Saturday, May 26, 2012

What should ebooks cost?


  1. I think you've already nailed the most commonly head belief about why paper books should be priced higher than an ebook: the cost of manufacturing and printing the (at least 1000, I assume) copies and then displaying them in brick and mortal stores. I do not know much about publishing and certainly the news that there is not a lot of difference in the manufacturing cost is certainly news to me, although really it seems obvious now that I think about manufacturing on that scale.

    I have paid upto $15 for an ebook, not even one that was a major release or one that I particularly wanted aside finding it interesting. $18 per ebook might push the edge of what I would pay for a book and I may well wait for the price to go down before purchasing it. The same book in paper, I would most likely purchase.

    This is not rational, but what makes the paper edition "worth more" to me is the smell and feel of paper. The idea of a book with its own unique spine creases and dog ears after several years of loving re-reads becomes more important to me than a digital copy owned for the same time. The latter, of course, I could lose and get an exact replica of and not care, while the former would cause me at least some distress if lost. As I said, not very rational. :)

  2. I agree that what bothers people about e-book prices being close to physical book prices is the idea that e-books have lower production costs than a physical book.

    For myself, $15-20 is probably my upper limit for e-book purchases, unless they a) are extraordinarily lengthy, b) come with other neat stuff (like, idk, a soundtrack or something), or c) some kind of learning material (most e-books that I purchase being novels).

    That's usually my upper limit for physical novels as well, since I remember when a novel cost $15 tops and I kinda resent dropping so much money on a book I may not like, and will finish in a few hours. But that's why I have a library card. ;)

  3. I think you are underestimating the hidden costs of a print book. When a print run of a book is being done, I expect the publishers will print the upper range of the number they expect to sell. However if they actually sell less copies then the average print price per book is higher. There are also additional costs to the retailer of shipping and storage, and additional for "on display" and other damaged books that need to be charged for in the retail price. None of those costs apply to eBooks.

    1. Hi Daniel; the figures aren't mine; they're from Levine's book and (second-hand) from the Money article. In both cases, "about $3.50" seems to cover the publisher's total cost in producing and distributing the physical book, and I can only assume is derived from the total cost of the run, which would include the other publisher's costs you mention. If you can point me to other figures, I would certainly be grateful. Note that I am not discussing retailer's costs here, or the final retail price over which the publisher has no control.

      However, for the sake of argument, let's say that those hidden costs amounted to as much again: another $3.50. Do you feel that the publisher is obligated to pass that saving on to you?