Thinking The Wrong Things About E-Book Pricing

I yammered about this on Twitter the other day, and it felt like the subject needed some more oxygen, and thus I’m staplegunning it to the blog post. *kachunk kachunk*

Feel free to comment. And agree. Or object. Or send me doodles of your pets as characters from various science-fiction and fantasy novels. Whatever makes your grapefruit squirt.

Okay.

E-books.

I’ve seen some pushback — generally very smart pushback — about why publisher e-books cost so much. The answer, in short, is that producing e-books costs more than you think. You’re paying for editors and cover design and, of course, for the book itself, and the mechanics of putting those things into a container are not the bulk of a book’s cost. Hence, e-books are always going to be close to their physical counterparts in cost. After all, you’re buying a story, and the container is largely incidental. The experience is slightly different from format to format, but over all my Kindle version of THE STAND is no different from the hardback version, except I can use the hardback to bludgeon a hippo to death should I so choose.

It’s a good point.

And probably true.

And it really doesn’t matter.

Here’s the thing: the “what should e-books cost?” question often takes into cost the actual cost of producing the e-book when, in reality, it needs to look at perceived value, instead.

Now, caution — I’m not an ecomonom… economonist… mathemeconom… whatever. I’m not great with money or numbers, so bear with me. (I’m also not great with elevators, escalators, tiny rodents, sporks, chopsticks, ferrets, or fingerless gloves. Just in case you’re making a list.)

An e-book is a digital good. Ephemeral and intangible. Sometimes we don’t even have access to the e-book itself in the form of a file — in the case of Amazon, we’re just “renting” the e-book the same way you rent Taco Bell food. You bought it. It’s inside your device. But if Amazon decides you don’t need it anymore, one snap of the wizard’s fingers and the e-books are poof, gone, siphoned from your reader like gas from a gas-tank. E-books have no supply — if I buy one, it doesn’t reduce how many remain, because theoretically infinite copies remain. No cost to reprint. No cost to remake. It just… sits out there, attempting to be the very embodiment of the Long Tail.

This is what the audience sees and believes.

It matters little what the e-book actually costs.

It only matters what the audience thinks they should cost.

Now, the audience won’t agree on an actual number (they’re cagey, those fuckers), but what they do seem to roughly agree on is, e-books should be cheaper than their print counterparts. What the e-book actually costs is irrelevant. What matters is the expected value loss by going with an ephemeral digital item — and, further, added into that is the expectation of, “I bought a device to read this, which cost me money already.”

Further cognitive dissonance is born of the fact that smaller producers (smaller publishers or individual authors) can produce a digital version of a book far more cheaply and easily than they can a hardcopy.

Publishers have themselves helped to confuse this issue by creating the expected release structure of books — from hardback to a trade paperback and then maybe to a mass market paperback. The e-book interrupts this chain because you can’t put out a book without an e-book counterpart, and so e-books don’t fit into that progression. The others are tiered and timed, but e-books don’t really fit into a tier or a timeframe.

To price e-books, there then exists a fight against some rational concerns and some very irrational behavior on the part of this active audience. But that’s normal — the freaknomics of the audience is always irrational. You can’t fight the flood; you can only try to swim in it. Certainly if enough big-ass epic motherfucker authors (think Stephen King-sized) made it a point to focus this meme or if Amazon enforced a higher price on e-books, the perception might shift. But neither’s likely to happen anytime soon.

One hopes and assumes that as publishers get better at making e-books, their costs will go down. Further, we must remember that e-books are in the “formative technology” phase right now. They’re VCRs and tape-decks. We won’t see CDs and DVDs for a little while down the line, and when we do, price will need to change (up or down, I can’t say). Also: infinite supply is a key component, here.

So. What to do, what to do? What’s the appropriate range of e-book prices you hope to see? Throw some thoughts into the ring, let ‘em fight it out all scrappy-like.

(Related reading: e-book data, viral catalysts, and spurring word-of-mouth.)

118 comments

  • The thing I think drives me the most nuts about the whole e-book pricing debate is that there’s this notion of a single correct price for ebooks. There are a handful of authors for whom I would (and do) pay close-to-hardcover prices to get their ebooks. There are authors for whom $2-6 seems about the right pircepoint, and there are books I score for free that make me grateful I didn’t pay for them. :-) This part of the equation is about perceived value, and I think you hit the nail on the head there.

    I also think that the “ebooks will poach hardcover sales” argument that drives some of this silliness is absolute parrot guano (and I have parrots, so I know of what I speak). Memo to the big six: If the latest book by my favorite author is more expensive in ebook than paper, I’ll probably still buy the ebook because I’m trying to trim the amount of dead tree I carry around. If a book is ONLY available in paper, I’ll find something else to read. Harsh, but them’s the breaks.

    I have trouble with the “books should cost more than $0.99 so authors can make a buck” idea, because the empirical evidence I’ve seen (including my own modest sales to date) suggests that the royalty lost by the lower selling price is often (but not always) made up for by increased sales volume. A thousand copies at $3 bucks nets me more in royalties than a hundred copies at $10.

    And the neat thing about the current ebook marketplace is that ebooks don’t all HAVE to be priced the same. Each author can experiment and find their own sweet spot. Each Big 6 publisher can experiment and then blithely ignore the data and keep pricing their ebooks at 110% of the trade paper price anyway. It’s all good.

  • It is certainly true that the bulk of the cost of a book is not in the printing. The secret truth is, it’s also not in the editorial, design, or marketing of the book. The biggest chunk of a book’s ridiculous cost is bloated publisher’s overhead. This certainly includes warehousing, oversized print runs, and all of the crap that comes with the stupid policy of returns. There’s also NYC real estate costs and other such things. These costs can be curbed without cutting into the creative services that traditional publishers can provide to authors.

    I love traditional publishing but, like the auto industry, they are going to have to get smarter and leaner and more flexible to survive. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the mini-major publishers who are flexible and doing great work are outside of NYC.

  • Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by receiving ebooks for a decade from a publisher which offers ebooks, when the book is released in hardback, for $6 (currently) in DRM-free formats. Publish an ebook in a DRM-crippled format, locked in a single ebook format or a single ereader vendor? For me, $9.99 is overpriced.

