A Note to Some Folks in Countries Where They Are Being Charged a Lot For the Episodes of The Human Division; Plus a General Note About Episode Lengths

Just got a (justifiably) cranky e-mail from a guy who paid something like $3.50 for “Walk the Plank,” the second episode of The Human Division, and was annoyed that he got 32 pages for his money. Here’s my thought on this:

1. We (i.e., Tor and I) are charging 99 cents an episode, or an amount roughly similar depending on your country and currency. If you are paying substantially more for an episode where you are, I suspect it has something to do with the retailer and/or taxes and/or I don’t know, maybe dragons.

2. Holy cow, don’t pay $3.50 per episode. That’s just nuts.

3. As a reminder, all the episodes will be compiled into a single book in May. If you’re confronted with paying substantially more than 99 cents an episode, just hang back and get it all in one go; I suspect the single volume will be substantially cheaper than each individual episode at that price (at 99 cents, the individual episodes will add up to more or less the same price as the single compiled eBook version, for those trying to figure that one out in their heads).

While I’m on the subject of “Walk the Plank,” if you look at the Amazon reviews here, there are a lot of one star reviews complaining primarily about the length of the the episode, i.e., that it’s too short for the money. I figure this is a fine time to remind people that I’ve always taken pains to let people know the length of the episodes range from 22,000 words to 6,000 words, and that the average episode length is about 10,000 words (actually slightly over that, but we’re rounding).

I don’t personally feel that the lower end of that range is too short for 99 cents; I’ve had several shorts available electronically that sell for the same price which are that length or shorter, and they’ve been selling perfectly well without complaint. My own personal rule of thumb for a while is that you charge a buck for up to ten thousand words and add on another buck for every 6,000 or so words from there, a pricing guideline that’s more or less reflected in my shorter works in general.

That said, Tor and I agreed that pricing every Human Division episode at 99 cents made sense because we didn’t want people to see the price jump around depending on the length of episode. A side effect of that (and probably of having the first episode be a double-length episode), is people perhaps assuming that each episode would be of equivalent length to “The B-Team,” rather than “The B-Team” being the double-length pilot. Something for us to file away for our post-mortem.

In the meantime, if you’re one of those folks who thinks 99 cents is too much for below [x] number of pages, the solution in this case is to check the page lengths on the sale pages and calibrate accordingly, and/or perhaps consider waiting until the whole run is done and the compiled version is available for sale in May. As noted before, the cost of buying all the individual episodes and of buying the single compiled edition will be roughly the same, so there’s no real economic penalty whichever way you choose (unless you’re one of the special cases noted at the beginning of the entry). It’s really a matter of personal taste.

As a final note, a small request: If you read “Walk the Plank” and enjoyed it (or didn’t enjoy it for reasons other than length), if you’d consider dropping by Amazon and leaving a review that would be swell. The complaints about length are fine and something for Tor and me to think about, but it would be nice to have people mentioning the story as well as the meta-discussion of what the appropriate price/length ratio is for one’s dollar.

103 Comments on “A Note to Some Folks in Countries Where They Are Being Charged a Lot For the Episodes of The Human Division; Plus a General Note About Episode Lengths”

  1. I read Walk The Plank when it came out last week. Wasn’t surprised by the length but was wondering about the “listed” format for the conversations. I’m thinking (and hoping) there may be an answer in a later episode. Reminded me somewhat of LISP headers, a little-used programming language. It was a dark and sad episode; I am excited about the next episode tomorrow. So far I am really enjoying the cliff-hanger style.

  2. This whole e-book release thing is bigoted to those of us less technologically inclined. Know how hard it is to avoid all the reviews and spoiler twits? On a side note: Is it ironic that I’m typing this on a computer and admit to twitter usage, but refuse to use electronic readers?

  3. I initially thought “Walk the Plank” was short for the price. Then I remembered how long “The B-Team” was in comparison and thought that getting that episode/chapter for 99¢ was a good deal. So I figured the bonus/disappointment roller coaster was a wash.

    I’ll pop over to Amazon with a review to that effect. (And on the iBooks store too, as that’s where I made my purchase.)

  4. Kilroy, in what way is a format “bigoted” (i.e. intolerant of any creed, belief or opinion that differs from one’s own)? Please explain and provide example of how something inanimate (a book format) can have opinions.

  5. Reviewed… (both eps). Not that I’ve had any trouble with the format or its cost, but I do get that others have, and that the comments are confusing the question of whether the story itself is a good one.

  6. Yeah. The pricing over here is 3.74$ for each episode.. International BS tax really sucks (and here, there just plain is no true justification for it: I mean, what, amazon’s servers somehow have to do three times the effort to put a different IP adress on their data packets? Pft, Please)… This is the disappointing downside of buying kindle-stuff on an “international” level, the pricing is just bonkers.

