My latest short story "The Night the Lights Came On"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

eBook Prices

My first thought on eBook prices was that they should be much less than a hardcover or even a paperback. My reasoning behind this was that there is pretty much no cost associated with creating and distributing an eBook. No printing, no shipping, no sending the copies that didn't sell back to the publishing houses. See these reasons from this wired article:

But at least some book publishers think charging $10 for a new release is not enough, even though:
a) Charging as little as $3 more seems to be enough, which is still a hefty subsidy of the cover price.
b) The economy of scale only improves the more e-books you sell.
c) The cost of producing an e-book is as close to $0.00 as you can get. 
With this in mind I have been hoping that if I waited long enough I would be able to buy eBooks for only a few bucks; that eventually the hype would die down and prices would fall. I don't know if that will ever happen, and I'm not sure it should the more I've read and thought about this.

Something I hadn't taken into account was that even though an eBook costs virtually nothing to produce, you're still getting the content that the author worked hard to create. I still think eBooks should be cheaper than hard copies, but I also wouldn't want that to cheapen what goes into making a book. I myself am a writer who hopes to be published someday, and I know that writing a book is a lot of work. I once heard a quote that an artist was asked how long it took him to create a certain painting. Instead of telling the man how many hours it took him he told him the number of years he had been a painter. Yes, perhaps someone can paint something beautiful in a couple hours, but does that mean their paining should be sold for less? What about the years they spent improving on their craft to get to that skill level? The same is true with writers, or even bands. For the most part, every "overnight" success story you hear about with an author or band's breakout novel/album, has been the product of many manuscripts/records that they honed their craft while producing before they became good enough to create something as good as their "breakout" novel/album. I'm not sure what the sweet spot for eBook prices should be. I do think they should be cheaper than paperbacks, but should not devalue the work and content they deliver.

I wonder if there will be different versions of eBooks in the near future, at different price points depending on the content. Apple's iBooks, read on the iPad, can have color photos and video. So will there be a text only, text and full color photos, and text, photos and video version of the same book? Like the DVD model, perhaps they'll go towards the standard eBook, and then the special or extended version with a whole bunch of bonus features at a higher price. All we can do is wait and see, but what do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.
Also, for more on this topic, check out this great post by Published Tor author John Brown:
Amazon vs Macmillan = River Fighting to be Big Banana

UPDATE: Another great article on The New York Times website:
Apple’s Prices for E-Books May Be Lower Than Expected

UPDATE: A Survey on Ebook Prices from
Survey Results

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