While reading a news article recently about dairy farming, I had one of those odd thought moments. It seemed to me that milk and words suffer a similar fate in the marketing process. They are both products that are at the very bottom of a long production chain. This means that the selling price for the raw product; milk or words, is cheap in comparison to the end product. Read here paperback, ebook, creamed butter or strawberry yoghurt.
As we are all aware, there have been ‘milk battles’ in many countries due to the decreasing returns a dairy farmer makes, while at the same time retail prices increase. This can only mean that returns for the ‘middle men’ is increasing.
In my mind, the publishing industry is now on the verge of its own little market war. The singular difference though is that producers of words can go direct to the market and cut out the middle men. So this must be a good thing then? Well, yes and no. I depends how you like your book or strawberry yoghurt packaged, quality controlled and correctly labeled. Pasteurised or non-pasteurised with just a small risk of salmonella?
Unlike milk though, prices for books are falling. The recent price drop caused by ebooks is becoming a worrying situation. Free or $0.99 is not fair value, and leaves no room at all for quality controls. Would you buy a cheap plastic container of non-pasteurised milk for your kids?
As an author I have to accept that ebooks are here to stay. Whether I like it or not. My concern is however, that quality will surely suffer, as neither traditional publishers nor independent and self-published books will be able to afford all the hard work that is required to produce a professionally processed book.
The only money makers now will be the manufactures of e-reader devices, who by the way, also control the distribution.