    Just to be clear – I wouldn’t begrudge John from his money, not at all. Granted, I too feel that something like 6k words does not merit nearly 4 bucks at a retail level, but regardless of that, I perhaps would buy the episodes if all of those 3.74$ went to John/Tor. But, as you said, you get the 99c, the rest is up to distributor. And I just plain do not value Amazon highly enough to give it the 274% raw surplus they want to rip off from me.

    I guess I just have to hope that the compilation does not follow this pricing scheme…

  7. Maybe charge by the vowel, with more common vowels costing less. Or could implement Scrabble (I mean Words with Friends) scoring for price. Just sucks if your download happens to land on triple score.

  8. @luna: tongue and cheek, but the decision to only release in e-book format at this time is intolerant of my belief and opinion that books are better read on good old fashioned paper, which is apparently different than the opinions of Tor and/or Mr. Scalzi.

  9. I live in a country where I pay $25 for a new paperback. Trades cost more, hardbacks are upwards of $55. Even I wouldn’t pay $3.50 for one chapter. THINK, people.

  10. I live in Norway, and just checked the prize here. (Norwegians have to shop at amazon.com for e-books from Amazon.) It’s priced at $3.74…That’s $0.99+Amazon’s $2 price hike+25% e-book VAT. Amazon has this $2 price hike in several countries. Meaning they are screwing buyers, and also publishers/authors, who don’t see a cut of the extra $2 Amazon charges. (It’s also one of the main reasons (, and I have checked this), that e-books from publishers cost more than paperbacks internationally. Something that the e-book fans blames on publishers…) In this case Amazon takes 2/3 of what a Norwegian customer pays (before taxes), and a cut of the final 1/3.
    -Perhaps time that publishers, published authors, and self-published authors took a stand against this?

  11. @kilroy, surely the approach on The Human Division is experimental, rather than bigoted? And both John Scalzi and Tor are entitled to experiment with publication in whatever way they see fit. (JS has already made it clear he and Tor will be learning from this.)

  12. @Kilroy, how do you expect the episodic nature of The Human Division to be dealt with in a physical format? Mini-books? Portfolios? Paperclipped sheafs of note paper? The first episode would barely be worth binding, and it’s the longest.

  13. @Bess, one way it could be done is in an s-f magazine, eg, Asimov’s. They do still occasionally publish books split over several magazines. But their circulation is not very big these days – John Scalzi will sell far more copies this way I reckon.

  14. Yup, here in Sweden Amazon tells me they’ll charge $3.74 per episode. I grumbled a bit and then went to Kobo instead, they only wanted something like $1.21.
    However, now when I went to have a look Kobo only lists episodes #7 and #9 so I guess they’re not too reliable…

  15. @Sooz, but then you would be paying for the entire magazine, not just the episode, and that would likely end up being far more, at the end, than what the novel itself would cost. The cost structure is set up so that buying the episode individually is equivalent to waiting and buying the Great Compiled Book when it is released.

    But I do admit it would be a way to get episode in a printed format. Personally, I hate reading magazines, but then, I’m not the one complaining about e-readers.

  16. I would like to read them as they come out, but I have decided to wait until I can buy them collected into one volume on my kindle. I love my kindle, but I am not impressed with its book management (e.g., if I were to re-read a series that I already own and have on my device, I’d probably need to do a Google search to figure out which one to read first). I’m not keen of having a dozen or so short stories listed as separate books.

    I do wish I could buy the book now, and have Amazon refresh the book each week adding the new content as it is released, but I don’t think that’s how it works. Similarly, I’d be happy to buy them now if I know Amazon would convert them all into one book later, but I am pretty sure that won’t happen either. So I look forward to reading them all in a couple of months…

  17. Man, the entitlement issues are just streaming out of some of those reviews. Crying about how expensive 99 cents is…well, that’s just plain embarrassing.

  18. I live in Sweden and the price I have to pay on Amazon is $3.47. I did this for #1 but for #2 I tried searching elsewhere for a more reasonable price.

    It wasn’t easy finding anyone willing to sell to a Swede, but in the end I found Kobo who charges me $1.20. Their app some decent enough as well. So all is well that ends well.

  19. My vote would be a pamphlet. Or 6000 words could probably fit on a bunch of note cards. But this wait sucks while the rest of you go about reading like comfy little clams.

  20. As someone who has dabbled in serial episodic fiction myself, the second episode of The Human Division was just fine – it advanced the story, it opened up a raft of new questions, and it was both entertaining and sobering. The story isn’t always going to occur in equal-sized chunks. Some will be longer, some will be shorter. It all drives toward a conclusion. I an content. And also ready for the next episode – bring on #3.

