While E-Readers Get Cheaper, E-Books Make Up For It With Rising Prices

Yay! E-readers are getting so affordable! But then, wait, boo, e-books are climbing in price, to the point where there’s just the tiniest gap between them and an honest to goodness real book.

The Wall Street Journal says we’re all getting excited to give and receive cheap new Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers this holiday season, but that while those prices dip, the cost to obtain an electronic version of a book is rising and in some cases, even overtaking their paper equals.

For example — Kindles started out at $399 with each new best seller costing $9.99, digitally. Now they’re below $100, while some e-books, like Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants, cost $16.50 as paperback at the same time.

This is happening because the six biggest publishers have gotten together and decided to set their own prices for consumers. That doesn’t happen with regular printed books. In part, this is why the U.S. and other governments are looking into this kind of e-book cartel.

So where’s the bargain? Is it just in the ease of carrying around a slim reader instead of a massive tome? Consumers can still find cheap digital books, to be sure, it just might take some digging on the Internet, or waiting until a book is no longer hot off the digital presses.

E-Book Readers Face Sticker Shock [Wall Street Journal]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

    Ha, you know it’s hard out here for a pimp.


    • Sneeje says:

      Yeah, I love this new model.

      E-Books have nearly zero publishing costs.
      E-Books have nearly zero publishing risks (can’t print too many for example).
      Pirating has been shown via research to primarily occur among people who would never have purchased the books in the first place.
      You don’t actually own e-books.
      You can’t really lend e-books.
      If your account/device gets hosed, you may lose all your previously purchased e-books.

      Wait, why is this better and why are they priced similarly again?

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        If your account/device gets hosed, you may lose all your previously purchased e-books.

        In the case of Kindle or Google books, its more if your account gets hosed. I know that I can read my Google and Kindle books on various devices at the same time so its only an account concern.

        • Sneeje says:

          Well, there have been incidents of people whose devices got broken and when they received a replacement, were not able to download their prior content. Also, you have to consider what happens when you want to change devices (i.e., companies).

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        Your last four points are spot-on…unfortunately, you prefaced them with two bogus points. There are sunken costs in producing any content, although obviously the costs are small enough for things like blog posts for people to give them away. But the costs and the risks to the author in writing a book are the same regardless of whether it is distributed electronically or in print. (I’m much more concerned that the author be properly compensated than the publishing house.) Spending the time to write a decent book is a serious investment of labor, and that was the original purpose behind copyright and intellectual property. Just because others have perverted the purpose and the business model doesn’t negate that.

        • Sneeje says:

          I’m not talking at all about the sunk labor cost. More and more authors are self-publishing via e-books and I think that’s awesome, because it removes the economic friction of a middleman. Please don’t confuse the issue of the effort to create a work with the effort to sell and market a work. And don’t confuse price and value either. We’re talking about price here, not value. They are not the same. Water is necessary for life, but due to its abundance, it is not priced very highly.

          Also remember that the marginal cost of production curve is very different for traditional books than it is for e-books. Producing another copy of an e-book has a marginal cost of pretty much zero (which is my point). The millionth sold copy cost you nothing to produce.

          I think you may not really understand the original reasons for copyright and IP. The founding fathers created the concept of a limited monopoly to promote the progress of the useful arts. It was supposed to incentivize a behavior that was for the public good, not for the enrichment of authors. Copyright protects your control of a work, it does not guarantee that people will pay you what you expect.

          Remember price and value? The market decides the price. And if you are trying to sell something that everyone realizes has serious limitations compared to something they are familiar with, don’t expect them to perceive the price they are willing to pay as the same.

          • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

            I never said the prices should be the same, and I’m aware that the additional costs are very different for printed books and e-books. I was clarifying that, even though you were technically correct about the publishing costs being very low, the publishing costs are (usually) not all of the value in published works. Most of the value derives from the work itself. Although you make some good points, you seem to be intentionally ignoring the fact that people who pirate other peoples’ work frequently justify their actions by claiming that they’re not stealing a physical object, so it’s OK.

            • Sneeje says:

              I’m afraid that is a strawman argument and I’m not even sure how it is relevant here.. But if you can point me to a study that says so, I would be very interested. In my experience, no one justifies infringement by arguing no physical item is “stolen”. In fact studies do show that infringement is a result of an unmet consumer need–consumers want the content in question, but want it in the form most beneficial to them, or they want to try the product before sinking a significant amount in the specific product (yes, $10-15 is a significant amount). I don’t know about books, but in the music world, there have been multiple studies showing that the largest paying consumers of music are also the greatest free downloaders.

