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Does eBook Pricing Affect Your Opinion of a Publisher, Author or...

Ellora’s Cave is finally selling its ebooks outside of its own portal,   Strangely, though, Ellora’s Cave is setting its list prices at third party vendors at twice the rate of the ebook price at   For example, Jade Black’s After the Storm sells for $7.99 in unencrypted PDF, HTML, MS Reader, Mobipocket, and Rocketbook at Ellora’s Cave but at Amazon, the Kindle version has a digital list price of $18.99 which is kindly discounted by Amazon down to $9.99.   The digital list price is the price that is set by the publisher.    Devil in Winter, a novella  by Diana Hunter is at Ellora’s Cave for a price of $4.45 and it is at Amazon for $8.99.   Alien Overnight by Robin Rothman sells for $5.95 at EC and $11.90 at Amazon.   You get the picture.

St. Martin’s Press and Simon & Schuster are notorious for selling its ebooks at a super premium price.   Simon & Schuster lists several of the backlist titles at $9.99 ebook price even though these books are currently available in a mass market price.   St. Martin’s Press lists ebooks as high as $14.00 for books that have a comparable print version in mass market.

It frustrates me to no end that St. Martin’s Press and Simon & Schuster place what I like to call an ebook tax on its digital copies.   I would love to access Ellora’s Cave books outside of Ellora’s Cave. I find the checkout process to be unwieldy and frustrating. Oftentimes the site will not load or the login process takes several attempts or the book won’t download and so forth.   But to charge twice as much at a third party site is not only frustrating but seems short sighted.

The core readership of Ellora’s Cave is not likely to switch their buying habits to accessing books via a third party site, knowing that the prices at Ellora’s Cave are cheaper.   Readers who do buy via   a third party but learn later that they paid twice as much will become very frustrated.   But will the ire be directed at the publisher (Ellora’s Cave) or the individual author?

Digital publishers are heavily publisher branded.   I think readers associate heavily with the publisher identity rather than individual authors when it comes to digital publishing.   When you look at the covers of Ellora’s Cave books, Samhain, Loose-Id, and Liquid Silver, to name a few, the publisher brand is carried on the front cover itself.   I sometimes think that EC and the digital publishers that came after them were inspired by the Harlequin category lines and its heavy publisher branding.

Interestingly, over at Barnes and Noble, readers are upset with the ebook prices at BN, arguing that the BN prices are too high in comparison with Amazon.

For most readers, though, the face of a book is the author. If the reader doesn’t like the title or the cover or the price, the reader often blames the author.   If there are typos and grammatical errors that occur in the post author stage because some copyeditor gets his hands on the manuscript last, the author gets blamed.    So, in the case of ebook pricing, does the reader blame the author, the publisher or the retailer?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Edie
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 04:13:59

    Seriously just what is EC doing with themselves lately?
    Are they trying to shoot themselves in the foot?

    I have actually stopped looking at jasminejadecrapdotcom regularly because of the issues you mention and more, and only go there once in a blue moon, I would have been much more likely to buy something at an external site.

  2. Katharina
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 05:07:48

    As I know that pricing is publisher and not author related business, I just pity the author in most cases. There are some ebook publishers out there that are really asking the big bucks for their product, while their site where the ebooks are sold is so crappy and cheap looking that I am wondering whether they are offering some precious stones along with the book. Other ebook publishers like Loose Id (or EC) have priced their books so high that it costs nearly the same as a mass market paperback. Needless to say, I am not willing to spend that on an ebook. In addition to the crappy site and my personal problem that I can barely find something at Loose Id that is NOT BDSM, paranormal/futuristic, gay and menage themed, I rarely find myself over there browsing their releases. Well, as to EC that’s beyond anything that makes sense to me. Admittedly, I have no inside knowledge of the ebook publishing business, but publishing books thrice a week makes me think of inflation, their new site is just rubbish, editing mistakes aplenty in their books (I as a non English native speaker can spot them from afar), a ridiculous pricing strategy, and, to top it off, some really really REALLY crappy stories … well, let me put it this way, all this makes me shop for ebooks somewhere else.

    I have been reading erotic romance since 2003, and frankly, there’s not much that can really capture me nowadays, so this particular hobby has become really cheap lately.

  3. Gillian
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 05:12:28

    I went e because it is very difficult to get romance novels in Ireland (I’m an expat). Mills and Boon (Harlequin) headquarters are in England yet I can’t find current releases anywhere. So I’m in the captive audience category. I can’t buy the book on the shelf and yet I know I’m paying extra for a book. So I have turned to digital presses to get my romance fix.

    And to answer your question I blame the publisher. It’s their fault I’m paying over the odds or have to wait 6 months to read the ebook.

  4. Mora
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 05:39:57

    Don’t third party vendors take out a huge chunk of the money made off of each ebook? EC might be raising its prices to offset that.

  5. Nadia Lee
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 05:54:20

    @Mora: That may be true, but you don’t see SMP, Avon, etc. all doubling their MMPB price to offset the retailer discount or “3rd party vendors taking out a huge chunk of the money made off of each book”. So I find EC pricing strategy to be a rather poor marketing decision.

  6. ardeatine
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 06:33:11

    And for UK Kindle customers, don’t forget to add 40% on top of the US retail price.

  7. Maili
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 07:08:16

    I hold publishers and distributors responsible, but I honestly don’t see anything wrong with this case, though.

