Last time I commented that while certified ethical AI may now be a thing, it may end up being a premium niche item. That segues rather nicely into research on book pricing. The Bookseller reports on analysis by Enders of trends in book prices over the past two decades.
The research showed that the selling price of books (paperbacks, I think) had risen from £7.81 to £8.97 from 2001 to 2023. If the price had gone up in real terms, it would now be £13.80. This comes at a time when the cost of producing books has risen sharply, most notably in the recent past as paper prices have rocketed.
The conclusion, needless to say, is that book prices need to rise. And the research points to the possible value of special editions as a way for creators and publishers to recoup costs. But when it comes to the basic cost, the report doesn’t mince its words about what it thinks is necessary. Increased online competition for sales of physical items. That is to say, more players who aren’t Amazon. It is really interesting when worries about monopolistic tendencies focus on the downward pressure rather than upward on prices. It is somewhat similar to the squeeze on farmers’ margins that supermarkets have caused with their heavy discounting, leading many farmers to seek out niche markets.
As a kid, I remember knowing people who had a subscription to the Folio Society (with whom I share a 1971 birthday) and being enchanted by the wonderful illustrations and endpapers, and the gold lettering on the covers and spine. In more recent times, special, extended, anniversary or limited edition releases have become a staple as creators have appreciated the value that fans place on such things on the one hand, and have looked for alternatives to increasingly squeezed margins for their regular offering on the other.
Indeed, the research looks at these possibilities and makes encouraging noises about BookTok. In particular it notes that fans might be willing to pay more if they were to buy direct within the environment in which they encounter the book, as a TikTok shop might allow. Platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter are also making this kind of “premium price for special connection” model possible. It all sounds, to sum up, very much like the wider industry is recognising it needs to be more like SelfPub3.