eBooks overpriced? Well, they were just a moment ago…

Sony ebook readerIt seems like we’ve been talking a lot about ebooks in the last few months here at Futurismic, which is surely a sign of the times. The thing that’s been bothering me about ebooks for a while (and the principle reason I’ve not really started buying them myself as of yet) is that the pricing has seemed a little… unreasonable. [image by shimgray]

It’s not just me, it would appear. Yesterday, Kassia Krozser of Booksquare laid the boot into publishers trying to gouge the same price from their ebook customers as from their dead-tree buyers:

Let’s go through this one more time: ebooks are a new, different market. You, dear publishers, have been given that rarest of gifts: a new revenue stream (think: home video for the motion picture business). These books are not competition. While there are more than a few readers who would love the luxury of choice of format/style/device when it comes to purchasing and reading books (you’re reading one), the ebook customer is different than the print book customer. Even if your ebook sales are growing by leaps and bounds each quarter, they’re nowhere near the volume that print achieves.

You’re dealing with a different animal, and — wahoo! — you now have the opportunity to change how you do business. Let’s start with smarter pricing. No, let’s start with the idea that you, publishers, are not the only game in town.

Tough love indeed. However, hot on the heels of Ms Krozser’s screed (and far too close to have been a response to it, I might add) came an announcement at SF Signal: genre fiction publishers Orbit are now offering a different ebook from their backlist each month for just US$1.

Now, this is still far from ideal; it’s just a handful of titles in a handful of formats, and the inevitable and much-loathed DRM is involved. But it’s a start. I suspect as the tough times dig in over the next year, we’ll see the start of a race for the bottom in ebook pricing… especially in the genre scene, which seems to tend toward a more tech-savvy readership.

5 thoughts on “eBooks overpriced? Well, they were just a moment ago…”

  1. I could care less about DRM if the ebook is cheap enough. (I’m still not sure what price that happens at though.)

  2. There are several issues with eBooks. You mentioned the first, overpricing of the books. But, equally stupid is the overpricing of eBook readers. I don’t understand how the sellers of these things missed the whole “razors and razor blades” thing. Why on earth would I spend three or four hundred for a single purpose machine? For a little more I could get a netbook, or a decent used laptop.

    There was a discount store in the Bronx which used to advertise “Quick nickles are better than slow dollars”. Most of the manufacturers of eBook readers don’t ever seem to get that message. I simply won’t pay for an eBook which costs as much as its paper clone. I think most people won’t.

    For years I have subscribed to Scientific American. I love it. But, they insist that I pay for a separate digital subscription. Just another ripoff. There are times when I’d love to send an article to some one, but I will not pay extra for a digital subscription.

    However, I would pay and additional dime for an eBook, if that’s what it takes for Sony and others to bring down the price of their readers.

    Who designs the marketing strategies for these guys?

  3. This is absolutely right. Many big publishers make a lot of their money republishing classics (for general readers as well as for students) — adding value by means of introductions and annotation and a pretty cover, but basically selling out-of-copyright text for the same price as in-copyright text. That works if your reader wants a paper copy, since printing out or photocopying a classic is more expensive than buying it. But it is a ridiculous craziness for eBooks, where pretty much the entire backlist of World Literature, up to the C20th (and in some cases, into that century as well) is available for free download from Gutenberg and a ton of sites. I got a eReader for Christmas, and given the choice between catching up on reading classic novels or paying full price for a digital copy of a book, I’ll do the former.

  4. There is crap money involved in digital reproduction. No, printing, limited distribution, and a $300 reader? Come on get real already. If I can get a reader, which really only gives me a more flexible ‘to go’ option and an ebook that costs me $5 instead of $10 in real print, then I would go for it. But these costs? Gimmick that beyond over priced.

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