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[publishing] The Kindle $9.99 boycott vs Green

I received an email recently from a reader saying, in part:

I recently was browsing Amazon for new books when I saw your title Green after reading the blurb I quickly added it to my wish list to down load later. I am dismayed however to find that the digital version is priced well over the $9.99 most publishers price digital books at. I just thought you should know that almost all Kindle users honor the $9.99 boycott of digital books. With no publishing costs I am not sure how some publishers price digital versions but I suspect that the digital market is not fully understood by “dead tree publishers.” They also may be testing the waters to determine what the consumer will pay. Green looked like a wonderful book but with the user tag “9 99 boycott” most kindle users will just skip it by.

I’d never heard of the $9.99 boycott, but then I’m not a Kindle user. (Though I do read books on the Kindle app on my iPhone.) Here’s what I sent in response:

Unfortunately, like most authors I have absolutely no control over pricing, on Amazon or in the print channels. The $9.99 boycott may send a message to my publisher, but the people it hurts most is authors like me. This damage is done both directly by depressing the sales of the book (ie, reducing potential royalties), and indirectly by making the publisher less likely to buy future books from me as a result of the depressed sales.

While I very much appreciate — and agree with — your perspective, I do hope you and the other boycotters realize your largest impact is on the authors themselves, who have no control whatsoever over the situation. The boycott will mostly reinforce the presence of discounted bestsellers, and further marginalize newer voices. I certainly hope that as a book lover, that’s not your goal, but it’s definitely your outcome.

The law of unintended consequences comes to get us all, one way or another.

I can unpack this in a number of directions, and probably will in a future post, but for now I’m interested in your thoughts on this. What do you think of the $9.99 boycott? Do you see a relationship between the price of books and an author’s income, and how much do you think it matters? What else does this suggest to you?

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