    Now, is that reasonable? Perhaps not, but my understanding is that a hardcopy distributor receives 50% of the suggested retail price from the bookseller, and the publisher receives 50% of that (25% of the SRP) from the distributor. Since the most recent ebook I purchased from the publisher for $6 has a $26 hardback SRP, I suspect that is about the correct markup from the publisher to the consumer. So if an ebookseller takes 30% of the retail price, I’d expect a DRM-free ebook to cost about 35% of the hardback SRP – or about the $9.99 that many DRM-crippled ebooks cost. I put a significant value on being able to read books when and where I want, and that I’ll be able to reread it in another decade when the ebook formats have changed (I can and do reread ebooks I originally purchased in Palm format), so perhaps that’s why, despite being an original Kindle owner, the number of ebooks I’ve actually purchased from Amazon is in the single digits. However, I would pay more for a DRM-free ebook than I would for a paperback copy, or for a discounted hardcover copy, because I am willing to pay a premuim for the convenience of having the electronic copy, if it is otherwise equivalent (in the areas I find important) to the hard copy.

  • Commenting as a reader here, not as a writer, because even though I do write, I am not yet published in book form, so I don’t really have a dog in that race. Yet.

    I’m definitely one of those who perceive e-books as having less value than printed books, and don’t want to pay as much for them as for “real” books. There are a variety of reasons for that:

    The DRM issue is certainly part of it – I frequently lend books to friends and borrow books from them, and I don’t like being told I’m not allowed to do that with something I just paid money for. Or, more so, that I don’t even own the thing I thought I just bought and that the publisher or retailer retains the right to arbitrarily yank it away from me if they want to. Or that I have to use one specific brand of device or app to read it and no other. All of these are highly frustrating limitations.

    Closely related, the fact that they can’t be resold or even given away if I decide I don’t want them (or resold/given by others to me). I love exploring used book stores, and the book sections of thrift shops, flea markets, etc. You never know what odd things you’re going to find. But there isn’t, and probably ever will be, any e-book equivalent to that, or to things like BookCrossing. They can’t make their way out into the world, pass through many different hands, acquire a history. They’re single-use items – buy, consume, discard.

    Another concern is the ever-changing nature of technology. I have on my shelves books that bought 20-30 years ago or more, books my parents passed on to me, and even a few that might be older than I am. With e-books, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to access them 5 years from now. The technology could completely change and I might not be able to do anything about it. Granted, the fact that they’re digital files rather than physical media helps some, so it’s not precisely like vinyl records or VHS tapes or whatever, but still – I occasionally find old computer files I can’t access any more because the program they were created isn’t around any more and even if I could find an old version, it wouldn’t run under my current operating system. Digital files can and do become obsolete.

    Then there’s dependence on technology. I can take a printed book camping, on a long train ride, or pretty much anywhere else I want to without worrying about its batteries running out. I don’t have to worry that if one specific device dies or gets stolen or whatever, I lose access to my whole library. If I relied solely on e-books, I would.

    There’s a visual aspect, with some books at least: books that have interesting cover art, illustrations, etc. are likely to prove unsatisfying as e-books. Granted, this may improve to some extent as the technology does, but even so, an e-book’s cover is something you only see once for about a second and a half, as opposed to every time you pick up the book. And with anything that’s formatted for large pages (i.e. nonfiction books that include charts, tables, etc.), most e-book readers’ screen size is too small to work well.

    And finally, there’s a purely subjective element to it: printed books just feel more real to me. They’re more satisfying to have and hold. I like being able to hold them in my hands, see them on my bookshelves, flip through them, admire the covers… I know that’s a purely personal preference, but it’s still part of the equation, for me at least.

    However, all that said – while I certainly don’t want to pay as much (let alone more) for an e-book as for a physical book, I am quite willing to pay more than 99 cents. I think most of the fiction e-books I’ve bought have been in the $2.99-4.99 sort of range (in part because I’ve tended to buy them on sale where possible), which is plenty comfortable to me. I’d even be willing to go a bit higher than that, sometimes. Offhand, I’d say half the price of a paperback would probably be fair, for my personal perception of value, at least.

    The only times I’ve paid more than $10 for an e-book have been for technical books that were directly related to my work, and the reasons I’m willing to do that are:

    1. These are generally books I need, rather than just want.
    2. In print form, they’d cost a lot more than most fiction books ($30-40 at least).
    3. I can declare them as a business expense on my taxes, which softens the blow a wee bit, at least.

    But I can’t see myself paying $10 or more for a fiction e-book. At that price, I’d just buy the paperback. Or get the book from the library instead.

  • I’m a voracious reader in a small apartment. Ebooks are a big benefit to me…and yet, I still find myself buying mass-market paperbacks.

    I think the comparison of ebook price to retail price is completely invalid. Who pays retail price these days? (Who can afford to?) The proper comparison should be ebook vs. street price, and right now, paperbacks beat ebooks, which in turn beat hardbacks. Please forgive me, but I’m going to coin a couple of terms – eHC (ebooks released alongside hardbacks) and ePB (ebooks releases alongside trade or mass-market paperbacks) – for clarity.

    I watch new book releases by the week. I just picked up a couple of new eHCs at $12.99 without blinking; that’s better than the $15 or $16 I’d have to pay for the physical book, I get it instantly, and I don’t have to make room for it. Win all around. Sure, I can’t resell it, but I’m not big on that anyway.

    However, ePBs are a completely different story. Why on earth would I pay $7.99 for an ePB when I can get the physical version for $5.99 at the store or through Amazon’s 4-for-3 deal? If it means saving 25%, I’ll FIND room in the apartment! Drop that ePB to $5.49 and I might buy it; drop it to $4.99 (or less!) and I’m right there.

    One other thing: I really hate it when a publisher forces a price on me. It’s insane to me to see that $7.99 ePB at a locked price, with no discounts or promo codes available, at the same time when the physical book is available with all kinds of discounts. The eHC is priced to compete with the street price; how is the ePB different?

  • In all this talk of pricing and cost and such, why is it that nobody has addressed the idea that ebooks represent sunk costs?

    Once you’ve got the thing, the incremental cost of selling one unit approaches zero. It’s not exactly zero, but it’s damn close. The question isn’t how much does it cost to produce the book. The *real* question is how many do you have to sell at what level of margin in order to recoup the expense.

    This one fact alone makes the arguments about how much it costs for editors and office space and formatting and all the rest of it moot.

    To put it in Wendigian terms:

    It don’t fucking matter one gnat’s rasty ass.

    After you have it, the problem is how many can you sell at what price?

    By pricing themselves out of the *real* mass market, mainstream publishing is not “recouping” expense. They’re stopping the erosion away from paper. Any accountant with half a brain could figure this out and I’m betting MacMillan and Penguin and the gang all have some pretty sharp pencil pounders who know exactly what’s what.

