On Book Formats

You may (or may not) recall my post where I discussed my thoughts on different book formats and how they can affect my reading experience.

Today, I want to touch on a similar topic and focus on novellas, e-books and audiobooks.

This post is less about how the format of a book affects my reading experience and more about their availability and pricing. Basically, I’m just going to ramble. Feel free to stop me – oh wait, you can’t!

Let’s start with my nemesis – e-books.

Ok, they’re not really the enemy. But I’ve mentioned before that I feel disconnected when I read on a screen (be it the computer, phone, kindle, nook, etc.) even if it’s an author I love. Honestly, the only reason Sweetbeeps and I use the Kindle is when I get e-arcs to review or we find super cheap deals (like less than $5). Even the free classics hold little allure because I already struggle to get immersed in some classics, so an e-reader is not how I want to try them out.

I can absolutely appreciate the convenience of e-books. They don’t take up shelf space, you can download one on the fly if you find yourself in need of something to read and sometimes they’re free! Here’s the thing – hold on, let me get my tinfoil hat out – I don’t fully trust digital formats. Before I go full crazy on you, let me make the valid point that sometimes, when I receive e-arcs to review, they have expiration dates. First of all, don’t pressure me! Secondly, it’s like I’m not really receiving the book in exchange for my review, but renting it. And if I don’t read it within the set timeframe, I lose access and just have to delete it.

Soooo, based on that (and the fact that I read a book along these lines once), I can imagine the files on my e-reader disappearing someday. If I can download a book, who’s to say that a company can’t take it back, or even edit the original file? I’m not going to go searching because it’ll make me crazier, but I’m willing to bet there are theories on this. It’s certainly more likely to occur than someone from a bookstore coming into my house to take back or change a book I’ve purchased.

Now that I’ve established that I’m whack, let me go back to a more reasonable point – price. I don’t troll sites for deals, so I’m certainly not an expert on the average prices of e-books. But when I do notice kindle prices when I’m browsing on Amazon, it seems that most often I see them similarly priced to a paperback. For me, that’s not worth it. I’ve established myself as an extreme book hoarder and I’m ok with slowly losing the space in my house to piles of (unread) books. So if you tell me I can spend $12.00 on a paperback or a digital copy (that I can’t easily flip through, use fun bookmarks on, or most importantly, sniff) I’m going to take the paperback every time.

Speaking of pricing, I feel similarly about novellas. It seems like novellas are becoming a trend. Many of the new releases I’ve purchased in the past six months or have placed on my wish list seem to be novellas. Sometimes this is frustrating when I don’t know I’ve ordered a novella. I get all excited and then when the slim little book arrives and I realize I’ve paid $14.00 for 100 pages, there’s some disappointment! This isn’t at all related to the quality of the writing inside, by the way. A lot of the standout books I’ve read recently have been novellas. The frustration comes again though, when I want more pages to read and I’ve got to wait another year for another 100 pages. Much like how I feel about graphic novels, it’s a bit of a tease given the long waits and the short page counts.

Maybe novellas are more marketable? Perhaps shorter formats appeal to a wider audience? Maybe it’s easier for writers to get through smaller chunks? I couldn’t say, but I’m conflicted regarding the price. Again, comparing the baseline price of a trade paperback ($12-15ish), I sort of wonder if novellas shouldn’t be cheaper?

But I, of course, think that writers should make money (more money, in fact!) and I’m not saying that the experience of a novella isn’t worth as much as one from a paperback. It’s just a shorter read. But if I’m paying $15, I’d like it to get me as many pages as it can! Pricing certainly matters to the reader, not everyone can afford to buy as many books as they’d like (actually, can any of us?) and sometimes the better deal might mean more pages.

I don’t know. There’s got to be a balance between publishers and writers making money and readers getting value in what they purchase. I’m not saying that shorter or digital formats don’t have value. I’m just musing about the differences in prices.

Lastly, audiobooks.

