What happened was, this week’s Economist had a rave review of something called Dogs at the Perimeter, by a Madeleine Thien of whom I’d never heard but who turns out to be from Vancouver. And to have created a Dogs at the Perimeter Tumblr, which is full of severe formal beauty. So I thought I’d buy it, but the Kindle version was $18.03 and that bothered me.

[Update: Outstanding comment from Thad MacIlroy about the realities of digital-publishing screwups here.]

Which kind of rung a bell; a few days earlier I’d tweeted OK, I just hit my limit. I am *not* gonna pay $18.03 for a thriller on Kindle even when it’s by Elmore Leonard. Get real. (Actually, it turns out that in another browser, that Elmore Leonard is only $12.99. Which also bothers me.)

So what’s a book worth, anyhow? Over the decades I typically bought paperbacks not hardbacks, even after I wasn’t poor any more; they take less shelf space and are handier on the road.

My years in the business world taught me respect for the real-world measure of “value”: what someone’s willing to pay. And I’ve been buying a lot of Kindle books and sometimes paying more than I would’ve for the paperback. And bitching about it; but buying nonetheless.

But still, there’s something about $18.03 for a few million bits that is sticking in my throat. I’m not claiming that my feelings on this are rational. Only I’m really having trouble pulling the trigger.

You know what would help a lot? If I knew where the money was going. Ms Thien is a struggling young artist, a local, and builds a damn fine Tumblr. It’d really make a difference to me if I knew that most of the $18.03 was ending up in her bank account.

And, hey look, here’s I’m Starved for You, a new short story by Margaret Atwood, long one of my favorites. Plus, advertised as being both speculative fiction and sex-drenched. Let’s see, $2.91, OK, but (now I’m laughing): “includes free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet. Digital List Price: $2.99. You Save: $0.08 (3%).” Well then, such a bargain, who could say no? And I bet Ms Atwood, with like a hundred successful novels, can command the kind of deal where she gets most of the dough.

Late-Breaking News · The US government is going after e-publishers for e-book e-price e-collusion. Good on ’em, I suppose. But I bet they’re just as confused as I am.

Oh, and hey, Dogs at the Perimeter is only $15.99 over at Google Play Books. That clears things up.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Hub (Mar 08 2012, at 23:53)

Also the paperback is also not dependent on your device/reader. :-D


From: Luca Lizzeri (Mar 09 2012, at 00:26)

I am seeing it at $9.83 (from Italy). Pretty flexible pricing, even for Amazon.


From: Jim Millen (Mar 09 2012, at 02:01)

Couldn't agree more - anything over UK £7 - £8 for an electronic copy is my sticking point, and it has to be something I really, really want to pay that much. I would also pay more if I knew the money was going to the author; as it stands, it's as clear as mud.


From: Bud Gibson (Mar 09 2012, at 04:45)

Self-publishers get to keep more of the list price on Amazon, 70%, vs. 15% or less if they go through a publisher. The rub is that self-publishing and promotion are hard. Perhaps with her own tumblr, your author is on her way to being able to pull it off.


From: ebenezer (Mar 09 2012, at 07:18)

Also the paperback is not in constant imminent danger of being yanked out of your reader overnight by the retailer. ;)


From: yipyip (Mar 09 2012, at 07:27)

Interesting topic for sure. I still can't bring myself to rent literature, though - from Amazon or anyone else.


From: Mike P (Mar 09 2012, at 08:19)

I use http://www.ereaderiq.com to monitor the kindle books I'm interested in - it'll notify you when the price drops so I don't have to pay the "New Release" premium.

Though in some cases I have noticed that I don't see the price drop that eReaderIq says there is - this is probably the same behaviour you're seeing with different browsers.


From: Dan Marner (Mar 09 2012, at 15:05)

You inspired them, Tim! I followed your link to Amazon... and it's no longer available for Kindle. Interesting response on the publisher's part...


From: Jim Harvie (Mar 09 2012, at 15:45)

Great comment about a publisher yanking it out of your hands. For paperbacks we have priests, and special police.


From: Thad McIlroy (Mar 10 2012, at 02:24)

You succeeded in highlighting the Kindle edition that was NOT supposed to be available here...the edition that WAS listed on Amazon.com was the U.K. Granta-published version.


Amazon no doubt has received a complaint from McClelland and Stewart who hold North American rights but somehow Amazon had a digital disconnect and was selling "The Lost Dog Recovery Guide" at the link from the M&S site:

1. M&S location: http://www.mcclelland.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780771084102&view=ebform

2. Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_kinc?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=Dogs%20at%20the%20Perimeter

If you click the other links, to Kobo & Sony (but not to Google) the correct edition shows up for roughly $15.95

You can buy the Granta ebook very slightly cheaper from Angus & Robertson in Australia -- they'll sell anything to anyone.


I described the whole mess on my blog last night with reference to another new author with Vancouver roots:



author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
March 08, 2012
· Business (121 fragments)
· · Internet (107 more)
· Arts (11 fragments)
· · Books (120 more)

By .

The opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.