  21. @Bess, 1:36pm. yes that’s true. That point didn’t occur to me ‘cos I get Asimov’s anyway (and Analog, and F&SF!). I enjoy reading short fiction.

  22. I’m reading through iBooks (was cheaper than Kindle) but I did go over and put a review on Amazon as well as the iBooks Store.

    I think there are just some people who need to complain and will take whatever opportunity comes around. They don’t seem to get that if you’re reading the series then the price evens out over the whole run.

  23. As far as I’m concerned, $0.99 is the base price for damn near anything, so I can’t really see much point to complaining (though I do understand how a longer first episode might have set expectations). Personally, I look at price vs. length more closely when looking at unknown authors than known quantities. With a self-published author I’m taking a big chance, so I don’t want to risk much money on anything less than a novel. With a known quantity, it’s a different equation. I know I’ll get $0.99 worth of entertainment from anything our host writes, so I’m good regardless of length. (Well, I might balk at a single paragraph… )

    Having said that, I do have to admit that I haven’t read Walk the Plank yet. I bought the first episode but I’m still torn between reading the rest of the episodes as they come out and waiting for the compilation.

  24. Did you know you can read Kindle books on your computer, which you clearly own one of? You don’t have to buy the actual piece of hardware. The reader app for your tablet/computer is free.

    Of course, if you just insist on reading books on paper, you do have a complaint. Not sure it’s one Scalzi and the rest of us need to cater to, though.

  25. @Kilroy: Ooo, each episode could be published in a different format… Episode 1 could be a pamphlet, Episode 2 a typewritten transcript on legal paper (stapled together, of course), Episode 3 could be a fold out brochure, Episode 4 note cards — the possibilities are endless. What a great idea. (Not really amenable to mass publishing, alas, but given that one of my hobbies is book binding, I find the thought intriguing.)

    I’d offer to print out the episodes, bind them creatively, and mail them to you, but I’m pretty sure that violates all kinds of copyright.

  26. @the ridger: I own a kindle and an IPad, just not a big fan of reading my stories on either. Call me old fashioned, but mashed up wood makes the best reading experience.

  27. @bess: How about a chapter on a roll of toilet paper? that would even make reviews much more interesting.

  28. If the ‘serial experience’ is a desirable way present this book, it strikes me as making much more sense to sell the whole and then release on a schedule.

    Perhaps that would be a problem for some distributors, but f… them.

  29. I wonder if people harping about length in the reviews do so there because they cannot complain here? After all, amazon reviews is one place where you (or any author) cannot influence or censor what people write. Just wondering.

  30. So… TOR didn’t know about the “amazon tax” before this experiment?

    @Killroy it is DRM-free, so you can copy the text into a rtf file and print it out.

  31. Guess we all have our preferred methods of accessing and digesting the written word. I’m reading on my phone and can find time to grab a minute or 10 easier using it than if I had a book tucked in my purse. I’m liking the serialization simply because I actually have an opportunity to actually finish something. -insert bellyaching about modern life, lack of time, blah blah blah here-

    For the record, I just now wrote my first Amazon review ever. Cheap video games and kitchen gadgets just never inspired me to write anything down….

  32. My only problem with this.. and the OMW series as a whole, is I want to know SO MUCH MORE about the galaxy they live in. I’m always left wanting more. When I read the book, I wanted more.. now since I’m getting such small pieces weekly, I feel like I’m starving and can only eat once a week.

    Is there any literary OMW methodone?

  33. Kilroy: Koji Suzuki has already done it. However, it seems as if it wouldn’t work if other people used your bathroom on occasion. http://boingboing.net/2012/06/16/toilet-paper-with-a-horror-sto.html

    And…yeah. Leading with the double-sized chapter might have caused readers to expect that length every week.

    I love my ebooks, but sort of blanch at paying real-book prices for a digital file. For my money, I’d like to have the real book as a physical artifact, but have the ebook to actually READ. The type size on most real books gives me headaches. It’s probably not feasible to include the ebook with the real book, though.

  34. I enjoyed the episode & for the price I’m not going to complain about the length. However, on Amazon.co.uk the length is listed as 364 pages! If this could be changed it might reduce some of the negative feedback.

  35. I noticed the bad reviews you got due to the length of the story, and, honestly, I think you’re only getting those because you’re you. Or because you’re traditionally published, which is kind of the same thing.
    I’m serializing my new novel, right now, and each chapter is substantially shorter than yours, but I’m self-publishing; no one has complained that mine are too short. Of course, I set free days as often as Amazon lets me, so that may help keep people from complaining, since that’s how most people are getting the pieces.

