Ebooks: Separate And Equal

There’s a lot of talk online about what the hard stop price is for ebooks, with people like yours truly saying that my limit is about $10 for any book purchase unless it’s a much-coveted title. Meanwhile, Macmillan has said in the past that the price point for an ebook could and should be nearer to the hardback price, but certainly should be more than paperback.

To which I say, “What?!” Clearly, their sense of value and my sense of value are very, very far apart indeed.

I was passing by a billboard in Weehawken (one of the two jewels of Jersey’s crown) the other day advertising Continental Airlines’ meals at mealtime program. Would I pay more for airfare if I knew that the flight that cost more would include a meal? Not likely.

But would I pay more for a flight if it meant that I could accrue something of value to me, like frequent flyer miles? Yes. Absolutely. I would and I have – but the amount extra I am willing to pay varies depending on the miles I’d earn.

I will pay extra for the ability to fly with a particular airline that has a unique connection to my vacation budget, and I know I can’t get Continental miles flying JetBlue.

So how does my concept of value apply to ebooks?

I will pay more than paperback prices for an ebook if I know that I am getting exclusive content not available in print, or if I were to be rewarded with membership points or rebate dollars for paying the extra dollars. The reason I’m ranting about this now, when it’s obviously been discussed before, is that, since Angela James twittered the variations in price for the eBook of JD Robb’s new book ranged from $10 on the Kindle to $20 on FictionWise, all the way up to $24.93 at Powell’s online.

Digital book devotees should be treated like frequent flyer customers, and FictionWise, with that alluring, sexy, and oh-so-confounding MicroPay rebate system, knows it. But publishers and booksellers don’t seem to get that the only creature as loyal as a romance reader is a digital book reader. If publishers and sellers are going to insist on pricing ebooks between paperback and hardback, or if the prices for digital content will continue to shift and slide so widely, at the very least reward me and my dollar for our stubborn devotion. If a publisher knows that I purchase ebooks, I should be able to subscribe to their digital book program to earn points towards future purchases.

If folks are going to dick around with the pricing until everyone gets on board and sets their price point, at least reward me in the meantime. I’m willing to work for it. You want answers about how consumers use and approach ebooks? Ask me. (And let me earn credit towards future purchases!)

Let me answer the first question: will I pay more for the ease and privilege of reading an ebook that is no different from the paper? Depends on how badly I want the title, but the idea that I should have to pay what Jane calls the “ebook tax” is asinine. The option of having the book title on any ebook reader, which I much enjoy and find tremendously easy on my eyes, should not necessitate an additional fee. If the paper book is cheaper, what’s stopping me from cutting up a paper book, feeding it into a scanner, making a PDF of it for my own personal and exclusive use, and then recycling the pieces? Time and fury, basically.

I’m not the first to ask about the reader/consumer experience in the new publishing dynamic. Hugh McGuire at HuffPo also noticed the same thing I did at the O’Reilly ToC – the reader/consumer was scarcely mentioned, and that absence is evident in a variety of areas in publishing and its marketplace.

What really tees me off is the attitude that ebook readers are in some way stealing revenue from publishers. The recent New York Times review of the Kindle written by David Pogue acknowledges the mistaken idea that ebooks somehow threaten paper sales as it lauds the device as a much-improved ebook reader:

So, for the thousandth time: is this the end of the printed book?

Don’t be silly….

The point everyone is missing is that in Technoland, nothing ever replaces anything. E-book readers won’t replace books. The iPhone won’t replace e-book readers. Everything just splinters. They will all thrive, serving their respective audiences.

It seems ludicrously short-sighted to the point where I’m speechless (ok, not really) that ebooks should detract from paper sales, or vice versa. Pogue, for all the topics upon which we disagree, has a point. Splintering, not stealing, is the foundation here. Ebooks may be only 2 or 3% of a given publisher’s income, but it’s also likely the only revenue stream that’s growing exponentially. Maybe fostering that growth is a better idea if one looks at the issue from the perspective that ebooks are a new form of publishing, not a stealing, replacement form that wants to eradicate paper, and one way to foster growth is to stop penalizing ebook buyers for wanting a particular format, or wanting an ebook at all.

This is what I mean by relative value: for now, I might be inclined to pay more to read an ebook, but not for much longer. Publishers, please examine ebook readers as readers and consumers without comparing us to paper book consumers. Please. And please stop sliding the price up and down like the Dow on crack. Or the Dow not on crack. While I’m aware that the cost is about the same for mass market paperback production as it is for ebook productions, I can see through the idea that an ebook should cost the same as a hardback. It so should not. Get over it. But if the price is going to slide around like wet shoes on linoleum, fine. Reward me while you figure that out.