    As with everything else, prices of products differ across platforms. I spent a couple of hours hunting down a good price for the certain model of a computer (mine is on its last legs), which is priced between £900 and £1300 and with or without certain perks. Likewise for an A4 sketch notebook, which is priced between £12 and £19. Ebooks aren’t that different in this aspect.

    I do, however, deeply resent those who price an ebook much higher than the price of a paperback. Such as $7.99 for paperback format and $23.99 for ebook format of the same book, and these are the only options. I still won’t buy the paperback and I won’t buy the ebook at that price so it’s a lost sale for them.

  8. Mireya
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 07:08:38

    If I don’t like the price of an ebook, I look somewhere else to see if there are other options (i.e. I’ve always known for a fact that getting the ebook directly from its publisher if they have an online bookstore, is the way to go). Personally speaking, I blame the publisher or the third party vendor for those higher prices. I never blame the author UNLESS the author is self-published.

  9. Statch
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 07:56:20

    I blame the publisher, and I punish the ‘bad’ ones when I can. There are books I really want that I won’t buy new because of the publisher’s ebooks pricing policies.

    I’m dying to know — who is buying the ebooks priced at $14 when the mass market paperback is available for half that? Are they really getting sales…or do they just not care that they’re not? I have yet to find anything that says what the strategy is behind this.

  10. joanne
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 07:58:25

    I’m online too much to have an objective answer so I called my friend (and woke her up) who buys a ton of new books every week in both ebook and paper. She said the only person she blames for the price of a book is the seller. Wherever she is shopping that particular day is who gets the blame (or credit) for pricing on her book purchases. Borders or B&N or Fictionwise or other retailers. They are the ‘face’ of the price.

    The author? Never entered her mind that the author would be responsible for the price or even the fact that the book(s) from that author have gone from mmp to hardcover which, of course, raises the price. That, for her & me, would be the publisher.

    We talked a few minutes about the pricing and hardcover form of Linda Howard’s ICE and both agreed that the publisher must have felt it would sell at that price in hardcover even though it was short on word count so, again, not the author but the publisher.

    I’m aware that Amazon posters often blame the author but that just doesn’t make any sense to me. Maybe a Stephen King or a Danielle Steel (I lOVE linking those two names in the same sentence!) get to set their prices but not our romance book authors.

    With EC, even though sometimes the site doesn’t load quickly, it’s worth a minute of my time to save half or more on the ebook price.

  11. Lisa
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 09:09:55

    It’s always the publisher or retailer who gets the blame. They set the price not the author. I never buy the e-book if the paper copy is less expensive or if the e-book comes with DRM. I would prefer the e-book, but not at a higher price.

  12. Angela James
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 09:16:05

    Didn’t a commenter here on Dear Author recently blame an author for the price of the book? Was it Stephen King and they said he was being greedy? Am I misremembering?

  13. douger323
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 09:27:22

    Assuming that publisher-to-retailer ebook discounting info I’ve read is true – 50% and higher (65%-75%) – then it seems to me that the retailers could pretty much compete closely in price with the publisher’s online store if they chose to do so, or, more on the point, if they needed to do so in order to sell the books. As far as who’s to “blame” – I can go to the local convenience store and buy Chef Boyardi ravioli for $1.99; I can buy it at my neighborhood grocery store for $.99; or I can make a trip to the discount store that may or may not have it, takes only cash, and pack it myself in my own recycled bag and pay only $.49. I “blame” myself for what I pay for it, because I have a choice as to where I shop. I can make my choice based on whatever factors are most important to me at that moment. Sometimes I choose convenience. Sometimes I choose price. Buying online makes those choices even easier.
    (OK – I’m not so sure of the prices now, but I was addicted to Chef Boyardi when I was in college many years ago).

  14. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 09:30:47

    @Angela James:

    Didn't a commenter here on Dear Author recently blame an author for the price of the book? Was it Stephen King and they said he was being greedy? Am I misremembering?

    Your remembery is correct.

    Could it be that EC is going for visibility here, and not sales? That is to say, if they’re ON Amazon, they will be seen and some people may go cruising over to its website and find out lo! and behold! the prices are a third direct. After all, Amazon and other third-party vendors DO take a chunka and it really may be losing money from sales through these third-party vendors. So, the point may be to ensure a teensy profit from those sales while putting their products out there in front of eyeballs with the hope of driving people to the website directly.

    (I am not commenting on the effectiveness of the logic, just pointing out that there is another way of looking at it.)

  15. Alessia Brio
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 09:32:02

    @Mora: The bite taken by retailers is probably the reason for the pricing. However, at least in my experience, most of vendors have clauses in their hosting contracts saying the books will not be priced higher on their site than at other sites. *scratches head* Not sure how EC is getting around that.

  16. Jennifer Leeland
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 09:32:29

    I’m one of those readers who bought an ebook for $15. Joey W. Hill’s Vampire Queen series cost that much on Fictionwise. It was irritating, but I wanted the next book badly and the brick and mortar stores up here don’t carry a wide selection of Hill’s books. And Amazon? I would have had to wait.
    If I’m loyal to an author, I’ll buy the book. I once paid $25.99 (that’s what EC’s trade paperbacks were listed for on Amazon) for a Tawny Taylor book. I think (and still think) it was worth it.
    I haven’t had any trouble getting my books off EC’s site, so I buy most of the ebooks I want there.
    But it makes sense that many will wait to buy their copy of Nora’s latest for $7 or $8 rather than fork out $10 or $12 for the ebook. It’s like hardcover prices in a way. If I’ve been waiting a year for “the next book” in a series/by an author I love, I might be willing to pay $25 for the hardcover to get it. Or I can wait until it comes out in paperback and pay less.
    My understanding is that these sites (Fictionwise, Amazon, MBaM) charge a percentage. This is usually reflected in the prices.
    Though I think EC might have been better served offering their books on Fictionwise, I think the Kindle offerings are a step in the right direction.
    Do I wish ebooks were more reasonably priced? Heck yeah! But just like the hardcover book, I can choose to wait. Or not.

