It’s been a little over a year since Amazon released the Kindle, and now publishers are finally getting the chance to set their own pricing on ebook editions. The result has been a slow creep in pricing on some titles—in some cases to levels above the price of a paper edition of the same book—for a digital edition that you can’t resell, give away to someone else, or read on any other device. Kindle owners have started to notice, and now some of them are complaining that Amazon overpromised the $9.99 bookstore concept to move Kindles.
(Disclosure: I own a Kindle.)
One Kindle owner on the above-mentioned discussion used jungle-search.com to sort titles by price, and posted that as of January 22nd, 2009, 29.65% of the books sold on the Kindle Store are priced above $9.99. Another forum poster broke it down by category:
Literary Fiction 2%
So clearly, the nonfiction side of things is getting hit harder than fiction. But regardless of genre, it appears that publishers who are pricing titles higher are positioning Kindle editions closer to hardcover editions than paperback.
I think the price for ebooks is pretty elastic. If the ebook comes out at the same time as the hardcover, the author is entitled to compensation – is $9.99 the right amount? I don’t know. But once the paperback comes out, then there is a different price point – I believe the price of the paperback is the ceiling.
I am thinking of books I bought in hardcover. Most of those I would pay more than $9.99 for. I did pay more than $9.99! But I certainly will not be buying any other books. In other words, I think by setting the price, higher, they are getting the people who would pay $26 for the hardcover, but not the people who would try the book, just ’cause it is under $10. I download so many free books, I don’t have a problem buying the occassional book at more $9.99. However, I will ONLY buy the books I really want (a couple a year).
I looked for the latest Sookie Stakehouse book, which was at $9.99. I thought I would wait, and give it a chance to come down a little, while I read the first 7 books, all of which were under $6 (which is about what they are worth). Well, I am currently at book 6, and after reading this thread thought i would take a look, and see that the paperback is out, at $7.99, and the kindle version is $11.99! It doesn’t really hit home until your ox is the one being gored! Well, I guess I will order it from the library – i certainly have enough to read until it comes.
It seems they are basing the Kindle price off the list of the hardback.
There is *no paperback edition as yet* so they are basically selling the Kindle edition in competition with the hardback…
Considering just a few elements of *savings* with ebook: no shipping costs (trucks, gas, personnel), no storage (physical storage nor the personnel salaries), no machines to mass produce said paper product (no ink, paper, maintenance of said machines, nor personnel paid to maintain them)…and a myriad of other direct and indirect cost (including deals with some bookstores to “buy back” a percentage of books that do not sell)…etc…
I really can’t see a justification of an ebook coming in more expensive than a paperback.
As I have said in previous posts..the publishers acknowledged recently that their only growth has been in Ebooks and my firm belief is that they are testing to see what the market will bear and how much the can push their profit margins with ebooks before the consumer balks.
In my opinion, it’s price gouging, plain and simple.
The fluctuating pricing scheme leads to another problem. You can download free samples of books to your Kindle, and then at the end of the sample click a “buy it now” link to automatically purchase the title and send it to your device. In the meantime, the price for that book may have shot up dramatically, yet there’s no way of seeing the current price if you decide to purchase the book at that moment. (To be fair, you can cancel the purchase immediately after making it, but you’re buying it blind.)
It’s not like there’s a consensus yet on how much an ebook edition should cost, but considering the rights that you lose when you buy a copy-protected digital edition over a physical copy, it seems reasonable that consumers would expect a fair discount.
300 dollars was supposed to be a sort of covenant between us and amazon. we backed their device and they would usher in an era of low cost/reasonably priced literature. Sure it wasn’t written in stone but the way they advertised it many of us believed it, otherwise this forum wouldn’t be as popular as it is. Instead what is happening is that we put ourselves out there for a company and they returned the favor by charging us even more for books then if we just went out and bought the printed version.
That implied promise isn’t just wishful thinking. When Oprah raved about the Kindle last Fall on her TV show—effectively re-launching the product to the masses right before the holiday shopping season, with a smiling Jeff Bezos at her side—she said, “I know it’s expensive in these times, but it’s not frivolous because it will pay for itself. The books are much cheaper, and you’re saving paper.” But for many newer titles that are now priced above $9.99, there’s a new “Digital List Price” listed that matches the hardcover list price.
The Kindle was always an expensive little gadget, but heavy readers could argue that it was an investment that would realize savings over time. If publishers succeed in shifting the average price closer to current print prices, they’ll have wiped out half of what made the Kindle an attractive choice in the first place.
(Btw: if you’re a Kindle owner, you should know about Feedbooks.com, the best source for free ebooks in the public domain.)