Because while the price remains a wild and frisky variable, you risk alienating me, and anyone who wants to try ebooks but remains hesitant to do so.


Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. Nic says:

    Why on earth should an ebook cost even as much as a paperback?  They save on material, shipping, employees that deal with the physical publishing process, machine maitenance, and storage by going ebook rather than paperback.  And the reader has to buy the device.  Ebooks should be less than paperbacks.

  2. Janneke says:

    As an academic librarian I pay 150% for an ebook (compared to the hardback..) I find that ridiculous (especially since most of my faculty members dont own e-books readers, and reading from a computer screen is ehm.. terrible and prints have to be printed out 1 by 1 (instead of.. lets say a chapter in one go..)

    Thanks for the ammunition 😉

  3. Amy Crook says:

    I have to say, this weird variable pricing thing is definitely keeping me from becoming an ebook customer—I get that for a lot of things you pay for the device, and then for the content (movies, music, etc), but books come pre-packaged as their own little devices, so I’m really not seeing why I would ever want to pay $3-400 for a device, only to pay MORE for the content than I would if I just bought the physical book.

    Yeah, I wouldn’t have as much of a shelving problem, but honestly that’s just not good enough for me—and as a lifelong reader who puts books above almost every other luxury item on my list, AND a total tech-toy geek, it’d be nice if I felt like the publishers cared about what I wanted.

  4. Peaches says:

    For me, it’s all about the math.  If I am expected to spend 200-500 or whatever dollars for an ebook reader, I want to know that this thing is going to eventually pay for itself.  The way it does this is by making the books I want to read A) available, and B) at a less than print price. 

    If the ebook costs more than the paperback, then not only am I spending several hundred dollars for the reader, but a couple dollars extra with each purchase—why would I do that to myself?  Where is the return on my investment?

    Ebooks are still cost effective for someone like my dad, whose eyesight is going.  He buys hardbacks because the type is bigger, but with an ebook reader he could adjust the font and not have to pay as much.  Still, I think the kindle et al should be giving the rest of us who can read normal typeface a better reason to use it. 

    Ebook readers may have a lot to offer, but I’ve survived this long without them.  If publishers think I’ll be willing to pay more because I won’t want to not buy their ebooks, then they’re wrong.  Borders will order nearly any book I want, send it do their store at no extra cost to me, and sure it takes a few weeks and isn’t instant like a download, but cumulatively it’s saving me a lot of money and that’s worth my patience.

    For me, it would take some VERY TEMPTING extra content, like alternate endings the author scrapped or extra scenes or whatnot to make me pay more for the ebook—and I’d only bother if I was familiar with the author and knew I’d be satisfied with the extra content, because the price difference is too much to take a chance on a new name.

    Its like the whole Blu-Ray thing.  I’d have to buy a new player and new discs, but why?  Because it’s in slightly higher definition than dvds?  I’m just fine with regular def, thanks.  I was fine with VHS too, which is why my dvds are not getting replaced until I can’t hold it off any longer. 

    industry36 – dear industry, I’m not paying 36 dollars for an ebook, no love.

  5. El says:

    I’m broke right at the moment, but I keep wondering what I’d do about ebooks if I weren’t. I have a ton of books on my old iPaq, and the ebook readers are a far better way to read them, so I’d definitely get one—and it would have to be one that I could put lots of other reading on as well (say, interesting articles captured from the web).

    For new books—DRM-free, please. As for cost—if the price is close to hardcover, I’m getting the hardcover. Or getting it from the library and waiting for the paperback.

    Maybe five or ten years from now I won’t feel like the ebook isn’t really quite a real book, but I’m a tactile enough person that it feels like a compromise—the books on my iPaq that I care most about, I also bought the paper versions. 

    So for me, if there’s no significant financial incentive and if there are barriers in the way, why bother?

    If I actually had one I might feel completely different—but extrapolating from my iPaq experience, I don’t see myself making ebooks my first choice. But who knows….

  6. Cat Marsters says:

    I can’t see any justification for higher pricing of ebooks, either.  Most dedicated ebook publishers have lower prices compared to print books of similar lengths.  AND they pay a much higher royalty than print books—I get four or five times the royalty % on ebooks as I do on paperbacks.  Why?  Because ebooks don’t require printing, warehousing, shipping or distributing, things that all eat massively into your profit margin.  They cost less to make, plain and simple.

    I have heard of large traditional houses offering authors—who often don’t know much about ebooks—the same, lower, royalty rate as they get for print.  And then they price the ebooks higher too?

    I know these guys have to make money.  But that’s just greedy, not to mention shortsighted: as so many have pointed out, once you’ve shelled out for a reader, you don’t want to pay a lot for ebooks too.  All they’re doing is putting people off ebooks.

