TODAY. “But it’s a disaster in the long term.”

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Grisham worries about effect of $9 hardcovers

Grisham worries about effect of $9 hardcovers

He’s sold more than 250 million books around the world — but even John Grisham is worried about the future of the printed word in the wake of deep discounting of best-sellers by major retailers and the advent of e-book readers like Amazon’s Kindle.

Grisham’s latest book, “Ford County,” is among those being sold for $12 at Amazon.com, and it is also deeply discounted at Wal-Mart and Target as part of a price war that has erupted between the competitors

“Truthfully it doesn’t affect me — in the short term,” Grisham told Matt Lauer on TODAY. “But it’s a disaster in the long term.”

“Ford County,” which is suggested to retail for $24, is one of 10 books that are being deeply discounted. Books by Stephen King, Sarah Palin and James Patterson that are supposed to sell for between $25 and $35 are among the titles now being sold by the companies for $8.98 and $9.

Paying full price for the books is essential to keep publishers, booksellers and writers in business, Grisham said.

“That enables me to make a royalty, the publisher to make a profit and the bookstore to make a profit,” he said. “If a new book is worth $9, we have seriously devalued that book.”

In response to the discounting, the American Booksellers Association wrote a letter to the Department of Justice on Oct. 22, asking that it investigate the companies’ practices, calling them “illegal predatory pricing.” But Grisham, who was a practicing attorney before becoming a writer, says that there’s not much that can be done to fight the discount pricing in court — even though he calls the practice “short-sighted.”

“It’s a free market — there’s no legal case,” he explained. “I’m not itching to sue Amazon or Wal-Mart … they sell a lot of books. But the future is very uncertain with books.”

And the price war is not the only challenge the publishing industry faces nowadays. E-books sold for the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader have eaten into profits of publishers and booksellers — and Grisham says the future looks bleak.

Regarding reading books electronically, he told Lauer: “If half of us are going to be doing it, then you’re going to wipe out tons of bookstores and publishers and we’re going to buy it all online.

“I’m probably going to be all right — but the aspiring writers are going to have a very hard time getting published,” he added.

8 Comments

  • November 9, 2009 at 2:23 AM Charles Stander

    I agree that e-books will eventually wipe out a lot book stores and publishers. Then again, book stores and publishers will become pretty outdated. Same thing happened with the post office – we don’t need to send every single letter through the post anymore thanx to e-mail. It has affected the post office to some extent but they are not extinct!! Maybe e-books will diminish some book stores – instead of having 2 or 3 book stores in a mail there will be 1 in every second mall?
    I must admit that since I’ve had my Kindle I have been reading alot more (probably about 2 or 3 times as much as I used to). I thus believe the “cost” going towards authors will even out eventually…
    Just my 2c worth 😉
    P.S. REALLY hoping Grisham’s novels do come to the Kindle though…

  • November 10, 2009 at 1:18 AM joemaroan mariano

    JOHN GRISHAM is my most loved and favorite writer.. I love his books so much that I even had a collection of his bestsellers. I’m still looking for copies of those that I dont have but I know I will find it..
    A very excellent writer… JG will always be my favorite!

  • November 13, 2009 at 2:54 PM Melissa McDaniel

    I hope book stores and books do not become obsolete because there are certain authors I like to collect hardcovers of. John Grisham happens to be one of these authors.

  • November 16, 2009 at 7:32 PM Johannes Compaan

    Well, I can understand the worries mentioned above but do really not see how one would be able to change the course. I am 47 years old and I’m not used to reading whole books on a computer, but the younger generations and even more so the ones to come will surely prefer to read whatever they read on-screen.
    Now concerning John Grisham, the man has caused me a major problem; I am no longer able to read anything other than his books and because I read faster than he writes, I read little.
    His style is absolutely unique!

  • November 24, 2009 at 10:00 AM H. Elizabeth Chiavacci

    I have a few comments to make and reserve the right after I leave work this evening. However, the first thing I want to say is just as seeing Titanic on the small screen TV has no comparison with seeing it on the big Movie screen or Imax Theatres, there is also little comparison to getting a book out of the Library or buying it and reading it page by page. The computer ebooks are just devaluing the whole “book reading” experience and that is a sad commentary on the future.

  • November 28, 2009 at 10:59 AM Chris Eilersen

    Interesting how the music industry has not dried up and disappeared with the advent of mp3 music downloads. It’s called adaptation.

    I own a Kindle and have read more first-time authors on it since March than I have in the previous 10 – 15 years. One reason is probably because of the price – who wants to spend $28.00 (John) on an untested author?

    I too, read much more now than I used to (and that’s substantial). The convenience of carrying around 50 – 60 books at a time vs. 1 boat anchor far outweighs any perceived problem with electronic publishing.

    Bye, John.

  • January 6, 2010 at 11:40 AM elmer johnson

    “The Associate” was a great read. I got into it immediatel and had difficulty putting it down. I read all of John’s books and m on my way to border’s to purchase Ford
    County.

    It is another gray day in Penna and I need a pick me up to accompany my Bible.

    elmer johnson
    http://www.christchurchpmc.com

  • January 24, 2010 at 3:53 PM Jen

    I think it’s ridiculous to say that reading an e-book devalues the experience of reading (or that it can’t compare to reading a real live, physical book). The words are the same, and, like others, I’ve read more books since getting a Kindle. The convenience of being able to zap a book to your Kindle while on vacation or getting a book you’ve been waiting for the second it is released is a great service to a lot of us. And while e-books are cheaper than a live book, for the most part, the cost of an e-book to the publisher is a lot less than a real book, one would have to assume. The publisher does not have to pay for the materials to print the book, and once the book is formatted for the Kindle (or any other e-reader), they can sell as many copies as readers care to buy without having to produce a new copy of the book for each consumer. So, the publisher (and, subsequently, the author) are hardly suffering from people choosing to purchase e-books. The publishers (and, in some cases, the authors) have a part in establishing the price points of most e-books. They wouldn’t be selling all their books without a profit, and those who can’t afford to do so seem to simply choose not to do so. The Kindle does have the best sellers for $9.99, but beyond that, publishers have input into the pricing (which is why you’ll see a lot of new releases priced higher when first released). The advent of e-readers is also saving the consumption of untold amounts of paper.
    Unless you’re a very tactile person (which is fine if you are), you’re not getting a single extra boost from reading the physical book than you are from reading the e-book. It’s the SAME book. And for those of us with limited storage, it’s nice to have every book we’ve purchased stored on that one Kindle over having to house each and every book in our homes somewhere.
    As someone who has read all of his books prior to The Associate, and who has enjoyed most of them, I’m disappointed that Mr. Grisham chooses to disregard the e-book market and attempt to portray it as the beginning of the end for the publishing industry. But, I’m committed to not bringing any additional books into my home, so until he decides to stop fighting progress and comes to a deal to release his novels in an e-reader format, I’ll just make do with the many authors I’ve read for years and the new favorites I’ve discovered since buying my Kindle. In case he’s not catching on here, that also robs him of a potential royalty, even if that Kindle royalty might not be up to his standards.

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