    The thing is, most people in the traditional markets can’t really grok the notion that’s it’s not only possible to sell 50,000 units of a single title a year, it should be expected. But that many books is NYTimes Bought Seller List territory. Only the BIG guns sell that, right?

    Uh uh. Not.

    There are at least 1000 authors doing that in Kindle alone right now and darn few of them are sighed with a NY house—because NY can’t sell that many units at the prices they charge.

    Supply, meet demand.

    There’s a curve for that and pricing is just a sled on the icy hillside.

    Get over it.

  • I’m a very regular e-book reader. What concerns me regarding the value proposition of e-books is the licensing schemes and DRM of the common e-book platforms. With a physical book I own the object. Sure, there are definite limits to how I can use that. However, I don’t have to worry about a retailer going out of business and losing access to the content I purchased. I don’t have to worry about it mysteriously disappearing off of my shelf some day at the whim of an online retailer. I don’t have to worry about being locked in to a specific retailer/device for future purchases. I don’t have to worry about the format of my book becoming obsolete in a decade.

    With those concerns in mind for pricing of an e-book I’m generally willing to spend $12-15 for a new title from an author I know I want to read. Anything more than that and I’ll just buy the hardback. For back-catalog or an author I’m less familiar with I’m willing to spend $8-10 fairly regularly.

    For an author with several titles out or a series of books setting a low price on a good entry point or the beginning of a series is genius because I’ll happily try out a new author and then buy and read the rest of their books if I like the first one. That said, if someone is pricing everything super low, like $0.99, I kind of assume that the books are going to be rough and not well edited or just short stories.

  • What I find interesting in all this argument, is you don’t see people HOWLING over the injustice of audio Books, which have been financially out of my reach for all my favorite authors, because $40+ for a BOOK on disc is SUCH a massive leap from 9.99 for a Paperback.
    If anything, I’m a bad person to ask because as someone who doesn’t own/use an e-reader, I feel that if the cheapest I can get a book is 7.99-9.99 that people SHOULD pay equivalent amounts for an e-book.
    However, the notion that a e-book seller has reserves the RIGHT to DELETE user content strikes me as APPALLING. That’s another rant, for another day.

    Suffice to say, if you are going to be given a book to keep ‘on loan’ for a week, then the user might pay a discounted rate, PROVIDING the ‘library’ is willing to purchase the book at regular price. Real paper fed libraries still have to pay for books, if Amazon winds up selling MY content, I expect to be paid for each copy they want to sell, not just paid once for the RIGHT to be pimped by them on the street as their penniless whore.

    I’m a reader, I love books. If I have to wait a few weeks to save up and buy them, I do. I don’t expect my favorite authors to work for free, or 99 cents, I expect them to be paid well enough for providing a WELL CRAFTED, hard earned, QUALITY story. And people like Snooki can sell their book for 50 cents in the hope that maybe someone will buy it out of pity.
    I guess I’m in the minority, but I respect a persons right to be paid commiserate with the quality of their work. Crap books SHOULD be cheap, because no one made an effort to make them worth reading. Good books, like good wine, should be measured by value.

  • “Last time I worked for a publisher, I was actually a huge part of the eBook initiative. And the process was relatively simple, but here’s something that most consumers don’t think of when they think of eBook pricing: the cost to convert text into ePub or Mobi. The publisher I worked for hired an outside company to do their conversion, then the operations team would hand off the converted eBooks to me to quality check (and I was specifically hired for this purpose, so there’s another cost), and if we found problems, it would go back to the converter. And I can assure you, there were frequently problems. The conversion process was not normally pretty. I especially grew to hate the Mobi format because it had special limitations.

    When you think about it, formatting a book for print and formatting a book for ePublishing are two very different tasks that require time and energy – and money. And most publishers are creating both the ePub and the Mobi formats (and probably the iOS formats, whatever those happen to be), and there are things that are unique to each format that can cause problems.”

    This sounds like an example of inefficiency. To farm out the conversion instead of finding out how to do it in house is wasteful. Then if the publisher does farm out the job, to not have it done at a set price, with the ability to send it back and be redone if not right at no extra charge is ludicrous.

    Inefficiency is not a valid argument for a higher price point.

  • First novel, $0.00 – 0.99. (Or whatever counts as introduction to the author’s work.)

    Backlist titles $0.99 – 4.99.

    Latests and greatest $4.99 – 19.99. Say ~$5 per 300-500 pages.

  • Re. ebook DRM, Amazon deleting books, etc.

    Haven’t you heard of the new tradition? De-DRM Day. Reserve a day per year to remove DRM from your digital goods.

    I will grant that my Amazon ebooks are leased or rented, or whatever when the Amazon button changes to read “Pay now for temporary reading privileges!” instead of “Buy now with 1-Click” — no matter what the small print says. The button says “Buy”, I apply first sale doctrine.

  • As a reader and wannabe writer, I see the entire problem summed up in one word: DUNE.

    My copy of Dune (mass market size, c. 1970s) has a cover price of $0.99.
    I bought it used for $1.50, like three years ago.
    When I was a lad (c. 1980s-90s), it would have cost $3.99-$6.99, new.
    Today, 8.99.
    Amazon’s ebook price: $14.99 (It’s the anniversary edition? Huh?)

    Frank Herbert? He’s dead.

    So what’s the right price? I don’t know. What I do know is that I bought tons of mass market books growing up, for 3.99, 4.99, 6.99. I have bought exactly zero since they hit 8.99. I’d even like to finish the Dune series, but not at 8.99 for a mass market, and not at 7.99 for an ebook.

    I think this is part of the problem: people have memories, and they remember what a book cost ten or fifteen years ago. The price jumps have been sizable — if that wasn’t because of physical production costs, they wonder, what was it?

    (Addendum: this is why no one cared about pirating music: an album on cassette cost like six bucks? But a CD cost like fifteen, despite being obviously easier to produce. Music publishers said prices would go down as the technology got established, but they never dropped below twelve bucks until consumers found a better product and a better delivery system — then the industry pretended they were the ones getting the shaft.)

