ebooks and pricing.

Here’s an interview with author Zoe Winters on ebook pricing.  She feels that the $0.99 ebook doesn’t make enough money for the author, and contributes to the “WalMartization” of literature.

The figures she quotes are interesting.  Amazon takes a huge cut of the book’s price at that price point–their royalties model encourages authors to price their books at the $2.99 threshold or above, beyond which the author gets 70%.  At $0.99, it’s just 30%.  If I were to put out, say, Terms of Enlistment as an ebook, I’d have a lot of incentive to price it at $2.99 a copy–even though I wouldn’t sell as many books, I’d probably earn more money than if I priced it at a buck a book.  My personal yardstick for “reasonable” is $2.99-$5.99 for a novel, and $0.99 for a novella or short story collection.  (That’s what I don’t mind paying, although I’ve purchased ebooks from proven and established authors at higher price points.)

What’s your opinion on ebook pricing?  What’s a price you don’t mind paying without thinking long and hard about it?


43 thoughts on “ebooks and pricing.

  1. anthony says:

    I have a kindle and love reading. Alot of the ebooks I have gotten so far average out around 10 dollars.

    I think that is kind of high though, but wouldn’t think twice if the book was priced at 5 dollars.

  2. Justin Buist says:

    Under $7 means I’ll buy it without thinking.

    What really gets me is when they price the eBook higher than the paperback. That’s just plain stupid.

  3. alan says:

    $5 or less and I’ll probably buy it, depending on the author. I’ll pay more for an author that I know I’ll like.

    If it’s an unknown author, I like the first hit is free model (BAEN). If that one is good, I’ll buy others.

  4. Joe Allen says:

    I just got a kindle this Christmas, and I love everything about it, except for the pricing.

    The publishers are all claiming that it costs them as much to publish an e-book as a dead tree version and I call BS.

    The average price, $10, is only a deal if you want something from an author that is first published in hardback. Then you get it early and cheaper, but otherwise, it’s kind of a rip. I wouldn’t even mind if that meant the publisher paid the author more, but of course it doesn’t.

    I personally think $3 to $7 is fair – as another commenter said, I don’t even stop to think at that price. I think the 99¢ novel can be a good way for a new author to build an audience (and a good way for a reader to cheaply weed out hacks) but their following novels should be valued appropriately.

    I don’t know that I’d mind the “WalMartization” of literature, if it gets / keeps people reading. c.f. “Harry Potter” et al.

    I would like to see more people self publish and authors make more per copy so they might actually be able to scratch out a living.

    Speaking of, I would definitely like to see your stuff published – what I’ve read is right up my alley.

  5. Carteach says:

    Since I have a Nook, I can have a sample of anything I wish, to see if I like it enough to buy. I’m not sure if Amazon does that or not.

    At .99 for a book, I will buy anything I like, or think I might like to have eventually. I’ll pay $3-5 for something I think I’m likely to enjoy, and $10 for anything in a series I’m hooked on.

    My price point is driven partly by having 400-500 e-books given to me, that I haven’t read yet. If I didn’t have that library, I might shop differently.

  6. Ed Skinner says:

    Nope, sorry, kill a tree for me.
    I wanna underline, write in the margins, read it on the toilet, during takeoffs and landings (not in the toilet), sitting in the wilderness with a journal and a fountain pen and, best of all, putting it on the shelf so strangers can marvel at my collection, friends can borrow this and that and never return them (nor borrow another — I don’t think they like my underlining and notes), and someday, I can pick it back up and shake my head at how naive I used to be.
    Ink and paper, baby. Ink and paper.

  7. Michael G. says:

    I buy (ebooks) at BAEN pretty much exclusively, and I’m happy with their pricing.

  8. Jeff says:

    Above $10 I won’t buy an ebook.
    $5 – $10 I’ll read the sample and buy it if I like it.
    $3 – $5 I’ll take a chance
    less than that and I’ll buy on a whim

  9. PhillipC says:

    At the 99 cent mark, I’ll buy something on chance. At $1.99, I’ll think about it. At $3.99, I have to have read the author before. At $5.99, I want paper.

    Two things to keep in mind about my buying perspective. I’m unemployed / self-employed, so money’s usually tight. And I actually have a lot of used book stores in the area, as well as flea markets with book stalls. If I’m looking to take a chance, I’ll hit one of those.

    E-books are a disposable item to me, also. I figure it’ll end up disappearing at some point, or be incompatible with my current reader later on. I’m a computer tech, have been one for a long time, have seen a lot of formats come and go.

