June 26th, 2010

books in a stack

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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