We know how I struggle with considering audiobooks in terms of how I track my reading. I promise I won’t get in a tizzy about that again.

Lately, I haven’t been listening to audiobooks. Part of the reason is that I prefer to listen to books I’ve already ready, but the bigger reason is that nothing I want to read is available through my library! I primarily use Libby and I feel like every book I have on hold has a waitlist of approximately a zillion weeks. I feel like if something is a digital file, it should be more easily accessible. Again, I know people need to make money on these things, but it would be nice if libraries had more then two audio copies of Harry Potter. I have recently downloaded Hoopla, which has no holds (at least, that I’ve encountered) but seems to have less of a selection than what I find through Libby.

~

Well, if you made it this far, those are my (somewhat disorganized) thoughts! Do you have anything to say about pricing or availability? Do you also believe that someone could take away digital files you’ve paid for without your permission?!

17 thoughts on “On Book Formats

  1. I understand the pricing for ebooks because the price of a book is not based on the paper used, which is what I think a lot of people assume. We’re really paying for all the people who worked on the book. And, if there’s no paper to pay for, then there are costs associated with digitization and coding that we need to take into account, so it makes sense that prices would be even.

    But I’m less sure about pricing a novella the same as a full-length books. I don’t think we can actually try to price books based on perceived effort, so my argument is admittedly weak. But I do think a lot of novellas are churned out to tide readers over between books in a series/to make quick cash. If I’m getting something thrown together just to entice me to spend my money and not because the author felt like it was a worthwhile artistic endeavor, I feel less inclined to pay for a novella like it’s a full novel. Again, I know we can’t base prices on the perceived level of authorial effort/artistry. But those novellas do rub me the wrong way!

    As for ebooks–I’m more concerned about businesses going under. If Barnes and Noble were to close one day, what happens to all the books on people’s Nooks?

    • All good points! I really don’t know how I would price things if I were magically in charge. And I want authors to get paid for their efforts!

      I wonder what the price breakdown on an ebook is though. I feel like there’s no shipping costs to stores…digitizing is maybe cheaper than printing? Obviously I have no idea haha. But moreso, I feel like it should be easier for libraries to get more copies of an ebook.

      I’m just wary of buying a book I can’t hold. Currently my nook is dead beside my bed, from lack of charge. But if it was truly dead, I’d have to buy a new one to read my books, or use my phone or comp. Yet the books on my shelves don’t have any extra costs. Also I lost my point and I don’t know what I’m saying!

      But yea that’s a good point, and one that doesn’t need a tinfoil hat! What IF b&n closed. Would you maybe be able to keep your files as long as your nook worked? Then if it breaks you’re sol? Hmm.

      Novellas are weird. The ones I’ve read lately have been excellent. But at times, when there’s a series, I sometimes think some could be combined into a full length book. Maybe there are publishing reasons behind it. Cheaper…hits shelves faster…maybe it’s easier on the author? But at the same time it feels like I’m paying the same price per book for a mini series and still waiting a year between releases.

      I don’t know! But this is a good discussion 🤣

      • Perhaps if you were magically in charge we’d all get free books and authors would all get paid. Because magic. 😀

        I remember in the past trying to find exact numbers for different printing costs, but I couldn’t find any. For some reason, this isn’t really transparent, but I think it would help consumers if they understood pricing better. Maybe people would be more willing to pay for ebooks if they knew the cost breakdown!

        I just know that paper now is currently pretty cheap so that major cost is the author, marketing department, artists, various editors, etc. So again that wouldn’t change much in regards to creating an ebook. I don’t know how shipping costs come into play, though. Does the publisher pay or the store? I have no idea!

        Publishing is also a weird industry because stores can send unsold stock back. So it’s kind of like they don’t have as much incentive to sell the books because they lose no money if they don’t. Not all merchandise is like that. Anyway, my point is that publishers sort of get a bad deal. Last I checked, editors in NYC get paid an average of $30,000. And you need $50,000 probably to leave comfortably in NYC. So definitely I see why they’re wanting to price ebooks up. After all, if ebook were $5 and physical books were $25, everyone would by the ebook and publishers would probably be operating at a major loss.

