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What price ebooks?

I got a Kindle 1 (the original Kindle) early in November of 2008. Since then I have read approximately 50 books and dozens of short stories on it or its successor, my Kindle 2. I have not read any print books and very few magazines since I got a Kindle. I just don't want to go back to carrying around a chunk of paper, remembering where I put the thing down, and making sure I have it with me when I get a moment to read. I used to read more when I was younger, and it has been a long time sinec I read more than 25 books a year. The convenience of the Kindle, the abundance of free ebooks, and the free sample feature have won me over to eReaders completely.

I have bought print books, but only ones written by my friends, so that they could sign them. I also bought a Kindle copy (sometimes I had to wait for it) whenever I wanted to actually read the book.

Now, I didn't actually pay for all those books. Some of them were free, for one reason or another. But I paid for a lot of them, and except for my husband, who know owns the Kindle 1, I can't share them with anyone. I can't sell them. I can't even give them to charity. That's the main reason I think ebooks should be cheaper than print books. Lower cost to the publishers is another reason. I will concede most of the cost of the book isn't in the printing and binding, but some of it is. So, if a publishers has a hardback version of a book out, I can see the ebook costing more than I would expect to pay for a paperback. What I can't see is a book being out in mass market paperback at $7.99 while the Kindle version is $9.99. Check out The New Space Opera 2 the anthology edited by Gardener Dozois and Jonathan Strahan. It came out from Eos in mass market in March of this year and it's $7.99. The Kindle edition of the same book is $9.99 from HarperCollins ebooks, and it came out in June of 2009.

This book just won the Locus Award for Best Anthology and I am so not buying it at $9.99. I don't know if it's a deliberate attempt to keep ebook sales low or if it's just plain negligence, but publishers are not doing a good job of pricing ebooks in a way that will bring them revenue. The Amazon page for the Kindle version says "price set by publisher." Must be "set it and forget it."

What publishers need to do is take advantage of the fact that ebooks don't have a price printed on the covers. Go ahead and price it high while the hardback is out, but bring it down as the book ages. If they were smart, they would pressure Amazon to build a function into the online store so that the customer could click a button that says, "Buy this Kindle book when price drops to _____." Le the customer fill in the price. Maybe the price would be so low, it wouldn't be reached for three or four years. But when the book did hit that price, the customer would get the book and the publisher would finally get some money.

"Price set by publisher" should not mean "Price set artificiality high by publisher because they don't know what they're doing."





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Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
mikandra
Jun. 27th, 2010 05:38 am (UTC)
The more I think about it, the more I become convinced that I won't be paying full price for ebooks until something major changes. Whatever that major thing would be, I have no idea, but I feel very resistant to the idea of downloading digital copies of books by my favourite authors, and the only personal benefit I can see of ebooks is that I could try lots of authors for a cheaper price.

I can see how ebooks are going to be important for people who travel a lot (but, honestly, who needs to carry that much literature when they travel) and for magazines and newspapers (which you end up chucking out) and maybe for romance and similar, but most people I speak to, including my teenage daughters, like having a physical book in their hands. The book is part of the experience, and I'm prepared to pay for that. I've recently been buying hardcovers.

I will probably end up buying an ereader (not a Kindle), but I'll use it for look-see books and for reading friends' manuscripts. The books I buy will have to be significantly cheaper than their paper cousins. A difference of $2 would not be enough to entice me to buy an ebook. Another concern might be that I run out of space to keep books, but for that, again, the book I'm considering buying will have to be one I'd not buy normally.

I would, though, get magazine subscriptions electronically.
karen_w_newton
Jun. 27th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
I do have an Asimov's subscription, and it works well on the Kindle. Of course, it's unusual for magazines today in that it has no color, except on the cover, and it's mostly fiction to is translates to e-ink pretty well.