  • Chuck, to answer the question you asked waaaaaaaay up top, I don’t necessarily think that $9.99 is either too high or too low. It’s more a function of the *cost* of a book. Let’s break that down a bit:

    First (and I’m only talking about via-publisher publication; self-publication is a kettle of fish of a whole ‘nother color), something everyone seems to be missing is the fact that the cost of hardbacks and paperbacks never changes from first moment of availability to last. The vast majority of the cost of *any* book, be it hardcover, paperback or e-book, is massively front-loaded into all the things a publisher puts into a book before it ever sees print – PR, placement with resellers, quality assurance and a bunch of other things. We all assume that publishers charge a certain price in order to recoup that big first investment. So what happens when that investment is repaid? We don’t get a price break after that. The book’s price to us is X whether it’s on release day or on the last printing. Yet none of us (myself included) squawk that the price should drop once that initial outlay is covered, even though that point marks the transition into a territory where the price is MUCH closer to a pure-profit ideal that all businesses dream of (it’ll never get all the way there, as even the relatively minor expense of print-book manufacturing/distribution chews into it a little bit). Why is this? It’s because we perceive that a physical object’s price doesn’t vary, and that’s a little shocking in light of the general tendency we have to kvetch at the (correct or otherwise) idea of “too much profit”. If we were consistent, we’d be beating down the doors of publishers and demanding that after-recoup books be priced lower – and not just as part of promotions but as part of the “intrinsic value” that we like as a concept.

    Second, there’s always a distribution cost, no matter whether it’s printed book or e-book. It takes money to 1) maintain websites and servers, employ accountants, troubleshoot issues, etc. to sell and deliver e-books or 2) pay someone else to do all of that. It’s not a negligible cost; people and equipment are doing work, and that must be paid for. There’s no such thing as “it’s all paid for once the initial work is done” in either printed books or e-books – it just keeps going. So either a publisher pays a whole department to do all of that or pays another company to take care of it for them. Again, no, it’s nowhere near that initial cost, but neither is continued production/distribution on printed books.

    Third, I believe in a fair profit. Whoever’s doing all the above deserves a reasonable payment, not only just covering the cost of doing that business but also covering the cost of *continuing* to do that business – higher supply/equipment prices, raises for employees (we don’t want them to get paid a stagnant wage forever, no more than we want that for ourselves, do we?), maintenance/repair/upgrade/replacement/etc. of involved equipment, negotiating contracts with all suppliers/distributors/etc. (whoever’s contributing to the whole process from the outside), process development (because we want them to become more efficient and save money, right?) and so on. So, no, there’s no one point I can flap my hand at and say, “There. THAT’S what book X should cost us to buy.”

    The industry is still in massive flux. Publishers are having to pour floods of cash into creating, developing and improving the parts of their company that are dedicated to producing the increasingly-in-demand e-books. And we’ve all seen the results of what happens when they DON’T fund those parts in control of e-book distribution/quality/etc. – we have e-books that aren’t delivered, have huge flaws because of conversion snafus, aren’t even available on e-reader X because they haven’t funded code monkeys to do that particular conversion, much less do quality control on it, and so on. If anything, I’d rather suck it up right now and pay a little MORE for an e-book so that a publisher can get its staff, structure and equipment up to full, completely efficient speed, with an eye to reducing future costs… and maybe diminishing a little of intermediate-future price inflation that would happen when the industry has to dump loads more time and money getting all the way up to date.

    We’ve seen everything electronic undergo absolutely EXPLOSIVE growth in our lifetimes. Things improve, evolve and expand in what seems to be the blink of an eye in retrospect. Which gets us impatient and wanting it all to be fixed/settled NOW, and that’s clashing directly with the still-underway evolution of the publishing industry as it readjusts to include the e-book. Patience is indicated… and patience is something we’re getting less and less good at.

  • I think anywhere from $0.99 to about $7.99 is reasonable for an ebook depending on size of the book, familiarity of the author and probably a dozen other factors I can’t think of.

  • I was delighted when I could buy ebooks for the equivalent price of the nearly-defunct and much-more-ephemeral crappy mass market paperback. I was ok with $9.99 in the hopes that the author was getting a better percentage than the 10% of the 45%-of-list-minus-publisher-expenses they made on the $30 hardbacks.

    But $0.99 for a novel and $14.99 for a novel (I’m looking at you, Bog Six) make me equally uncomfortable. One feels disrespectful (and makes me question the quality within) and the other makes me feel disrespected.

    I believe people should be paid fairly for their work. But I might be in the minority.

  • When I first read the question, I thought .99 cents was the answer. Reason being is software apps and entertainment value. I paid .99 cents for Angry Birds. It is dumb and repetitive, but damn if I don’t go back and play that little sumbitch over and over. Best .99 cents I ever spent. The profit from the app was not in the selling to a handful of people on a single platform, but a worldwide population on multiple platforms where if you got 1 million people to download it, you just pulled in the theoretical $1 million. Low price, large audience meant lots of potential profit.

    Then I saw Gareth’s post above (wahoo! Go “Far West!”). I purchased the ebook of short stories from the Far West project he is heading up, the soundtrack for the book/world, and the really awesome map they have for the world for close to $11. I was ecstatic! Not only did I get a book ($5), sound track ($4), and really awesome map ($2), I also purchased an experience! Keep in mind, the map is digital, not a wall hanger. I sit down, read the book, have the soundtrack playing and when I need to see where someplace is at, I pull up the map and find it. It is an immersive experience. For $11!

    Seeing his comment on RPGs and pricing made me stop and think. I have paid in the upwards of 9.99 for PDFs of RPGs and felt perfectly fine doing so. Not only are they an enjoyable read, but they give me a tool to tell my own stories with other people. Can’t get into a movie for that price these days and I will get far more entertainment from this book over time than I will a movie.

    I purchased the three ebook bundle that our good host, Chuck, has available for $5 dollars. I have put a sizable dent in them and would have to say that I would have paid more for them had I known there were going to be this fucking good!

    Now, having sat here and stared at my screen not knowing where I am going with this, I have to say that I think that .99 is too little, but 9.99 for me is too much to continue buying books on a regular basis, at least as an arbitrary price. I did really like the $1 per 10,000 words, cap at $6. I would buy based on that model and not complain.

    Regardless of price, however, I still like a sample chapter or writing from the author to see that I am going to mesh with them. I do it at the bookstore, I want to be able to do that before I download.

    Great posts everyone! I have really enjoyed reading all of them!

  • As an author and someone who’s worked in publishing, I think ebooks should be in the $5-6 range. A couple dollars in either direction, I don’t have a problem with but $0.99 for a full novel, unless its a straight loss-leader promo thing is way too low and $10 and up is far too high. The problem I see is that the cost structure to justify high prices almost exclusively stems from the inefficient print ecosystem that was neither developed or perfected with digital in mind. Anyone saying that ebooks can’t be generated professionally at far, far less cost than print is either playing fast and loose with reality or they’re so tied to the print cost structure that they see so many costly portions of that layered system as necessary when they no longer truly are.

