Monday, May 26, 2014

The Worcestershire Sauce Dilemma

Not to talk about food again, but I'm going to talk about food again. But not really. It's more about shopping; it just happens to have to do with shopping for food. That being the kind of shopping I do most often.

Worcestershire sauce is something I use frequently when cooking. Mostly, I use it on meat, but I use it in other things, too. For a long time, I've been buying Lea & Perrins', which is kind of the standard for Worcestershire sauce. They are the originators of it as a brand, a brand that's been around 180 years or so. It's good stuff, and they have a few different varieties, though I mostly just use the original.

Now, I don't know how it is everywhere else in the country, but food prices around here have been going up quite a lot lately. A gallon of milk has gone from being in the $3.00 - $3.50 range to the $5.00 - $6.00, and we drink a lot of milk. A pound of butter has done the same. And don't even get me started on the prices of pork and beef. That stuff has gone insane.

All of that to say that I am having to be a lot more aware of food prices, right now, than I was, say, six months ago.

So there I was in the condiment aisle looking at the Worcestershire sauce since I knew I was almost out. I was looking for the large bottle, but they were out. Which is when I saw that the small bottle is now the same price as the large bottle used to be. Since they were out of the large bottles, they hadn't put a new shelf tag up with the new price, so there they were right next to each, and the small bottle price was the same as the previous price of the large. I just stared at it.

But, as I was staring, I noticed the Safeway brand of Worcestershire sauce. Now, I've always known that the Safeway brand was sitting right there next to the other. I've had to push it out of the way before or picked up a bottle of it because it was in the wrong space or whatever. However, this time, I really looked at the Safeway brand. I glanced down at the price: It was half that of the Lea & Perrins'. For the first time, I wondered what could possibly be the significant difference between the two. And, so, for the first time, I bought the off brand.

Well, not the first time I've bought an off brand; I actually buy the Safeway brand on a lot of things, but it was the first time I bought the off brand on the Worcestershire sauce. (So far, I haven't noticed a difference, but it hasn't gotten the full range of testing, yet.)

Of course, I'm not here to sell you Worcestershire sauce. I don't care one way or the other what you put on your slabs of meat or if you put anything on it at all. It's just that the whole thing made me wonder, even while I was standing right there in the grocery store staring at the shelf and the prices, if this is the same process readers go through when deciding to buy a book that is not traditionally published. And I don't know if it is, but I suspect it might be.

Or something like it, anyway. Maybe not with actual physical books in a book store since a bookstore is pretty much guaranteed to only carry traditionally published books, but do people buying books for their e-readers ever look at the price of a traditionally published e-book and think, "I'm just not paying that much for an e-book." I know I do. Actually, when it comes to traditionally published books, I almost always buy the physical book, often because it's actually cheaper than the e-version (which is just wrong). And I'm buying fewer and fewer physical books. Basically, there are only a few authors left for whom I'm willing to spend that kind of money, which, I suppose is leading me to a place where what I will be buying is independently published material.

And I have to tell you, so far, I haven't noticed a difference. I mean, it's just hard to be worse than Snow Crash (traditionally published). And, in fact, my favorite book of 2012 was Demetri and the Banana Flavored Rocketship (independently published), so, looking at all of this from a value standpoint, I think we might be getting to a point where we get a lot more for our money from independently published (which includes self published) books, especially once you've figured out which authors you like. The only catch is that you have to be willing to try them to see if they're the kind of sauce you like. Just, you know, when you find one you like, make sure you leave a review and let other people know, too.
Just sayin'.

So here are some suggestions:
Pick up Shadow Spinner: Collection 1: Tiberius (Parts 1-5). Beside the piece of Shadow Spinner that you get, you'll also get "Like An Axe Through Bone" by Bryan Pedas, the author of the Demetri book that I just mentioned.
Or grab Shadow Spinner: Collection 2: The Man with No Eyes (Parts 6 - 12) which contains "Augurs of Distant Shadow," a great new take on vampires, by Briane Pagel.
And, if you like Augurs, you can follow it up with "The Magic Cookies," which contains another piece of his vampire lore.
And don't forget Shadow Spinner: Collection 3: The Garden (Parts 13-21) which contains "A Nightmare Named Ricky" by artist extraordinaire Rusty Webb.


