nothing – so buying it would not be helping them financially. I’d like to see authors refusing to let their book be sold in cheap box sets.
Their books are worth more than that.