    Ebooks aren’t physical products, have no resale value, can’t be shared, loaned or donated, often contain restrictive DRM, and I have to pay for the screen to read them on as an additional cost. In reality, ebooks have far less real, tangible physical value than print. You can argue etheral notions like the “inherent value of ideas” all day long, but that arguement carries no water with me. If you don’t think a sizable portion of the cost of a print book has always been paying for the container and its related costs, you’re kidding yourself. I don’t buy the argument that cover design, editing or formatting produce anywhere near costs that justify double digit prices, primarily because I’ve both done that work for hire and paid others to do so in the past.

    Am I supposed to feel sorry for publishers that new technology has made their expensive infrastructure a hindrance rather than a strength? Sorry, but I don’t. That’s the way the world works. I sympathize with the people who will likely lose what were once cushy jobs, but not enough that I’m going to fork over $12 or $15 for a product I know is much cheaper to produce, costs almost nothing to reproduce, very little to nothing to distribute, and gives me far less tangible, physical value. The fact is independent authors and small, efficient publishers can make good money on $5-6-7 ebooks, more profitably than on much higher priced print books in many cases. Large, inefficient conglomerates can’t as they’re currently structured. I, for one, am not particularly keen on donating extra money out of my pocket to support a structure that refuses to adapt and adds very little if any value to the process that can’t be done much cheaper.

  • I kind of stumbled upon this blog and there is some pretty cool ideas floating around here. I happen to be heavily involved in an independent book store and so I have some opinions from both sides of the fence I suppose. Firstly, I think that lots of the people who blog about ebooks and the like are on the ebook side because they are used to and comfortable with the technology. But when you look at the majority of the book industry it is still geared towards print books. Ebooks are still a pretty small part of the industry but growing (from a small base). I have been hearing about the demise of print books for decades. I think it will be decades more before that is any real possibility. Secondly, with the price of ebooks, don’t let the industry spin fool you. It costs them very little to produce an ebook when they are also publishing a print version as it is all a digital process these days anyway. Everyone in this business is in it to make some money (some more money than others). Everyone always wants a return for their efforts so probably 4 or 5 dollars for an ebook would be fair for a return for everyone. Of course everything is about supply and demand and the market eventually sets the price. Thirdly, there is a looming problem in the book industry with some major players essentially forming an oligarchy. You will eventually pay more for less if that continues for any lenghty timeframe (decades) because it will force most of the small or bit players (the ones that matter) out of the market. The avarice of the big players is almost breathtaking and should be talked about more online. Fourthly, the industry runs the risk of being flooded with mediocre titles which blurrs your decision making and wastes your time. Every time you read something you didn’t really enjoy means that you miss out on something you would have really enjoyed. Life is short and you cannot read all the books that you want to read in one lifetime. That is the beauty of the real independent bookseller that knows what you have been reading and can steer you in the right direction. It is more of an educated guess than you just stumbling around on the internet and reading the endless book blurbs and self serving reviews that abound in the online form of book etailing.

  • Something else to consider here that people aren’t really talking about is the impact that ebook prices are going to have on the used book market. Right now there is a large debate in the video games industry about used game sales. Lots of publishers complain about them, pointing out rightly that they provide no income to the creators or publishers of the game.

    Yet that has been the case with used books for a long time. Until now. I’ve always had issues with used books because I can’t often find an entire series, plus the cost is still fairly high – you often spend 3-4 bucks per used book. Now, with ebooks, I should be able to find any book I want, buy entire series, and generally have access to vast numbers of older books.

    By making ebooks DRM-free and pricing older books very low (like 99 cents) you can turn all that used book market into a lucrative and long-term business. The “long tail” as they call it. Publishers can print more books because they don’t have to outlay as much cash on the barrel, and they NEVER have to reprint a book because you put it on the fraking server and let it work.

    For a publisher, it’s a substantial cost to print a run of books. Saying that the actual printing cost is a small portion of the cost of a book is kind of bullshit – it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to print up even a modest run of a title. Not much on a per-book basis, but a huge pile of cash on the floor, nonetheless. And you don’t know if it’s going to sell.

    I think 6-8 bucks is fair for a newly released ebook. 3-4 bucks if it’s 2-3 years old. 99 cents if it’s more than 5 years old. If it’s a classic, like dune, 2.50. Or I can go to any used bookstore and buy it for the same amount.

  • I have been running a whole series on ebook costs at my blog. Tomorrow or the next day, I am going to cover why ebooks should be making print books cheaper. I know, exciting times, right?

    You’re absolutely right about perception being the ultimate key to the whole ebook thing. We’re never going to agree to pay a higher price if we simply don’t value it that high. Publishers can try to convince us that we need to pay $12 – $15 for ebooks and it’s never, ever going to take.

    You said something about how we won’t agree on what an ebook should cost, which is totally true in a discussion sense, but Smashwords actually ran some numbers (I don’t have a link handy). They found that the “sweet spot” for ebooks is about 6 dollars. While we may not all philosophically agree on what an ebook should cost, the numbers can speak for us.

    I’m perfectly okay with a staggered ebook pricing scheme, as well. I understand that publishers want to make as large a profit as possible, and I’m willing to wait for the ebook price to drop as much as I’m willing to wait for the paperback to come out. Rarity of content being out, market saturation, etc. I’m cool with the title launching at about $8 or $9 and then dropping down when it becomes a backlist title.

    Here’s the rub, though, for me: Most ebooks that are not self-published are sold concurrently with a print run. All of those editing and whatnot costs that publishers point to when producing ebooks go into the *manuscript*, which is then used to create *all* of the book formats, not just for the ebook. I’ve been poking around into this, and found out that, if I had a book that I wanted to outsource conversion into ebook formatting, I could get that manuscript converted from a document or pdf into just about every ebook file known to man for $650 or so by a reputable company; if I needed to have the manuscript scanned, it might cost me upwards of … maybe $1200? I’d say $1500 at the outside, unless it was just a bastard of a book to have scanned.

    Compared to dropping $30,000 on a 10,000 book print run (that figure comes from IPG’s blog, written by Curt Matthews)? That’s pittance. The overhead on actually taking the manuscript and making it into an ebook should be extremely low; if it isn’t, they should be outsourcing to the people who can do it cheaper. Adding an ebook to your print run will stretch those editing and marketing costs–everything that is sunk into the TITLE, rather than into the particular format–over even more units while adding only fraction of the cost of a print run. Perhaps MANY units, depending on how popular the title is (which, when it’s not a huge hit, is often linked closely to the price of the ebook). When publishing types point to editing costs, etc, in making an ebook . . . I feel as though they’re asking us, collectively as consumers, to pay those costs twice–once for people who are buying the print copies, and then again for people who are buying the ebooks. It’s not like the manuscript goes through the process twice to be readied specially for ebook production.

