Today on the Consumerist, there is an article detailing that 30% of books sold for the Kindle are now more than $9.99.
As a Kindle owner, I must say, that chaps my hide. I remember clearly that part of the sales tactics (though not guaranteed as a contract between me as the buyer and the company as the supplier, which is an important point) was the repeated statement that hardbacks were $9.99.
The article is scathing, and I can well understand why people are pissed off. Chris Walters mentions that publishers are the ones setting their own price points on ebooks, and many are attempting to do so between the price of the paperback and the price of the hardback.
Bullshit, I say. Bull. Shit.
As Jane pointed out in her most excellent article about epublishing, many users, myself included, would be in favor of paying more for ebook files that came with exclusive content and additional features. If an ebook is going to priced between paperback and hardback, yes, it should come with special double good bonus features, and a batch of chocolate fudge brownies besides.
But my question is this: what is the actual savings of ebook publication? More specifically, what’s the actual cost vs. paper? The Consumerist article lists the standard set of elements that are eliminated by ebook transmission, and Oprah herself advocated the sale of the Kindle based on lifetime usage savings because ebooks were, at the time, consistently less expensive.
While I certainly see the argument for savings in terms of gas, paper, transit, and storage and indirect costs of the bookseller/publisher industry, I also know that publishing, like every other industry in this economy except for those who manufacture piggy banks, is hurting and hurting bad.
Layoffs are everywhere, and folks fear for their jobs. So when Amazon and publishing houses are criticized because of the creeping cost of Kindle books way, way past the $9.99 range, I have to ask: has anyone quantified the actual savings of creating an ebook vs. creating a paper book?
The same individuals still work on the product: the writer, the editor, the editorial assistant, the copy editor, the production department folks, the art department. Is there a substantial savings over creating an ebook? Or is it similar in end cost before you enter in paper production costs simply because salaries and benefits are expensive, more expensive than gas, paper, and glue combined? Should paperback and ebook be similarly priced for that reason?
Without so much as a spreadsheet before me, I’m of the opinion that the price of books should be recalculated so that the cost of adequately compensating the individuals responsible for literary content production is the base cost, and then the addition costs of three-dimensional production should determine the cost of hardback, paperback or ebook. I’m guessing, with my vast years of experience in the book production industry (snrk), that the ebook copy would remain the lowest in price—but I could be wrong. Feel free to correct me on that one.
So I ask you: How much should an ebook version of a hardcover be in your opinion as a consumer? And if you’re in publishing or in the industry in one form or another, what’s your price point?
[Thanks to BEC for the link.]