    As an added note, I’m in favor of serializations. I’m doing mine as an experiment, but it seems to be working well.

  36. If your life is so small that it is worth writing a review on amazon over the price of 99 cents, it’s time to review your priorities.

  37. Shayde-“My only problem with this.. and the OMW series as a whole, is I want to know SO MUCH MORE about the galaxy they live in…”

    I hear you, sort of a Peter Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds approach to the OMW universe with a epic and multi-threaded storyline that spans the universe and weaves together seemingly unrelated storylines into a rich and complex narrative that when finished makes one wonder what the hell just happened.

  38. My only criticism of how episodes have been handled is with my e-book distributor, not you or Tor or the price you set. didn’t have a convenient way to pre-order the episodes as a set. Consequently, I had to buy each one individually. One. At. A. Time.

    Not only was that annoying, but now my e-reader library page is cluttered with lots and lots of T.H.D. episode thumbnails. It takes a while to scroll past them all when I’m selecting a different book to read. Not a real problem. The annoyance will self-correct over the next several weeks as I read and then archive each episode.

    Still, I’m hoping that your serialization experiment is successful. I like looking forward to a new episode each week. I would buy more linked episodic works by you and other authors if they were available. I only hope that the ebook retailers will take note and reprogram their systems to allow grouping of pre-orders and some sort of clumping of the episodes on e-readers.

  39. Richard Witty:

    I doubt that many of the people kvetching on Amazon even know I have this site, much less that I moderate comment threads. That said, kvetching about the price is not something that I would typically delete here, although I might eventually tell people to move on from it.

  40. I was also annoyed when I saw the price on Amazon, but fortunately the episodes are a bit over 1 dollar on Audible, so that’s fine ($1.14, I just preordered the next episode)

    That having been said, DRM free audiobook would have been cool, since I don’t really like audible’s android app

  41. Review left. I didn’t really think twice about “Walk the Plank” at $0.99. I thought ‘B-Team’ was cheap for it’s content…so at the very least, I feel ahead of the game. And honestly, the weekly release schedule kind of tickles me a little bit: it’s like getting a serial adventure or something…appointment reading, if you will.

    It’s possible I’m weird. (Well, OK, that’s not just possible….let’s say ‘weirder than some’).

  42. I’m with Turbonerd. In the realm of annoyances I deal with on a weekly basis it’s pretty minor, but I do wish I could have just pressed one button and had the whole series delivered as it appears. I imagine this is something Amazon will address (or perhaps they’d assert this belongs in the magazine subscription category?) since they DO allow pre-order and automagically deliver it overnight on release day.

  43. Thanks for the info on the compiled volume. I missed that nugget of info in earlier postings. I bought the first two episodes and thought they were just fine in terms of both story and length, but I definitely prefer to have a single file instead of a bunch of little files. Can I assume that if the pricing is roughly equivalent, waiting for the compilation in May won’t cut into your royalties too much? If so, I will just wait for the single volume…which makes this a vote against the experiment, I guess.

  44. John, something to consider is that usually we see book reviews, not reviews of individual chapters. Personally, I found The B-Team amazing and Walk the Plank so-so. I don’t mean any personal offense of course, and I don’t think that means my view of The Human Division as a whole will be low. (I don’t know until I finish, but I’m guessing I’m going to love it.)

    Most books have chapters that don’t seem that great, but people don’t usually think critically about each chapter as they read them. I might not even realize a chapter is important until the end of the book as a whole. Considering Walk the Plank, when we find out more about those soldiers, the introduction to them will be all the more important.

    Some reviewers might understand completely but still leave a low review on individual episodes. In addition, the whole is usually greater than the sum of its parts, right?

    As an aside, I love this form of releasing The Human Division. It makes me look forward to Tuesdays every week, and I’ve found myself organizing my tasks around ensuring I’m free enough on Tuesday to read the episode as soon as possible!

  45. Kilroy – you have the means, you just refuse to use them? Your choice then, deal with the consequences. However, whining about not being able to do something that you could, in fact, do is just tiresome and trollish. If you mean the comments to be amusing and ironic, well, they aren’t reading that way. They’re reading as petulant and entitled -“I could read these on my iPad but I don’t WAAANT to, the world should do what I want!” Obviously how you read is your choice, but again own the consequences of that choice vs whining that the world won’t accomodate itself to you.

    International folks – remember, THD episodes are DRM free so you can buy from one retailer and read on another’s device. Calibre can convert formats if you need to do that (for example Kobo provides epub files and I’m not sure Kindles will read those)

  46. Good grief – I read the Amazon reviews and they made my brain hurt. What part of “episodic” do the purchasers not understand?