  • I can understand that the editing, formatting and marketing costs are the same between a printed copy and an e-book, but it is difficult for me to see that creating an electronic
    copy costs the same as printing and binding.

    It is that perception among readers that is the issue.

    As a reader, it’s pretty difficult for me to justify spending $13.99 on an e-book. I don’t even get to hold the book at that point. It’s ephemeral. A hardbound or a paperback is at least physical – something I can throw across the room if I hate the ending.

    Even $9.99 for an e-book still seems a bit harsh, but somewhere between $0.99 and $2.99 seems about right. The $0.99 price point is great for when I’m trying a new author, but I do prefer the $2.99 books. At $2.99 the e-book is still at a great price, and I have an expectation that it will be professionally edited.

  • Wow, this topic blew up. e-Books just do not have the same value to me as actual books. A real book I can read, then resell. I can pass it along to a friend. I can leave it on the metro as a Bookcrossing gift. I can donate it to the library. For me, the secondary value of a book is as great as the value of the story. I will not pay more than $5 for an e-book. That’s its top value to me.

  • Pricing? Depends on the eBook of course. You’re not going to expect to pay the same for a 79 page “How-To” as you would for an epic novel for example. People must always remember they are paying for the CONTENT (which is hopefully made of skill, blood, sweat and tears), NOT the COST OF THE MATERIAL on which they are reading that content. I recently published a 135,000 word novel. It is the first on its subject, and took over 10 years (not continuous!) work to get it out the door. To say ten bucks is too much for someone to pay for a work like that is simply ridiculous. The problem is that in this digital age, if it can be digitised, people want it for free. And too often, sadly, they get it for free. In my opinion (because of this), the e-Publishing ‘revolution’ is very much a double-edged sword.

  • In the 16 months I’ve had my e-reader, I’ve paid the going rate for new releases of e-books only twice. Both times it was a matter of my desire to read the newest release of a favorite author outweighing my tendency to try to be cost-conscious about such matters. I generally read them immediately, of course.

    I’ve yet to pay for any of the self-published books usually listed from $.99 to $3.99, mostly because I really do have a hard time letting bad spelling and grammar slide.

    However, when I come across a professionally published title in which I have some interest, and it’s offered for under $5, I almost always just buy it to put on my virtual, even though I’m unlikely to read it right away. I like having the variety from which to choose when looking for a new read to start.

    So, for people like me, assuming the goal is to shift units, it seems $5 is the magic number. I read about 55 books a year. I’m pretty sure I would buy a vast majority of those books at $5 each, but not likely all of them, especially with my library having a strong selection of e-books for loan, my need to mix the occasional classic into the mix, and the fact I will never surrender my second-hand store habit.

    That leaves the question: would the publishing world rather sell me 2 books at $13-14 per, or 2-3 dozen at $5 each? It’s not for me to tell them the best situation for their business model other than to offer that colluding with your competitors to out-flank a rival who is finding success by favoring the low-price method is not really an acceptable option.

  • You bring up some interesting points. I somewhat agree that a digital e-book has many of the same expenses as a hard copy. In fact, if you really want to compare the two, a hard copy should only have the higher price to cover the paper and cover of printed materials. All of the hours that go into proof reading and editing are the same. However, I do agree that e-books are sometimes priced higher for the sake of seeming more valuable. It is kind of like Diamond and Tahitian pearls in that regard. The perceived value is more important than the value itself. Still, there are a lot of hours behind the scenes that few people consider when looking at ebook prices.

    Thanks for the post!

    Ryan

  • Call me a Pollyanna but I think e-books should cost what they need to cost to make sure the WRITERS can afford coffee, booze and diapers for their kids (and eventually themselves, given the coffee and booze intake).

    I’ll pay for good art, if to Barnes & Noble via my Nook, Kickstarter or PayPal donation. Good art will always get made, even if though speakeasy-style Soviet or Oligarcy opression and our job as readers and aspiring penmonkeys is to support the source.

  • A completely non-scientific bit for consideration:

    I got notification from the Seattle Public Library that “Blackbirds” was awaiting me at the downtown branch after being put on hold a month or so ago.

    As I get ready to leave work, I see it’s started raining (was decent at lunchtime!).

    I go to B&N to see it’s only $6 on their site.

    Hmmmm….

    Then I see it’s an “Angry Robot” title. I like Angry Robot! So, I go to their site and see they are having a DRM-Free sale, giving 50% off e-books.

    Doing some conversion via the Google, I learn it’s only $3.

    Paypal is brought into the scene, a transaction takes place, and now I can go straight to my bus, keeping from getting a lot more wet than I would on a walk to the library and still have the book for weekend reading.

    This would not have happened were it listed at $12.99. Cheapness outweighs need to be dry in this case. $3 was too cheap to not buy.

  • Very interesting post and comment thread. Someone a long way back said: what about Australia? As is traditional Australia gets screwed over by the copyright industries. Something to do with major publishing conglomerates many moons ago signing their own equivalent of the Treaty of Tordesillas and handing Australia to the Brits, because we were coloured red on the map.
    Yes, books that cost $8 in the US can cost $20 or so in Australia, and our dollar has been close to parity for a while now. Another annoying side effect of us being gifted to the Brits is that we must await UK publication to see it in our shops in most cases. That makes us worse off than the Brits because they need to get some out here.
    Of course we can read all the reviews and follow discussions elsewhere but the geographic monopoly still restricts our ability to get a copy – even at inflated prices.
    A recent experience in EBooks was where I was reading Charlie Stross’ wonderful blog from downtown Edinburgh when a Canadian turned up and mentioned a good book picked up for $4. OK – off to the kndle to buy it. Whammo – a price of $15 led to an aggrieved email to amaz… about being arbitraged, and No Sale! The $4 price was fine, but the $15 just seemed to be a rip off.
    I have learnt much on this post about book pricing that I did not know and my opinions have shifted up the price scale. I especially liked the $1 per hour of entertainment theory.
    However, the geographic anomaly in EBook pricing is pure arbitrage which cannot be justified under any economic model I can think of. If those bits and bytes are worth $4 in Canada they are worth $4 in Australia as the Tyranny of Distance (Geoffrey Blainey) is redundant and should not lead to price discrimination online. It should also plainly be available in English to anyone in Germany for $4.
    At the risk of opening an entirely different can of worms (though you all seem like you’d be up for it) I would commend a book which can be had for zero on the fascinating topic of Copyright Law and the Internet over at James Boyle’s website. Is Copyright Law serving anyone well, or are we all being ripped off for the benefit of a bunch of rent seekers looking to extend their control over culture? That’s a trick question by the way.

