I noticed this snippet in the Oct. 6 Publishers Lunch e-newsletter:
Vodafone UK is launching a program to provide books on cellphones starting today in association with GoSpoken.com [...] Titles are expected to cost between 5 pounds and 15 pounds each. [...] GoSpoken has "signed up every leading publisher in Britain, including Penguin, Random House and HarperCollinsThat price roughly translated to about US$9 to US$26. Up to 26 dollars for an ebook?? Wait, I thought one of the benefits of ebooks is that they are often less expensive than mass market paperbacks, definitely cost less than trade paperbacks or hardcovers. Or at least, that's what we e-publishers say. Apparently major print publishers who are now offering their books in digital format don't follow the same philosophy. And neither do Kindle and Sony.
Fiction Print Prices:
From my frequent trips to bookstores, I know that in the U.S., mass market paperbacks now cost up to $7.99; trade paperbacks seem to average around $14 - $15, can go up to $18; hardcovers are getting more costly by the day, $25 to $28 is common.
Prices for Ebooks from E-publishers:
Ellora's Cave/Cerridwen Press/The Lotus Circle (yes, we have three imprints) ebooks are priced from $2.99 to 7.99, depending on length. Large anthologies cost up to $9.99.
A scan of six other e-publisher websites showed prices from $1.50 to $8.99. Most seemed to be basing price on book length. (Those $1.50 or $1.99 titles were very short stories, possibly as short as ten pages.)
Price of Ebooks from a Major Print Publisher:
Harlequin has all types and lengths and genres of books, so I spent considerable time browsing their site to check out the prices for their ebooks. Their ebook-only (no print version for sale) short stories cost $2.99, which is comparable to e-publishers. A lot of the Harlequin/Silhouette category lines were $4.25 - again, these short novels seem priced comparably to books of that length from e-publishers. But then look at their single titles: random selection of about 40 ebooks showed prices from $6.30 to $22.45!
Prices for Ebooks from Ereader Vendors:
I can't for the life of me figure out how Amazon Kindle and Sony price their ebooks. They have a gazillion prices, sometimes differing by only a few cents. And the prices were clearly not based on book length.
The most common price for a Kindle ebook on Amazon was $9.99, but the 50 random books I selected had 20 different prices, ranging from $4.00 to $17.81. In between are prices like $6.04, $6.39, $8.24, $8.37, $9.59, $9.60. I'm sure Amazon has some formula or philosophy for the prices, but I couldn't spot any rhyme or reason.
Sony Reader ebook prices ranged from $5.19 through $17.46, again a random selection of books.
Okay, I'm going to stop wishing I could afford a Kindle or a Sony Reader. Even if I had the device, I am not willing to pay those prices for ebooks. I will continue to buy ebooks from e-publishers, who are offering reasonable prices on ebooks that can be read on a wide variety of devices.