Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Real Lost Symbol

By Darren E Laws

I do not share the recent excitement in the publishing world following the release of Dan Brown's, 'The Lost Symbol' and my criticism has nothing to do with the content of the book, which is probably a rollicking read. My problem and the problem for publishing is that the real lost symbol is this '£'.

I don't know what deals publishers Transworld/Bantam Press are offering retailers to sell the book but with hard back copies being sold for as little as £5 on a book that has a recommended retail price of £18.99 is it any wonder that the industry is in the state it is. Have publishers no concept of perceived value. If Asda is selling the book for £5, which is less than most paperbacks, imagine what price they are buying them at. Sure 'The Lost Symbol' will storm to the top of the bestsellers list but here's the real question. Would it not have done so anyway?

If I were Dan Brown I would be a little upset because the royalty at this sale price for a hard back must be exceptionally low. Though I dare say Mr Brown probably won't notice too much of a dent on his bank balance.

The buzz and the hype around this book would have ensured that if Bantam had the nerve to play hardball with chain stores and supermarkets the price of the book could easily have held at a respectable £12.99 which would be an honest price for a hardback publication. People would still have bought the book in huge numbers and the perceived value of the product would not have been damaged.

Look at how Nintendo control the availability of the Wii every Christmas, making it one of the top selling presents for the past three years. They create demand and then sell at a price which reflects the quality of the product. What Bantam is doing is actually making it harder for other publishers to compete without cheapening their product and brand.

Selling a new and wanted product at such a low price, while one may argue is good for the consumer, actually begins to hurt the industry as a whole and that cannot be good. If I were to offer books at half price or less it tells the public two things:

  1. The original rrp is set unreasonably and unrealistically high
  2. That all of my products should be subject to the same discount

This in turn leads people not to trust the pricing model – at £18.99 for a hard back I certainly don't. It also puts extreme pressure on independent bookstores or smaller chains which cannot negotiate such silly rates as Asda obviously have. Again this hurts the industry. So who is to blame?

I like a bargain as much as the next person and I in no way blame anyone for buying The Lost Symbol at knock down prices. I just can't see the sense in the publisher doing it.

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