E-book Prices Annoy Readers

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Prices for e-books are slightly lower than print books. (Photo: Steven Goodwin)
Prices for e-books are slightly lower than print books. (Photo: Steven Goodwin)

BUSINESS

  • E-book prices will resemble print book prices
  • Readers feel e-books should cost less
  • Publishers standing ground on prices

E-book prices are creeping closer to the prices of traditional print books, causing some readers to raise eyebrows and boycott in protest.

Readers expect the price of e-books to remain lower than print books, because they suspect that it costs less to produce digital format books. They also factor in the cost of a buying a reader to read the books.

In fact, e-books are cheaper to produce than print versions, but publishers feel that just because they are cheaper to make, they should not cost less.

In the future, e-books may have video, be in colo, and have other features to make prices more plausible to readers. Some e-books will likely be released as digital-only versions with no attached print version.

As evidence of buyer dissatisfaction with e-book prices, 6,755 readers revolted on Amazon.com, using a tag to show their anger at e-book prices. The users developed a "$9.99 boycott" tag and used the tag for 9,045 Kindle books, digital books read with a Kindle ebook reader. The $9.99 price represents the price they'd like to see.

Amazon's Kindle books that users tagged as with the "$9.99 boycott" tag were usually $12.99 and more.

The Upper Hand

Prices for e-books are slightly lower than print books, but are not likely to reach the deep discounted prices that readers would like to see. Publishers and retailers are in the middle of a tug of war related to e-book prices. E-book publishers now have the upper hand.

During the onset of e-books, retailers priced the books as they wished. Electronic books usually cost about $9.99, typically lower than new hardback releases. Although the lower price suited retailers who were able to sell more e-books, publishers were trembling at the prospect of prices going too low. They had seen $0.99 digital music releases stomp out CDs.

Publishers insisted that retailers use the agency model, a price structure in which publishers set the price and retailers get commission off of the sale, according to PC World.

Retailers attempted to fight back by holding out on selling books by certain publishers, but needing to meet their customer's demands, they gave in. Amazon refused to use the agency model to sell books published by MacMillan, and boycotted the publisher.

Eventually Amazon gave in and went from selling $9.99 MacMillan titles to $14.99 for many of the books as a result. The e-book price became even closer to the hardback book price.

Key Statistics – Ebook Sales (source: Book Industry Study Group)

  • E-book sales went from 1.5% of the total United States book sales in 2009 to 5% of the market in the first quarter of 2010.
  • Of the people who bought e-books, 25% said that they buy fewer print books.

By C. Williams for
C. Williams is a journalist based in the United States. She has been covering the news for over a decade.

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