Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cost vs. Convenience in EBooks

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.


Debra Glass said...

I have a Sony E Reader and downloaded Calibre to manage my e book library. It gee-haws well with the Sony and when I buy books from EC, I can upsize the font in Calibre and then slide them into the e reader. I don't know if Calibre is compatible with Kindle but if you own a Kindle and love to buy EC from the EC site at lower prices, look into Calibre to manage your e library.

Ann Jacobs said...

I take cost over convenience anytime.

Yes, I regularly buy for my Sony Reader at the Sony store--for NY books. The only extra effort involved to get books purchased from epublisher sites onto my elderly Sony Reader is to download them to my computer, import them to the Reader software and plug in the reader to a USB port and tell the program to "synchronize". This takes, maybe, five minutes, whether it's to get one book or a dozen onto the Reader.


Desiree Holt said...

The people I've talked to about it cie, convenience, ease of acquiring new books, ability to carry several books in one small unit. So you're right. It isn;t just price. Even my dentist ahs an ereader!!!

Desiree Holt said...

Oh, and re: what Debra said, I also have Calibre (a free software program) that Apple has designated to convert to the iPad. You're right. It's really easy. you just select the books into the program, click convert and then click Send to Reader.

Anonymous said...

There is a further reason to DL direct from Amazon as those files can be DLed to all Kindles linked to an account and also synced to Kindle for iPhone aps. Files emailed to the Kindle are available only to that Kindle.

Angelia Sparrow said...

One thing that didn't get mentioned: privacy.

Some readers, rather than scatter their credit card all over the net at a dozen different publishers, will buy from one affiliate, like Fictionwise.

Kindle is a proprietary format and those who are using it almost have to buy their books through Amazon. Amazon will convert other formats and e-mail them, but that's a hassle.

Anonymous said...

l read around a dozen books a month, so price makes a difference for me. I wouldn't buy a "closed source" e-reader (e.g. Kindle or Nook), on principle. I've owned a BeBook for a year and a half and recently inherited an iPad (which makes my old e-reader simply quaint).

More than half the books I purchase are e-books and that number will probably jump to 90+% now with the iPad.

It irks me when a third-party seller charges as much for an e-book (or more!) than for a paperback because 1) I'm well aware that it costs them a GREAT DEAL less to handle an e-book than a paperback and 2) the author is getting even less of my money than when I buy direct from a publisher!

I think they're trying to make e-books pay for their flagging print business (as are the big print publishers) and I don't see why I should have to pay for them not having more foresight and business sense. If the authors and editors were getting the money, that would be different.

Thanks, I guess I needed to rant.

Margaret Carter said...

"Kindle is a proprietary format and those who are using it almost have to buy their books through Amazon. Amazon will convert other formats and e-mail them, but that's a hassle."

I haven't found it to be so. I love being able to e-mail my own book files downloaded from other sources to my Kindle address and have them show up on my reader a few minutes later just like the books I buy directly from -- at a purely nominal cost of 15 cents each!

ECPI Editors said...

"when a third-party seller charges as much for an e-book ... 2) the author is getting even less of my money than when I buy direct from a publisher!"

Although that is true at the big traditional NY publishers (as far as I know), and for many e-pubs, it is not true for all. What an author gets in royalties depends on their contract with the publisher and the publisher's contract with the vendor.

Most NY pubs seem to have moved, or be trying to move, to paying ebook royalties of 25% of net income from third parties. So if that ebook sold for $9.99 at Amazon/Sony/B&N/et all, the publisher often nets $4.50 or less (depending on their discount rate with the vendor), and the author gets 25% of that - $1.13.

Some e-pubs and small presses use the same or similar formula.

At EC, authors get the same royalties on ebooks no matter where the book is sold. Our publishing contract states they get paid on cover price of the book, as listed on our own website. So if we receive less than that from a vendor for each book, EC takes in less for the company but the author still gets full royalties.