    I made the decision to wait for the full ebook at the end, but apparently the Amazon description, which starts:

    “The second episode of The Human Division, John Scalzi’s new thirteen-episode novel in the world of his bestselling Old Man’s War. Beginning on January 15, 2013, a new episode of The Human Division will appear in e-book form every Tuesday.”

    is too subtle for most reviewers to understand. It’s chapter by chapter, not a series of stand-alone stories with an overall arc. Sheesh. Although the one connected story per week would be good, it’s not a novel.

    Maybe Mr. Scalzi can get the old blinking html flag from Geocities back to make it more obvious.

  47. “Walk the Plank” gave me a serious case of the heebie jeebies. I thought it was a masterful example of foreshadowing and literary tension. I haven’t been able to stop wondering where the next episode will go. It was worth the price to me. And more is revealed tomorrow. Thanks, John

  48. Edit to add: THD is a novel, not a collection of short stories, and therefore there are structural differences between the two approaches.

  49. Re: setting expectations:
    Perhaps for the next serialization, the pilot should be called “Episode 1+2” (just like TV-series handle double-episodes).

  50. Sure, $3.50 is kinda outrageous, but $.99 USD? I just spent more than that for something out of a vending machine that I enjoyed less.

    It reminds me of people whinging about paying $.99 or $1.99 or whatev for an iPhone. Break out the damn violins.

  51. Yeah, $0.99 is a hard price point to screw up at. Say you get it and you don’t like it, no big deal, it was only a buck.

  52. @rickg17: and rosa parks was just whining about having to stand up and move to the back of the bus. A less apt metaphor has probably never been made.

  53. I posted a positive review of episode 2 on Amazon.co.uk, and was pretty much accused of being a shill.

    It really doesn’t help that Amazon UK have it listed as 368 pages, though, as Rajesh points out above.

  54. Kilroy – REALLY? You’re equating yourself and your complaint to Rosa Parks and civil rights? You MUST be joking.

    Here’s the thing. Treat THD as a May book that’s not out yet. Or get over yourself and read it electronically. You have ability to read it now, electronically, you just refuse to. That’s not even in the same universe as Ms. Parks’ struggle and it’s ludicrous to even equate the two.

  55. @rickg17: I said a less apt metaphor has probably never been made. Did you miss that part? But I guess I could have gone with “more ludicrous”. And, yes, I refuse to read a book in a format that I find less enjoyable and provided my feedback that an alternative publishing means would have been appreciated by those of us that prefer paper but would still like to participate in the serial release.

  56. “It reminds me of people whinging about paying $.99 or $1.99 or whatev for an iPhone.”

    Dude, tell me where this isI can get an iPhone for $.99 or $1.99 and I’m so there! I might even buy five of them!

    (I’m sorry, I know what you meant but, it was laid out right there, I couldn’t resist XD )

    I think the grouching about the short length of the Walk The Plank for the price can be more or less entirely be put down to The B-Team being really long. People use the first part as a yardstick, so when the second is shorter, they feel short-changed. Should the experiment be repeated, perhaps the bumper-length part should be the final one or midway – basically at a point where people will realise it’s an exceptional length and not the rule.

  57. If readers are impatient and upset over having to wait for a book (or serialized sections, in this case) or pay a (small, so long as you don’t live in Sweden, apparently) premium for first look privileges, pray spare a moment for the feelings of books waiting to be read.

    Are there actually people who don’t have a To-Be-Read pile of books standing by? Think about those poor books, waiting, and waiting, and waiting, to be put to their ordained purpose, only to have newer, fresher books placed on top of the pile, burying them like the unexcavated older layers of an ancient city.

    If 99 cents is too much to bear for each section, wait for the consolidated e-book. Or buy the hardcover when it comes out; Scalzi’s a popular writer, so Amazon and B&N will probably offer hefty discounts when it first comes out. Or, since Scalzi’s popular, there’ll probably be a cheaper Science Fiction Book Club edition out a few months after the regular hardcover. Or you could even wait for the paperback. Or, if you’re really cheap, or just strapped for cash (I’ve been there), check with your local library to see if they’re planning to provide copies; if not, suggest they include it in their list of forthcoming purchases. (A lot of libraries now provide access to e-books as well; a lot of my lunchtime reading at work the last several years has been on my smartphone.)

    In the meantime, let me propose a challenge: While waiting for the next Scalzi, or GRRM, or whoever, book, go to your TBR pile, dig out the oldest book in that pile, and make -that- the next book you read.

    The book will be so grateful, and you will be an official Book Mensch, upholding the symbiotic relationship we should properly have with our books.

