Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

The Price of an ebook

In a recent blog post I referred to a marketing report that detailed the exploding market of ebook readers and the growth in the sales of ebooks. I just came across a draft that I had planned to share with you when Amazon.com seemed resistant to lowering the price of my kindle version of Oilspill dotcom from $9.99.

The basis of my argument was not just that the price was too high, but that I had another distributor, Smashwords, selling the ebook in all formats at $4.99. My kindle version of Oilspill dotcom was eventually reduced to $4.99 and actually began to sell. I have just noticed that Amazon.com have now further reduced the price to $3.19.

Fair enough. But this has got me thinking what exactly should the price of an ebook be? There are hardly any costs involved after the initial set up. There are website overheads, promotion etc., but no trees are being felled, replaced, distributed and returned.

For my recent birthday, friends gave me gift vouchers for Amazon, so that I could begin building a library on my newly purchased kindle. I am, now the consumer, finding myself dismissing anything over $10 on principle, and skeptical about a book over $5.

Jeff Rivera wrote an interesting article: Writers: Making a Living Off of Kindle? (Apr 19, 2010). He interviewed J. A. Konraith, the author of the Jack Daniels detective series. Mr. Konraith is making a living primarily off of his ebooks and is justifiably proud of it. He points out that he is making more from his digital books than his tree books (luv the name!). I will cover this article in the future, but want to share one particular aspect here.

Mr. Konraith sells his latest novels for $2.99. With Amazon’s new royalty system, he will make $2.04 off each book. He sells his older novels for $1.99. The idea behind this is that people will probably hear of his latest and read that first. After enjoying the book, they can go in and order 5 for $10. They are now packed for their vacation! Even if they order them one at a time, his books are at the price level of an impulse purchase for most people.

I love the idea of responding to the question of how much my book costs with: “Less than that cup of coffee you’re holding. And it doesn’t cool off as you read your way through.” Not sure I’ll persuade Starbucks to make my novel their Pick of the Month!

I would be interested to know what price you are willing to pay for a novel when you download to your eReader, computer, or phone?

Good Writing,

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4 thoughts on “The Price of an ebook

  1. Alon,It costs .99 to download a song to an iPod (last time I checked). So, I'm thinking that I would pay at least four times as much for a book (although, I don't use a Kindle yet) – $3.99 would be my choice.Jenna

  2. I have put a lot of research into the various e-readers and while my reading is sparse these days (books less and less, I find I hardly have time beyond my magazine subscriptions) the idea of the readers intrigues and fascinates me. I keep wondering if I would read more now if I had the convenience. I'm not convinced yet, however. Not for the cost of them. One of the deterring factors was, in fact, the price of the e-books. I spent my life amassing a collection by browsing flea markets, used book stores, etc for authors known and often unknown, and it's how I've discovered many who I'd never have looked twice at. The idea of going from fifty cents per book to $7.99+ didn't go over well with me, especially when I could go to Costco or still the other places to find the hard copies cheaper. I agree that $2-4 is quite reasonable for the older books, and the $5-7 range is more than adequate for brand new titles, from a consumer's point of view. From a writer's point of view, I'm the type that would love to be the next big thing, but tend keep one foot in reality and I think that charging too much for Kindle books will, in the end, be self-destructive. High prices will always drive people to piracy, and a quick search on eBay will show that. With the massive numbers Amazon must be seeing in sales overall, I absolutely agree that once the book is formatted, it's got to be almost all profit after that.

  3. Pingback: Economic Greed or Strategic Conspiracy? « Left Coast Voices

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