  17. Cathy
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 09:34:44

    My ire about e-book pricing or availability is firmly directed toward publishers. I think it’s especially bad, because it’s the author’s career that’s being damaged by poor sales caused by overpriced or unavailable books.

    Oddly enough, I can’t really think of anyone who benefits from overpricing or not releasing e-books — authors don’t sell, readers won’t buy, and pubs don’t make as much money. Maybe there is a component to this that I’m unaware of or forgetting.

    Oh well. Off to wait some more for an e-release date for Andre Agassi’s new book. (grumble, grumble)

  18. DS
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 09:54:15

    I don’t blame the author but then I made an effort to learn about eBooks and read a lot of publisher industry news. Looking at the people on the BN link, they tend to blame BN for the pricing.

    I also read some posts blaming Stephen King for the pricing of his new novel when the story broke. Not just here.

    It looks like Amazon has been pretty successful at setting the expected price point on bestselling hardcover book in ebook format at $9.99.

  19. Sonya Bateman
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 10:00:25

    I gotta say, I was really happy to discover that for my upcoming release with Simon & Schuster, the e-book price is set the same as the paperback, $7.99. I don’t know if this is going to go for all of their e-books, but I’m hoping that’s so. S&S – or at least Pocket Books – is also moving completely away from releasing books in hardcover and putting all their new releases out in mass market paperback (or so I’ve heard).

    I’m relieved that I’m debuting in mass market and e-book simultaneously, with no hardcover. I don’t like paying $25-$30 or more for a book, and I wouldn’t want anyone to pay that for mine.

    Another thing I found cool was that my cover flats say “Ebook edition also available” on the back – in tiny letters, but at least it’s there. :)

  20. Teddypig
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 10:00:26

    @Alessia Brio:

    most of vendors have clauses in their hosting contracts saying the books will not be priced higher on their site than at other sites.

    That is exactly what I have heard from other publishers too who sell their books from their own websites. I wonder how they got away from signing the same contract everyone else has to.

  21. A
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 10:24:12

    So, in the case of ebook pricing, does the reader blame the author, the publisher or the retailer?

    Does it matter?

    To my writer’s mind, it doesn’t matter to me if a reader blames me personally, my publisher, or the retailer/s selling my books. What matters is, for whatever reason, the reader is dissatisfied. On some level, the reader is associating my story and/or my name with a dissatisfactory experience. Not a good thing.

    Next question: what can I do about it? Answer: in the present stage of my career, not much.

  22. Marissa Turner
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 10:41:31

    While B&N does have some jacked prices (I wanted to get Krentz’s THE PERFECT POISON in e-book, which costs almost as much as the HC), I’d rather shop there where I know the customer service has always treated me well instead of a site that is nothing but a headache.
    And I do buy my books because of the author- if it costs me an extra dollar or two, right now, that’s fine with me.

  23. Melissa
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 10:45:51

    I blame the publisher when ebook publishing is out of whack with paperback pricing. Unfortunately, the author is penalized, because I vote with my wallet and take my business elsewhere.

    If they’re lucky, I’ll check back and see if sanity returned somewhere along the line in the form of reduced pricing, but that’s not something I’m likely to always do.

    It’s not just these epubs with f*ed up pricing strategies. I remember Kleypas’ latest book was similarly messed up for the first couple of weeks after release. I almost wrote her off completely because of the pub’s pricing strategy. I won’t knowingly be abused by a pub playing games with e-adopters. There are too many great authors out there to choose from –and many wonderful new ones to discover –from pubs who treat us like the informed consumers we are.

  24. Angelia Sparrow
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 10:51:55

    It’s the fact that the distributors will not only take 60% of the sale price, they will often deeply discount the sale price.
    That $8.99 short will be about $4.50 when you actually buy it for the Kindle.

    The idea is to encourage people to actually buy from the Jasmine Jade site instead of distributors, but since there are some that won’t, they can still get the books with minimal markup, despite the ostensibly doubled price.

    Some mathiness:
    One of my novels sells for $4.95. It is available on the Kindle and if it sells for cost, I get 79c from my publisher. If they discount it to 3.96, I get 63c. If a reader buys it from the publisher, I get $1.98. The difference does mount up over several books and a lot of copies. I sell 10 through the publisher, I get ~$20. I sell 10 through Kindle? I get $6-8. That’s a noticeable difference. Spread it across a dozen books? We’re talking about a hundred bucks or so.

    And on some of the Ellora anthologies, I’m making about 15c a copy to start with.

  25. Jane A
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 11:23:41

    The ebook pricing policies of St. Martins and S&S very much affects my opinion of them. I won’t buy an ebook that costs more than the MMP. In fact, sometimes I’m so annoyed by their policies that I won’t read the book at all. It depends on how badly I want to read it, vs how annoyed I am. It certainly inhibits any impulse buying I may otherwise indulge in!

  26. ardeatine
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 11:35:26

    Fictionwise doesn’t allow publishers to undercut their prices. I’m surprised Amazon does.

