Maybe this is one reason ebooks aren’t rockin?

One of the fundamental problems with ebooks in my eyes is that it isn’t discounted when compared to a print edition. If I want to get the ebook edition of a best-selling book like, say, the wonderful The Da Vinci Code, the ebook will be priced identical to the hardback ($26) giving me zero incentive to take the plunge.


What’s worse, it’s a disservice to the author and a demonstration of the greed and fear publishers have about digital media…



Consider: on a print book there’s printing, binding, packaging, distribution, shelf space, and many other factors that eat into the profit of the book. Most importantly, there’s the profit percentage of the bookstore, so the $26 copy of The Da Vinci Code is likely to net $13 for Borders, say, and $13 for the publisher, of which perhaps 50% is eaten up by overhead and distribution costs. That leaves $6.50, if we’re lucky, to pay the author, the editorial team, and eke out a profit for the publishing firm. If the author has a 10% royalty, they’ll see $1.30 overall.


So if we can chop out the bookstore and the distribution costs, doesn’t it seem logical that an ebook should be around half the price of a printed book, if not less expensive yet? But it isn’t, which means that the publishers are hoping to see $24.70 in post-royalty revenues for the ebook. And, surprise, it doesn’t work.

Some publishers seem to see the idiocy of their position, grudgingly. Publisher’s Weekly today reports that St. Martin’s Press has changed their ebook pricing policy a bit:

“Until now, the publisher has been charging the going rate of the
cheapest print format. So a frontlist book like Running With Scissors
would take the hardback price, while a mass market Ludlum would go for
roughly six dollars. Now the company has added a new plan: it has
announced that it will knock 25% off the current price of its least
expensive print edition and use that as a sticker for the electronic
edition. So a book like The Nanny Diaries with hardcover and trade
paper editions, would go in e-book for about $11, three dollars off the
$14 trade-paper price.”

It’s still not enough, because discounters commonly offer up to 40% off the New York Times bestsellers, etc., but it’s a start.


But for electronic books to become any sort of meaningful alternative to dead tree editions, one issue that must be wrestled with further is pricing. Just like buying digital versus physical music CDs, if the profit for the press/label and the royalty for the artist are the same, why can’t the prices be different?

5 comments on “Maybe this is one reason ebooks aren’t rockin?

  1. Dave,
    I agree that e-book prices tend to be prohibitive. The pulp-and-glue UI is still a better experience in my (e)book.
    I wonder if publishers are afraid that e-books will cannabalize sales of the dead tree editions or if they are afraid of the sudden emergence of literar-crazed Bookster.
    Personally, I find that $5 is about as much as I’m willing to pay for an e-book because, almost always, an e-book is a convenient add-on to the print addition rather than a substitute for me.
    – Sean

  2. Dave,
    I agree that e-book prices tend to be prohibitive. The pulp-and-glue UI is still a better experience in my (e)book.
    I wonder if publishers are afraid that e-books will cannabalize sales of the dead tree editions or if they are afraid of the sudden emergence of literary-crazed college students staying up all night to download from Bookster.
    Personally, I find that $5 is about as much as I’m willing to pay for an e-book because, almost always, an e-book is a convenient add-on to the print addition rather than a substitute for me.
    – Sean

  3. I dont mind paying the same price for an ebook as a hard back for a newly released book. However, once the paperback version is released then the ebook price should drop to that of the paperback.

  4. I am completely flummoxed that nothing has changed much since this post.
    I am the new owner of an iPhone and am searching for ebooks to read on it. But I am repeatedly coming across current newly published books where the ebook is significantly MORE EXPENSIVE than the paperback version !
    What on earth is going on ?
    I see parallels with the ‘head in the sand’ music industry. A blind effort to screw as much money out of the reader before the inevitable explosion of e-reading and the parallel explosion of hackers who will start distributing these books free on torrent sites.
    And to be honest I am so incensed at the appalling prices being charged that I am now going to follow this route to torrent sites.
    I don’t mind one bit paying a FAIR price. But I am not a complete fool and willing to pay 20 quid for a book that is available on the high street for 10 quid.
    Most ebooks of leading writers should in my view be priced at approx 5 to 7 euros, with recent publishings of best sellers at 10 euros. That is my absolutely upper limit and I believe it is MORE than fair considering there is NO PRINTING, NO DISTRIBUTING !
    Howard
    Ireland

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