  • @Nick Vasey:

    “People must always remember they are paying for the CONTENT (which is hopefully made of skill, blood, sweat and tears), NOT the COST OF THE MATERIAL on which they are reading that content. I recently published a 135,000 word novel. It is the first on its subject, and took over 10 years (not continuous!) work to get it out the door. To say ten bucks is too much for someone to pay for a work like that is simply ridiculous. The problem is that in this digital age, if it can be digitised, people want it for free. And too often, sadly, they get it for free. In my opinion (because of this), the e-Publishing ‘revolution’ is very much a double-edged sword.”

    There are many things wrong here, I’m sorry to say–things that hinder your profitability rather than enhance it.

    The first thing I’d like to say about this argument–as kindly as I possibly can–is that people are paying for content, yes–but we’re not paying for the author’s blood, sweat, and tears. An author’s emotional attachment to his or her work really has little bearing on what the market will bring for said work. If your book were priced based on the ten years you took to write it–which is quite a long time to write a book–you would only get sales from people who really, really, really wanted to read the book. Everyone else would bypass your book in favor of a book that maybe took less blood, sweat, etc, to produce; unfortunately, you have to compete with a growing number of books published every year, and many authors can produce content far more quickly. You value your book more than the market does because it’s very personal to you.

    The second thing I’d like to say is that it’s a fallacy that everyone wants digital content for free. Look up what Louis CK did with his $5 DRM-free self-produced comedy special; he sold over a million dollars’ worth of copies, and the special only cost him about $250k to produce, if I recall correctly. There’s data floating around out there–I read it within the last day but don’t have the link handy–that shows when consumers are offered digital products at reasonable prices, DRM-free, and conveniently, they shun pirated copies. People want to pay for content. We understand that by paying for content, we get more content from those producers.

    Smashwords has also released data about the sweet spot for ebooks being about $6–at $6, 2.2x the number of copies are sold than at $10. If a publisher holds the royalty percentage equal at both price points, the author would actually make *more* at $6 than at $10, because of the increased volume. I ran the numbers based on Smashwords data; at an average of 15 e-copies a day, an author would make $1300 more a year at $6 than at $10 at 7.5% royalty–but as long as the percentage remained constant between $10 and $6, authors would make more at any percentage, not just 7.5%. So, higher pricing doesn’t necessarily mean that you make more profit off of your ebooks.

    Book pricing in general DOES factor in the cost of the content. There is the author royalty, the editing/proofing/marketing services, as well as the cost to produce the book (which, according to IPG, is about $3/copy for a 10000 book run)–so, no, we’re not JUST paying for the material on which it is printed in any case.

    Once you factor out the cost to produce a physical book–as ebook production should be only a tiny fraction of that cost, probably about 1/30 on average–and then you factor IN the realities that one can sell unlimited ebook copies and that there is a sweet spot where you will sell the most copies to earn the most profit, it’s clear to see that ebooks should be a huge profit-generator for both publishers and authors. Because of the idea that “content” should cost a certain amount or it will be “cheapened,” publishers are keeping themselves AND authors from maximizing profits. If you care about making money off of your books, this is important information to know.

  • I want to second what Jen from Way Up Top said. I market library services for a living, so I also have to explain to patrons why ebooks still function as if they were single physical copies. Granted, Jen probably does it about a million more times per day then I do…

  • Y’know… every time I sit down to do a blog on this topic, it goes totally out of control. There’s a LOT more at stake with e-book pricing than initially meets the eye.

    As an observer, I’ve seen that most buyers are comfortable with a regular price between $0.99 and $4.99 with $2.99 being the most consistent novel/large file price over time and $0.99 being the “new stuff” or “special” price they like for any risk they may perceive. $2.99 seems to be the price people are most comfortable with once they are past the initial “who the hell is this and why should I buy their book?” thing. Authors who are more “credible” to a larger number of buyers can command higher prices initially–like $4.99 to $9.99–but they also have the advantage of longer tails and can make more money at a lower per-unit price, since they’ll sell more books in the initial release period and have a longer market life.

    Frankly, even as a writer who depends on royalties to pay the bills, I don’t like the higher end prices for e-books. I think they scare and anger people. That better be one DAMNED fine book to cost cost almost $10 in this economy and have no physical presence or collectible value. But I still want to eat…

    And thats the perception of value problem which, in this case, ties the work and quality of the product to an arbitrary price, regardless of the /actual/, measurable quality, work, or desirability of the product. And don’t pretend you don’t think that way, because we all do. Lower price = lower risk, but also niggles the brain with the idea that the quality must be lower too…. And as the e-book pool continues to flood and the current corporate publishing structure with its big publicity machine and ability to pay to promote dies a lingering, thrashing death, it will be harder and harder for writers to stand out from the rest of the $0.99 crowd.

    So… do I set my price low to attract buyers or high to signal my higher quality? Will a consistently low price in future be a good thing, or will it be a death sentence?

  • One thing I’d like to see are backlist and out of print titles being released for maybe $2.99-$5.00 per copy. These are titles that the publisher wouldn’t otherwise be making anything on anyway, so it makes sense to have them be cheap, and it allows readers a greater amount of choice by allowing them to find books that would otherwise be hard to get.

  • Such a compelling subject. And currently the subject of rousing debate….

    Sidebar: Chuck, i SO appreciate your sense of humor in this post, and have added your site to Blogs I Fancy on my own blog, Synaptic Circus. Your writing resonated with me, as we seem to share the same sense of humor–i noticed keywords you used that i use frequently, such as Meme, cognitive dissonance, freakonomics, and fucker. AND I am also not good with money or numbers. ;^)

    Now about pricing: My partner ( @kategenet) and I are both authors, and we have noticed that when we price our books at .99 to 2.99, we don’t sell any more than when we price them at 4.99-6.99. It does have something to do with perceived value. Other than special promotions, I now price according to the content. If it’s a novella, I price it around 4.99. If it’s a full-length novel, I price it at 6.99. Stories and articles published as eBooks are .99.