    And in the UK we’re used to the ebook tax. Ebooks attract VAT while print books as yet, don’t.

  27. Caligi
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 11:56:07

    I blame the publisher, but I end up not paying the author.

    For the Kleypas book, the $14.99 ebook turned me off the impulse buy. While I waited for the price to go down, I read reviews of the book. When those reviews weren’t positive, I took the book off my wish list.

    Good work St. Martin’s!

    As for EC, it’s just one more reason not to buy from them. Their website’s a nightmare to use, their prices already high when you buy direct, the covers are embarrassing (I won’t go on the site unless I’m home alone), the editing is usually bad and I have only read two good stories out of the dozen I’ve tried.

    I really don’t get EC’s appeal at all.

  28. MB (Leah)
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 11:59:59

    The publisher/ distributor. I blame them for everything. Bad editing, overpriced books, putting out awful books that should never even be published, crappy websites that make it hard to find books I want to read and or buying experience. And I won’t buy from a epub that doesn’t use Paypal.

    Unfortunately, as many have said, the author gets the shaft in that. I won’t pay the same price for an ebook as a PB. And since I prefer to read ebooks, I don’t care who the author is, how much I covet a book, I just won’t buy it. Everyone looses.

    I do try and buy direct from an epub so that the author does get the most benefit, but when epubs make it hard, which some do, sorry. I actually often find that I can get a book cheaper on ARe or Fictionwise than the epubs direct.

  29. ardeatine
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 12:15:37

    . I actually often find that I can get a book cheaper on ARe or Fictionwise than the epubs direct.

    MB, that’s because the distributor contract (at Fictionwise at least) forbids the publisher from offering the book cheaper than they do.

  30. jmc
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 12:20:47

    I feel quite jaded about publishers and their pricing plans.

    St. Martin’s and S&S, well, it seems to me that they are not comfortable with epublishing and are using the price inflation to discourage ebook purchases. Presumably with the hope that those buyers who wanted the ebook but not with the premium attached will just go ahead and buy a paper copy. Which is their (the publisher’s) comfort zone, since it’s a business model and product they understand. (Well, maybe they don’t really understand, since $$$ keeps getting advanced for books that end up remaindered.)

    Ellora’s Cave’s doubling of prices on Amazon? Eh. I didn’t have a particularly high opinion of EC to begin with. I haven’t been a regular EC customer in years. First, I hate having accounts at every online epublisher under the sun. Second, the website is not user-friendly (IMO). Last week, I broke down and bought a book from EC; the experience was ridiculous, involving multiple error messages from EC’s server, not helpful customer service, and much *headdesking* on my part. I was sort of looking forward to their ebooks being available via Amazon, but not at a 100% markup. If the purpose of the markup is to redirect me to their direct purchase site…no, thanks, I’ll find some other book from some other publisher whose prices are not insane.

  31. TerryS
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 12:26:50

    Always the publisher, rarely the retailer, never the author.

    When an ebook is priced higher than the MMP, I don’t buy the book at all. Not even for authors who would otherwise have been an auto buy nor books I have been avidly awaiting. I will not knowingly enable this kind of ebook pricing with my hard earned money.

    There are so many alternatives available with reasonably priced ebooks and new authors to discover who may just may end up being the next Stephen King or Nora Roberts.

    And while I never blame the author, I imagine it is the authors who bear the consequences of the pricing decisions of the publishers with lower payments for their hard work and creativity.

  32. Deb
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 12:55:58

    IMO, the pricing models of St Martin’s and S & S, etc. for their digital versions isn’t so much to discourage but to place an unrealistic value of the ebook. Other publishers simply hold the digital version, to gain as much profit from the print published version.

    I have a Kindle and a Sony reader. The books in Amazon’s Kindle store are cheaper, but I noticed some publishers shying away from Amazon, hence my purchase of the Sony pocket reader. I shop around for best pricing, unless I want a particular title in epub format for the future. I also have found backlists available in epub format which are not available in the Kindle store. Since I have invested in the ebook readers, I have no intention of going back to print published books with the exception of special books, such as Senator Kennedy’s book, art, cookbooks, etc. If a digital version is priced too high, I simply don’t buy it.

    To answer the question, I don’t have an emotional connection/opinion to a publisher, author or vendor. Either the books are priced fairly, or I don’t buy them.

    For anyone interested in comparison shopping, try It may not find all books, but I have found it to be extremely useful.

  33. Kerry D.
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 13:04:22

    @Statch: The people who are buying at higher prices despite MMPB at lower prices are probably people like me who live outside the US. Because I have to consider shipping costs, exchange rates etc, the mass market is a lot more hassle and can actually still be more expensive than the higher priced ebook.

    All the same, it annoys me greatly. I blame the publisher first and the retailer second and the author not at all. But like others have said, the author pays the price because I’m quite likely to decide just to do without the book altogether.

  34. Bonnie
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 13:07:23

    This whole thing makes me sorry I ever bought a Kindle. Now, I’m stuck. And hooked. And disgusted. Blergh….

  35. Suze
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 13:13:48

    And in the UK we're used to the ebook tax. Ebooks attract VAT while print books as yet, don't.

    That’s messed up. There’s value added to an e-book that isn’t added to a print book? I’d love to see the explanation for that.

    First, I hate having accounts at every online epublisher under the sun.

    Yes! There are a lot of books I haven’t bought because they’re not available at the e-book store I use. Yes, I could shop elsewhere, but I don’t want to keep track of all these freaking accounts. It’s too much work. If I could buy ebooks through Chapters/Indigo, I would (I HATE that shortcovers piece of crap they have going), just to consolidate my book shopping.

