agency.jpegI realize it’s early days yet, but I have to admit, the new ‘agency’ system is shaping up so far to be an epic disaster. If it really did serve to bring some order, some consistency and some fairness to the growing ebook business, I might not have minded the higher prices if they really had rolled them out as they had claimed. If every store had the same consistent price, and if it was pro-rated on some kind of schedule where older books went down over time in a predictable system, I think customers would be a lot more accepting of paying a premium for the hot new releases. But how am I supposed to feel when a book that’s been sitting at $18.50 on my Kobo wishlist is spotted at the local bricks-and-mortar in a shiny new $11 paperback, and the ebook—days after the agency changeover—is still at $18.50?

Here is another one. Bought an ebook, pre-agency, of Anne-Marie MacDonald’s debut novel, ‘Fall on Your Knees.’ I loved this book in paper, but it’s absolutely massive and I needed the shelf space. Yesterday I did a little search for her second book, ‘The Way the Crow Flies’, just to see if it was out too. And here is what I found:

– Fictionwise: Not listed
– Sony: Not listed, but they had book #1 for $13.99
– Kobo: $13.39 ‘discount’ on a list price of $23

– Amazon ebook: $10.99 “this price was set by the publisher”
– Amazon.com cheapest print version: $11.66 paperback
– Amazon.ca cheapest print version: $16.79 paperback

What happened to ‘same ebook price everywhere because it’s set by the publisher?’ If they really are setting their own prices, shouldn’t Kobo be able to match the lower Amazon price? And why is Kobo basing their ebook ‘discount’ on a list price that’s double what lowest-priced paper copy is going for? How is this fair, consistent, and reasonable to anybody?

Just for fun, I had my esteemed—and American—editor Paul Biba do a quick check for me to see if the higher price at Kobo could be accounted for by everything costing $2 more here the the Great eBook North. He got the same prices as I did at Amazon, but they didn’t offer him a Kobo version at all.

If there is one thing this whole agency debacle has taught me, it’s this: I am a good customer. I am a devoted enough to book reading that I shelled out $300 just for a device to read them on. I am potentially their cash cow. But I have my limit, and it’s about $12—$10 preferably, but I’ll give them a cushion for the Canada tax. More than that, and I am wishlisting. If it comes out at the library or I can borrow it from a friend before they get around to changing the price, it’s their loss. My days of ebook impulse buying are done.