              Remember that stealing and infringement are very different concepts, both in terms of what results, and even in the moral perspective. That isn’t the debate here.

      • alexwade says:

        E-books have zero PRINTING costs, not zero PUBLISHING costs. Big difference.

        • Sneeje says:

          A fair point, but mostly irrelevant. I can self-publish an e-book (as more and more authors are doing) with nearly zero costs. The labor invested in creation is independent of whether you get paid or not. Just because you create something, doesn’t mean people will buy it at the price you choose, nor even at a price that makes you a profit.

        • IgnoramusEtIgnorabimus says:

          they do have a zero cost of publishing, I have a free email account, i could pay for an account if i was dumb enough but it does not change the facts, to publish an ebook you only need to notify the store of your intent, you no longer need to have an editor and advertising campaign since all the stores will self advertise their inventory for free

  2. Megladon says:

    First one to start a class action against them is rich. First lawyer I mean, the rest of us will get coupons for 25 cents off each ebook we buy to make up for it.

  3. George4478 says:

    I get as many as possible from the library. I refuse to pay physical-book prices for electronic versions.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Same. I’m hoping to get an e-reader soon, and I intend to fill it up with free books, or books under $5.

      Because screw paying $10 when pennies of that purchase are actually going to the actual author. I’d rather pirate them and find the author’s paypal and just pay them directly … though I’m sure that publishing contracts prevent them from doing the same. :/

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        That’s an interesting idea. How much have you given book authors?

        • Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

          As a starving author, Raydee has contributed to me in many ways.

      • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

        I heartily recommend this 99 cent masterpiece :) Yeah, it’s mine … but if you’re into voyeurism and technology (and who isn’t?), you might enjoy it.


        On a serious note, there is definitely a lot of free and inexpensive content out there. My favorite author, Lawrence Block, often announces sales of his older stuff (some dates back to the 1950s) for prices ranging from 99 cents to a few dollars. On Cyber Monday, I bought 11 of his books for a total of $16.

        • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

          I’ll keep it in mind. :D

          99cent fiction put out by the authors is the WAVE OF THE FUTURE and darned if I’m not going to jump all over that.

          • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

            I think it’s certainly the best way to check out unfamiliar authors. It would even make sense for established authors (evening guys like Grisham and King) to make one of their books available for 99 cents, so that it’s a small financial commitment for a new reader. I’m hesitant to roll the dice and pay $10 for a book by an author I’ve never read before, but I’d gladly take the same risk for 99 cents. If I like it, the author sells more books to me in the future (at the “normal” retail price).

      • SkyeFargo says:

        Pennies is a misconception. I’m not saying each ebook sold equals a stake dinner, but we’re still talking dollars per copy, with negotiated percentages either based off the list price of the book, or slightly higher percentages for the discounted price that the retailer is paying.

      • George4478 says:

        Book contracts vary, but authors get a percentage of sales. The hardback contracts I’ve seen are in the 10-15% range while the ebook contracts were substantially higher (50% is possible).

        So, when you pirate that $10 ebook, you may be taking $5 from the author, not just pennies.

      • Flik says:

        That’s exactly what I do — there’s a lot of free/discount e-books out there that I need to read on my Nook before I start paying for more. I’ve had my Nook for 6 months, and have paid more than $1 for only 3 titles — and that’s just because I had a gift card.

        There are good deals out there — you just have to be willing to go hunt for them.

    • nugatory says:

      Don’t forget all the public domain works.

      I love my physical dead tree books. There is no way I’m going to buy these books as ebooks. I also like to read the classics. I’ve got a kindle fire and downloaded probably 2-3 years worth of public domain books I want to read.

      • Jevia says:

        I do my best to buy ebooks as cheap as possible that I don’t get for free. I am more than willing to wait a while for ebooks to lower price. There’s a few exceptions I did pay $14 for Dance With Dragons, but it was huge (and yes, i was anxious for it). No way I’d pay the same price for 200-300 page book.

    • katieintheburg says:

      I had a textbook for one of my graduate classes called The Handbook of Student Affairs Administration which I purchased new at the bookstore for $60 or so. This book was about 800 pages, so when I went to visit my parents for a weekend I wanted to buy the book to read on my Nook on the plane instead of carrying the thick book on the place. The ebook at the time was only available from the publisher for $100. The ebook was “wroth” $40 more than the print book (i.e. treebook).

  4. theblackdog says:

    Are we going to see a rise in torrents of E-books as people grow tired of paying these prices?

    • chefboyardee says:

      No…we were going to see it a year ago. :) It’s in full force now. Just about any semi-popular title (and even a ton of obscure ones) are easily found on any major torrent site. Just last night I came across a 23gb torrent of fiction. That’s so many books, the list of titles was its own separate torrent.