  1. I've said before I won't pay over ten bucks for an eBook. Even if it's from an author I really, really enjoy. And yes, it's wrong the eBook version is more. (I don't buy the physical book though. I've only purchased three in the past four years, and then only because there was no eBook.)
    And I haven't noticed much difference between traditional and self-published books. Just as many gems on both sides.
    I'm willing to try generic brands, but there are certain brands that have no substitute. Jif Peanut Butter for example. I can tell the difference. (Especially on pancakes.)

  2. Off-brands are a funny thing--there are definitely some things where there's no discernible difference (milk, for example; I can tell no difference between brand X milk and Super Dairy brand), and there are things where you DO notice. Hopefully, you're worcestershire sauce will pass the full test.

    Regarding prices, you do have to remember that trade published books have to pay for more than just the author. I don't know where how exact it is, but something I read said the physical stuff--paper,cover, transport, storage--only accounts for about 12% of the price of a physical book. Take this stuff out for an e-book, but replace it with whatever is involved in creating a digital book, and you're putting some of that cost back in. As for quality, yeah, there's plenty of turkeys and diamonds in both piles.

    I do wonder about this, though: when you self-publish one of your books, Andrew, how do you set your price? Do you base it on where everyone else is setting theirs? Do you set it based on some perceived value to the reader? Do you factor in whatever costs you've incurred in the writing and production with an aim at 'breaking even' at x number of sales?

    Enjoy your day!

  3. In Australia, eBooks are hideously expensive so I usually just buy the physical book. Most of the eBooks I buy are usually by indie authors--most of whom price their books somewhere between $0.99 and $4.99

    Regarding sauce ... I usually put soy sauce, ketchup or that cool Peri Peri sauce that you can buy from Nandos on my meat. You guys do have Nandos in the US, right?

  4. I never understand why they'll charge something like $10.99 for a paperback and $9.99 for an eBook. I'm sorry, but if all you're going to do is chop off one lousy dollar then I have no real incentive to download a digital copy.

    I've never spent $10 on an eBook. I just can't justify it when chances are good that I can find a slightly dog eared paperback copy for less. But people still buy them. Frankly, I just don't understand why.

    Oh, and thanks for the kind mention toward this store brand Worcestershire.

  5. Going back to Worcester sauce, I have tried several off brands and found they were mostly too sweet. Sorry, to me, Lea and Perrins is it. But I find in the US you like sweet stuff so it's likely to be OK for you.

    As for ebooks, I certainly won't pay the extortionate prices some quote for ebooks and these days I don't have the money or room to buy many paper books. Bearing in mind what Amazon is doing to authors these days, I am getting reluctant to buy from them anyway.

  6. Don't mess with my Jif peanut butter either. I think I'll keep paying full price for Lea & Perrins. I guess I just respect a company that's been around for so long.

    Yeah, I don't get eBook prices. I think they should be significantly less than a physical book considering production costs and lack of shipping, storing, etc. However, I'm perfectly willing to pay a lot more than 99 cents, which is what most of the eBooks on my Kindle have cost me. I also tend to win some give-aways, which is nice, and hit the "free today" promotions a lot. I will continue to support indie authors.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    On the Open Road! @ Join us for the 4th Annual Post-Challenge Road Trip!

  7. I only buy traditional books on sale, or if I have a gift card. Paying $10.99 or more for a digital book is just ridiculous. Whenever they try to justify the cost, it never makes sense to me.

  8. Since I do all the grocery shopping in our house I have definitely noticed the rise in food prices. I've also noticed the big differences between stores like Ralph's (our local grocery chain) and Walmart. There are certain things I buy at certain stores just because of the vast difference in pricing.

    I haven't bought a full price hard copy book in years. On the rare occasions when I do buy a book it's at Dollar Tree or a book store that's closing. I'm sure it would be different if I were bringing in a bigger paycheck, but now the budget no longer allows the luxuries of books. I can't picture myself ever paying more than $1.99 for an ebook--just doesn't seem like I'm buying anything tangible. Without an ereader it's too much of a hassle to read on my PC. Maybe if I ever get an ereader my outlook on ebooks will change. I'm pretty sure it will. Still I don't know that I'd ever spend more than $1.99 or maybe $2.99 on ebooks. Never full hard copy price--it's less of an investment than something I can put on my shelf and hand down to my kids or something.

