Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Games Workshop: Now on Kindle in the US

... but you're not gonna like it.

Now that Games Workshop is off my "No Buy" list, I've been trying to get caught up on some of the lore. Because GW has always done a decent job of backing their games up with a ton of storytelling and background.  Not all of it's good, mind you, but there are hugely passionate fan communities who dissect the minutiae looking for clues to what we might see in the games, and trying to figure out the mechanical elements.

Last year, I'd noticed that their Black Library books were on Kindle in the UK but not in the US. So I e-mailed them, and got a brief "soon," message back from them. That was in March or April. Sometime in November, they flipped the switch to sell their books on Kindle in the US.

And ... I don't understand Games Workshop's Kindle strategy. At all.

For example: Let's look at Horus Rising.  It's the first book in the Horus Heresy series, and it's by Dan Abnett.

Here's the UK page for the book. You'll notice that it's on paperback for £7.99. Or on Kindle for £9.99. That's right: The Kindle edition is more expensive than the paperback.  (Note that if you're in the US, you may need to open that in an Incognito window to see the Kindle pricing.)

As of this writing, BTW, that's about $10.73 in paperback or $13.42 on Kindle.

Here's the US page for the same book. It's currently $8.41 in paperback and $15.99 on Kindle.

Worth mentioning: that paperback is on really low-quality paper. Honestly, $8.41 is too much for the book, too, even though it appears to be out-of-print.

That's one novel.  Their omnibus editions are ... well. Check out Eisenhorn. As of this writing it's $49.99 in the US. On Kindle.

In 2011, I paid $22.00 for a trilogy. A very good trilogy, actually - not a Games Workshop publication, there. One of the Big Five publishers. In fact, poking around, most books that are out in paperback are in that $7-$10 range on Kindle here in the US. But not from Games Workshop.

There are Kindle books that are in that $15 range - they're usually new releases or books that aren't out in paperback, yet. But most books that are in publishers' back catalogs are hovering in the $7-$10 range.

Horus Rising is the very definition of back catalog. It was first published in 2006, and has also been included in an omnibus edition. It's a low-demand novel, and it's not going to be driving sales.

And that's setting aside the issue of writing quality. Because GW novels are frequently ... uneven in quality. They have some great authors in their stable (I really like Dan Abnett's writing, for example), but a lot of their authors are not as talented.

It's clear that GW is used to being the only game around, and they price appropriately. Realistically, they were the most successful miniatures gaming company for a very long time. They probably still are. And their games were priced in a way that reflected that. Their goal was (and is) to be a "premium" brand. And part of that means keeping prices high so that customers feel more invested in their purchases.

Yes, it's weird. Retail psychology is weird across the board.

But Games Workshop isn't the only game in town on the fiction front. I have to wonder if they're helping or hurting themselves with their pricing - hardcore fans are going to pay whatever price they set, but casual folks like me? I'm not. There are thousands of non-GW novels published every year, most of which are probably better-written.  A lower price on their fiction will provide lower profit per book to GW, but will sell more books. And, unlike physical books, storage costs for Kindle books are negligible. You create the file once, and can sell it repeatedly.

I'm not saying that creating a Kindle book is free - you still have to pay the author and editor(s) and so on, but if you're creating both Kindle and physical books, then it's only a couple of extra steps (depending on your software), and - again - there's no physical storage requirement for electronic books. Over the long term, you can afford to pay the storage costs of an ebook with one or two sales (or even half a sale at GW's prices ... ). Honestly, selling through Amazon means that Amazon handles that storage cost. Once the file is created, there is no running cost other than (maybe) royalties, and that depends on the contract you have with the author.

Either way, I don't know how much more I'm going to bother trying to catch up on GW's lore. Uneven writing with high prices are not the combination to unlock my wallet.


  1. In the UK, eBooks are taxed as normal items but physical books are exempt from VAT. Most publishers end up charging more for eBooks than physical books as the cost of printing is a low percentage of the cost of the book

    1. Very interesting - and information I didn't have before! Thank you.

  2. GW is running into an issue with E-books that happens when you publish them through someone OTHER than Amazon - Amazon charges you back on the taxes and fees associated with selling the book. This negatively impacts your profit margin while increasing your costs (work) to administer them.
    Secondarily, they could have fucked up on their writer contract (i.e. "you get $2 / book") which means tey need to deliver a set $$ per title sold, while under a somewhat less profitable model.
    Both factors together can yield the pricing dumb you see here.

    Last thought - it's possible they are treating it like a "new reissue" and jacking up the price to see who pays it. Early adopters will pay extra for something sometimes....