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The price is right

There is a great deal of discussion and concern at the moment regarding e-book pricing.

Will the proliferation of cheap e-books lead consumers to expect cheap e-books as the norm? And will this ultimately drag down the price of all e-books, even those from brand-name authors who have historically commanded high r.r.p.s? This concern is genuine and understandable.

One of the reasons for the worry is that the sudden explosion of e-books in the marketplace has changed many of the rules of publishing. And no one has the rule book. It hasn’t been written yet, let alone published.

It used to be that a hefty advertising campaign and a five-figure retail spend would ensure a high chart position for your blockbuster. That may still be the case for print books, for now, but the same doesn’t apply to digital. You could be riding high in the Sunday Times bestseller list but find your e-book languishing behind a bunch of 99p titles by authors you’ve never heard of (Dr Benjamin Daniels anyone? He may not be a household name but he has sold over 100,000 copies of Confessions of a GP across both print and e-book).

But does that really matter? It might be a bit of a dent to some of the more inflated egos (assuming they notice) but it doesn’t mean a lack of sales, nor does it represent any sort of failure on the part of the publisher. It is simply that e-book buyers have different options open to them and shop in a different way. We need to get used to that.

The good news is that despite the many cut-price e-books taking up prominent positions on the iBooks and Kindle charts, readers appear to be more than happy to pay full whack for new, topical, important and exciting books. They are buying cheap e-books as well as, not instead of, full-price ones. This is the crucial point that many seem to miss. A quick look at the charts at the time of writing shows the omnipresent David Nichols at No 1 in both the iBooks and Kindle stores with One Day which, at £4.99, is more expensive than most retailers are selling the print edition for. People want to read it, they want to read it on their e-reading device and they are more than happy to pay a reasonable price to do so.

Other e-books in the Top 30 appear to be doing very nicely at a fiver or more; one is even riding high at £11.99. It is a market which can comfortably find room for titles at all prices. This presents us with an incredible opportunity for both frontlist and backlist, and particularly for the supposed midlist.

Now, who is going to publish that rule book? And will it be a 49p e-book?
 

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The rulebook will have an RRP but will then be pirated and available to download for free from various torrent sites.

I commend this article to you, Slip: http://techcrunch.com/2011/08/23/book-piracy-a-non-issue/

The pirated rulebook will be mostly downloaded by people who would never have paid for it in the first place, so cannot be counted as lost sales. Meanwhile, the legit version will be bought from the author/publisher by many people who might have borrowed a print edition from a friend or a library or picked it up second hand. Swings and roundabouts.

The fact is that there is no magical one-size-fits-all e-book price. Each e-book will have its own optimum price that will bring in the maximum revenue based on number of sales and margin per sale. The trick will be finding that optimum price, and the advantage of e-books is that there is no fixed r.r.p. printed on the cover so pricing can change much more dynamically.

One result might be that the overall bestseller chart becomes less important than genre-specific charts.

Thanks, Kate. Interesting piece - there's another, slightly more apocalyptic take on things here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/22/are-books-dead-ewan-morrison

(specifically "Piracy and competitive discounting – the race to the bottom")

I'm one of those unknown authors Scott mentioned in his blog, but one that isn't doing as well as Dr Benjamin (who?). My ebook is priced at $2.99 (about £1.81), which seems to be the average going rate for ebooks on Kindle (if you go lower you get a lower royalty rate). The problem is, that it seems even that is too high a price for someone to take a punt on an unknown author. Hopefully, indi pricing and publishers pricing will meet in the middle at a fair price for all who have a stake, including the readers.

The rulebook will have an RRP but will then be pirated and available to download for free from various torrent sites.

I commend this article to you, Slip: http://techcrunch.com/2011/08/23/book-piracy-a-non-issue/

The pirated rulebook will be mostly downloaded by people who would never have paid for it in the first place, so cannot be counted as lost sales. Meanwhile, the legit version will be bought from the author/publisher by many people who might have borrowed a print edition from a friend or a library or picked it up second hand. Swings and roundabouts.

Thanks, Kate. Interesting piece - there's another, slightly more apocalyptic take on things here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/22/are-books-dead-ewan-morrison

(specifically "Piracy and competitive discounting – the race to the bottom")

The fact is that there is no magical one-size-fits-all e-book price. Each e-book will have its own optimum price that will bring in the maximum revenue based on number of sales and margin per sale. The trick will be finding that optimum price, and the advantage of e-books is that there is no fixed r.r.p. printed on the cover so pricing can change much more dynamically.

One result might be that the overall bestseller chart becomes less important than genre-specific charts.

I'm one of those unknown authors Scott mentioned in his blog, but one that isn't doing as well as Dr Benjamin (who?). My ebook is priced at $2.99 (about £1.81), which seems to be the average going rate for ebooks on Kindle (if you go lower you get a lower royalty rate). The problem is, that it seems even that is too high a price for someone to take a punt on an unknown author. Hopefully, indi pricing and publishers pricing will meet in the middle at a fair price for all who have a stake, including the readers.