Ebook questions

In response to reports that some Amazon customers are boycotting eBooks over $9.99, SF Signal asks readers how much they’d be willing to pay for an eBook. According to the American Association of Publishers, eBook sales represent only one-half of one percent of total book sales in the U.S., but surely that figure is going to rise quickly. So, as someone hoping to scratch together a living by my writing, this is a subject of interest to me.

A lot of people don’t understand why eBook prices are so high. After all, the publisher doesn’t have to print or warehouse anything. But publishing is not the same as printing and manufacturing. Publishers point out that the writer still has to be paid, as does the editor and the copyeditor and the typesetter and a number of other people responsible for transforming the document the writer delivers into the cohesive presentation of text we call a book, whether it’s printed on paper or displayed on a screen.

The mass market paperback of Norse Code lists for $7.99. The eBook edition lists for the exact same price. Do you think that’s fair? Is there additional content that could be packaged with an eBook that would make it worth as much as a paper book? What’s a fair price for an eBook?



7 Responses to “Ebook questions”

  1. April 7, 2009 at 6:08 am

    In general, no.

    Why? Because formats of eBooks haven’t been stable (and thus may become unreadable), and with a physical book, I have something that can be re-sold or traded in a way an eBook generally cannot.

    As a rule of thumb, I’d only be willing to pay half the cover price for an eBook that I would for a dead tree book.

  2. April 7, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Two things–publishers keep talking about their costs, but readers don’t care. What I’m willing to pay for a hardcover or paperback or ebook is what I’m willing to pay based on how much I like to read and what I feel is the long-term worth of the book and how much money I make and other obligations/hobbies, etc I have. IN today’s world, I won’t pay 35.00 for a hardcover or 15.00 for a mass market paperback. My top price for ebooks right now is pretty much 9.99 (with variation depending on book, what price I could buy it for in another format, etc). I’m not ‘boycotting’ btw, that’s just my current price break, like 25.00 for hard covers and 7.99 for mass market paperbacks and 15.00 for trade.

    An ebook is worth less to me than other formats–I can’t lend it. I can’t borrow it. Unlike regular books my only option is purchase. There’s no guarantee that I’ll have something I can read it on down the road.

    Personally, I’m not all that interested in extra content. I either want to buy the book that is for the price or I don’t. One marketing ploy that I think is brilliant is giving away the first ebook in a series for free for a limited time to hook people on the series. The cost is minimal to the publisher and it creates readers for that series.

    All that said (and wow that was long) I am excited that your book is going to be an ebook too (YAY!) and I will definitely buy. Tho, I do think they’d make more money if they priced it at 6.39.

  3. April 7, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I’m intrigued by your question of adding content to an ebook to make up for its deficiencies (can’t sell it/lend it/read it in the tub). The only add-ons I could think of were things that aren’t cheap to add, like multimedia content: alternate cover art (gotta pay the artist/buy rights), simple games (trivia, maybe) associated with the book, etc. I’m not sure simply adding textual content works for me, unless it’s really special text. Maybe, since all that additional material is common for fantasy and SF novels, print editions can stop including glossaries, maps, etc., and add that only to the ebook? But then I’d get mad that the print editions no longer had those features to give them value.

    Hmm. Thinkythinky.

    Anyway, I’m with DebC — I generally won’t pay more than $20 for a hardcover (I’m a B&N and Borders “club” member, so can get most hardcovers at a discount), and I only buy hardcovers from authors I already know or who are recommended to me. But that’s because I buy hardcovers for the express purpose of adding them to my library; those are books I wouldn’t buy in ebook format because I want a copy I can read in the tub or pass around to friends. So I basically would never buy an ebook in that price range, period. I’m willing to pay up to half that price, maybe, with additional content.

  4. April 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I am with everyone saying they expect to pay less for an electronic version. And I think that if publishers are trying to push such technologies, or get people to adopt them, they need to price accordingly. I understand that there are costs involved in the production of an ebook, but there are also significant savings when you consider that printing costs these days are high and you avoid those entirely. Ostensibly all the costs for an ebook would be upfront. Whereas printed books require you to reprint them once your stock runs out.

    I really don’t know if any additional content would make me willing to pay an equivalent amount for an ebook. Maybe if there was an additional story (as is done sometimes with collector’s versions of books). That would still require additional cost for the publisher, though, to pay the author. But short stories are a lot cheaper, I would think. Another option would be a kind of interview or commentary from the author, perhaps in an audio/podcast form. That should be relatively inexpensive to produce.

    But really, if a print book is selling for, say, $7.99, then I want to pay $5 for the ebook.

  5. 6 mentatjack
    April 7, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I’d like ubiquitous access to my entire collection of books … I’m willing to pay 10-25% what I paid for the physical books to also have access to them on my eReader, and until there is such a promotion or a trade in promotion of some sort, the transition to eReader is going to be tough.

    Once a promotion like the above got me hooked on my eReader.

    I’d buy an eBook over a paperback for the same price ( I like the thought of a smaller carbon footprint ) but I can’t really imaging paying MORE than a paperback.

    I’d probably be more likely to buy a longer series all at once in eBook format … it’s often difficult to even FIND a full series in a bookstore. The possibility of offering an author’s entire backlist at a significant discount if bought all at once excites me.

    I LOVE bookstores … I’d love to have a way to buy an eBook while I’m browsing the stacks, in a way that actually helps the bookstore I’m enjoying.

    I’d love to have the freely available short stories and such compiled and offered to me along with an eBook purchase.

    eBooks should offer a sample of the audio book … seems like cross promotion between the 2 of those has MUCH potential.

    I’d a publisher I trust (or author) a subscription to get novels serialized … I’d suspect to end up paying significantly less per book than a paperback, but depending on the update frequency as much as $20 a month.

    It seems to me that we’re comparing apples and weather. If publishers made EVERYTHING that they could available digitally, there are ENDLESS ways that they could get me to give them more money than I’m giving them right now. We still need to get over the DRM incompatibilities, the transition issues, and the entrenched mindsets.

  6. 7 Zijrepus
    January 17, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Amazon expecting the consumer to pay the same for an ebook file is wishfill thinking.
    1) Cost of entertainment. MP3 downloads are 99 cents, RedBox movies are 1 dollar, versus 9.99 ebooks from Amazon. As if peeople needed another excuse why not to read, making it 10X more expensive boggles the mind.
    2) Cost of equipment. Reading a paperback is 0. Ebook reader cost $179-$500.
    3) No resale value. You can’t trade it on craigslist, or place it on ebay after you are done with an ebook.

    I think I will stick with my hardback books, can find them used for $ 1, and leatherbound versions for a couple bucks more.

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