  58. I’m waiting for the codex version (I got a gift card for Christmas and can’t afford an e-reader yet.), but I think it might have been wise (20/20 hindsight) to charge $1.98 for the initial “double episode.”

    Amazon sucks. Buy your books somewhere else if at all possible. I didn’t have much choice (it was an Amazon gift card), but when I’m actually spending my own money (which I haven’t been doing lately) I buy from B&N. Note that the Swedish non-Amazon store charged much less. This is only the latest of the Amazon suckage.

  59. Well, I jumped in and bought Walk the Plank, and I’ll be honest. I didn’t enjoy it much. Then again, it clearly wasn’t meant to be pleasant, so I’m not going to complain over much about that.

    My one concern is with the technique, in that from my perspective it didn’t play to our host’s strengths. At least it did not showcase what I see as his strength: namely his narrative voice.

    Still, I don’t feel that I was ripped off by the price and I’ve already pre-ordered tomorrow’s installment. It’s just not likely to ever be my favorite installment. :)

  60. I also see that Diesel Ebooks, my favorite ebook retailer (they don’t try to take away readers’ rights in their terms of service) now has the first two episodes for less than 0.99. (Though I don’t know what they offer outside the US.)

    I’m now tempted to buy the episodes, instead of waiting for the whole thing, particularly if I can automatically stitch them into a unified ebook at the end. (A script that simply transforms non-DRM files you’ve already lawfully acquired into a new file for your personal use shouldn’t be a copyright violation, I wouldn’t think. Does anyone if someone’s already creating such a script, or planning to?)

  61. Feed-backing from my own corner of the planet, all episodes are 0,73 €, on Amazon France (which a converter tells me is actually 0,98 today…), so all good on that front.
    Quite apart from the fact that I like m. Scalzi writing and based on past experience, trust him to deliver the goods, I debated a while going for the serialised format instead of waiting for the whole book to come out. I finally decided to try it first because it’s new to me (in e-book format, at least), and second because I read first every information that was given us on how it would go down and got invested and interested.
    So I got in knowing that the lengths of each instalment would be unequal and that the total price wouldn’t be much different from the price of the whole book.
    Plus, weekly gratification ! (and it’s corollary, weekly frustration ! But I chose that !).
    I get that some people didn’t bother to get information beforehand… But then, in my opinion, they should have and whining about it seems somewhat childish. (Speaking about people expecting a whole book here, of course.)
    I browsed the comments on Amazon and it seems weird to me that a lot of people are apparently forgetting that it’s supposed to form a cohesive whole in the end, and are taking the segments like a short story completely separated from anything else. I think both so far work well separately, in as much as they are part of the same universe and the same larger story. Though “Walk the plank” wouldn’t entirely work on it’s lonesome if it wasn’t the case, in my humble opinion (that was really chilling by the way. I really liked it.). “the B team” probably would, though.
    Anyway, I’m liking it so far.

    But this Sweden-Norway Amazon (is it the same for all northern Europe, I wonder) pricing is really strange. I don’t think I would have gone the serialized way with those kind of prices.

  62. @Marie “But this Sweden-Norway Amazon (is it the same for all northern Europe, I wonder) pricing is really strange.”
    It’s the same in most countries who have to shop from amazon.com from outside the US. I know people in Asia have had to pay the same $2 charge too.

  63. And I too have pointed out that Amazon UK is responsible for quoting the page count of the entire novel, and thus misleading readers; it’s their fault and nothing to do with you or Tor. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for my review to go up…

  64. My first, reflexive thought when I saw the pricing was “oh, Aussietax!” (that being the informal nickname here in Australia for the massive markup things get for being shipped here – often between 100 and 300 percent through bricks & mortar retailers. It’s generally applied satirically when talking about electronic goods delivered online). Looks like we’re not the only country being charged like wounded bulls for the “inconvenience” of sending data packets somewhere other than the USA.

    I went looking for the episodes in the online bookstore I use here in Australia (Booktopia) and couldn’t find them. Then again, I tend to be rather leery of Works In Progress anyway – call it a habit developed by years of reading fan fiction, where the likelihood of ongoing WiPs being finished is generally fairly low. So I’m going to wait for the whole thing to be finished, and then buy it all in one go.

  65. Megpie71:

    To be clear, the whole book is finished. I was asked if I wanted to be writing it as we released it and I looked at them like they had all turned into flame lizards. That would have been a bad bad bad bad idea.

  66. Personally, I don’t mind the length/price ratio, I just wish I could find it in Epub format, or something else that will run on my sony.

  67. I enjoy the short-form format, and I like the fact that these stories are part of a larger arc. And I enjoy the sometimes-experimental style (take a look at Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge, then imagine it being released in chapters.) Best of all, I can’t gobble it down all at once, like I usually do.