    Regarding the costs of publishing, they don’t apply because my partner and I do our own editing, cover designs and all other facets of the Indie publishing business. (We also have proofreaders who work in exchange for free copies and mentions in the acknowledgements and such. Or we trade readings and initial reviews with other authors). That is to say, eBooks ARE less expensive to produce, unless you have to subcontract the other bits out, and so being an Indie author should include learning the other aspects of the business, in order to compete in today’s digital market. Thus, eBooks should cost less than print by AT LEAST a few dollars if not more. I have used CreateSpace for quite some time for print versions of my books, and it really is a sweet deal with their Pro-plans. We have our books in print and digital on Amazon, don’t use the too-exclusive Kindle KDP Select program (it prevents you from selling from other sources and smacks of a monopoly); Since print just doesn’t sell as well nowadays as digital– 80% of my royalties come from digital sales, for example). We use Smashwords primarily. They don’t charge upfront, but take a small percentage of each sale, and their distribution is second to none. No sucking of digital material from our Nooks and Kindles. They are downloaded there in all formats and the books are yours/ours to keep. It’s a win-win.

    So–in conclusion, I feel that 9.99 or more is too steep for an eBook, and priced too low (such as 99 cents, other than short stories or articles) is like a neon sign that says your work has no value. As usual, the truth is to be found in the middle.

    Thanks for making me think and get a laugh at the same time, Chuck.
    Kelli Jae Baeli
    @JaeBaeli

  • I strongly, very strongly disagree with you.

    Should an e-book title be PROPERLY created, it would probably cost 2000 euros. The text with all the formatting is there from the print edition, which is in an electronic format anyway. It’s mostly a matter of:
    - using a different font;
    - preparing the images;
    - idiotically use a stupid generic or a very low-res cover picture, because a bunch of stupid lawyers think the publisher has no right to use a proper cover in the e-book (however, especially with Random House Australia, in many cases hi-res covers are freely available on the public website; nevertheless, the e-book I pay for has a generic cover!);
    - preparing the TOC, footnotes, etc.
    - cheap technicalities (CSS, XPGT, making the ePub).

    Done by people who know what they’re doing, and using the proper tools, this is a 200 euro job, however billable as 2000 euro, because it’s an externalized task.

    However, the e-books I’m buying as ePub filed don’t even deserve $1. In 2 cases out of 3, I have to:
    - remove the DRM;
    - replace the cover with a decent one;
    - REPAIR the TOC;
    - REPAIR the footnotes;
    - possibly properly declare the already included font (usually Charis SIL), because it’s not declared in the OPF and CSS and it’s not actually used!;
    - REPAIR the stupid huge right-margin (the idiots are adding a bigger right-margin for the case where I’m reading the book on the PC, using Adobe Digita Edition, who has the bad habit to write page numbers with gray over the text, at right; however, I’m reading the ePub on a dedicated eInk e-reader!);
    - often REMOVE or reduce all margins (on an e-reader I DON’T NEED left-side and right-side margins that take 10% each of the screen wide on an e-reader, because this is NOT a physical book that needs white margins!);
    - possibly replace the very low-res inside pictures with edited screenshots taken from Amazon’s book page (Look Inside);
    - etc. etc.

    Given the “quality” of the commercial e-books available today, THEY should pay me to read them!

    Because I first need to do THEIR job and fix the book.

  • Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your design. Kudos

  • As a long time publishing professional I can tell you that the difference in cost to a publisher for an ebook vs. the print version is less than 5%. Meaning the paper print and binding for a book costing $20.00 is about $1.00. Then there are hosting fees that the platform where you store and transmit ebooks from charge you to do so. None of this is for free. 95% of the cost of books is everything else, author fees, picture fees, royalties, sales rep commission, overhead of all type, taxes, you name it. Publishing is one of the least profitable businesses there is.

    If the price of ebooks is substantially below the cost of print books the result will be that publishing like the music industry will be crippled and there won’t be much in the way of new publishing.

  • I’m not sure how old this article is, but as a consumer of a metric-butt-ton of e-books, I’m going to chime in anyway. :)

    I read about half the comments here and found one by an author that stated something along the lines of “I charge per entertainment hour”. This is PRECISELY how I make decisions on if I’m going to pay the asking price for a book.

    I love David Weber for instance, and some of his works are great reads. I will pay slightly more for his work that I will an unknown author because I know for a fact they will entertain me. But I refuse to pay more than 8 dollars for an e-book that I will read cover-to-cover in less than 3-6 hours.

    For an unknown author, my limit is 5 dollars. I read the samples, and I read the “page count”. If it’s less than 300 pages, I’m not going to pay 5 bucks for it unless it’s part of a series that I’ve already read the first parts of and again, I know I will enjoy the remainder of.

    I will buy anything that strikes my interest that is under 3 dollars. Sometimes without even reading the samples. If I read the first book in a series and I like it, I will buy every one of the rest of the series if they are under the five dollar mark. If they are more, I do my research first.

    There are to many BAD authors out there… With a paper-book, I can pick it up and read the first 10 pages, then skip to the middle and read 2-3 pages and then skip to the end and read 2-3 pages and know if that book will hold my interest and be enjoyable for the time it will take me to read it.

    I cannot do that with an ebook. That and I don’t even own the stupid e-book I’m paying for.

    My personal wish for e-book pricing…? If you’re going to make us rent the books anyway, charge me by the day. I’ll gladly pay 1.00 per day that I have “possession” of said book. Long books would have me paying 5-8 dollars for them, depending on my available time to read. Short books (under 300 pages) would have me paying 1-3 dollars.

  • I didn’t bother reading all the comments but it is very frustrating when I can buy a traditional paper book for half the price of exact same ebook from amazon:(

  • Since the some of the Big 6 got spanked, e-book prices have been going down although more on Amazon than Sony or B & N. I agree that since I’m merely renting a purchased e-book, it should be LOTS cheaper than purchasing a print version; like the difference between renting and owning a video (which are also digital now).

    Personally, my first choice is to borrow my e-books from the library. Second choice is purchasing when not available from a library. I pay 99 cents up to $4 for e-books that are available in used bookstores (online and storefronts). I absolutely refuse to pay hardcover price for an e-book. Why should I? Publishers have conditioned me to believe I can wait 6 months for the cheaper paperback version or a used hardcover. Even though I HIGHLY value the small storage space of e-books (I own 9 large bookcases filled to overflowing) I won’t pay more for the e-book than for the paper version.

    Another issue with e-book format and pricing is converting my current paper collection to e-books. I’ve already bought the paper version, why should I have to pay another $10 (worst case scenario) for the e-version? I really wish I could turn in my paper books for the e-book, kind of like stripping DRM from purchased e-books once a year or purchasing DRM-free e-books.

    There were lots of great comments above including more information on the costs of e-publishing and the economics of creating and selling a product. I found they really add interest and information to the original article.

  • A fair price for an e-book is whatever people will pay. To me e-books aren’t worth their code. Add a dollar cost to a physical copy to include e-version rights and I’ll bite, but otherwise… meh.

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