    Now, having read some of your shorter stuff on your website, I’d go the $2.99 for a novel. For Larry Correa, I’ll pay up to $5 if I know I can’t get it for over a year in paperback, but he’s usually got me hooked on the first three chapters by that point and I can’t wait. After I read your first couple of novels, my high price for your work will probably go up.

  10. I’d be happy with $5 for an e-book.

  11. Fred2 says:

    I’m with the luddites on this one, I read computer screens for living, when I read a book for fun, it’s going to be on paper, and when I’m done with it goes on the shelf.

    That way 20 years from nowI can pick it up and read it, no battery issues, no mysterious machine issues where my library “died.”

    A pox on ebooks

  12. If it’s a “standalone” full-size novel I would consider anything under $10 reasonable. Same for a smaller work from an author I already know and like.

    If it’s a book that’s part of a series, or a novella or short stories, I’d easily pay anything under $5.

  13. no e-book reader, though there will be one in the future.

    I’m buying all the fiction I can handle at 50 cents a paperback and $1 for hardcover. It seems that the government library’s used book store exists to drive private market used book stores out of business.

    For used books on amazon, cookbooks, tech books, maybe some fiction that I want to read now, I’ll snap it right up on amazon without thinking if it’s pocket lint + $3.99 shipping.

  14. Glamdring says:

    I get most ebooks from Baen. $15 for ARC because I get them sooner. Hat is about max for me since if it is more than tthat hardcover from amazon is cheaper.

    Get free ebooks from gutenberg. Stuff like Twain or Teddy Rosevelt.

    Won’t BUY ebooks under $4. Because haven’t found any quality below that price point.

    But I wouldn’t buy a hi point either. Prefer quality if I wanted cheap I would watch TV. But I can’t stand TV. Reason they call it a mass medium. Neither rare or well done.

  15. Jeff The Bear says:

    My wife got me a Nook but that’s because we have a small house and space for books is at a premium. Didn’t think I would like the reader but it’s surprisingly good.

    $3 and under is whim territory. $3 to $6 takes some thought. $6 to $10 takes a LOT of thought and sampling. Above $10 I think I’m getting ripped off and that’s where the library comes in.

    These things really shine for cheap or public domain material. I downloaded most of the novels of Tobias Smollett, the complete Tarzan and Barsoom series (haven’t read them for over 40 years and they are still fun), even some Jules Verne and Dumas in the original French to see if I retained anything from long ago classes.

    But if the materials are very important to me I want the paper version. I’m aleays aware that these are elctronic devices the can fail or become obsolete or are no longer compatible with newer versions, etc., etc.

  16. Jason says:

    I’m a “book purist” myself, I enjoy the tactility (if thats a word) of paper books. On the other hand, it would be nice if publishers added a “free e-version” of the book with the purchase of a physical book. Dunno what that would do to the used book industry though.

  17. LittleRed1 says:

    Dead tree only for me, so no help from here. Sorry.

  18. Samsam von Virginia says:

    Amazon needs 70 cents to sell a book? There should be 5 minutes of human labor (or less) involved in making the book available to their customers. All the record keeping should be 100% automated. The only cost is the bandwidth, general overhead, and credit card fees. It seems to me there’s lots of profit in there for Amazon.

    I think there may be room for a bookseller to way undercut Amazon by using a pre-paid account (one credit card transaction for multiple book sales).

    • perlhaqr says:

      Enh, I’m giving them a pass on this one. They do have overhead costs, and $0.70 per unit is a remarkably small per unit cost, even if it’s a hefty percentage.

      Ultimately, it may speak to giving someone who specialises in e-texts a market advantage over amazon, though.

  19. I know I’m being that guy by saying it, but while I’ll pay five bucks for an ebook I’ll actually own, my price threshold for a DRM-locked ebook is zero dollars. I’m not paying for a license to access a file at Amazon’s pleasure.

    Too many bad experiences with DRMed products. If the industry pulls its head out of its ass and follows the music industry’s lead, I’ll be all over it. Until then, it’s public domain or hard copies for me.

  20. One more thing: I use a nook, not kindle. So, unless Amazon starts selling books that can be downloaded to a nook, I won’t buy ebooks from them, even for $0.01 .

  21. Darren S says:

    Anything under $6 is fair game without much thought on my Kindle.

  22. Glamdring says:

    First, to everyone that likes or loves dead tree books I am more than okay with that. I do also.

    However, to state or even suggest that they are more durable is misleading at best.

    I wasn’t sure till I looked it up but oldest ebook currently is from “about B.C. 3550” http://www.gutenberg.org/files/30508/30508-h/30508-h.htm

    I’ll admit that is a translation, but frankly I can’t read the original without help of a computer anyway.

    We already have the ability to convert FROM deadtree to ebook. Marko has made posts here online using typewriter and scanner.

