karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

Hitting the moving target

Recently jongibbs did an excellent post on the cost of ebooks titled “How much should an ebook cost?”  His post included a poll and elicted his usual plethora of comments.  Between the poll results and the comments, it was clear that what people will pay for an ebook varies tremendously from person to person and from book to book.  

But that's okay, because one  of the strengths of ebooks is that you can vary the price with very little effort.  A while ago I posted about a site called eReaderIQ.com, a useful site for Kindle owners because it monitors Amazon and alerts you when the price of an book you want drops to the amount you specify. I had marked a few books on that site, and today I got an email that the price of two books had come down to my specs.  I bought one (the cheaper one) and got a free sample on the other.  Both of these were books that have been out for a while. Possibly there is now a paperback version available as well as hardcover. Lowering the price made sense, and thanks to technology, I knew about the change. That's one instance of technology helping authors out.

An author who is beyond help (in the sense that she has been dead for decades) recently had a birthday celebration. In honor of Georgette Heyer's 109th birthday, Sourcebooks reduced the price of the ebook versions of her mysteries, historical novels, and regency romances to $1.99 for one week. They sold like hotcakes and started appearing on ebook best seller lists. This was too late to do Ms. Heyer any good, but perhaps her publisher will take a chance on some unknown author because they have the cash to do it now? 

Those ebook prices were lowered by the pubishers, but a lot of publishers never bother to change ebook prices. One of the things that drives some already-published authors into self publishing is that they get control of the ebook price. Generally these days, publishers set the cover price of the print copy but retailers often discount that substantially.  eBooks, on the other hand are priced by the publisher (at least for the Big 6) and retailers aren't allowed to discount them. This sometimes results in a print book costing less than the ebook version, a situation that makes some fans of digital books froth at the mouth.  The major self-publishing platforms (Amazon KDP, Barnes & Noble Pub-It, and Smashwords) however, all let the author/publisher set the price. Smashwords will even let the author make the book free; for the others the bottom price is 99¢. Author Joe Konrath has a boatload of info about how he uses price and sales to maximize his income. 

The digital piblishing lanscape is evolving rapidly, but one thing I feel comfortable predicting is that over time, ebook prices will become much more dynamic. 

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Tags: digital publishing, e-books, ebooks, technology

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