    Um, yes. I blame the publisher and/or the vendor. My impression is that authors have almost no input in any publishing decision unless they have mysterious super-powers. Nora Roberts has stated (possibly here, or maybe at SBTB) that she doesn’t have the clout that a lot of people seem to think she has (paraphrasing). And if she doesn’t have it, who does?

    In fact, I bought my PRS505 because I have no space, and cannot buy any more paper books (unless I’m willing to spend $$$$ on a storage locker just for books, and I’m not). I can’t impulsively buy books whenever I go grocery shopping anymore, instead I jot down the names & authors of books that I would have previously just bought then and there. By the time I get home, go online, dig out my credit card, and track down the book (usually not available at my favoured store), the impulse has passed. I have to be fairly diligent now to buy books, and my book-buying has been cut by more than 50%, I’m sure. Which is not good for authors or publishers, if I’m typical.

  36. Emily Ryan-Davis
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 13:25:50

    I’m not sure if I’m unique in separating “e-book readers” from “digital edition” readers, but nobody else has brought it up in comments so I will. And I’ll probably do it in a roundabout fashion until I unearth my point from the jumble of ideas I have. Apologies in advance for any tangents. That said:

    E-book readers? Accustomed to paying direct-from-publisher prices (which are ALWAYS lower, just as “direct from manufacturer” prices are lower for many other retail items). Were I an e-book reader (and I am), I wouldn’t buy an e-book from Amazon for $7.50 that I could get for $4.45 direct from the publisher. Nor will I, in most cases, buy the “digital edition” of a print book for more than I would pay for the print book at B&N or Amazon.

    Digital Edition Readers… I think it’s time to face that by and large, digital edition readers are NOT e-book readers first and foremost. There is a difference between an “e-book reader” and a “digital edition reader.” Not to say that e-book readers can’t also be digital edition readers and digital edition readers also e-book readers, because they can, but the distinction should be acknowledged.

    I would wager that a majority of Kindle owners were not e-book readers prior to the emergence of the Kindle. They were also not small-press readers, to further extend it. They were paperback or hardcover readers. The Kindle gives them easy access to digital editions of the books they would ordinarily buy in hard copy – and they are willing to either pay the price set by their distributor (Amazon) for their device (Kindle).

    But pricing isn’t really my point. My point is, the difference between e-book readers and digital edition readers is digital edition readers aren’t reading and aren’t GOING to read e-books unless e-books are available to them as file formats compatible to their devices.

    The bottom line then becomes, high price or low price, contract details aside, when an e-book / e-publisher comes available in a format readers are committed to purchasing (as their choice in reading format and reading material acquisition), those books that the reader would not ordinarily even know existed? Suddenly exist. (I fail to see what’s wrong with that, price points aside.)

    And people will buy at that price, just like they’ll go to a family-owned music store with higher prices than Guitar Center, or to Target instead of Wal-Mart, or to Safeway instead of Giant – because those are their buying habits and their buying decisions.

    I honestly don’t see an issue of “fault” here for anybody. Owning a Kindle doesn’t entitle a buyer to access to all books in their format; they can pay the established prices (which ARE set by the distributor, because the distributor is given a manufacturer’s suggested retail price *list* and a minimum advertised price *MAP* that they are advised not to go above and not to go below – MSRP and MAP aren’t new to publishing and Amazon – Target prices paperbacks lower than cover price, after all) or they can save their money and either buy it in a different format from a different location (going to Wal-Mart instead of Target). It’s a choice. Folks have a choice not to pay the asking price.

    So…where does the issue of fault come from, again? What difference does it make who set the price or what the details of the contract are?

    Yes, book prices might seem outrageous due to perceived value but perceived value doesn’t set prices. What people will pay for items set prices. From where I stand, there’s no right/wrong here, there’s just Option A or Option B (or C, or D…).

  37. Emily Ryan-Davis
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 13:40:45

    Oh, and an addendum to the above:

    Regarding the issues of publishers pricing direct sales at whatever prices they use…well, that’s publisher right. Simon & Schuster might feel their product is worth more than Publisher Y’s product. They’re allowed to. And we’re allowed to make the decision not to purchase from that publisher, just like we’re allowed to purchase New Balance instead of Nike or whatever. We don’t HAVE to have that $15 digital edition of whatever. We can choose not to have it at all.

    I’m really not up for assigning blame anywhere so much as I’m in favor of acknowledging business practices are business practices and as consumers, we’re allowed to support them or not support them. Words like “blame” and “fault” make me a little twitchy because they’re very personal and they presume “right” v. “is.”

  38. Caligi
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 13:57:10

    @Emily Ryan-Davis:

    I think it’s safe to say it’s wrong to charge $14.99 for the ebook version of a book that’s $7.99 in MMPB, and that I blame the publisher for being a cockblock to my good times.

    I feel comfortable saying it, anyways.

  39. rebyj
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 14:08:50

    If I want an e book, I will bother to search for it a couple of places. If it’s too expensive or difficult to download I move on to one of the other books on my list and that one is just forgotten in no time.
    So publisher, retailer, author etc ALL lose out because as a reader, I have 100s of books a month to choose from and my budget and ease of access pretty much determine where my money goes.

  40. ardeatine
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 14:19:04

    That's messed up. There's value added to an e-book that isn't added to a print book? I'd love to see the explanation for that.