    The price issue seems silly. Would it somehow be better if the prices varied with length? Would it change the overall cost?

  68. My reasoning: the Kindle told me it would take me eight minutes to read “Walk the Plank.” At $0.99, that’s about $7.50 an hour to be entertained. That’s not terribly different from the price of an hour of a movie and is well below a concert or play. Given the quality of the entertainment, is it worth the price?


    Moreover, given that the average episode is going to be 10,000 words, that takes the price of an hour of entertainment down to $4.50. Bargain!!

  69. I’m, like, a hundredaire these days. So. Whatevs on the .99¢. You keep up the entertainment and I’ll keep makin’ it rain. Pennies, mind you. I’m no thousandaire!

    I have no meaningful thoughts on international trade, taxes or tariffs unrelated to the Star Wars Extended Universe and the fascism inherent in Starship Troopers.

  70. I have no complaints about pricing. I figure the total book would be priced at or near what I would pay anyway, that I’m okay with it. I suspect people aren’t used to these “micro” payments and are reacting negatively because of it. My only “complaint” is that I want more and I want it now. “Take my money, Scalzi!” Nah, I’m just kidding.

    As for discussing the content of what’s been released so far, it’s a little hard because of the lack of context of the overall book. I know you wrote these to be stand alone stories but, I think, until when we have a few more under our belts, it will be much easier to make some judgements. It’s like being only a few episodes into a new series. All I can say is I like what I’ve read so far and am looking forward to more. But then again, I’m judging them to the OMW oeuvre and there is a halo effect because I like OMW so much. Thanks.

  71. @kilroy? I just recently bought “Ghost Story” by Jim Butcher, because I wanted it in the same form factor as all the other books in the series that I already own.

    I waited a year for it. I don’t think that waiting a month or three for the book to be printed, distributed, and put up for sale will break you if you insist on wanting it only in paper form. You are not in any way harmed by this.

    Meanwhile I’m enjoying my 99cent per increment preview. Oh well.

  72. @Stephen Hutchison:

    “…because I wanted it in the same form factor as all the other books in the series that I already own.”

    I keep trying to conquer this beast. But it just won’t yield. I feel like there should be warning programs for kids about this. Like they did with the smoking and the classroom horror fests. Because this is an addiction. I look at my bookshelves, with the series mixmatched in MM and TPB and HC, and my eyeballs itch. Maybe if someone had shaken me as a teenager and shouted in my face BUY THE STORY FORM IS NOT A FACTOR I’d’ve made it.

  73. I have to say, whatever the case may be with the ebook version, $.99 is a great deal on audio, even for something as short as Walk the Plank. I was really pleased that the audio episodes were the same price as the ebook, and I’ve been enjoying them.

    So, thanks for that!

  74. Can I complain about the cheesy $0.99, vs. the plain-and-simple $1? I’d rather pay the extra penny than support this ridiculous one-penny-less-means-it’s-not-really-the-full-amount nonsense that’s so widespread in the retail world. :)

    (Though it’s less ridiculous than something like $799.99 for a piece of hardware that doesn’t cost $800, really!)

    That little rant aside, I do think that paying based on length/word-count could really help revitalize the nearly-dead market for short stories! Especially short-shorts. Hey, if John W. Campbell could pay by the word, why can’t I? :)

  75. @John Mark Ockerbloom

    You could also probably acquire a pirated copy of the full version when it is released from the usual suspects. Downloading an alternate format of something you already own rather than converting it yourself is legal in many countries (Canada for example) but your jurisdiction may differ. That said Scalzi seems to be pretty accepting about the fact that pirated copies of his work exist and based on his response to UK readers when releasing Redshirts (roughly ‘You are smart people and I’m sure you can find a copy to read somewhere on the internet while you wait the month to be able to buy it in stores if you just can’t handle that other people are reading it and you can’t’) I think it is unlikely that he would be upset by it.

  76. I don’t really blame amazon for charging around $3.50. The $2 surcharge is there to pay for the 3G access (some of the) kindles have, and it’s not unreasonable when buying full books. It does mean that a format like Human Division becomes unworkable outside the US, but that’s not intended by anybody.

    I’ve tried to find it in other stores, but as far as I can see only Amazon and Kobo even want to sell outside the US, and Kobo currently only offers #7 and #9.

    Maybe Baen ebooks would be interested in selling them? They’ve sold reasonably priced non-drm books to everybody for nearly ten years now. It would be great to be able to follow these in the serialized format they’re intended, instead of just another book in a few months.

  77. Note that on amazon.de, the price is EUR 0.73 as well, which is fine. amazon.de as well lists the number of pages as “368 pages (estimated)”. I guess something went wrong and they gave the number of pages for the whole thing.

