by Raelene Gorlinsky
Seems like a lot of people jump without thought or research onto the bandwagon to chant "readers will only buy ebooks if they are cheap". And yes, various surveys reflect that amongst the many reasons readers say they may choose digital over print, the most common reason is that digital is less expensive. (Certainly less expensive than hardcovers or trade-size books.)
But reality isn't that simple. Actual sales figures show huge numbers of readers buying ebooks that cost as much or more than a mass market paperback. And those surveys reflect that readers take other things in addition to price into consideration when making a purchase format decision.
Based on frequent reader questions and comments to Ellora's Cave, convenience is high on the list of criteria in selecting a specific ebook format. This includes both time ("I'm too busy to spend an extra minute") and ease ("I'm not a techie, I just want to download by pressing a button").
We sell our ebooks direct from our website, plus through several third-party e-tailers (Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble, AllRomance eBooks, etc.). Prices vary between the e-tailers, but our own website price is almost always the cheapest. However, some readers choose to pay a buck or two more for that ebook on another site if they find it more convenient.
For example, readers email us and say "I've got a Kindle, can I buy books from your website?" We explain to them that we can't sell the Kindle-specific format, but they can indeed buy other formats from us to use on a Kindle. You can buy PRC, download it to your computer, and transfer it to your Kindle. (I have the Kindle app on my laptop for reading prc format books.) You can also buy other formats, email the file to your Kindle account at Amazon, and for 10 cents Amazon will convert the book to Kindle format and wirelessly send it to your Kindle reader. And why would a customer want to do this? Well, that short story we sell on the EC site for $2.49 costs $3.35 to $3.98 at Amazon Kindle. Same with other book lengths/prices. So it is better, price-wise, to buy direct from us.
However, an amazing number of customers decide that the few minutes of time and the couple extra steps are not worth it to them. They would rather pay more for the convenience (small savings of time and effort) of that direct Kindle download. The same thing applies with the B&N Nook and Sony e-Reader.
Now, not all customers feel this way. Especially if they buy a lot of ebooks, it is worth it to them to put a little more effort into the process and save money on each book. But this clearly shows that price is not the only determining factor for e-book customers. Consumer decisions are complex and varied.