    When I spoke to the VAT office they seemed rather confused about how to categorise ebooks. I was told at the time (about four years ago) that they were considered a service because they were delivered digitally and so not categorised with print books. I argued my case to no avail. I can imagine that we’ll eventually be charged VAT on all books rather than it being lifted on ebooks.

  41. ardeatine
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 14:26:25

    E-book readers? Accustomed to paying direct-from-publisher prices (which are ALWAYS lower, just as “direct from manufacturer” prices are lower for many other retail items).

    Emily, direct from publisher prices aren’t always lower, as I said in my post above. Some distributor contracts state that the publisher may not price their books lower than said distributor. Although distributor may apply any discounts they wish. For instance, Fictionwise discount all new releases by 15%, so the release price on Fictionwise is lower than we can offer on our publisher website.

  42. Estara
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 15:33:54


    For anyone interested in comparison shopping, try It may not find all books, but I have found it to be extremely useful.

    I’ve also found AddAll Ebooks and quite useful.

  43. kirsten saell
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 16:31:21

    I’m going to C&P two comments I posted the other day over at Mrs. G’s blog on the retailer discount thread:

    It’s those huge publisher discounts that allow retailers to offer those consumer discounts and rewards so they can undersell publishers. Which leaves the publishers getting the shaft from both ends–giving up a huge chunk of their profit only to drive more business to the least profitable venue.


    Publishers need to do one of two things–either refuse to sell to the 65-70% retailers (if enough of them do it, they might make some headway–and they don’t necessarily have to be organized. Sometimes it just takes one big house to set a very clear, loud, impossible to miss example, and then others might be in a better negotiating position), or inflate cover prices and offer the books at a discount on their own sites. Instead of the retailer taking 65% of $5.50, let them take 65% of $7.95. Then publishers also have some wiggle room to offer discounts and rewards–perhaps more attractive ones than the retailers.

    What EC is doing is ensuring that they actually make money from retail sales despite the 65% discount Amazon demands, while simultaneously driving consumer traffic back to their own store where they make more profit per sale. I think they’re going overboard, though. It would likely be enough to make sure prices are on par at their own site and retail sites once consumer discount and rewards are factored in. But honestly, when a retailer demands the lion’s share of profit on a commodity that doesn’t require physical shelf space, storage, and all the other costs physical stores have to swallow, this is what you get.

  44. Kaetrin
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 17:24:22

    I blame the publisher and I don’t like it! I can’t see why ebooks should be dearer than paperbooks. It just seems like digital prejudice/snobbery to me.

  45. Statch
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 18:11:13

    >43: Maybe I’m missing the point, but I don’t blame the retailer when there are some publishers that charge reasonable prices for ebooks and some that don’t. I would think that the retailer’s practices would affect all publishers, so why are some doing it right and some not? (I’m afraid I am still going to assign moral values to this – right vs wrong. It’s true that I can just choose not to buy from the publishers who overcharge — I can and do ‘vote’ with my pocketbook on this — but I think that the emotional language we use about this is useful to get the point across to these publishers that this is something we feel strongly about. Of course, that’s assuming they care.)

    >27: The exact same thing happened to me with the latest Lisa Kleypas book, Tempt Me at Twlight. I didn’t buy it when it first came out because of the high ebook price. Your comment prompted me to check the price again at B&N, and I see that it’s come down to $7.99 but now I’m no longer excited about it, and likely won’t buy it. I would definitely have bought it if it was originally priced at $7.99 (though for some reason Fictionwise, where I do most of my ebook shopping, doesn’t seem to have it). That’s obviously not in the author’s best interests, and it’s hard to see how it’s in the publisher’s interests either.

  46. Anne Douglas
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 18:23:00

    @MB (Leah):

    And I won't buy from a epub that doesn't use Paypal.

    There is a reason for this and it stems back to good old pornography and adult content…and that PayPal refuses to service either of those.

    Was there not an ePublisher that had it all go to hell in a handbasket with paypal over that?


    Decided to go look it up, to check it was still prohibited. As per my payapl Acceptable use page:

    Prohibited Activities:
    You may not use the PayPal service for activities that:

    1. violate any law, statute, ordinance or regulation

    2. relate to sales of (a) narcotics, steroids, certain controlled substances or other products that present a risk to consumer safety, (b) drug paraphernalia, (c) items that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity, (d) items that promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or the financial exploitation of a crime, (e) items that are considered obscene, (f) items that infringe or violate any copyright, trademark, right of publicity or privacy or any other proprietary right under the laws of any jurisdiction, (g) certain sexually oriented materials or services, or (h) certain firearms, firearm parts or accessories, ammunition, weapons or knives

    (emphasis mine)

    So while I totally understand your frustration with no PayPal (I use it online all the time & get frustrated when people refuse to), it’s not the fault of the ePublisher, they are only obeying PayPal’s rules.

  47. Dana
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 19:00:01

    It looks like Ellora’s Cave does accept paypal.

    I had a horrible time with their new website when it first went online, buggy shopping cart, incredibly slow load times, and wasn’t fond of the new graphics. I stopped shopping there for a while, but I went back and I still prefer the old graphics, but the website has been working quickly and flawlessly for me. But the front page is way too overcrowded, IMO.

    I don’t really have an opinion on EC’s Kindle prices, since I don’t shop at the Kindle store. I can kinda see EC’s reasoning, but I can also see how it might piss off Kindle readers. I can only find 11 books from EC on Amazon right now, so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as they release more books.

