Monday, April 06, 2009

How Much Should an eBook Cost?

What is a fair price for an eBooK? Should Sony and Amazon charge more than the price of a paperback for an eBook considering that eBooks are delivered with numerous restrictions as to how they may be used? Are eBook customers being asked to over-subsidize the cost of physical copies? A group of Kindle2 owners thinks so - as noted by Gadget Lab (entire article):
"It just doesn't seem right," says Crystal O'Brien, a Connecticut librarian who bought a Kindle last year. For the last few days, O'Brien has spent a few minutes every day in the Kindle book store tagging the more expensive digital books with the '9 99 boycott' tag and removing it once the price drops below the threshold.

"You are not getting something you can lend out to other people, you are not getting a physical item," says O'Brien. "So you shouldn't have to pay so much for a digital copy."
...
But O'Brien says that the $10 price is just one part of the story. Looking back at her history of purchases on Amazon she has found prices of e-books steadily creeping up.

"Some of the Kindle books now cost more than their paperback version," she says. For instance, she points out that she purchased a digital copy of Small Favor, a book by Jim Butcher for $10 in June last year. The Kindle price then jumped to $13.94 and is now back to $8. A paperback version of the book costs $10.
...
O'Brien and other Kindle users who have joined the revolt have used the boycott tag more than 7,200 times so far. "It doesn't take that much time to do, and it sends out a message," she says.

Kindle books are limited in their use: They cannot be donated to a library, sold to a used-book store or even Amazon's used marketplace or traded elsewhere. In addition, some books are badly designed and offer little pictorial or other kind of visual relief, they say.

Personally, I do feel a bit ripped-off every time I purchase an eBook for much over ten bucks because I prefer a hard copy anyway, and I can often find one for pretty near what the electronic copy cost me. I understand that marketing costs, royalties, and the like, have to be prorated across all of a book's sales volume, but still something bothers me about paying near regular book cost for an electronic book that can so easily disappear or become corrupted. And I absolutely detest the DRM technology that keeps me from freely using something that I buy. I don't buy music that way and I likely won't be buying many more crippled books either. (I don't mean to sound grumpy tonight but Big Brother and my new Nanny State Federal government really tick me off.)

14 comments:

  1. I don't think they are pricing they ebooks based on their costs. I think they are pricing them based on what the market will bear, which is exactly how I would do it. As long as there are people willing to pay, they are going to charge.

    Maybe the boycott will work, but based on the sales figures cited in the article, probably not. And I can't imagine being that ticked off about something that you can 1) get free at the library or 2) buy cheaper in another form (ie, hardback) that you would waste time tagging the books on amazon.com!

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  2. I have my Kindle and love it but I do have to say the cost of ebooks does keep me from buying as many books as I would like.

    Usually if I can get the book at the same price in a paper copy or with a Borders coupon I'll get the paper copy instead. That way I can lend it out, sell it to a used book store or give it away on my blog.

    From what I've heard I doubt they will be lowering the price of ebooks though.

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  3. "Whatever the market will bear" is a sound economic principle, for sure, but there are a few fixed costs that need to be covered - and other than the cost of printing ink, paper, labor, etc. they are the same for eBooks as for physical copies.

    I do have to emphasize that the pricing level used by Sony exceeds what I feel comfortable paying for an "air book," so they are already exceeded what this particular market "will bear." :-)

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  4. Debbie, those are my feelings exactly. I am positive that I will always prefer a paper copy of any book over it's electronic equivalent. I've used the Sony Reader for a few years now - but it will always be my second choice, never my first.

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  5. I have to admit I haven't tried reading anything with a digital reader, but I can't imagine it living up to the experience of holding a "real" book in my hands. And if e-books are more expensive and come with more restrictions, then I really don't want to start down that path.

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  6. It's a whole different experience, Leonore, and an ebook is definitely less satisfying a read, to me, than a physical book. Maybe for succeeding generations that won't be the case, but I will likely always be a limited user of ebook readers. (I just finished reading "Echo Park" on my Sony Reader a couple of days ago - first ebook of 2009 for me of the 41 I've read so far.

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  7. DRM and inability to sell or loan out the e-book should justify lower price (less value). I believe publisher really dislike the new market for used books on the web and like the ideal of making everyone purchase their own copy.

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  8. I totally agree with you Anonymous. DRM really ticks me off. I want the same ownership rights in an e-book that I have in a physical copy of a book. The small price discount given for e-books today is not enough to get me to give up those rights very often. I have to be desperate for a quick copy of a book in order to buy an electronic one.

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  9. There are millions of ebooks being bought and sold on the internet, and I believe there’s a really lucrative business for ebooks. But for individuals like us, we don’t have our own publishers or even a good platform that allows us to create our own interactive ebooks. A family friend recommended a cool ebook software to me recently and we haven’t been able to resist a day without creating ebooks with this software called Koobits. This Koobits software is easy to use and has a well-defined user interface. I have created ebooks, digital brochure, photomontages, digital scrapbooks with this cool software. You guys can try it out at www.koobits.com

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  10. The price of the ebooks is what is keeping me from jumping into the ebook market. This is way too much money for a book I can only read on my own reader - can't loan it to somebody or trade it in at the book store, etc. I bought an e-reader today, went on the internet to look for some e-books, saw the prices and quickly decided to take the e-reader back tomorrow.

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  11. Good points. I never feel that I'm getting my money's worth when I purchase an e-book...same for e-music...I want something tangible.

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  12. The price issue is part of the reason why all the e-books I've bought have been published by non-Agency publishers - and even then, some of them charge more than I would like. My preferred price points are something like: no more than $5.99 for novels, no more than $1.99 for novellas. However, I've willingly bought novels that cost $6.99 and novellas that cost $2.99.

    The site I buy most of my books from has a couple deals, one of which allows you to get a free book, no matter what it costs, after every 10 items you buy (I think .99 novellas count towards the 10, but free things don't).

    That's how I recently ended up with a $12.99 book, which I would never, ever have paid actual money for. It's an Adobe Digital Editions book. Now, after having tried it, I'm never again getting an Adobe Digital Editions book, even for free - I barely managed to get the book working on my Nook, and somehow I missed that "Adobe Digital Editions" meant that it was a PDF. Ugh. I'm telling myself that the book was a learning experience.

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  13. @Anonymous - Actually, if you buy DRM-free, it can be read on anyone's reader, not just yours (although publishers probably would be unhappy if they knew the sharing was happening - but then, some of them would also like a "slice of the pie" every time a library lends something). So, if I thought my parents or one of my friends would like one of the e-books I just read, since I make an effort to buy DRM-free I could lend it to them (technically, give them a copy of the file). At least, that's my understanding - my reading tastes and those of my family and friends don't mesh, so I haven't yet had the urge to share.

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  14. Library Girl, I don't think that publishers are even close to coming up with a pricing scheme that makes sense to the consumer. There are just too many negatives pertaining to electronic files - they've already been outlined so I want mention any of them again.

    But price and DRM issues lead the list. If it were not for all the free books and "specials" that are run, I would never buy an e-book. I don't mind reading them on my iPad because it is a larger screen than other readers I've seen, but e-books are almost never my first choice.

    I hope publishers finally wake up and make some sense on the pricing and protected file issues - if not, my attitude about their product will not change.

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