penny pinching, Reading, Saving money, Sharing

Should e-books cost More than Printed Books?

How Much do YOU think E-ebooks Should Cost?

Photo by jrdurao at

I don’t yet own an e-reading device, but lately I have been comparing the different readers- just in case a long-lost millionaire uncle I never knew about decides to leave me his fortune.

As I researched, I was surprised to noticed that some e-books actually cost more than the paperback version of the same books, which is the opposite of what I expected.  So I was interested when I learned about a survey showing that while some readers think that e-books should cost less than their counterparts, not all readers do.

Those who already own an e-reader appear less likely to think that the downloads should be priced lower. I wonder whether this is because they have gotten used to paying the higher price, or because they are willing to pay more for convenience and instant gratification, or perhaps because those who could afford to buy those devices were not so concerned about book pricing as the rest of us.

What are the benefits of digital vs. printed books?

The main benefit of e-books seems to be convenience. But convenience aside, they lack many benefits of traditional books.

I have books that I have owned since I was a child and now share with my own children , and favorite books that I have loaned out many times to friends (without the limitation that they must be returned within 2 weeks). Other books I’ve read once and either sold (so I could afford to buy more books!),  or donated to benefit my local library.

When you buy an e-book, you are not really buying a book at all, just a license to be allowed to read the book. Add the limitations of its use to the facts that:

  • you have to first purchase a device for reading the books then spend more for permission to read each book,
  • you can only give the book as a gift if your friend also happens to have an e-reader (and the right one),
  • other family members can’t read the book you bought unless you either loan them your reading device or buy them each one of their own along with their own licenses to read each book (which would be quite a hunk of change in a large family like mine.  Hope that rich uncle doesn’t forget me!),
  • you can not re-sell the book used to reclaim some of your original expense and
  • you cannot donate it to charities to sell used,

and suddenly the expectation that e-books should be priced lower doesn’t seem either unrealistic or unreasonable. In fact, I’m surprised that more people don’t think it should be lower!

What about publishers?  Shouldn’t we worry about them going out of business?

Even though the publishers still have many expenses with e-books (editing, formatting, promotion, etc.), they don’t have the printing or inventory costs that exist with traditional publishing. There are no supply limitations, so they don’t have to guess at how many copies of a book will sell; 200 electronic copies won’t cost them more to produce than 50 copies.  Some publishers are also giving a smaller cut of the profits to authors than they do with printed books.

Some publishers will certainly fold because of the e-book revolution, but I doubt it will be due to low e-book pricing. More likely it will be due either to greed (see above about authors getting a smaller cut, driving  them toward self-publishing), bad debt (as other companies such as bookstores go under), or most likely of all – a failure to adapt to a changing market.

Those who make it will do so because they see digital books as an opportunity to expand the book market, rather than a contest between e-books and traditional ones.

What do you think?

Do you have an e-reader?  Do you think e-books should cost the same, more or less than traditional books?

How might publishers and authors best adapt to a rapidly changing market?


3 thoughts on “Should e-books cost More than Printed Books?”

  1. I’ve been reading ebooks for 11 years. They used to be very inexpensive. In fact, many still are because many writers do not get e-rights in their contract meaning they can e-publish with someone else. Pure e-publishers are super cheap. Which is the way it should be. Because you aren’t paying for printing costs and the like. It’s actually been a huge controversy. Because the traditional pubs finally realized what a ka-ching they can get… they are going for it. Frustrating!

    Here’s what we do – we share our account so that hubs and I can both read ebooks. We also watch for freebies. B&N was giving away a free book every fridea, but I haven’t checked it out lately. I like ebooks because they are a lot lighter, and take up such little space in my house. I do NOT like that I have to pay as much or more than a paperback for a bunch of bytes. ANNOYING!

    1. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Even though I don’t have a handheld e-reader, I’ve been reading e-books on my computer for I don’t know how many years, and got used to them being free or inexpensive. At the very least, they cost a bit less than the printed ones. I know that many people share an account so they can share the e-books with other family members, but that still requires purchasing each family member a reader. That’s simply not realistic for many families, especially if it’s a large family with a not-so-large income.

      What is your favorite source for e-books? I took a look at B&N’s free and bargain sections last night, and was quite offended by some of the images that were thrust upon me. I don’t want to go back.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s