    I seem to be in the minority, but I actually prefer shopping at publisher websites for ebooks, because I find them to be much easier to browse. Vendors like Amazon, Fictionwise, and BoB can be useful if you have a specific book in mind, but if I just want to browse, I end up having to click through hundreds of pages. I wish they had better categorization. I usually only use third party vendors for ebook versions of paper books.

  48. MaryK
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 19:28:27

    I’ve always assumed it was the vendor jacking up the price.

  49. M.E.
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 20:56:34

    Re ebook vs paperback. I don’t understand why the price isn’t a lot lower than a print copy – the publisher has less cost – don’t have to pay a printer, shipping costs etc. Re Ellora’s Cave – I used to go to the site a lot but since “Jasmine Jade” became part of the company I find the prices have gone over the roof for what you’re getting. I can’t get Ellora’s Cave books in Canada (at least that I’ve been able to find) and would have to pay shipping/duty to order them from the publisher, or Amazon or Barnes and Noble so more reasonable prices are needed. The website at EC is a pain – not everyone is a computer whiz so they need to simplify.

    Even more frustrating then the price of e-books is the number of books coming out in either hardcover or trade paperback and then, eventually coming out in regular paperback. (I’ve also seen a few come out in Hardcover than trade then MMP – what’s with that – ripping off the public????) I’m getting more books at the library now which means the author is losing out on royalties. I’m ranting here I know but with the economy the way it is publishers should sit back and take another look at the pricing formats.

    Hard cover and trade size books take up more room – I have a limited amount of space for my “keepers” so prefer MMP’s and to a limited degree, e-books.

  50. Miki S
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 21:12:59

    I really am saying what’s already been said…I generally blame the publisher, but it’s the author who suffers for it, regardless.

  51. MB (Leah)
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 21:45:11

    @Anne Douglas

    Was there not an ePublisher that had it all go to hell in a handbasket with paypal over that?

    Well, the thing is, most of the big epubs and many smaller ones do have paypal. They carry the same kind of erotic content as some that don’t. So I don’t get it many times.

    Did all of them have to fight with paypal to deal with them? I’m not asking in a facetious way, just curious.

    It’s usually really tiny epubs that don’t use it. I’m just not that trusting to give away all my info to a bunch of tiny epubs. So that is a deterrent for me to buy an author’s books.

  52. Annmarie
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 22:15:12

    I will not buy from EC.

    I blame the publisher for book pricing.

    It IS short-sighted but EC isn’t exactly known for their business acumen.

  53. kirsten saell
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 01:30:08

    I've always assumed it was the vendor jacking up the price.

    The vendor doesn’t have to jack up the price–in fact, they often undersell publishers. Most other forms of retail has a mark-up of 100%, give or take, over wholesale. That mark-up covers things like shipping, storage, clearance discounts for overstock, customer sevice personel, etc. Those costs are a lot less (or nonexistent) for ebooks, yet the mark-up is often more like 200%–they get that $5.95 list price book for $2.08. If they’re really greedy, they’ll have it in their contract that the publisher can’t offer the same book for less than the retailer does. And even if the retailer doesn’t sell the book for less than list price, they can use that almost 200% mark-up and their low overhead to offer all kinds of rewards programs that draw business from publisher sites to their own sites.

    My own books are almost always available for less at etailer sites than Samhain’s site. I make 30% instead of 40 per copy sold on, say, Amazon, and my publisher gets a paltry 5% of list price for each sale. Yes, the publisher that put in all the hours and dollars for editing, marketing, cover art, ISBN numbers, etc–the publisher that invested the time and money to produce the book–makes 1/6th what I do on every book sold through Amazon. They earn 1/12th selling through Amazon compared to what they would earn on the same title sold through their own store.


    My only consolation is that people who want DRM-free books will go to the publishers. I thought it was insane that LSI puts DRM on epublishers’ titles for sale through etailers, but now I’m realizing it’s probably the only thing keeping epublishers afloat. Sad.

  54. Maili
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 03:26:08

    @MB (Leah)

    It's usually really tiny epubs that don't use it. I'm just not that trusting to give away all my info to a bunch of tiny epubs. So that is a deterrent for me to buy an author's books.

    Agreed. I tried to buy two books from one epub (I can’t remember their name… it has ‘amber’) and the only payment options were Visa, Amex and Mastercard. They has an explanation in their FAQ that they don’t use Paypal because it has the power to freeze and clean out customers’ Paypal accounts, which I thought was peculiar because I used Paypal for well over a decade and never had this problem.

    Still, said epub wouldn’t offer other payment methods so I didn’t bother because like you, there’s no way I’d offer the cc details to online retailers I don’t know well nor use frequently.

    @Anne Douglas

    So while I totally understand your frustration with no PayPal (I use it online all the time & get frustrated when people refuse to), it's not the fault of the ePublisher, they are only obeying PayPal's rules.

    It is true that it’s not their fault, but surely they could find another way? Until then, they lose.

  55. DS
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 06:12:46

    @Maili: Paypal freezing an account used to be a problem at times for eBay sellers but most of reasons Paypal uses would hardly apply to a stand alone business. Paypal cannot take money that is legitimately the account holders, they just don’t release it for six months or so.

    There is also a problem for merchants with chargebacks from Paypal accounts. Chargebacks made to credit cards used to fund paypal purchases (and I wouldn’t advise anyone to used a bank direct debit card or current paypal account to pay for intangible items–or tangible for that matter– bought with Paypal) are not vigorously defended by Paypal. It’s wickedly easy to claim a chargeback on a internet purchase, especially when there is no evidence of physical delivery and the merchant ends up losing the money.