      So far I’ve only torrented books my wife or I own (we own a lot), but if the prices keep rising like this, I will have no problem torrenting new stuff as well. They’re SO easy to find, and the filesize is so small, that it takes literally seconds to get most books. Publishers better get their stuff together before people realize it.

      • BrownLeopard says:

        ^ This. Most books are available in pdf for download at your favorite flavor of torrent site. Greed for money from the rich drives the poor to do things to get around having to pay for the same benefits.

        Welcome to America in 2011 (almost 2012).

  5. Geosama says:

    I’m thankful my local library lets you rent e-books

  6. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Isn’t that called PRICE FIXING when a group of vendors gets together to collude on pricing?

  7. MeowMaximus says:

    This is silly. An E-Book should cost 5$ Max. Blame greedy publishers who haven’t figured the E-Book model out. OTOH, there are a LOT of sources for free E-Books, like Baen Books.

    • SkyeFargo says:

      The ebook model is the same as the print model: Give author advance money and negotiated royalty rate; spend thousands in overhand on production (developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading, art, marketing, etc.), and try to sell enough copies to recoup investment. The buck and change you’re saving on trees is being devoured by lowered sales numbers ina more crowded marketplace. At $5 a copy, with the reseller getting about half and the author getting his rightful share, as a publisher you’d need an average of 10-20,000 units sold to make it worth your while, nevermind profit. Of course, not every book will sell at that level, so you’d actually need to overcompensate with your successes to break even and be able to take chances on projects that can’t be compared to existing books (AKA: original). While $5 may be your limit as an individual, it’s unsustainable unless you want to churn out a million variations of Jaws meets Gone with the Wind at $4.99 under the logic that both sold well so an amalgamation of the two must be a sure thing, and then wonder why no one can even be bothered to steal your shiny steaming files of Gone with the Fin.

      There may be a $5 model out there, but there’s also discount Sushi on Monday mornings–I’m passing on both.

      • thedarkerside.to says:

        You can’t really compare that to a PHYSICAL product (e.g. Sushi) really.

        A major cost is in the printing, transportation and storage cost for books. Those trucks and warehouses don’t come cheap.

        Distribution cost with an eBook? Zero. If they can sell a mass market paperback new for a profit at $8 or less then an ebook should be profitable at around $5.

        • SkyeFargo says:

          Printing/distribution is the least expensive part of the process, especially when it’s spread out over high volume. Mass market paperbacks that have had no hardcover/trade paperback editions prior have lower royalties and lower advances, again, all about quality. It’s easy to profit on an $8 mass market when you’ve already sold 10,000+ copies of the $30 hardcover.

        • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

          Same with video games – my fiance works at a gaming company and they do digital distribution. It saves them SO MUCH MONEY.

        • Costner says:

          I wouldn’t go so far as to say distribution costs are zero for e-books. There are server farms devoted to hosting the content, there are systems that have to track who purchased it, and there is a lot of technology built in to deter someone from sharing their copy with their 100 closest friends. On top of that, in many cases when you buy an e-book it will be hosted for life so if you buy an updated e-reader or tablet or lose/break your old device, you will be able to download the new copy within seconds.

          Then they need huge IT departments and support people for when things can and do go wrong. They have maintenance costs for all of the network and servers and they will continually have to adapt their systems to the newest technology. Plus – bandwidth costs can be huge.

          All of that technology comes at a price. I won’t try to claim it is anywhere near the costs to print, distribute, and store books… but it isn’t free either.

          Also, I recently saw a news report speaking of printing costs for hardcover books in China and what the costs are here in the US. It was something like just under 50 cents in China and just over 50 cents here. So the printing costs aren’t really as devastating as people think, but transportation and storage probably are.

    • caradrake says:

      I love Baen’s Free Library. It got me introduced to the Deeds of Paksenarrion (and it’s been a few years so I’m probably mangling her name). And a couple of Lackey’s non-Valdemar series, too.

      I don’t understand what the article means about price fixing on ebooks – it happen with paperback books, too. Go to Barnes and Noble, and the vast majority of paperbacks are $6.99 or $7.99. There is very little variance in pricing.

  8. Sian says:

    When will publishers figure out that consumers will choose convenient and free over inconvenient and expensive every time?

    Louis CK on the other hand proved that convenient and cheap is a very well-liked solution.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Do you consider buying books off of Amazon inconvenient? The whole process sounds pretty painless.

      • Sian says:

        Its inconvenient when I can’t read it on whatever computer or device I like.

        Also I don’t have a kindle.

        • One-Eyed Jack says:

          You can get a Kindle app for Droid or your computer.

