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How much should an ebook cost?

If it comes to that, how much should a book cost? Just why is it that a hardcover book costs so damn much more than a mass market paperback, especially now that publishers are yelling from the roof tops that printing and binding costs are a minor part of book production? I'll tell you why. It's because people will pay $20 to $30 for a hardcover, that's why. The price is what the customer is willing to pay.

Which brings us to ebooks. The (British) Bookseller site reported today on a survey of publishers as to what an ebook should cost. The article says they are divided, but the results shown in the article (the list is repeated below) reveal that 58% of publishers think the ebook should be at least 10% cheaper than the printed book:

 The price for an e-book should be:

 More expensive than the printed book: 4%
 As expensive as the printed book 15%
 10 per cent cheaper than the printed book 11%
 20 per cent cheaper 17%
 30 per cent cheaper 14%
 More than 30 per cent cheaper 16%
 A standard price as with Amazon ($9.99) 15%
 Other price model 6%

First off, let me point out yet again that Amazon does not, in fact, charge a flat rate for ebooks. Most current best sellers are $9.99 on Kindle but there are Kindle fiction books that cost $12, $13, and $14, and even more. Nonfiction goes well beyond that. On the other hand, older books that are out in mass market paperback are often (but not always) less than $6.

Now that ebooks are heating up, publishers are scrambling. It might be that the 6% of publishers who said "Other" have realized that ebooks are a different animal and they need to figure out how to create and market them in a way that makes both sense and money.

The Bookseller article also mentions that publishers are interested in the idea of a subscription model all their content would be available to a customer who paid a fixed price, presumably by the year. That would be really interesting to see implemented, but it would also be complicated. Would 2009 subscribers receive all books released in prior years? Or would it only cover new books? That kind of a selling model could play havoc with things like best seller lists.

This is where it gets interesting!

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 30th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
Publishers need to do studies based on how many print sales are lost as people chose to buy a ebook instead. And then whether there is a significant difference in book store purchase or returns based on that. None of the studies really ask anything along those lines.

Basically the ebooks need to cost as much as is necessary for proper conversions, plus royalties, plus profit... plus make up for any differences in the other mediums.

Sep. 30th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't think it's purely a matter of LOSING print sales to ebooks. I have bought one hell of a lot more books after I got the Kindle than before, because it is just so damn easy (and I can get a free sample). A lot of my purchases were books I read about and thought, "hmm, that might be interesting." Turn on the wireless, order a free sample, read it, make the decision. About 70% of the time it's actually no, don't buy it, but that's still a lot higher than my "I'll have to remember to look of r that the next time I'm in a bookstore" percentage. I would guess of the 35 or so books I have bought on my Kindle, only 5 are books I would have bought in print.

From what I hear, I am not unusual. People who buy erReaders buy more books because of it.

Sep. 30th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
I meant lost in that they buy the ebook instead of a print book. You have to figure a certain number of people also buy the ebook to read and hardcover to save. (This proven by BAEN Books.)

I doubt the industry will (anytime soon) count people that only buy ebooks. They still want to find a way to justify the print books. And they are still counting based on 1 book at a time and their return on the book. The few companies that used to bundle print books may be looking at it differently.

And I understand the instinct with buying more ebooks. After all with a print book you have to 1) be in the bookstore; 2) the book has to be there; 3) you have time to read the first chapter or so to test.

Whereas with the ebooks that have sample text you can check through a much larger selection and possibly decide if you want it right when you hear news of the book's release or someone's review.

Sep. 30th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
wireless connection = crack pipe for book addicts!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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