    Or is that the cackhanded idea?

  7. Dieta says:

    I see it like this: when buying paperback version you pay for the author’s fee AND the whole printing process. When buying an ebook you just pay author’s fee. How are they going to justify charging more for the latter?

  8. ML says:

    In the time it took from ordering the new Kindle to the actual receipt there has been a noticable increase in prices. I haven’t unpacked it yet – it may be going back. I have waaay too many titles to put up with that nonsense.

  9. aq says:

    While I’m aware that the cost is about the same for mass market paperback production as it is for ebook productions,

    I’d like to see some hard numbers from the major publishers to support this statement please.

  10. Tara says:

    There are many reasons that I’m not going to be buying an e-reader anytime soon, although I have some serious lust going for the Kindle, and a lot of them are to do with book pricing.

    I can’t see paying the prices they’re asking. I just can’t believe that formatting one e-book and then sending out unlimited copies of it costs the publisher more than printing a whole new paperback for each customer.  It seems like price gouging to me. If a gas station pays X amount for their gas, they should charge me X + (a reasonable profit). If they charge more, just because they can, it’s considered price gouging and they get slapped down. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think that the publisher’s costs are higher for e-books than they are for paper, so what exactly are they passing on to the consumer other than the chance for them to reap massively high profits?

    Also, durability is an issue for me. I have cheap paperbacks that I paid $3 for 30 years ago. Guess what? They still work! Buying e-books, at this point, is, to me, like buying cheap electronics from the dollar store. Sure, they probably won’t work more than 6 months, a year if I’m lucky, but they’re cheap and I can probably get my money’s worth out of them before they die. So why would I pay more for the stuff that might die in 6 months than I would for the top of the line stuff? I wouldn’t. Maybe when the e-publishers can agree on, at least, a format and a price, I’ll go ahead and dive in. Until then, no way. In the 30 years that that $3 paperback has been working for me, I’ve bought 5 versions of the White Album. Please, publishing, don’t go down the same road that music did.

  11. ev says:

    I love my ereader, but I also still buy a lot of paperback books. I like being able to buy new HC releases for my ereader when they are at a reasonable price.

    The new JD Robb was 11.99 at Sony, and since that is around what a Trade papberback goes for, I didn’t find it unreasonable. I am going on a long road trip and don’t want to carry a ton of books with me, physically, so downloading it to my Sony was a good deal for me. It also won’t stop me from buying it in paperback when it is released.

    For me, the ereader is a convience that simplifies my busy life. I am always on the move doing something, for someone, somewhee. I spend a lot of time in my car or on a train (and recently, planes) and being able to grab it and go works. I don’t spend time hovering over my TBR pile trying to find something when I am in a hurry.

    I like the idea of getting rewards of some kind. I have looked at Fictionwise, but haven’t jumped in the pool yet. Guess I am still trying to understand what it is they do. So far Sony has met my needs with new releases and bundles at what I consider a decent price and Baen has done so with their free library.

    And that goes back to what someone is willing to pay. Financially, I may be better off than someone else, so my price point may be higher. Publisher’s would be best served trying to find a way to reward the ereader and not punish them with higher prices because they are afraid that paper will go the way of the dinosaur. It won’t. I am sure somewhere in history, they thought that would happen when books started being produced in MM editons- that HC were done for. Maybe they don’t sell as many now, but they are still out there and being sold.

    Apple has it figured out with itunes- .99 for a song and an average of 9.99 for an album for the most part. Not that you could buy a book by the chapter, but they have the right idea. Book publishers need to take note and find something that works, across the board, for everyone who has any version of an ebook.

  12. JoanneL says:

    I’m becoming more and more disenchanted with my ereader. The higher pricing of the ebooks is a huge factor in that——and adding in the gorilla of DRM makes it just too much work to be a consumer of the products.

    I’ll see your outrage and raise you ten: Tradesize publications.  $14 for the same author and same content? Please just give me a regular paperback and I’ll pay the $8 with room in my budget to buy a second author’s work.

  13. ev says:

    A big part of my problem with Fictionwise is their Micropay system.

    Sony has the new Kim Harrison at 11.99. No other gimick.

    Fictionwise has it for 25.99/non-club memebers
                          22.09/club members
                          18.19/regular after rebate
                            15.46/club member after rebate.
    Why so many different prices?? And it’s still not cheaper than Sony. I subscribe to the KISS program. Please keep it simple. Find a way to do it and make it cheaper and I will buy lots of books. There are a ton out there that I want and can’t always find. I love instant gratification.

