Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ebooks Cost WHAT?!?

by Raelene Gorlinsky

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 [...] 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 HarperCollins
That 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.


ECPI Editors said...

A little side effect of my research for this post: in my email today was a message from Amazon. "As a reader who has shown a recent interest in the Kindle...", and it went on to advertise lots of Kindle books.


Spy Scribbler said...

Oh, Raelene, I just got a Kindle! It's AWESOME! And you can still buy books from real e-publishers on it. I just uploaded a couple Ellora's Cave titles.

I'm getting rid of all my paper books, save ten or so.

I did stop buying all books for a whole year in order to save up for the Kindle. It was torture, but it was worth it!

J L said...

I got a Kindle as a gift last year and I still have an Ebookwise reader.

I wish EC/CP books formatted better on the Kindle (i.e., I wish they were in Kindle format). They come across sort of gobbley on the device. And it's a pain to transfer them there. I love just going to my Kindle, searching the store, and downloading a book -- talk about inpulse shopping.

In fact, I just bought the Last Lecture based on your other post. I bought it on my computer. When I get home tonight, I'll turn on my Kindle and it will download. Now THAT'S a great shopping experience!

lynneconnolly said...

I was thinking of getting a Cybook, because it's very friendly to most formats, although I'm told pdf is a bit tricky.
But it comes loaded with several readers, including Mobi and Ereader, so it looks like a goer.
Anybody tried one?

anny cook said...

Have a Sony and mostly use it to read EC books. If you watch the prices on the Sony site, they drop about six months after the first release date.

Also, according to my tax guy, my Sony was tax deductible because I use it as a marketing device to let prospective readers read "samples" from my books. Sort of a demo for both the digital reader and my books.

Anonymous said...

Anny: Not to rain on your parade, but did your tax guy also tell you to keep a log of the time you spend using your Sony for marketing vs personal reading so you can properly identify the percentage you can write off as business expense? If not, you might want to rethink what else your tax guy has told you it is okay to "write off" for tax purposes.

I am not the IRS. I just work for people who get taxed by them every day. :)