Ebook Pricing

It has been a while since my last post, so what has made me come out of hiding? Ebook pricing. The Bookseller reported today that Transworld has finally announced that the UK ebook price for Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is going to be the same as the hardcover: £18.99. Same goes for Random House in the US, where the hardcover and ebook are both priced at $29.95. Pardon me, publishers, but there is no way in hell I will pay 30 bucks for a Dan Brown ebook. You are making Amazon look like the good guy by pricing its proprietary ebook at $9.99.

This kind of pricing strategy is selfish and shortsighted on the part of publishers because they are not listening to their customers, who believe, right or wrong, that ebooks should be less expensive than print editions. Charging the print price for an ebook is not going to change the customer’s mind. It is going to make them go elsewhere to buy the book or illegally download it somewhere. The customer is not thinking about what percentage of the ebook price eventually goes back to the publisher. Instead the customer is thinking about whether the product is worth the asking price, and in the case of The Lost Symbol for $29.95, the answer is going to be: not worth it.

Random House sited among the reasons for its pricing decision, that they were afraid a lower ebook price would decrease the number of hardback copies sold. But a lower ebook price also means that some of the people who would have waited for the paperback or just borrowed a friend’s hardcover copy might now buy the ebook instead. More units at a lower price is just as good as less units at a higher price, isn’t it?

To be honest, this subject gets me riled up because the larger publishers seem to pay very little attention to what their customers want or are willing to buy, and that is a Business 101 lesson. From Andrew Savikas of O’Reilly Media: “Think long and hard about what your customers want, and provide the service of giving that to them.” O’Reilly has great publishing model that successfully incorporates DRM-free ebooks and print editions. Why are they so successful? Because their customers wanted DRM-free ebooks, so O’Reilly started selling them.


Author: Hannah Johnson

When I first came to New York City, I almost ran over Liza Minelli with my suitcase. Then I got a job in book publishing.

5 thoughts on “Ebook Pricing”

  1. In fact, there are some books that I have outright stated, 'if they would charge a nominal price for the ebook, I would buy the HB & the ebook. Or if they'd charge only a nominal price (still need to pay royalties, etc), for the ebook with proof of purchase of the HB, I'd be happy.' Baen books has made me a loyal customer for life, and sold me at least half a dozen books, because of their free ebooks. With the permission of the authors, they offered some of their books for free. As a result, I started two series and bought the books when they were reprinted.

  2. The fact remains, however, that publishing is a business! Maybe if the RH group were trying to garner some new fans for Mr Brown, then perhaps they would elect to reduce the price. But they don't need to do that. It makes sense to put the price high. Because the value to the consumer and publisher is high, and they know a million fans are going to go and buy it at a hardback price. Which they'll need in order to make the enormous advance they (no doubt) paid. And the huge marketing and promotional costs the publisher is shouldering elsewhere. In short, reducing the price, is neither in the publisher's, nor the author's interest. Of course, if readers do decide it's "not worth it", and that they can wait to find out what happens in the Lost Symbol, they can just hold out for the inevitable £6.99 paperback further down the line (at which stage the Ebook price will no doubt be reduced too)…

  3. Of course publishing is a business, one that survives by selling products to customers, by satisfying readers. At the end of the day, it is the customer that gives monetary value to the product by buying it.It seems to me that ebooks are an untapped medium that many readers would genuinely embrace if they felt the price was right. And if larger publishers aren’t going to offer that, readers will look to other channels, legal or not. The message publishers send with high-priced ebooks is essentially, "we don't care what our readers think of ebooks."For lesser-known authors than Dan Brown, it certainly does not make sense to price ebooks so high. Fewer people are likely to buy a high-priced ebook with DRM that they can neither share with their friends nor with their multiple gadgets (computer, cellphone, e-reader, etc) by an author they don't know. However, a low-priced ebook by this author might be the perfect way for more readers to give the book a chance, spread the word, and build an audience for the author.If there was ever an author to help readers and publishers find common ground on this issue, it would be Dan Brown because so many readers are eager to read his new book. But Amazon is listening to its customers and selling the ebook at $9.99, once again giving them and their proprietary ebook format a little more control in the marketplace.

  4. E-books are significant to web industries due to its wide reaching applications. Many publishers publish e-books and give them away to prospective customers for free. It is also done usually to enhance their skills and familiarity with their site’s niche or products.

  5. I'm not sure if you can really gauge ebook policy on a Dan Brown book, publishers know they can price gouge because they know people will buy it. I also think publisher consider ebooks to be the future of the industry and may want the public to be accustomed to a much lower price for one.

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