Saturday, July 17, 2010

Exploring the eBook Pricing Dilemma

Let’s be honest. The tide in publishing has been shifting for quite sometime now regarding eBooks and their impact on the market. However, this year has brought a tsunami of changes and it seems to me as if many in the publishing industry were knocked off their feet by the swift surge in the consumption of eBooks.

The introduction of Apple’s iPad made a lot of people stand up and take notice. However, I personally believe the recent price wars between Barnes & Noble’s nook and Amazon’s Kindle eReaders has had the biggest impact this year. The drastically reduced cost of the devices has made eBook reading an affordable option for readers.

Well, except for one thing: the cost of the books.

There has been a huge debate among some of my friends regarding the pricing of eBooks. For the most part, new releases have the same retail price as a paper copy. For Sony eReaders, the price is actually a bit more. This sticks in the craw of many readers who have paid $150-plus for the device, and now have to pay either the same or even more for the actual books. After all, one of the advantages of eBooks is that they are supposed to cost less money to produce. One would think that those savings would be passed onto the readers, right? Apparently, that hasn’t been the case so far. When I looked at my contract, I noticed that I get the same royalty rate for both paper and eBooks, so the profits from those savings aren’t being passed onto the author either--at least not this author.

I know there is still a debate about whether there is a huge savings in producing eBooks versus paper books, but when one considers the reduction in printing, distribution cost, and storage, it seems as if eBooks cost less. Of course, we must remember that there are standard costs that will be incurred in producing a book (writing, editing, marketing), no matter what the format.

I know this issue isn’t as black and white as I’m painting it, but I must admit that I am still ignorant of a number of things regarding electronic books. I want--need--to learn more about it, which is why I’m asking the questions here at Novel Spaces. Hopefully, I can glean some knowledge from others who may know more.

So, the question is, what do we do about the cost of eBooks? Does anyone foresee a common pricing structure being developed between publishers and eBook retailers? What are your thoughts on the pricing of eBooks, royalties paid to authors, etc?


Charles Gramlich said...

I think it'll shake out eventually. I don't see why ebooks should cost as much as paper books. Seems like they should be relatively cheap. but I don't really know waht the cost of producing on is for the big publishers. I did my book "Killing Trail" through Amazon and the cost was nil to me, except for the time spent writing and editing, which was immense of course.

Liane Spicer said...

It's fascinating to watch this play out. I thought the lower price for e-books was THE big selling point, so I don't understand the rationale behind pricing them the same as paper books.

I'm one of those (there are many of us) who will always prefer paper books. Pricing e-books the same as or higher than paper, in addition to having to put out a chunk of cash for the reading device, is doing nothing to seduce me to join the e-book brigade.

Phyllis Bourne said...

I love my Kindle, but I don't like when e-books cost MORE than the paperback. In those cases, I just can't bring myself to buy the book - no matter how badly I want it.

I do think they'll eventually get together on prices.