    I have been using ebooks for 12+ years, since the first year Baen came out with theirs, they have always been available in multiple formats. In the early days I didn’t know what an ebook reader was.

    I read online, of course I consider blogs & forums as forms of E writing myself, heck for a couple of years I was so broke I didn’t have net at home. So I would download the ebook on a flash drive at the library & bring it home and read on my computer.

    Now during that same 12 year period I have lost at least 3 modern books. Because they wore out, nut from abuse.

    I have really started switching to ebooks almost exclusively because they are more durable than deadtree. Also they take up a lot less space.

    I don’t have room for anymore deadtree books. Fact is I don’t have room for all the ones I have now, going to have to find new homes for a lot of them and that makes me very sad.

    Ebooks though, I have hundreds of them and they take no space at all. I have multiple backup copies of everyone of the ebooks. They are all on my current Crackberry, my desktop, & my laptop. All of my non Amazon ebooks are also on my old Blackberry, a Pearl 8100. All my amazon books are also on my Kindle.

    Plus both Baen, Gutenberg, and Amazon are on the cloud.

    I would say Amazon is probably the worst for ebooks because of their DRM. But even so they allow you to have a book on 5 different devices.

    I think it is really cool that everywhere I go I have all of Mark Twain’s books with me. Unless I go somewhere I can’t take my Blackberry with. And if I was really worried about it I could back up the data on flashdrives or micro SD or burn a couple dozen copies. I can have mutiple copies of my entire ebook collection and it will take less space than one shelf of deadtree books.

    Lot of ebook readers also support loaning books to other people. And checking ebooks out of the library also.

  23. Glamdring says:

    Arrgh! That had a lot of typos. Marko do you compose with a word processor then cut and past when posting here?

    Or is there a way to get more than a tiny window for composing text?

  24. Joe Allen says:

    Regarding the durability of ebooks vs. bound paper, two things recently happened to me.

    Several months ago my storage locker (that I have been paying increasingly high monthly rent on for 20 years) flooded, destroying several thousand books that I didn’t have room for in my house but couldn’t bear to part with. If I want to read any of those books again, I have to buy them again. And, the autographed/first editions etc. (granted, there were precious few of those) are irreplaceable.

    A few weeks after I got my Kindle, the screen rorshached on me. Could only read the bottom 1/4 of the page. Called Amazon and had a fresh Kindle in my hands less than 24 hours later. Within minutes, I had downloaded all of my books that I had bought from the Kindle store and restored all of the PD and other books that I had sideloaded from my computer*.

    Contrast and compare.

    *Anyone who uses a Kindle, or any e-reader, should check out a fantastic freeware program called Calibre.

  25. Joe Allen says:

    Also… as mentioned by someone else, one of my pet peeves about e-publishing:

    If I do buy the dead tree edition, it should come with a license to the electronic version as well. That’s just good business sense.

  26. Glamdring says:

    Joe: Sorry for your loss. One of the things I’m worried about with where I am living at the moment. IF a really bad spring flood, the dead tree books are going to be in trouble, I can’t take them with me when I run for higher ground.

    IMVHO the Kindle is kinda like a Model T or Model A. Long ways from the peak of the design.

    It is slow and buggy. But the eink display is a lot better on my eyes for long periods of reading. I have never had problems with my computers or Blackberrys (Blackberries?)

  27. og says:

    I buy books two ways; I’ll pay the asking price for something I really want to read, pretty much no matter what that price is. if something is cheap, or remaindered, I might read it just because its cheap.

    I’m a little stunned at the discussion, though, because I very clearly remember buying paperback books brand spanking new for fifty cents. Time does slip by on you.

  28. Panhandle Scott says:

    You can’t go wrong calling me cheap, but to me, anything over $2 makes my probability of purchase go down quite a bit unless I really like the author. $5 or more is right out. $2.99 might be the decent middle, but $0.99 is an unthinking buy.

    I didn’t listen to the linked interview, but Smallest Minority had a post on this just the other day: Publishing
    Saying some authors has 20x the sales at $0.99 versus $2ish, more than making up for the difference in author’s fees.

  29. I’ve stayed away from ebooks because of simple economics–I can buy the paperback cheaper. There is also the facts that A) I don’t need a $200 gadget to read it and B) the batteries never run out.

    Get the reader down to, oh, $50 would be nice but I’d probably jump at $99, and get the books down to half the price of the paperback, plus get every book I can buy in paperback to be available as an ebook and I’ll be right there with ya. Heck, I’d probably do it even with the currently available ebooks.

    Otherwise, I’ll just make room for another bookshelf.