  14. Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    As of now I have zero interest in any kind of e-reader (even staring at a computer screen for any length of time makes my eyes go wonky, and there’s just something about paper and ink that can’t be duplicated) and these high prices would certainly turn me off even if the concept didn’t.

    Who knows what the future of publishing will bring?  Eventually, ALL books could go this route (see Star Trek TNG) or it could be a fad that fizzles out in a few years.  At any rate, I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon yet, not when I can get a whole stack of used paperbacks for a couple of bucks.  As for the prices, I suppose they will ultimately be dictated by what people are willing to pay.

  15. ev says:

    Hm. I can get the Dresden Files at a much better price on Fictionwise than I can on Sony, although books 3 and 10 on fictionwise are still at a “hardcover” price on both sites. And Grave Peril, a book of short stories with both Harrison and Butcher at a stupidly high price- still. I think I own it in paperback.

    That is the big thing- you have to shop around. Thankfully I have lots of dead time at work where I can comparison shop.

    How about a website that let’s you compare the books and sites and their prices/rewards??? Now that would be nice.

  16. Kris Eton says:

    It’s sad to see the larger publishers squandering what could be a big revenue stream for them in a downturned economy. I agree with all the complaints here about having to buy an ereader and then pay more for books. That is why I am seriously hoping many of the epublishers continue to climb and bring more readers to their sites.

    Yes, I know, most of them do just romance…and erotic romance at that. A very niche market. But I have hopes for epublishers, like Samhain, who want to eventually offer many ‘lines’ of books. And right now they are sort of doing that by offering urban fantasy and other books without erotic romance.

    Epublishers have prices that make sense. Spending $5.50 for a full-length book at Samhain seems extremely reasonable to me. When these small epublishers start grabbing more of the ereading market and their sales grow even larger, I’m hoping they can influence pricing someday.

    Maybe it’s a pipedream, but at least epublishers understand how to price their books competitively.

  17. Leeann Burke says:

    I agree with you Cat, I don’t understand or see the justification of a higher price for an ebook. Small Publishers were the ones behind this technology from the beginning and have grown ebooks into the industry it is today. Now that it is growing and showing a profitable business, the big boys want in on it, and on their terms.

    Personally if the book is more than $6.00 I think about it long and hard. It has to be a darn good book for me to be willing to purchase an ebook over that price and its only happened once that I purchased the book. If an ebook is sold at the same price as the mass paperback, I don’t buy the ebook.

  18. ev says:

    And could someone explain to me why fictionwise has part of a series in all the formats (I need the multi-format one) but some of them in secure format only? Why?

    And relooking at the Dresden Files, they are only available in Secure format.

    I think that is what is the most frustrating part about this. Yes, I know you can convert them with Calibre, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. I may buy one of the cheap books and give it a shot, to see if I can do it easily and without a lot of frustration. But again, I am doing this alone, although I know on the web there are people I can turn to to ask for help, I tend to be a hands on, someone stand over my shoulder and walk me through it, type of person. I learn best that way.

  19. Kathleen O'Reilly says:

    I have a limit on price as well, and I buy according to price, with a couple of exceptions.  After I read this, I did a sampling of my Kindle purchases to see what I was paying vs. the Amazon paper price.  In the below cases, I used the lowest Amazon price edition (i.e. didn’t go to used, or other sellers, only the lowest price that Amazon sells it new).

    All of the below have lower Kindle editions than paper.
    Tempt the Devil 5.59 for Kindle vs. 6.99 for mmpb
    Anything for You 3.40 for Kindle vs. 4.99 for mmpb
    Damp Squid, 9.99 for Kindle vs. 13.57 for hardback
    What A Scoundrel Wants, 3.19 for Kindle vs. 3.99 for mmpb
    Nineteen Minutes 6.27 (now 7.99) for Kindle vs. 10.88 for trade (I think it’s trade, could be mmpb)
    Something Borrowed 9.99 for Kindle vs. 11.15 for trade
    Friday Night Knitting Club, 9.99 for Kindle vs. 10.78 for trade
    Bet Met 7.99 for Kindle vs 7.99 for mmpb
    Just One of the Guys, 3.60 for Kindle vs. 4.99 for mmpb

    If Amazon (or the publishers, not sure who wears the black hat in this one) changes this price differential to where the Kindle edition is statistically more likely to cost more than the paper edition, I will be furious, because the above pricing is the reason that I feel comfortable with my Kindle.

    However, there is a group of books that I noticed do have the e-charge:
    The JD Robb In Depth Book, 6.39 for Kindle vs. 5.66 for mmpb.
    However, for Nora, the plenteous writer that she is, I will pay the extra $.73 per title so that my bookshelves do not fall under the weight of the series.

    My $.02, no e-charge added.

