ebook readers, can I get your feedback, please?

The controversy over ebook pricing is not going to resolve itself anytime soon, and here’s the reason why: publishers are confounded.

A hardcover novel is on the market for a year before they release a softcover edition, specifically because they count on recouping a big part of the investment through hardcover sales. The higher the hardcover sales, the longer it takes to put out the softcover. This approach has been set on its ear by ebooks, because people expect (quite reasonably) to pay less for a product that has so much less overhead (no paper, printing, transportation costs).

So if the publisher releases the hardcover ($25) and the ebook ($12) at the same time it’s pretty clear that the traditional sales strategy is no longer going to work. The are two obvious solutions to this: (1) charge as much for the ebook as the hardcover; (2) don’t release the ebook until the softcover version is released (thereby protecting hardcover sales).

Readers don’t like either of these options. So publishers came up with an alternate approach. For example:

Publishers seem to indulge in a lot of magical thinking.

Assume for a moment this is a book you really want to read, and your first choice is the Kindle ebook. What do you do?

10 Replies to “ebook readers, can I get your feedback, please?”

  1. I think authors and publishers should be fairly compensated for their artist work, just as musicians should be, or the artists/writers have little incentive to continue to do what they do!!!
    Maybe the publishers could sell the ebook for the hardback price until the paperback comes out, then drop it..or do that, but with a small electronic discount- maybe 5-10%?

  2. I answered that I would borrow it from the library and I felt that I should explain this decision as context may differ for each person. I live in a rural part of Canada with no bookshops. So while my inclination in this regard is to just buy the print version (I am averse to paying more for a digital edition), I would have to pay for postage costs as well. If I bought from an online store where I might have free shipping after $25 and the print version was less than $25, then I would borrow it. If I was eligible for free shipping (either because the book was more than $25 or I bought multiple items), then I would buy the print version not borrow it. Hope that makes sense. Infact, I am facing this situation now because I want to read “warm bodies” and the digital edition is $20. Crazy. So I am just going to borrow it.

  3. I almost never purchase a book full price before I read it but when I love a book I want to have the hardcover on my bookshelf. Have publishers ever considered selling an “upgrade” to the hardcover that comes with a code that allows the purchaser to download the ebook for free? I own several books in hard cover and kindle edition because I love the look, feel and smell of them but the convenience of my kindle. A lot of special edition new release movies include the Blu-Ray, DVD and iTunes download these days. In the example above if Amazon sold the Kindle version at $13.99, hardcover with Amazon Prime shipping for $14 and a bundle kindle and hardcover for $17, I would pick the bundle every time.

    1. Toni — I read somewhere they they are working toward a ‘bundling’ approach, but I can’t remember where I read it or how reliable it might have been. It certainly would make sense — I would pay for the unabridged audio and kindle versions in a bundle in a lot of cases. These days, though, it’s fairly rare that I decide I have to have a hardcover copy of a particular book.

  4. I have a lot of respect for authors, they have my sympathy also because they work very hard to write a book and I greedily read it in less than the time it may take them to write a chapter or even less. I agree that maybe the ebook should be the same as the hard cover or just a bit less. Before ereader s I usually waited for the paper back. I have a hard time justifying paying $25 for a book that is in thin air- but that is my choice.

  5. I buy very few books in hardcover any more. I use my kindle mostly (though not exclusively) for classics, not just because they are free (though that’s nice) but because they are long. My hands are not comfortable with a 1000 page Dickens novel. Also, I like to increase type size. (old person’s argument) For this reason I bought Stephen King’s 11/23/63 on kindle when it was new. I get most of my books from the library. There are a some books I am collecting that I want the paper-and-glue books, not the digital content and actually most of those are old classic mysteries. (Christie, Sayers, Allingham, etc.) Of course, books are my main source of home decoration, so kindle versions wouldn’t help there. When I decide to purchase from Amazon I almost always wait until I have enough for free shipping.

  6. The real issue is not the cover price of the book. The real issue is how much the publisher makes per copy and the number of copies sold. With the way Amazon’s pricing structure is set up right now, a publisher will make more per book selling the book at $9.99 at a 70% royalty than they will selling it for $15.99 at a 35% royalty. In fact, they make more per book selling the ebook at $9.99 than they do selling the hardcover at $16.99 list with a 60% discount. And that’s just the percentages, it doesn’t even factor in the boost in sales that will probably come from making the book more affordable.

    One of the reasons I hesitate to buy a Kindle book for more than $9.99 is because I know that $9.99 offers authors the highest royalties per book. If the price is over $9.99, I can infer that the publisher has selected 35% royalties rather than 70% either because they don’t want Amazon telling them what to do or because they are stuck in a print-book mindset. Either way, I know the author is getting less than they could be because the publisher is trying to make a point.

  7. I don’t think that ebooks should be priced comparable to physical books. Now, that doesn’t mean that I think they should be given away, but I feel ripped off if I purchase an ebook for the same price as a hard back book. I really think ebooks shouldn’t cost more than $10 no matter how long they are.

    When I purchase a physical book, it’s a sort of personal experience. I have a relationship with that book, the contents of that book, and if it’s exceptionally written, the author of that book. I’ve read ebooks that I’ve loved, but it isn’t the same experience. I don’t latch on to the characters as tightly. I’m less likely to read that book again. I’m willing to pay MORE for a physical book because it is a whole reading experience that I’m investing in, and more often than not, it’s an experience that I will have multiple times because, if I like that book, I’ll read it over and over.

  8. If I’m buying a paper book, it’s usually a hardbound book by a favorite author. (Physical shelf space is becoming a premium at our house.) If I really need a portable version, I use one of my Audible credits to get the audio edition.

    Otherwise, I will spring for the ebook version, and usually if the book is one that whole family could enjoy at some point. For stories/authors/series I like, but don’t love, I’ve turned to our library and Amazon to borrowing ebooks if the books are available for that purpose.

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