        • dobgold says:

          You have absolutely no idea WTF you’re talking about! There are Kindle apps for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android Phone. Which device do you want to use?

  9. TsuKata says:

    This is a pretty great example of the effect of demand on pricing. Consumers are beginning to have a preference for e-books for various reasons. Suppliers see a demand for e-books, so the price goes up. The cost of the product is irrelevant; demand is guiding the price.

    The interesting part is that supply has nothing to do with it. There’s no decrease in supply, only an increase in demand.

    • MarcZero says:

      That’s true, except for the whole alleged “collusion” part. That’s a few guys making a decision, and not the market.

      • Talmonis says:

        Which is how the real market actually works. Collusion will never go away, and we can never trust the corps to play fair in the face of deregulation.

  10. xjeyne says:

    I feel like the same situation occurred when mp3s were first beginning to overtake CDs, and everyone complained because they didn’t want to pay for the music without the jewel case and booklet. I’m sure the prices will even out in a few years.

    I personally don’t mind paying the same price or more for an e-book, as long as the profit is going to the author so they can keep writing. Yes, part of it is the ease of having lots of books in a slim e-reader than I can take with me, especially when a book is only out on hardback and I like to read in random places where carrying a huge hardback novel is not exactly practical.

    • Rachacha says:

      In the end, it was the combination of a convenient MP3 store (iTunes), a reasonable price ($0.99/track), and the ability to purchase ONLY the tracks you wanted that brought the death blow to physical CDs. In most cases, the entire CD is not required to tell the story, and the disk has usually a few hits and some filler songs (songs that will never hit the radio, and quite honestly suck), so I can purchase a physical CD of the latest Katy Perry album for $15, or I can purchase the 4 “hits” for $6 or less. On the rare occasion I downliad the entire album, I am paying about the same as I would if I went to BestBuy and bought the physical CD

      With books it will be a bit harder as you can not split up a book into chapters and sell individual chapters, but Books are considerably more expensive to manufacture than CDs, so I would hope to see E-books $2-3 less than a physical book.

      • Jules Noctambule says:

        I disagree with the idea that consumers are wanting only ‘hits’ and that any song not on the charts is filler; Tom Waits’ latest release is a good example of just how a proper album is done. Buying Katy Perry’s tunes? Well, there’s the problem!

      • Firethorn says:

        $2-3 less and I’d be buying a lot more ebooks. Unfortuantly (for the publishers), I grew up with a non-rich family with an extreme reading habit. I read A LOT. We used the library, but buying hardcovers? Rare. Mostly paperbacks. And for what I read(mostly scifi), the lowest I’ve seen out of B&N/Amazon lately are $1 less, but that’s around 10% – 90% are the same price as the paperback’s MSRP.

        What’s the problem with this? I like to say that ‘If I’m not paying less than 75% of the cover price, I’m not trying’. That means I’m paying, on average, $7.50 for a ‘9.99’ paperback, where they want full for the ebook. No discounts for membership.

        I’ll keep buying my drm-free ebooks from Baen and a few other places.

    • Bagumpity says:

      I never buy electronic music. If you buy the CD, you can upload it to every device you own, as many times as you want to, whenever, and however you like.

      The RIAA hates CDs for that very reason. Right now, for me to have an iTunes version of a current pop song on your iPod, your iPhone, your iPad, and your car radio’s internal flash drive, etc. etc. means you would have to purchase a copy for each one. Yet you only have one set of ears to hear it with so there’s no theft involved. Why pay four times?

      Buying the CD means you can rip the songs and upload them to every device you plan to listen to them on. I’ll never pay multiple times for something I bought once.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I don’t use iTunes but I’m pretty sure a song is good for a certain number of devices and the new music is DRM free.

        I buy music via Amazon and as far as I can tell, they’re just ordinary mp3s.

      • BigPapaCherry says:

        Sorry, but you’re totally wrong. Even when iTunes had DRM (which they got rid of back in 2009), you could put the same song on up to 5 devices, and burn it as many as 5 times beyond that. Yes, those are restrictions, but not nearly the way you’re thinking about them.

        Also, since iTunes is now DRM-free, you can put those songs on whatever you want, however many times you want. Amazon and Google also have stores that sell plain old .mp3 files, no DRM, no restrictions. I’m sure the RIAA hates the DRM-free channels, but at least they’re getting money, so they can shove it.

    • Lisse24 says:

      Um, I think .99 – 1.99 is /still/ too expensive for a single song. Which is why I haven’t bought MP3’s for years. I also think if they were to lower the price by a couple of dimes, they’d see less piracy and sales go up.