  20. the books on my iPaq that I care most about, I also bought the paper versions.

    El has a point here I think the big players are missing – one sale doesn’t necessarily scrap the other. Sometimes you can make more! (That is if you don’t manage to completely piss off your customer base in the meantime.)

    Frankly, I don’t see any reason why an e-book should cost more than a paperback. I get that there are production costs involved, but realistically, the editing, proofing, art, yadda, yadda, yadda, have got to be no more for the paperback than the ebook. As for the production, can you really tell me printing all those books that you have to pay to ship to the customer, then pay to ship back when they remainder them, is costing you less than the hours putting the book into an electronic format? I don’t think so.

    Seriously, if they want to survive, especially in this economic crunch, thinking about what the customer wants and how best to serve that is going to be far more profitable that jiggling the e-book price points in their pocket.

  21. Angela James says:

    And could someone explain to me why fictionwise has part of a series in all the formats (I need the multi-format one) but some of them in secure format only? Why?

    And relooking at the Dresden Files, they are only available in Secure format.

    It depends on whether Fictionwise has a direct contract with the publisher or whether they get the publisher’s books from a “clearinghouse” of sorts, like Lightning Source. If they contract direct with the publisher, then Fictionwise contracts to format to a variety of formats and offers those for sale, including the unsecure formats. If they get the publishers’ books from an online source, then they can only carry those secure formats that the clearninghouse offers.

    On a small sidenote, you’ll find that though a small publisher might offer their books DRM free, Lightning Source will add the DRM to their titles before turning it back around to retailers like Fictionwise. So you can buy DRM-free direct from the publisher, but not at the online retailers.

  22. Bonnie says:

    If Amazon (or the publishers, not sure who wears the black hat in this one) changes this price differential to where the Kindle edition is statistically more likely to cost more than the paper edition, I will be furious, because the above pricing is the reason that I feel comfortable with my Kindle.

    I hear that, Kathleen.  I’ll be spitting mad. 

    I was considering buying the new Kindle, but this whole business is just too unstable right now.

  23. Kelly C. says:

    I just don’t get it.  Everytime I hear/read about eBooks, the more and more I am less inclined to EVER buy them.  Seriously.  IF, not when, the day comes that I pay more for an eBook than a paperback book (I can’t/don’t/won’t buy hardbacks) someone had better shoot me. 

    snorts,  spam blocker :  higher91     ‘nuff said

  24. JewelTones says:

    What gets me is… the publishing industry keeps insisting that the high price of traditional print books is the rising cost of paper, ink and printing.  Ebooks have none of that (with the exception of software, obviously) so why would the cost of producing an ebook come anywhere near the cost of print a book?  That makes zero sense.

    To me it comes down to the publishers not wanting to see a decrease in profits based on the cheapness of the technology vs. what they were/are right now by being in paper.


  25. Ocy says:

    What I don’t get is why the publishing industry is so determined to continue making their money from print books and only print books.  Whether I’m buying the e-book or the paperback, the publisher is still getting paid.  So all this wangsting about e-book sales taking away from paperback just confuses me.

    In my never humble opinion, e-books should become available as soon as the print version is, and should cost less, not more.  For books coming out in hardcover, you can charge me the price of an average mass market paperback and I won’t whine.  What I’m paying for is the opportunity to read it immediately rather than wait a year for the paperback format.  For books coming out in mass market (or when the book is being republished from hardcover to mass market), the price should hover around the 5$ mark.  I understand everyone still has to get paid, and I’m not asking for free handouts here.  But 5$ seems a fair price for a book I don’t get a physical copy of, something you don’t have to print, ship, and store for me.

    Added bonus?  5$ fits into “impulse purchase” pricing, which means I’m more likely to buy books I hadn’t intended on buying in the first place.  See how that works?  You actually stand to make more money by lowering your prices to reasonable numbers.

  26. dangrgirl says:

    I like the idea of a rewards program and that might sway me into paying a little bit more for an ebook. Overall, though, I’m not paying more for an ebook than I would for a paperback. End of story.

    With a paperback I have to invest in nothing. With an ebook, I have to invest in an expensive reader and then pay beaucoup bucks for books to read on it. There’s just no real incentive. While it would be nice to have a bunch of books at my fingertips in my purse, I’m not forking out that kind of money for it.

    EBooks cost less than a paper book for the publisher to produce, therefore they’re trying to swindle me by charging exorbitant amounts for that product.

  27. dangrgirl says:

    To me it comes down to the publishers not wanting to see a decrease in profits based on the cheapness of the technology vs. what they were/are right now by being in paper.