    • Freeholder;

      Amazon Kindle Wireless Reading Device with 6″ Display and Wi-Fi (Latest Generation) – Graphite

      $139.00 At target.com

      You don’t get the free 3G download at that price, but we’re close to many people’s price point.

  30. Joat says:

    For a DRM infected book even if I had the ability to use it* I’d consider it a rental an I’m not willing to pay more than ten to twenty percent of the purchase cost to rent anything, so $0.99 max for a DRMed ebook. For a DRM free book I can see going as high as $5-$8 more or less the same price as a paperback book.

    *I currently don’t have a e-reader I’m using a laptop running linux and none of the major ebook distributors offer a reader software for me.

  31. Glamdring says:

    @The Freeholder & Joat: If you want a cheap ebook reader just get a cheap used cell phone off ebay if you don’t have one laying around.

    Just check to see what phones are supported by whatever DRM your gonna use. Or what you can put mobipocket or some such on.

    • Joat says:

      The point is by preference I don’t want DRM, it’s is possible by jumping through hoops I can get kindle to work under Linux it’s not worth the trouble just to rent a book, I can get dead tree from the library with less hassle.

  32. Ruth says:

    The ebook shouldn’t cost more than the paperback, with the possible exception of books that are released first as hardcover then the ebook should cost no more than 1/2 the hardcover price till the paperback is out, then the price should drop no more than the paperback (preferably less). Though I don’t mind Baen’s eArc pricing, but thats a different situation. Novellas and the like should be priced less than the average paperback.

    I’d love to see $0.99 ebooks but I don’t think its going to happen any time soon based on what I see in the industry.

    For ebook readers, if you can find the low-end Palm handheld somewhere, put Mobipocket on it and you’re all set. Last time I checked they were MSRP at $99, and Mobi’s free, plus most ebook venders have the option for a format Mobi can read (Amazon may be the exception unfortunetly, but Baen definetly does, and so do most Fictionwise books). Plus Baen doesn’t DRM its ebooks, and they carry more than just their own books in their Webscriptions store.

    • Ruth says:

      have to add, if the book isn’t one I’m sure I want (ie: unfamiler author, etc), and the price is on the higher end of the scale…..well, I’m gonna find a different way to get the ebook. With the sole exception being Baen books because I’ll support their business model for ebooks with every penny I can.

  33. hecate says:

    I guess I’m in the minority here when I say I don’t have a problem paying the same price for an ebook as a hardcover release. I’m buying the content, the fruits of the author’s efforts. I feel the value of that is the same regardless of form.

    I have a Nook Color, but I bought it to hack into a fully-functional Android tablet. It’s running Honeycomb with Kindle, eReader, iReader, Google Books, and Nook reading apps. Of the lot, Nook is the poorest quality reader. And the stock Nook software was so hideously dumbed-down that it wasn’t even funny.

    • Ruth says:

      Its less an issue what what I feel the value is, and a mix of what I can afford plus a reasonable idea of how much less it really costs the publishers to do ebooks. If I thought all the extra profit was making its way to the authors I’d not mind as much.

  34. whamprod says:

    I installed the Kindle app on my iPad, and I have no complaints about Amazon’s eBook pricing. A guy’s gotta earn a living. If I didn’t think it was worth reading, I wouldn’t download it in the first place. If it is worth reading, it is worth paying for.

  35. I recently got my Kindle, and for an author I like, I’m willing to pay the same price I would for a paperback. I have no problem with that, since the convenience of the format is a selling point for me, too. I don’t have to worry about where to put the book or what to do with it after I’ve read it. It’s worth it to me to buy the ebook at $7-$8, especially since I can download it in a few seconds.

  36. BenC says:

    (I posted much of this in random Items by mistake)
    If I was an author what I would care about is the amount of my royalty and the number of my sales.If I make $.33 per e-book or $.33 per hardcover what is the difference except I will probably sell a lot more e-books at $.99 than at the $15 or more hardcover price.When I pay $15 or more for a hardcover I know part of the price covers materials,printing,shipping and storage and they cannot recoup the cost for any unsold books.Yet publishers still want to charge 80% to 90% of the hardcover price for a new release for the e-book edition which doesn’t have near the overhead.As far as I am concerned the consumer is getting screwed in that deal.Even at the price of a paperback the publisher is taking advantage because they still don;t have near the overhead. I think $.99 to $2.99 is a good price point. My question is do the authors get the same percentage of royalties on a e-book as they do print editions.If they do they are getting screwed too. If they get more they are helping the publishers do the screwing. I take solace in the fact that they are pricing themselves out of business.I also think there is a market opportunity for editors,marketers and publicist to go freelance and offer their services to an author on a contract basis for either a flat fee or a percentage of profits.

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