    Tossing It Out

  9. Alex: We quit eating peanut butter with sugar in it a long time ago. I did used to get Jif, though, but not because I really thought it was better.

    JeffO: That whole thing with justifying higher prices for traditional publishers just doesn't work, especially when you put it in the perspective of them converting older books to e-versions. Books that have already "paid off" whatever costs were associated with producing them in the first place, especially something that's a classic that has steady sales. When the e-book version of virtually the same price as the physical book (or more), that's just greed. If publishers were being responsible, they would be pricing e-books significantly lower to promote people buying the more environmentally friendly option.

    Pricing is something I may do a post on. I did one a long while back but, maybe, I need to look at it again.

    Kathryn: There's probably no good reason for them to be more expensive, too.

    ABftS: No kidding! I was just looking up a bunch of older books and, often, the price difference is less than a $1, like $0.70. 70 cents? Really? Make it worth it to me.
    And no problem!

    Jo: I don't do sweet, so that's an attraction for me.
    I'm not sure what you mean about what Amazon is doing to authors these days. Is there something specific that I missed?

    Tina: I understand brand loyalty; however (and I'm not saying this about them, specifically), I have always (since I was a teenager) had an issue with brands taking advantage of their customers and charging more -just because they can-. I don't know why the Lea & Perrins' price just bounced up but, if someone else is offering what is basically the same product for less money, I don't see a reason not to switch.

    Pat: I don't buy a lot of physical books anymore and, frequently, lately, those have come from a used book store.

    Lee: I almost never buy hardbacks, only if it's something I really just want a 1st Edition of.

    And, yeah, buying different food items at different stores helps, but, man, I hate the driving around.

  10. Andrew, this is what an author friend of mine is writing about Amazon.

  11. Jo: There's actually no information in that post. The statement "Amazon is greedy" doesn't tell me anything and doesn't tell me anything that isn't true for every corporation out there. If, actually, she's referring to the issue I read about a while back between Amazon and some publishers, a lot of what is going on there is on the publisher side, not Amazon. The truth is that, right now, independent authors have no bigger friend than Amazon.

  12. I think you hit the nail on the head with your analogy. There's some fixed notion in people's heads that traditionally published books are "better". I don't know if it's snobbery or what, but with all the e-market price gouging, maybe people will finally open up.

  13. Jeanne: I think it's the idea that "someone" approved it and that there is some (mythical) standard which they use to approve books. Even John Scalzi (who mostly supports self-published writers) won't accept books for his Big Idea that have not come through a publisher (indie publisher is fine, but he doesn't accept self-published).

  14. I only use Worcestershire sauce once a year, when I make my own homemade Chex Mix.

    More to the point SIX BUCKS for a gallon of milk? Geez. Is that because of the drought in California?

    At first I thought this was going to be a post about how people should try Indie books because they're like the store brand, but I liked where you took it. Based on the stuff I've read, you're on the right track: As books become cheaper, people are less willing to invest $10, $15, or more in a book. It's kind of like what's happening with movies: only blockbusters or proven stars will get wide releases.

    Luckily for us, that means we can pick up the slack. I wonder who will be the Gareth Edwards of our group.

    (Probably you.)

  15. Briane: It's because of everything. Anything is a reason to prices on everything out here. So, you know, if someone sneezes in Florida, gas goes up 20 cents.

    I'm not sure how I feel about being Gareth Edwards. On the one hand, Godzilla looks awful (no, I haven't seen it, yet, so I can't say for sure), but, on the other, he's tagged as the direct of the first solo Star Wars movie. Man, I would love to be in that spot. You know, if I directed.

  16. My own feeling is that an unknown author can't really expect to get more than mass market paperback price for an ebook. iUniverse priced mine at 9.99 which is ridiculous. I finally got them to put it down to 4.99 which is about the highest I will pay for an ebook, but after more than a year Amazon has not caught on (and I've told them at least twice) that the publisher price for an ebook has gone down. So right now they've got Tourist Trap at way more than the ebook costs at iUniverse or Barnes and Noble.