  11. RokMartian says:

    There are also thousands of free e-books out there. That includes many classics that I wouldn’t bother taking the effort to read. Plus, you can have the e-book on multiple devices, like my phone and work computer and pick up where I left off at home.

  12. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Wait, you mean the whole e-book thing isn’t turning out to be all rainbows and unicorns like alla youse people said it would be?

    Gee. Who could have seen that coming. Well, besides me and everyone else in the world who’s aware that ownership rights are important.

  13. dolemite says:

    Isn’t that collusion? Just like the gas companies can’t all get together and decide gas is going to be $10 a gallon now?

    • SkyeFargo says:

      In my biased career-publishing opinion, no. Publishers never said all ebooks would be $X, they got on board with an alternate model that let them control the final price on an individual basis.

  14. IGetsAnOpinion says:

    Thank goodness for the e-library! I’ve gotten 75% or more of my books through them. Luckily they have a real good variety and a lot of the newer books available, although there is usually a short wait for the newer books.

    I only buy e-books if they are on sale, and by on sale I mean less than $3. Everything else is e-library. I do put all my credit card points into B&N gift cards so if there is something I want for my Nook I can automatically download it without costing me $$. But I don’t remember ever buying a Nook book at full price.

  15. JohnDeere says:

    i can read classic science fiction for the rest of my life for free from project gutenburg.

    • Cordtx says:

      Me too, I’m reading “The Golden Bough” right now.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      I was reading some Edgar Rice Burroughs a while back. Good times.

      For more recent stuff, you can find a lot of books on Book View Cafe, for cheap or free.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      I just can’t find anything that’s good. I was reading “Nine Princes in Amber” and it was just SO TRIPPY. I couldn’t keep reading it.

  16. Swins says:

    Ereaders are the inkjet printers of today

    • Kaleey says:

      Just what I was thinking. Make the product cheap, and the consumables expensive. Any company making a product where parts need to be (or in this case want to be) replaced has figured this out after a little while on the market.

      • IgnoramusEtIgnorabimus says:

        lol, that only works with razors (to an extent), we buy ink by the gallon and when we need to keep a hard copy of our part specs we have no second thoughts about printing 10,000 copies

  17. TaraMisu says:

    Crap. I asked for a kindle for xmas…. I thought it would save me a few bucks on books. *sigh*

  18. adent1066 says:

    I can’t access the linked WSJ article. Anyone have a mirror ?

  19. chizu says:

    I’m waiting for the day when a dual screen reader comes out — and I’ll be able to open up two or more books at the same time, and cross reference between pages… It’d really help when I have to look up 500+ pages reference books. At the same time, one of the most important books I need to buy only comes in hardcopy. :( And all the other reference books I need are only pennies (maybe no more than $5) cheaper than a physical copy. At least with the physical copy I could markup and make notes on. (There’s actually one recommended reading book that’s about $30 cheaper in ebook format than physical copy. If there are more books that are that much cheaper, I’d get an ebook in a heart beat…)

    My brother let me borrow his Nook for a while, I could definitely see the appeal and the convenience of having one… However, I could definitely hold out for one until something better comes out, or a price I can’t say no to.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Some eReaders do allow for annotations/note-taking, but it depends on the brand and format.

  20. DariusC says:

    Lmfao, this is just asking for piracy to swoop in and save the day! Why pay for something that literally takes fractions of a penny to copy? Especially when the author gets a very small percentage compared to what the publishing company gets. Just download them and donate if you feel so compelled to do so.

    • SkyeFargo says:

      Author’s percentage doesn’t factor in the overhead costs that go into each book–printed or digital. Unedited and unproofed pages will forever plague the 99cent bin, even if the occasional diamonds in the rough do service.

      • DariusC says:

        Overhead? What overhead? Marketing? Why should I pay for them to get the word out? That’s their responsibility. The author should also proofread their own work, which is another unncessary cost (editors). If the author is not educated enough to proofread/prevent errors, the author needs to think about a job that is less detail-oriented. Not sure what justifies the overhead aside from the publishing machines mass-producing it and the materials needed. Plus, of course, the author’s share.

        • SkyeFargo says:

          You’re right; we’re all much better off buying cheaper things we’ve never heard of. As for detail-oriented authors who proofread their own work–good luck. I’ve edited thousands and written about a dozen, and have yet to meet onewho can either churn out finished product or read their own work and not fill in the blanks with waht it should say versus what it actually does–myself included.

          Maybe it’s the unmarketed author I’ve never heard of who gets it right every time… if only I knew more about him to find his work.

  21. kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

    What could tip the scales would be some big authors self-publishing and undercutting other publishers. In spite of what some publishers may claim, the process of setting up an eBook is not terribly difficult.

