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Monday, December 12, 2011

eBook pricing

I've recently read a lot about eBook pricing and whether publisher set prices are too high. Now I guess that depends on whether you're the taking a bigger chunk from the price publisher or the getting the lesser percentage author. I don't think publishers think about readers, though they really should considering without readers, the whole thing crumbles.

Being a reader, I like the lower priced eBooks. If a publisher thinks I'm going to pay $9.99 or higher for an eBook they're crazy. There are lovely brick and mortar places called libraries where I can borrow the book for free and return it for someone else to read and enjoy (or not as the case may be).

I'm not so attached to my Nook that I need to read everything this instant. Though that's a convenience I absolutely adore. Still, if I can show restraint for my physical book purchases then I can show that same restraint for my Nook purchases. Even if there are loads more eBooks I enjoy than print.

Over the summer there was a brouhaha over Harlequin's pricing and the measly percentage their authors get for their eBooks. Now most e-only publishers give between 35% and 40% (give or take a percentage) for sales. Harlequin offers the same rate as on their print books, about 5-8%. This is from Bob Mayer's blog, which I also read reguraly and enjoy. Harlequin, author royalty rates, non-compete: Business reality but is it smart?

Anyone else see the discrepancy there? Plus I've read on Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog, The Business Rusch, a rather informative bit (April 2011) on Royalty Statements Update. This is her personal experience, but read it, read the comments, and laugh over major publisher's wonderment at the changing world of publishing. There are major gaps in the Big Publishers royalty statements.

Then there's this from the Wall Street Journal...and how little it surprised me that 1) it barely made a bleep in the publishing news I read and 2) that it exists at all.

Justice Department Confirms E-Book Pricing Probe
The publishing companies named in the EU investigation included Hachette Livre, owned by Lagardère SCA; News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers Inc.; Simon & Schuster of CBS Corp.; Pearson PLC's Penguin; and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck.

What are your thoughts? How much would you pay for an eBook. Now granted, I know there are always exceptions. That favorite author, the best bestseller this year, etc. But for all us voracious readers, what's the eBook pricing limit?


  1. I don't like to pay more than $10 for an e-book. There are some books I really want to read that I haven't, because they cost about $14. Come on - I could get the paper back for less than that! I just can't bring myself to fork out that much when it seems sort of like a slap in the face that I can seriously find paperback editions of some books in Wal-Mart selling for half the price of the Kindle edition on Amazon.

  2. Great article and an excellent topic, Kristabel!
    I’ve never liked spending more than $9.99 for an eBook, but even that’s the very high end. There have only been two occasions where I spent more than $9.99 for one, in fact. (I spent $11.69 for “First Lord's Fury” by Jim Butcher, and $14.99 for “Arms Commander” by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. simply because I was so desperate to read them!)
    In general, I don’t spend more than $7.99 for an eBook, but it really irks me that it’s the same price for the physical mass market paperback of the same novel. Frankly, I would never sell any of my own novels for more than $5.99 in eBook. But then, I'm not exactly the popularity of Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, or Jeaniene Frost, either.
    There…that’s my two cents.

  3. I have an e-serial, like the old dime store serial novels, called Awakening Evarun. They are illustrated shorts that I price at $2.99 becasue that's the lowest I can make them and still get Amazons 70% price royalty. For a novel I would look at the 9.99 price. My concern is the authors who sell their work for .99. I wonder if it doesn't undervalue their own work and everybody else's as well. Just my thoughts. They may be the ones doing it right for all I know.

  4. Ranae, I really object when the book is equal to or less than the eBook. I feel as if the publisher (or seller) is trying to gouge me. I understand the price of print books--creating, storing, shipping, etc. But other than server space and the back end editorial things the publisher would do anyway, why such a high price?

  5. Oh, Jaz, to have the popularity of Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, or Jeaniene Frost! Or even half their popularity. We can only hope :)

    I agree with your pricing: my publisher sets the price for my books, but I think $5.99 is perfectly reasonable. What they don't seem to understand is that if they're priced cheaper I'll buy more. Lots more!

  6. Tom, I understand about the 70% vs 35% rate. I see what you mean about your price because your shorts are illustrated, but what about those with B&W e-readers? Again, if I really want to read the book and know I'll enjoy it or have enjoyed the author before I will pay higher. But there are limits.

    And I completely agree with you about the $.99 books. I believe it undervalues both the book and the market and makes it hard to sort the good from bad. Sure, you'll sell more at $.99 but will it be good?

  7. Ten bucks for an ebook is absurd. (And I say this as an author who makes a living via epublishing!) I'll just take my munchkin to B&N after one of our playgroups to grab the paperback or choose the paperback option via Amazon before I pay that kind of money for an ebook. My price limit is $7.99 for an ebook--and it better be a full-length novel!

    FWIW I sell my short stories (under 15K) for 99 cents. They regularly hit the erotica bestseller lists and make good money, way more than I'd get by selling them to one of the anthology editors I work with regularly.

    My longer works published through EC, Samhain, Siren, etc run the gamut from $2.99 to $6 or so. When/If I choose to self-publish a full-length novel, I'll probably stick with a $4.99 price point. That's a nice chunk of change on my end and will keep me competitive with other books in my genre and my backlist or current releases.

  8. Yep, $10. is the magic ceiling for ebooks. Only once or twice have i been willing to spend more and i resented it. When i can get GREAT books for $6 or $7, why on earth would i spend $15 because a publisher thinks i should. : )

  9. Lolita, I agree! I make my living off eBooks and yet the higher price point makes me cringe. I refuse to pay it, why should I ask others to pay that much for my titles?

    I think you're on the right track, keeping it competitive but still earning a living.

  10. Tara, I totally agree with the ceiling & resentment. There are lots of great authors out there that I can read for much cheaper. If I want to read one of the bigger/more expensive authors, I'll go to the library. They have what I want or can get it. Provided it's print. :)