        Ebooks and libraries are weird. I know publishers want the ebooks to expire because they assume libraries will pay to replace physical copies and it’s unfair to have ebooks that are never replaced. Because again publishers would lose money. It’s kind of weird argument because individuals aren’t expected to replaced expired ebook copies under the assumption that they would have read their physical books to death.

        Maybe the novellas are being written so they can be sold faster? Sort of like how series are written by multiple authors so they are released more quickly? I don’t know what the reasoning behind that is….

      • Your comments on ebook pricing make total sense. As an avid reader and someone who enjoys writing, I want publishers and authors to make money, but I also want to be able to continue hoarding books and feeling like I get a fair deal!

        Faster publishing on novellas could be a reason. The novella series I’m currently buying definitely still have a year or so between books…But maybe there’s time saved behind the scenes that doesn’t show on the customer end.

      • I’m confused that publishers aren’t more upfront with some of their practices. I think consumers might be more understanding if we were less in the dark about what is happening! For instance, maybe novellas are actually trending in sales and publishers genuinely think that’s where the market is headed. Well, that would be interesting to know. Maybe more of us would jump on the novella train to see what it is all about!

  2. Such an interesting topic! I completely agree that if the eBook is close in price to the paperback, I will always pick the paperback. Actually, the only time I EVER buy eBooks is when they go on sale for $0.99 – $1.99. The most I’ve ever spent on an eBook was $2.99.

    I NEVER buy audiobooks. All of the audiobooks I read are through Hoopla. I LOVE Hoopla. While it is true that they don’t have a huge selection of new releases, I am satisfied with their selection. It’s pretty amazing when you consider that they are all free and there are all instantly available to download.

    • Yes I use a mix of Hoopla and Libby. I did spend $30 on the audio cds of Ready Player One because I know Sweetbeeps and I will listen to them often. But most audiobooks aren’t something I want to own

  3. Some great points there and I agree with them. I hardly ever pay full price for e-books. The only times that I do so is when I want to start reading a book immediately but I can’t access a story. It’s usually around midnight that this happens.

    Yes, you’re right that you’re basically renting an e-book when you buy it, so the provider Amazon or B&N or whatever can take away your access if they want to. That happened couple years ago in the early days of “Kindle/e-books will doom the publishing industry;” and they can also change the text. That also happened couple years ago. I think it was Amazon that changed a particular word in a certain story to say something different. I’m very vague because I don’t recall the details clearly, but I’ve read articles about both (taking away access and changing words in the text). I always prefer my physical books but don’t mind e-books for library rentals or even ARCs.

    Btw, I didn’t know access to e-ARCs are taken away once the expiration date passes. Does that happen with the NetGalley ones? I’ll have to check the ones I have that I know are expired.

    I use Overdrive for my library, but I run into the same problem with audiobooks – only 1-3 copies are available, and books that have 3 copies of audio files are rare.

    • My e-arcs that expire are from Netgalley and they’re the ones that can’t be sent to kindle. I forget what type of file it is, but it needs an adobe program to read them. So I can only read them on my computer, which I hate. The ones from the penguin first to read program are all like that (though it’s so rare I ever get one from them). It’s super annoying.

      • Oh. I didn’t know they had those ones too. I only use the ones that allow Kindle downloads. That Adobe one seemed too complicated to get.

      • When you request an arc from NG is there an indicator of what formats it comes in if accepted? It doesn’t happen often but I’ll get approved and then I see there’s no send to kindle option and then I get stuck with the adobe reader. I also don’t like pdfs cuz I can only read those on my comp too. Reading on a laptop sucks 😐

      • Yea, I always get the option to either send to Kindle or do the EPUB download to the computer. Those are the only two options I ever get.
        Yea, reading on laptops sucks. I like that I can highlight stuff on the Kindle.

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