    • dolemite says:

      The self-published market is booming on Amazon…tons of .99 or 1.99 books that are as good as the $20 books. The main problem is…well, how do you find out about them. It’s sort of like the underground music scene. How do you get exposed to the excellent artists?

      • SkyeFargo says:

        You get yourself a publisher, which brings us back to where we started.

        • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

          A publicist maybe, but not a publisher.

          In my initial comment, I mentioned big authors. If John Grisham self-publishes a book, the world would know about it pretty quickly. If you can suddently buy Grisham and a group of other authors for 30% less than other A-list authors, they might take sales away from the higher priced A-list authors, unless those publisher adjusted their prices downward.

          For example, I like John Sandford and Michael Connelly roughly equally – probably Sanford by a nod. If Connelly started self publishing and his books were suddenly 30% less than Sanford’s, I’d probably buy a bunch of his books.

          • SkyeFargo says:

            A publicist will get you a radio spot and maybe some reviews–I’ve had books I’ve worked on pop up through publicity in national newspapers and television and still not see a sales bump as a result. Marketer would be money better spent, but the question is, which marketer–lots of less than competent freelancers out there will gladly take your money.

            So if you’re an aspiring author you can either spend tens of thousands up front on a campaign (and additional thousands if you want full editorial services), or receive an advance and a percentage after the fact. It works for some, and they do well, but for most it’s a gamble they can’t afford. Lots of freelance dollars have been spent on books no one has ever heard of. It’s equally true that lots of publishing marketing efforts have failed to produce big numbers, but at least the financial risk is not on the individual.

            • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

              My initial comment wasn’t geared toward aspiring authors, but firmly established ones.

              • SkyeFargo says:

                They can, and some will; but to get them (and those that would come after them) to that point, the rest needs to be in place.

                • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

                  What needs to be in place for Stephen King or John Grisham to self publish their own books tomorrow (assuming that that have satisfied contractual obligations to their publishers)?


                  Don’t believe me? Lawrence Block is doing exactly this with a lot of his out-of-print work. He throws them on Amazon for a buck or two and they fly off the shelves. I doubt that he’s the only established author doing this.

                  • SkyeFargo says:

                    The question is: What needs to be in place to find the next Stephen King?

                    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

                      That’s a great question, but that wasn’t my point at all. My point was that established authors COULD force prices down by going it alone and undercutting the established publishers.

                      I’m not arguing that there isn’t a need for publishers in the grand scheme of things.

      • bsh0544 says:

        It doesn’t sound all that different from how you tell a good smartphone app from a bad one. The store has featured items and bestseller lists and then there’s user reviews, and maybe a short (15 minute?) return period if you open it and it’s rife with typos and failure.

  22. Jules Noctambule says:

    I’d say that at least 80% of the books I read on a daily basis can’t be obtained digitally, and within that number around 30% aren’t available to the general public at all (manuscript collector), but so many of my friends keep insisting I need an e-reader. Articles like this just reinforce my desire to stick with secondhand real books instead.

  23. Bagumpity says:

    I would never pay money for an e-book. Any supposed convenience afforded by an e-reader is offset by the endless red tape involved in purchasing and “owning” the book.

    Now, public domain- there’s the thing that e-readers are made for. With Project Gutenburg and other sources of free digital downloads, I have been able to read lots of things that I would otherwise have never bothered with. I’ve caught up on 19th century humorists, translations of Latin and Greek classics, and oodles of other stuff that would have been just too much trouble to check out of the library.

    With so much free public domain content available for e-readers, why bother with for-pay new stuff? That’s what P&I (Pulp and Ink) books are for. Nobody will ever come into my house and say “you don’t own that copy of Orwell’s 1984 anymore.” And as long as I pay cash and keep them hidden in a chest in the basement, nobody will know that I have a large collection of Amish Harlequin Romances.

    So, cue the “I’m OK With This” jpeg. Publishers sticking to their guns will make it financially feasible for real book stores to continue to operate.

    • delicatedisarray says:

      Exactly. I have over 300 books on my kindle right now and didn’t pay a penny for any of them. Public Domain books are a great way to fill your e-reader. I also watch the free books section on Amazon, it is hit and miss and there is some really strange stuff but sometimes you find a jewel. I’ve also noticed that some big authors will allow pre-orders for 1-2 days for their upcoming book for free.

  24. DonnieZ says:

    I vented about e-book prices a week or so ago on the other thread..