I have a friend who uses the Kindle app on her iPod Touch to get the free sample chunk. Then if she likes the book, she will buy a print copy.
peadarog
Jun. 27th, 2010 09:06 am (UTC)
I will concede most of the cost of the book isn't in the printing and binding, but some of it is.

And don't forget the cost of returns! Other than that, I agree with everything you've said and often get angry at the higher price of ebooks :(
a_r_williams
Jun. 27th, 2010 11:28 am (UTC)
::nods:: I agree.

"Price set by publisher" should not mean "Price set artificiality high by publisher because they don't know what they're doing."

They know what they're doing. Protecting the sale of hardcover books.
karen_w_newton
Jun. 27th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
I agree that they THINK they are protecting the sale of hardcovers. What I doubt is that they are indeed doing that. Someone who only wants an ebook will not buy the hardcover no matter what, and if the ebook is too expensive when they look for it, they may NEVER buy that book.
karen_w_newton
Jun. 27th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC)
I forgot about returns! Good point!
peadarog
Jun. 27th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
And the distribution, warehousing etc...
karen_w_newton
Jun. 27th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
Also true. But I suppose you would also have to factor in SOME costs for servers and stuff. Actually, if they followed my ideas, they would also invest in a decent XML or SGML-based content management system, too.
peadarog
Jun. 27th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
A lot of those servers belong to amazon and probably cost a lot less than real estate on the main street...
karen_w_newton
Jun. 27th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
Also true! So, do the Irish say "high street" like the Brits, or "main street" like us yanks?
peadarog
Jun. 27th, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC)
"Main Street" here for the most part.
karen_w_newton
Jun. 27th, 2010 04:51 pm (UTC)
Interesting. We have a lot of Irish Americans. Maybe we got it from you?
peadarog
Jun. 27th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
Or vice versa? I don't know. In a lot of ways, we are sort of halfway between the two larger dialects. In other ways we are pretty weird :)
bogwitch64
Jun. 27th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
It does seem a bit insane to set the price of an ebook higher, or even as high as, a print book. That ebook is a one-time sale, as you said. It can't be resold, borrowed, donated.

I suppose this is all still bugs being worked out. I sure hope the industry is LISTENING!
karen_w_newton
Jun. 27th, 2010 03:56 pm (UTC)
Me, too! I think this is new territory for publishers. they're not used to their "customer" being an individual reader. In the past, a publisher's customer was wholesaler or a retail chain.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 1st, 2010 06:34 am (UTC)
eBook vs hardcover
I'm with you in that I'm actively not buying physical books any more, at least where it comes to novels. Signed hardcovers are a nifty souvenir to be put carefully on the shelf. So where the hell is my Kindle edition so I can READ it?

Though I resent paying more, or even quite as much as the hardcover for the ebook, I don't mind paying a premium when only the hardcover is out. But it doesn't matter what the prices are at this point, delaying the ebook is only delaying the publisher getting my money.

Really, and I've said this many times before, if the publishers want to keep selling hardcovers, they should give away the ebook WITH the hard-cover. That package I might pay current hardcover prices for.

I can see the publisher screaming, "but that means we're giving the ebook away for free!" No, idiots. The book I'm holding and the book I'm reading is the same book. You're selling a hardcover you wouldn't have otherwise sold.

Ah, but now they're saying, "but you could just read the ebook and give the hardcover to your mom or sell it on eBay!" No, idiots, but even if I do, it makes no difference. Even without the ebook, I could slap this hardcover on eBay and read it before the auction ends. So what's your point? Deal.

Don't plan to put out an ebook at all? Well, heck, sorry you won't be getting my money. Plenty of other good ebooks out there right now. Maybe next time.
karen_w_newton
Jul. 8th, 2010 01:39 pm (UTC)
Re: eBook vs hardcover
It is interesting that some authors are still resistant to ebooks. If they understood the technology, though, they would realize that doesn't stop piracy, which is what they assume would happen if they publish in ebook form. Robot book scanners take minutes to scan a print book.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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