    Which doesn’t excuse complaints about length vs price, because come on. 0.73? that’s basically nothing.

  78. Selling them off this site would mean that John couldn’t have sold the digital rights to someone else (or would have been really complicated and gotten him a lot less money) and then he would have to managed his e-commerce suite along with doing all the customer service stuff. While he probably would have made tolerable money doing so the higher percentage he would get from us doesn’t offset losing the much larger portion of his readership that doesn’t visit this site and all the internal advertising from digital retailers (ie People who looked at this ended up buying…).

  79. @Lurkertype “B&N uses good old ePub. Amazon isn’t a monopoly yet, so no need to buy from them when you could go for B&N, Kobo, and so forth.”

    I live in the US, but refuse to purchase anything from Amazon. I own a Nook Color and a smartphone (first thing I did on my new smartphone was uninstall all the Amazon apps).

    @scalzi re: your request for a review at Amazon. I must politely refuse. I do not rate or view anything at Amazon (my boycott is in it’s 4th year now). Sock puppets come to mind. I buy books from B&N, but don’t rate or review there either for a similar reason. I prefer the more neutral territory at GoodReads.com, where I have rated (but not reviewed) all the episodes of the Human Division that I have read to date (including this morning’s release).

    On the price point of 99 cents, I find it completely reasonable. I pay five times as much for a mocha from Starbucks for more fleeting enjoyment.

    Thanks, Jon Moss

  80. I know that different media aren’t inherently comparable, but two thoughts:

    1. In other media, there is a tendency towards standardization. The TV comparison’s already on the table, but the double-length pilot is usually exactly that — twice the length of the others, and a reasonable barometer of episode length. Of course, TV has other restrictions (timing of schedules, need for ads) that come into play, and you could reasonable suggest that online series like The Guild and Burning Love (where episode length fluctuates greatly) is a better model.

    2. OTOH, comics and the occasional video game (like The Walking Dead) might be better examples, as the payment model is more upfront, and I can imagine how someone who had gotten used to those models might feel a bit burned.

    3. On the third hand, you get 32 pages in each comic, too, and those get consumed a hell of a lot faster than a Scalzi story in general, and cost $4 or $5 a pop.

  81. Just a quick note, I’m not sure what is wrong with the search on the kobo site, but in fact all of the episodes are available at $1.12 for this international reader. Use Google with a search string like “kobo books need heads scalzi” and one of the results is the link to today’s episode. That’s how I found the others too, because only eps #7 and #9 are listed on the site.

  82. Amazons pricing is stupid. I often buy full length kindle books for 3-4 bucks and I have bought other serials for 99 cents a piece as well. Its a bit disappointing to see that they hike up the price on the Human Divisionl. All that does is push people to other sites. Talk about biting their own ass.

  83. John, I have no complaints about pricing or episode length. I support good writers and you’re one of them. My only concern is whether I’ll be permanently stuck with all the separate episodes in my library once the full ebook has been released. I suspect that I’ll pay more for the individual episodes than I’d pay for the complete ebook. That’s okay. As I said, I support good writers and don’t mind paying for their work. However, I hope Tor will come up with some way to get the complete, one volume ebook into my hands without me having to re-purchase it.

  84. @Jim Scarborough: Tor and John have been nice enough to provide these DRM-free, which means you can pretty easily combine them yourself using any one of several free tools available (Calibre is the most popular one).

  85. I was wondering why there were suddenly so many five star reviews for Walk The Plank, all on the same day. I’m not sure that begging for reviews to counter the ones freely given and expressing concerns is quite what I expect of you, John.

  86. terrance:

    I’m not entirely sure why I need to care what your expectations are, terrance. Beyond that, I’ll note I asked people to leave reviews even if they disliked the piece for reasons other than story length. Also, I think you’re probably just unintentionally insulted people who have chose to give reviews by implying that they were not freely given; if you think I have some mystical control over people here that compels them to write falsely, you’re widely mistaken. Finally, the reviews griping about story length haven’t gone away; they’re still there.

  87. @Beej: “combine them yourself using any one of several free tools available (Calibre is the most popular one).”

    Calibre supports combining books? I’ve just searched through its commands, and didn’t see any way to do that. Could you give me some hints? Thanks.

  88. Sorry–as much as I carry your fangirl flag, I’ll be waiting for the complete non-serialized compilation. I hate cliffhangers and not knowing. It annoys me when I find a series and I stumble upon it near the beginning, simply because then I have to wait between books! Not blaming, not saying “this should be done”. Just stating.

  89. It’s always hard to find the good entry price. People on one side want the cheapest possible, on the other hand, the author must have to eat…

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