    I realize publishers need to get paid, but if we all take a step back and look at this situation as a whole, the price of an e-book should be signficantly lower than it’s physical counterpart. There’s no cost in production, shipping, brick and mortar storefront, and much less labor cost to pay people to sell it to me. I realize that there’s the author, publisher, DRM, and the online store costs, but these should be signficantly less than the physical book costs.

    Ways’ I’ve found to save money on e-books:

    Find a Nook forum – There’s usually a “lend me” thread where people will lend you a book. Or have a friend loan it to you.

    Libraries – The Nook (or any ePub based reader) are more friendly in this regard. Amazon/Kindle just started working with libraries, but some libraries have been reluctant to work on Amazon’s terms.

    Google for “book tile” +epub – occasionally you will find what you are looking for.

    Wait – books generally get cheaper if you don’t have to read them while they are sizzling hot off the press.

    As a last resort, Nook users cann Go to B&N’s B&M store – you can read just about any title free for an hour per day. I believe some titles are also lower priced when you are at the store as well.

    • SkyeFargo says:

      Producing an ebook from first draft manuscript to final file costs as much a printed book–there is no savings in preparing a book for release, the same staff will develop the file, copyedit the manuscript, code/typeset/design the pages, proof the final copy, and create the index (add on the small expenses for converting the final files and the additional time spent proofing multiple formats). The savings on printing and shipping are miniscule. Bookstores sales staff and storefront don’t factor into the price set by the publisher–stores get an agreed upon split whether they’re brick and mortar or virtual. Even then, Amazon may not have traditional sales clerks or cashiers, but beyond customer service staff they require more higher-end tech people to keep their operation running.

      • DonnieZ says:

        BS. Whether books are on a percentage split or sold in the agency model, it’s still far cheaper to produce an eBook than it is to produce the physical book.

        The cost of printing and shipping is not miniscule. The cost of real estate, staff, and operations far exceeds that of what a store like Amazon has, even factoring in infrastructure and technical staff costs. Why do you think Amazon has such competitive prices? Because running an online retalier is cheaper than a B&M retailer.

        eBooks are simply going to the way of the Inkjet printer or the video game console – The cost of the device is low, publishers expect to make their money back on the consumables (i.e. Ink, Video Game Media, etc..)

        • SkyeFargo says:

          Printing in volume at 5-10k units it costs about a buck and change for your standard 256-page hardcover (add .02- .04 per copy if you want to emboss the cover) per book. Here’s the irony, as more people buy ebooks and less buy print, there will be less physical copies printed and the unit cost to print will go up–the chasm between print production and e-production that barely exists now is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually the print book will be more expensive.

          The money that Amazon saves on overhead for print copies does allow them to offer heavier discounts while either pocketing the same percentage per unit or perhaps even grabbing an extra point, but Amazon’s costs or savings are irrelevant to the price the publisher sets. Amazon’s model was intentionally losing them money per ebook sold, in exchange for greater marketshare on the Kindle.

  25. Greyfox2401 says:

    since e-books take away the cost of printing, couldn’t writers start self publishing and make a better profit?

    • dolemite says:

      The same could be said for downloaded music and videos, but somehow, they think it should be the same price. “Umm…I saved you the cost of pressing the disks, shipping them, storing them, shelf space, etc…why isn’t this thing $7.99 instead of $14.99?”

    • livingthedreamrtw says:

      I’m releasing my first book next month, hopefully, and it is a catch-22 with self-publishing.

      A printed book for sale will likely be charged $6-7 per book in self-publish fees. You keep the rest. My book will be $16.50 printed so I’ll make $10 per book.

      I’m releasing a more in-depth digital package with extra features for $25. I will be charged $2-$3 per sale, so my profit will be ~$22 per sale. But if I have affiliates then my profit will be only $11 per book as I’m giving them half.

      For the e-book, I’m considering releasing it for $10. I still have to pay the royalty fee of ~$2 so I’ll make $8 per book.

      The hang-up with self-publishing is that getting the sales are incredibly difficult. Most books do

      Book deals on the other hand come with a good upfront check and then a few dollars per book sold. But you get the benefit a publishing house’s influence, book sales in stores, and reaching a wider audience. My sales are only going to be through my website, google/amazon searches, and my affiliates and their websites.

      If you are the best, you’ll make more money self-publishing. But I would rather take the chances with a publishing house for sure for a wider audience.

  26. thedarkerside.to says:

    Yeah watch the publishing industry create a huge black market for their warez.

    They are just stupid with greed. I am willing to buy eBook but not at the inflated hardcover prices that some publishers want.

    In those cases, if I really want the book, I just wait until it’s on sale in physical form in the book store.

    You’d think more than a decade of music industry failure would have taught them.