    What happened with music in iTunes’ .99 songs should be the model. If it’s cheap, people are less likely to copy a thing. Also, if it’s cheap, people are more likely to buy on a whim, just to try it. I think the same would hold true for books. The publishers would make less money off each individual sale, but total sales would rise and the bottom line profit would not decrease. In fact, if they deceased paper sales, that would cut their overhead.

  28. AQ says:

    Just an aside about MMP pricing: Amazon doesn’t as rule discount the list price anymore but they do offer buy 4 for 3 pricing on quite a few titles. It does vary from day-to-day, however. I only mention this because when we start doing direct pricing model comparisons there should be some consideration for the way people use Amazon. I always go for free shipping so the likelihood of me purchasing one paper book at a time is pretty low.

    In Kathleen O’Reilly’s list above Tempt the Devil, What a Scoundrel Wants, Bet Me (now 4.99 instead 7.99), Just One of the Guys were books listed in the 4-for-3 promo.

    Sarah Mayberry’s Anything by You (I’m hoping this is the book you meant, Kathleen) isn’t available new via Amazon except for the Kindle. So there’s a big plus on the Kindle side.

    But based on Kathleen’s example the pricing total (I used 4.99 for Bet and the new price for Any for You even though it isn’t available for new right now):

    Kindle: $63.4
    Paper: $74 (includes a 3.99 4-3 discount)

    For a savings of $10.60

    If we say that this purchase is a typical purchase and that these types of pricing discounts would remain stable for the next 18 months, you’d need to make another 34 purchases like the one above before the Kindle paid for itself. That number doesn’t take into account any additional benefits like free stories, physical space savings or body strain from carrying a load of books around. Those things alone might make the Kindle price tags a steal.

    Epublishers have prices that make sense. Spending $5.50 for a full-length book at Samhain seems extremely reasonable to me.

    The e-publishing word-count model for novel length stories used to be shorter than the NY counterparts. So if we’re talking about pricing model comparisons then you would need to add word count into the variable pool as well as determining a standard for word count. One publisher may be using something like an MSword count feature, another might be using printed characters (depending on font) per page. Or maybe they all are using the same standards for word count but different length labeling. Those variables would need to be made consistent before you could do an actual price comparison.

    Of course, you’d also have to look at the pricing model for NY as well since some debut authors’ mmp sell for 3.99 while author’s with a bigger audience might originally sell for 7.99 before getting discounted and the length might be the same.

  29. dangrgirl says:

    That number doesn’t take into account any additional benefits like
    free stories, physical space savings or body strain from carrying a load of books around. Those things alone might make the Kindle price tags a steal.

    Free stories and saving physical space does offset the cost of the device, but I don’t lug 30 books around with me. I have at least that sitting on my TBR shelf, but I really can only read one at a time, even if I wish it weren’t so.

    I’m waiting for the DRM stuff to sort itself out and then I’ll upgrade to an iPhone so I can have my phone, my ereader, and everything else in one device in my purse. Since we’re talking about lugging around stuff, who wants to lug around a calendar, an ereader, a phone, and your ipod if they could be all in one?

    The techie geek in my wants a Kindle, but the pragmatic side of me doesn’t want to spend the money.

  30. Alisha Rai says:

    Daily Show actually had the CEO of amazon on the other night pimping the Kindle II. When the CEO mentioned that hardcovers were “only” $9.99, Jon responded, “Wait, you have to buy the books too?”

    I think that’s the attitude of a lot of people out there, which is a shame, since there’s some great authors who are ONLY epubbed now. Personally, to invest in a $400 reader and then books which are only slightly less expensive than print is not financially possible. Right now, I purchase e-books and read them the old school way on my Palm or laptop. It’s not the most satisfying, but at least I can get my fix of my favorite authors. If that same book was offered in print, I’d prolly buy it in print.

  31. dangrgirl says:

    When the CEO mentioned that hardcovers were “only” $9.99

    I must have missed something. Since when have hardcovers ever been 10 bucks? Some MMPB are almost that much and there’s no distinction in an electronic format.

  32. Debra Hyde says:

    I suspect the Big House publishers turned to vendors to supply e-book DRM and packaging—overhead that adds to the cost of an e-book.  And those vendors have a vested interest in keeping e-books DRMed.

    I suspect Big House publishers see e-books as “premium content.”  I suspect they’d love to do away with the mmpb all together and make the trade paperback the low-end product.  One quick parallel path to that end is to price e-books as trade paperback equivalents right out the gate.

    I suspect that because Big House publishers are owned by even larger corporate conglomerates, they’re under constant pressure to keep the profit yields as high as possible.  Maybe there’s a constant “justify your existence” in these corporations.  Because if you can’t make as much money as your music/t.v./newspaper/magazine counterpart also under the same corporate umbrella, what good are you?