  17. I didn't realize we were talking about 'classics' or books that have already paid off. I don't know how much that changes the equation. In truth, I'm not familiar with e-book pricing, since I don't buy e-books. On the face of it, they certainly shouldn't be more expensive than a physical book, since they use less materials, don't require trucking/warehousing, etc. What will be interesting to see is what trade publishers do in response to more customers--and authors--shifting to independents.

  18. I can't speak for everyone, of course, but I do know that while a pricey ebook of a book I want might make me buy the paperback (or shop Abe's), I almost never use price as a justification to go indie.

    I'll be honest. Covers are what I look at. If it looks like it was thrown together, I won't even preview the file, UNLESS it's gotten a really good review from a friend. I know I shouldn't, but I do. Part of it is just having so much I want to read, and not wanting to dedicate too much time to a book I'm worried about going in.

  19. Food prices have gotten expensive here too. I hope it's temporary. I'd like to enjoy some more steaks on my grill this summer.

    I don't think I've paid for than 4.99 for an e-book. If I'm going to spend money on a physical book, it's normally written by a big author.

  20. I don't cook much but I do mix bloody marys from time to time and the Worcestershire sauce is crucial. We usually have Lea & Perrins but I'm not too proud to try the off-brand.

  21. homecomingbook: Is your book self-published or through a publisher? If you self-published it, you can just go change the price. If you're through a publisher, your publisher has to do that.

    JeffO: It doesn't actually matter what kind of book we're talking about. With a new book, generally speaking, through a traditional publisher, the author doesn't earn any more on an e-book sale than through a physical book sale, and that's just wrong, especially considering how small a cut the author gets.
    And, right now, the way traditional publishers have responded is to jack up prices, especially on e-books, in an effort to cover the "losses" they are suffering. This, in turn, drives more people away. Until they actually come up with a new plan, traditional publishers will continue to decline.

    Alex H: I'll be honest: covers have almost no influence on whether I will buy a book. That has been the case with me since high school but even more so since I started writing. I'll appreciate the artist of a good cover, but the cover is completely unrelated to the book. It's kind of like deciding to eat at a restaurant because they have an attractive menu.
    Titles, on the other hand, do attract me. I will pick up a book and take a look at it because it has a cool title.

    Elsie: So far, I have not bought any traditionally published e-books. I don't foresee that changing any time soon.

    TAS: I did not know that Worcestershire went in Bloody Marys. Of course, I've also never had one.

  22. I used to be able to feed me and my husband on $150/month, back when we first got married. Now, that's about 2 weeks worth of groceries, and it's been less than a decade.

    I spend a LOT more time in the kitchen. I already spent more time in there than the average person, because my mom raised me to actually make a lot of my own food, but now I find myself hunting for more and more ways to make my own staples. Like condiments. Not just my own bread and baked goods.

    And because of that tight budget... I no longer browse bookstores, either used, 'big', or virtual. Partly, I have so many books on my shelf that are still unread, and also because it's disheartening to go to a bookstore and browse and find so many things I'd love to read, but knowing I won't even be able to buy one. Because there just isn't money for it.

    Probably the most I would ever be willing to pay for an ebook is $6.99, and that would only be if I knew of the author and had been impressed with their work previously. Otherwise, unless something comes highly recommended or I have a gift card to cover it, I usually only spend .99 - 2.99. Because budget.

  23. The off-brand is not always as good as the name brand; though sometimes it is better. The same with books; sometimes I find an indie-published e-book that is awesome, but I've read enough poor writing and editing in indie-pubbed to be wary of them. Just like off brands for other products.

  24. Rebekah: We spend, easily, $150/week. Of course, there are five of us. And we make a lot of our own stuff, too, like bread and salad dressing.

    I really ever go into an actual book store about once a year, at Christmas. Pretty much, I just stay out of them, because I will buy something that will just go onto a stack and stay there for... years.

    Donna: I do get that and agree with you. There is a lot of indie stuff out there that hasn't been given proper attention. That's why I think reviews are so important.