  27. One-Eyed Jack says:

    I recently won a Nook at a conference. I was excited, until I started shopping for books. Maybe it’s my Droid app or iTunes mentality where many items cost 99¬¢. The thing with eBooks is they don’t ever have to come down in price, and you can’t buy them second-hand that I know of. If I want to possess a novel, I usually get it from the used bookstore at a good price.

    I wanted to add a Bible to my Nook, and found one free one, in a translation I’ve never heard of, while the rest were close to what you’d pay for a paper copy. Meanwhile, I can download YouVersion on my Droid for free and have many many translations at my fingertips easily.

    As for borrowing from the library, it’s great in theory. But my library didn’t have any of the books I was interested in reading in eBook form, or they had three copies with a waiting list a mile long.

    So while the Nook is a fun toy, I don’t see myself using it often.

  28. xanxer says:

    I like regular books for some subjects such as cooking, building gardening, anything you wouldn’t want an expensive ereader near but I lov emy Kindle . I was browsing the stroe yesterday and say a few ebooks more expensive than the paper versions.
    There is no printing cost for the ebook so the saving should be passed on to the consumer. Instead it’s profit profit profit for greedy corporations.

  29. oloranya says:

    While I’d like tos ee ebook’s priced at least a few bucks cheaper than ebooks, it’s not a big deal to me because the main reason I bought a nook was space constraints. I live in a relatively small space and just didn’t have room for more books.

  30. QuantumCat says:

    One reason I’m fond of e-readers is for saving space.

    I love paper books, don’t get me wrong–but I’m a voracious reader and they take up a lot of room. Sure, my little reader isn’t as impressive to show off to my cats, but I have over 100 books in a device the size of one book.

    I realize this problem might not apply to most, but it’s nice for me!

  31. missy070203 says:

    I still use paper books….then trade with friends when I’m done with them … that way I pay for one book and trade it for another over and over with friends – saves us all money

  32. oldwiz65 says:

    I’m sticking to hard books – they cost the same as the e-books AND no screw up by Amazon, B&N, or anyone else can suddenly remove the book from my possession. There have been enough stories about books being “taken back” by Amazon. Anyone trying to remove books from my house would first have to have a little discussion with 85 pounds of sharp-toothed dog.

    There’s huge profits in the e-books since they don’t have to pay for printing, shipping, etc.

    Besides, I already have lots of books in my house and there’s no way I would convert them.

    And I like to write notes in books and put tabs on so I can go back.

    And so far no one has shown a way to quickly page through an e-book as fast as I can do it with a hardback.

  33. quieterhue says:

    The publishers are like the music industry: scared shitless and grasping for straws. If they’d stop the damn collusion and let the market take its course, they’d probably have a lot more people buying e-books a lot more often. This is something that could potentially SAVE the publishing industry and yet they are desperately trying to keep the old, failing model alive. Baffling.

  34. BlkSwanPres says:

    When ebooks push publishers out of business this will end.

  35. Exceptional Vampire Does Not Sparkle says:

    I only have to dig down to the torrent level.

  36. Mknzybsofh says:

    Would I pay money for an E-book? Yes, but ONLY if the publisher/seller cannot modify or change the book I purchased and if the price is right. Neither of which is currently true. I am not paying 16.50$ for a paperback version of a book that costs 18.99 for the kindle version. Greedy much publishers? Hell, I’ll spend the extra 2.80 for the hardback. The publishers are idiots.

    • SkyeFargo says:

      We all know what happened with 1984, but you can download a backup of any efile you purchase to your PC, preventing the Orewellian metaphor from going any further (in regards to the removal of a title).

      In regards to forced updates, publishers would like to be able to any kind of update (ala iTunes, where a file with display errors can be rereleased once corrected), but so far that hasn’t been made readily available to them.

  37. ironflange says:

    I buy all my ebooks at the used ebook store. They’re a little dog-eared, but what does that matter?

  38. Dieflatermous says:

    Considering Amazon has been artificially deflating ebook prices for several years to get people on-board with e-reading, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

  39. aleck says:

    The price of an item is what people are willing to pay for it, it does not have to depend on the cost of production.

  40. sock says:

    I’m an early adopter, so I bought a Kindle several years ago. The book prices were pretty good. But, as soon as the big publishers started acting like a cartel, I sold my Kindle. (I still have an iPad, where I can read ebooks and oracle documentation for my job). I use the library now primarily, and joined Audible, where the prices for books *read* to me are excellent. Phooey on the greedy publishers.

  41. mjd74 says:

    “Is it just in the ease of carrying around a slim reader instead of a massive tome?”

    Indeed. The latest George R.R. Martin just about killed my back carrying it to and from the bus every day. Never again.