    I’m not applying any right or wrong to my suspicions, just trying to piece out what might be behind some of publishing’s actions.  It sure isn’t the same business as it was 30 years ago before all the consolidation under mega-corp ownership, but now that it is, mega-corp can’t help but influence publishing’s pricing policies.

    On a personal note, I don’t mind paying trade paperback price for a e-book that’s in hardcover and has yet to go to paperback.  But once it’s in paperback, that’s a different story.  It better be priced the same as its paperback edition, whatever its format.

    I also find myself buying more e-books from independent e-book publishers.  That’s where the affordability is.

  33. I get four or five times the royalty % on ebooks as I do on paperbacks.  Why?  Because ebooks don’t require printing, warehousing, shipping or distributing, things that all eat massively into your profit margin.

    I’ll agree with three out of four of those, but there are indeed distribution costs associated with ebooks.  I have two short ebooks available from Uncial Press, which are available both directly from my publisher and from a large number of ebook retailers including Amazon, Powell’s, Fictionwise, etc.

    Now here’s the wrinkle.  My two titles, being as short as they are, are priced at $2.99 each.  For sales direct from the publisher, I get 42% of that (about $1.25); this is no big secret, as Uncial displays its basic contract right there on the Web site.  But for sales at a third party site, the retailer typically gets a discount (just as print booksellers do), and my royalty is half of the discounted, or “wholesale” price. 

    Example: if a retailer is asking a 40% discount (hypothetical; I’m using a figure I know to be common in the print world), I get about 90 cents on a sale through that retailer, rather than $1.25.  And Uncial gets that same 90 cents, instead of the $1.74 in income it receives on a sale through its own site.  The retailer, if he’s selling the book for its $2.99 list price, gets about $1.19—and whereas print booksellers have a fair number of expenses associated with the expense of warehousing, displaying, and shipping physical books, an ebook retailer’s comparable expense is almost entirely that for data storage.  [We’ll stipulate that both print and ebook sellers need employees and have expenses associated with cash handling.]

    If anyone is making out like a bandit in this equation, it isn’t the epublisher and it isn’t the author; it’s the third-party ebook vendor.  Distribution certainly is a cost in the ebook marketplace.

  34. Molly says:

    It may be cynical but most of these business models seem to be based on how much money they want to make rather than on any concept of value.  I also wonder if the publishing industry isn’t looking at the fight between SAG and the movie industry for royalties on DVDs as a model. No one knew how the digital world was going to explode and the corporations do not want to share all that lolly.

  35. Chicklet says:

    There is no way ebooks should cost more than paperbacks, let alone hardcovers, because I can’t resell an ebook, I can’t loan it to a friend, I can’t donate it to the library or its Friends association. Hell, I can’t even turn it into art.

    Actually, now that I think about it, ebooks eliminate the secondary book market entirely. You’d think for that reason alone publishers would be doing everything they could—low pricing, bonus content, etc.—to grow the ebook market to a majority share of their overall sales. Instead, they’re hampering the market with uneven distribution and fucked-up pricing. You’d think those corporations that own the publishers would have at least one MBA on staff to steer them away from pissing off the only market segment that’s growing exponentially.

  36. erianna says:

    The newer epubs are bringing the prices down even further, and upping the quality.  Ravenous prices all its full-length ebooks at $4.99, and has much more attractive covers and a better-designed/easier-to-navigate website than most of the competition.  Just like in the electronics/technology world, as time goes on, you get better and better quality for lower and lower prices.

    So given that, I don’t at all understand why the Big Houses want to make ebooks hard to use, hard to find, and more expensive than paperbacks.

    Oh wait, yes I DO understand.  It’s because the Big Houses don’t want people to buy ebooks.  And also because the bookstore chains are pressuring the Big Houses not to support ebooks.  They have both seen what happened to the music industry and are scared to death.

  37. MichelleR says:

    I’m a couple days into owning a Kindle, and I’m never going back to print books if I can help it. It’s a personal decision whether or not it will work for the individual, but I love it.

    I’ve found some great bargains, and also some prices that have been deal-breakers—those go under my Wish List so I can watch. $9.99 is the limit before I have to give it some thought, but there have even been a couple cases—in the case of older books—where I’ve thought that was too much.

    There are tons of freebies to be had though. If you search and put -domain in the search field you’ll see the more modern/recent options. Even the most voracious reader can be kept in books for cheap, but certainly will not be able to always buy the latest book recommended by their favorite blogger(s)

    9.99 for book that is selling in the $25.00 – $30.00 range in print is a bargain. If it’s a really desirable book, even more than that is a steal. However, once a book is available in paperback, $9.99 is still a steal, but now the tables have turned. 🙂

    Personally, I think the fair price is somewhere in between what the pubs are asking and what the average buyer thinks is fair.


