E-book buyers expect discounts, but do buy more

UK e-book buyers are expecting digital titles to be discounted heavier than their counterparts across the Atlantic, a new survey has found.

The survey, undertaken in April by consultants Simon-Kucher and Partners among 250 book buyers from the US, UK and Germany, concluded an e-book without additional features should cost around 65% to 70% of the print price, though admitted there was "no simple formula" in hitting the pricing sweet spot. The survey also found current e-book users spend more on books than book buyers in general. According to the survey, 48% of book buyers in the US used e-books as well as audio and print, 45% in the UK, but just 15% in Germany.

On pricing among current e-book buyers and those who plan to buy e-books in the future, UK respondents expected a price reduction of 36% on the equivalent print version, while in the US they expected a 30% reduction. The survey said: "It's not about the absolute price level, but the ratio between print and digital." 

Publishers instead enjoyed a "varied degree of flexibility" as they searched for the pricing sweet-spot. The survey took Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as on example, with respondents suggesting an acceptable price range for the e-book version for UK buyers was between £2.97 and £5.19, even when the paperback version was selling at an average price of £3.89. The highest discount expected by UK e-book buyers in this case was 24%, compared with an 18% discount expected in the US.

The study also found 73% of UK respondents thought e-books with enhanced features could cost more than the print version. However, the majority of those making this statement said it depended on the nature of those features, with translation tools and video or audio those features readers were prepared to pay extra for.

The survey showed US book readers currently spend a greater proportion of their book expenditure on e-books, higher than either their UK or German counterparts. Out of $21.09 spent monthly, $6.33 was spent on digital content, while in the UK out of £20.99 spent, £2.42 was spent on e-books. In Germany just €0.52 was spent on e-books out of a total book expenditure of €22.08. Regular e-book buyers spent more on books, with e-books taking an even greater proportion of that expenditure. In the UK e-book users spent £5.20 a month on e-books, out of a total book spend of £29.

The study also found in the UK and US even among non e-book users the majority, 61% and 74% respectively, plan to use e-books in the future, while e-book users plan to use e-books "significantly more often". Fiction, non-fiction, and travel guides were the most popular genres among UK and US e-book readers. Predictably the survey found Amazon was the preferred destination for e-book buyers, chosen by 71% in the US and 67% in the UK. Apple's iBookstore was the second choice.