How Much do YOU think E-ebooks Should Cost?
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?