Tag Archives: children’s books

The Price of e-Quality

I love rummaging in the 75%-off rail and finding a real gem – the dress I couldn’t afford that’s now the price of a cappuccino (well, that’s what I’d tell him) and in my size! Bliss doesn’t come any blissier. But we all know the pretend sales: the 50%-off signs that are up all year round and devalue the items because we know we’re not really getting a deal. For ‘special offer’ read ‘cheap tat we think you’re daft enough to buy’. Most of us are savvy enough to know rock-bottom prices don’t automatically mean a bargain.

So how much would you pay for a well-produced ebook for children? Think about it: new author, decent cover, seems well written, has a seal of quality (like Electrik Inc) and looks worth a read. 99p? £4.99? £8.99? Or £0?

A lot of people want free books, just as they want free films and free music. Maybe they think creative people have private incomes or rich partners, when the unpalatable truth is they’re more likely trying to hold down three part-time jobs, look after the kids, support their partner, care for mum and dad, clean the house, do the shopping, walk the dogs, feed the cats, have a tiny bit of a life and, oh, write…

Declan Burke discusses ‘Why should the price of ebooks…be on the floor?’  http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2012/0221/1224312113036.html#.T0VqEnorjeg.email  and confirms there are different kinds of readers – those who want ever-cheaper books and those who’ll pay for quality. He’s talking mainly about adult ebooks but his remarks apply to the children’s market too. I wouldn’t buy a book just because it was cheap any more than I’d buy ugly clothes just because they had 50% off. If the price is too low, something isn’t right.

Look at what you’d pay and apply it to the hours of pleasure your child would get reading the ebook. Then apply it to a year of someone’s creative life. Okay, then, six months, because we can work when everyone else is sleeping… okay, okay, three months! (wow, you’re a hard taskmaster)… because we’re all geniuses and don’t need to rewrite, or pay line editors and proofreaders to check our work. And who needs a decent design on the cover anyway? And pay Amazon a cut? Who’s Amazon?

Of course ebooks are cheaper to produce than physical books and of course prices should reflect that. But mainly, it’s only printers’ costs you save on. Next time you reach for that ‘bargain’, ask yourself if you’d go to work for six months (or three) for, let’s say, £1,980 (two thousand sales @ 99p. And that’s a lot; most new authors are lucky to sell five hundred). That’s about £165 a week, before Amazon’s cut or Apple’s (around 40% of your book’s list price, plus the VAT) or other expenses (ISBN numbers, £100 for ten), marketing, editing, proofreading, illustrations, cover design…

Rock-bottom prices for ebooks are, for me, the equivalent of the year-round 50%-off sales sign. I can’t trust them because I know the quality is probably rubbish (poor or mediocre writing, no editing, no decent design, no proofreading), so I walk away and look for something where the price fairly reflects the work that’s gone into the product. And yes, I think the Electrik Inc logo is one of the signs to look for.

I think prices will level out as more readers realise that if content is free – i.e. worth nothing – then we’re in danger of getting the writers we pay for.

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts on epricing. Should children’s ebooks be cheaper than adults’? (And remember, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter was much longer than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road so it’s not necessarily about the word count.)

Kay Leitch   Electrik Inc

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Bubble and Strife

In the same week that Publishers’ Weekly reports Amazon is estimated to have sold six million Kindle Fire Tablets in its fourth quarter,

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/devices/article/50424-estimate-puts-fire-sales-at-6-million.html

Ewan Morrison wonders if we’re heading for an epublishing bubble.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/30/self-e-publishing-bubble-ewan-morrison      He cites similarities in epublishing euphoria to the recent property, financial and credit bubbles, not to mention the dot.com boom and bust. And yes, epublishing does seem to be streaming ahead at an incredible rate. More and more people want to buy cheap(er) books and, paradoxically, more people want to make money from self publishing. But what happens when the price of your hard work (a decent, professionally written and edited novel isn’t produced in a few weeks) is pushed so far down you end up working for almost nothing? Or worse, writing beyond midnight so some corporate behemoth can sell your efforts for under 99p, take a large cut and give their executives a nice fat salary thank you very much. I won’t cry if that particular bubble bursts. If we want to read well-crafted, professionally produced books, we shouldn’t expect to get them for nothing.

I have faith that word of mouth will work for good ebooks just as it does for everything else. JK Rowling didn’t start off with a £million marketing budget. What sold her early books was that kids loved Harry Potter and told their friends about him.

So if there is a bubble – and there might be, because millions of us are in love with this new technology – it will burst. What would we be left with? Well, lots of ereaders and lots of books. A lot of books that won’t be read and some that will. Just as it ever was. Except this time we won’t have mountains of paper books to turn into slush. They’ll lie stillborn in the ether. E-readers will gather dust under the bed or in a cupboard and only be taken out when something good comes along. And it will. The Annual Academy Awards have handed twenty-one Oscars to films based on children’s books this year. From Hugo (The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick), to War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/50363- I know there are more great books out there.

Bubbles can grow and burst. Adults and children (and Hollywood) will always crave good books.

Kay Leitch

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Children’s books: a good place to be

I was delighted to read the headline ‘Recession fails to bite children’s market’ (Caroline Horn 23.01.12 The Bookseller) www.thebookseller.com/…/recessionfailsbitechildrensmarket.html

That people continue to buy books for their children when times are hard is a cheering thought for those of us involved in the creation of the books themselves, as well as for those lucky young people reading them.

Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse is in its second week as the bestselling book in the UK (over all editions), and Quentin Blake’s illustrations on a new series of stamps from the Royal Mail, issued to celebrate the work of Roald Dahl, indicate the prominent position children’s writers and illustrators now hold. After so many years of being the Cinderella of the book world, Children’s Publishing has grown into a confident royal.

Business isn’t booming all down the line and the threat to libraries and high-street bookshops is snapping at our heels like the big bad wolf. Inevitably, this will mean fewer opportunities for children to discover a range of books. And what can we do about it? Plenty. We can join Alan Gibbons http://alangibbons.net/ to suport libraries in the Campaign for the Book, make use of online resources to spread the word about new books – others’ and our own – and take our stories and ourselves into schools for children to discover them first-hand. As Frank Cottrell Boyce said in his keynote speech for the Society of Authors CWIG (Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group) last year, “Everyone likes being read to; everyone likes being enchanted.” We are the enchanters – let’s get to work!

J.A.

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