  38. DeeCee says:

    Like everyone else has said, it all comes down to how much $ I have to shell out for the latest gadget.

    I can’t afford the $350 for the kindle or the $300 for the Sony Reader. That’s just too huge. And this is compounded by the fact that I work in a used bookstore where I can pick up brand new paperbacks for $2 plus tax. That kicks the crap out of paying $10 for an ebook that you get stuck with and it sucks. You buy a crappy paperback or hc and you can turn it into a UBS for credit, but you do have to find storage for the keepers or TBR pile.

    As tempting as going digital is, in the hard economic times when everyone is worried about losing their jobs or retirement fund, its very difficult to justify spending so much on such a relatively new gadget (since the major companies are just catching wind that people like to spend money on books! shocker). And, okay, lets say that I go out and do buy an ereader, who’s to say that the brand purchased will be able to provide the content for the prices I like? Sony has a store, but it’s not loaded with every book, and neither is Amazon’s kindle store (but pretty darn close).

    Most of the prices offered there are still higher than print, and if I have to go to Fictionwise (which OMG I’m so confused about MicroPay-seriously) or another like it and they don’t have my gadget supported format, I have a whole nightmare of learning how to 1. strip DRM (headache starting) 2. convert files to the supported format or 3. lose everything in a massive info dump that could potentially wipe out the books I did buy. Its digital and while that sounds so good for on the go and saving space, its still information that could easily be wiped out by a strong magnet, water, or a system meltdown.

    Its like when Apple first brought out Itunes and the Ipod. It scared the crap out of people because it was new and pricey. Now (what seven years later?) the price is affordable ($150 for an 8GB Ipod nano) and songs are still the 99 cents plus tv shows, movies, rental options, and exclusive content for a comparable price to the original cd or tv show. And now, partly in thanks to Apple’s success, we have many options for formats of music from companies like Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Coby, Sandisk, and Memorex.

  39. Alisha Rai says:

    I must have missed something. Since when have hardcovers ever been 10 bucks? Some MMPB are almost that much and there’s no distinction in an electronic format.

    Amazon promotes that Kindle “hardcovers” (I agree, there’s no distinction except you get them sooner) are $9.99. That won’t last. I think it’s just a temporary ploy to get people who normally rush out and buy hardcovers to buy the Kindle instead. I don’t buy hardcovers, so to me, it’s still pricey since there is no difference in the ebook version of a HC or PB.

  40. DeeCee says:

    Right on Chicklet! For all the stuff that is being said re: used book stores and the stealing of potential profits from the publishers and royalties from the authors, it would be common sense that everyone would get together and push for an alternative. Publishers and ebook reader companies are doing what the bankers have been doing for the last 20 years, using the word “potential” in place of the word guaranteed as a fear tactic and profit idea.

    In actuality, they have the potential to make a great book, market it, and sell it for a profit, and for ebooks, its pretty much guranteed.

    Let’s say an ebook is published by a well known NYT bestselling author for $6.99 ($1 less than a paperback) and it sells 300,000 copies exclusively on the publisher’s site. (this is just an estimate).
    Royalties (25%)-1.75
    Production costs (20%)-1.40
    So….$3.15 costs on a 6.99 book x300,000
    PROFIT=1.2 million

    Same book with distribution to other sites @5.99 and 300,000….
    Royalties (20%)-1.20
    Production costs (20%)-1.20
    Distribution costs (15%)-0.90

    Now if that same book was a paperback…(approx)
    Royalties (we’ll say 7%)-0.49
    Production costs (20%)-1.40
    Distribution (25%)-1.75
    Returns (we’ll say 5%)-0.35
    Marketing, promo materials, ARC’s (10%)-0.69

    Now, I’m absolutely not an expert on these numbers, just an approximation, but WTF? It’s far more lucrative for the publishers to get on the ebook bandwagon not only because of the profit, but because there is no possibility of a resale or a return. Granted there is a market for ebook bootlegs, but with affordable prices, I would imagine that would be cut down significantly.

    One thing I love about Amazon is their scale prices. The more popular an item is the cheaper it is. They can offer the amazing discounts that many other publishers won’t .

    Ex. I bought the new Fall Out Boy cd when it came out a few months ago on Amazon Mp3 for $3.99-the whole cd-and it automatically gets saved in my Itunes Library and can easily be transfered to my playlist (DRM free hallelujah!). Headache free and instruction free. But for ebooks, its much more of a hassle.

Comments are closed.

By posting a comment, you consent to have your personally identifiable information collected and used in accordance with our privacy policy.

↑ Back to Top