    I’ve had a Paypal account since 2000 but only use it for eBay. I also used to sell on eBay and can say that I never had a problem with Paypal as either a buyer or a seller but a lot people have if the people at can be believed.

  56. XandraG
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 07:38:21

    I know some entities (authors or publishers) list their books on Amazon at inflated prices not because they expect people to pay those prices, but for the ability to raise awareness via sample chapters and title views.

    As for where the “blame” goes–I go for the retailers, first, because they do ask for discounts that I’m just not sure are justified. Brick and mortar distributors/retailers have to warehouse and ship stock that takes up physical space. I’ll give them the need for a discount to run their business, but honestly, 50-60% isn’t that discount.

    If it’s a traditional press releasing a digital edition, then I’m more likely to set a little more blame on the publisher. The commenter upthread, @Emily Ryan-Davis, brought up a very interesting point about ebooks versus digital editions. I’m more likely to blame a publisher of a digital edition for inflated pricing if only because of the shenanigans the NY publishers have been engaged in surrounding e-rights, e-pricing, and their lack of demonstrative understanding of digital commerce overall.

    Small and digital-only presses don’t have the kind of pull that a large conglomerate with huge names does on a retailer, and big houses don’t seem as motivated to provide digital editions to customers as smaller presses, so I’m put in the position of assuming the pricing is either passive-aggressive foot-dragging, or a sincere and complete ignorance about the way the digital distribution of reading content works at present.

  57. RStewie
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 07:57:41

    I blame the publisher. When Cole/Showalter’s Deep Kiss of Winter came out, I was looking for the ebook…it was $21 at Simon & Schuster’s site, ~$19 at Fictionwise, wasn’t even available at BoB in epub, and was ~$10 at B&N (but only in their ereader’s format) –> ALL completely unacceptable in my book. I will possibly check about buying it later on, just to have it for my IAD ebook set.

    It was very frustrating to me, and I was NOT happy about the whole pricing/format fiasco I had to wade through, especially because I ended up reading it at the bookstore instead of buying my own copy.

    On another note, EC is shooting themselves in the foot over this one: how pissed will all the people the purchased the ebook at the other vendors be when they see that it’s priced so much lower at the EC website?? Or are they betting that those people will blame the distributors instead of EC?

  58. Angie
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 09:09:27

    Whoever’s fault it is, that’s who I glare at. List price is generally the publisher’s fault; I know good and well authors have nothing to say about the pricing of their books.

    Even $9.99 is a ludicrously high price for an electronic novel IMO. I won’t pay it, and it angers me when a publisher thinks I’m that stupid. (Or even moreso, in the case of publishers like St. Martin’s which charge more.) Amazon breaks its corporate arm patting itself on the back over its $9.99 pricing for e-books. If it’s lower than what the publishers are charging, then they get a brownie point for that. It’s still ridiculously high, though, and I deduct a whole handful of brownie points for that. Then I go buy my e-books elsewhere. Or in cases where the electronic format of a given book is always too high no matter where you shop, I buy the (cheaper) paperback version, or just do without. There are already more interesting books out there than I’ll ever have time to read in my lifetime; it’s not like I’m begging for reading material.


  59. Sandia
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 09:16:51

    This is one of my biggest pet peeves as a Kindle owner. I do not buy books any other way other than through Amazon digital platform. This isn’t to say I’m stealing business away, I used to only go to the library for books before I bought my Kindle. So I am a brand new body in the market for the publishers. However, they do not respect me as a ebook reader and believe that they can charge a premium on ebooks that are simultaneously out in MMP. That ticks me off. It makes me mad when I go to Amazon and they tell me nothing can be done. It is made worse when I contact the publisher and get NO FEEDBACK. And it’s made even worser when I email the author directly and get no response.

    In general, I know – and have been told repeatedly by Amazon – that the ebook prices are set by the publishers. However, there NEEDS TO BE a feedback mechanism for these publishers to hear that they are NOT pricing their ebooks correctly. I remember last weeks post about typos and errors in books – I will tell you, even though the publishers insist that the ebooks are proofread and set, and therefore is why they cost as much as a paperback book, they flatly do not do this.

    Earlier in the year, Penguin books had a HUGE issue with their book conversions to Kindle edition. They sold these hugely poorly typeset books to Amazon WITHOUT REVIEWING THE KINDLE EDITION. If you are trying to justify why you’re trying to make me as an ebook consumer pay more for a book, at least PRETEND to do what you say you’re doing. It took more than 7 months and multiple emails to a special “ebooks” Publisher at Penguin AND “Executive Customer Relations” at Amazon to get my issue resolved. SEVEN MONTHS!!!!

    I just don’t get it. Ugh. UUUUUGH.

  60. Jane
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 10:11:11

    @Sandia It is an industry that is sorely lacking customer service, isn’t it?

  61. Chicklet
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 12:21:40

    It is an industry that is sorely lacking customer service, isn't it?

    I think that’s because publishers don’t see readers as their customers. The publishers’ customers are stores — Amazon, B&N, Borders, Walmart, et al. As long as retailers are happy, the publishers are satisfied.

  62. Caligi
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 15:17:11

    Why do people like Paypal? Not only is it a nightmare to use, but I know a ton of people who’ve been hacked. Since it’s tied to a bank account, cleaning up that mess is a lot nastier than with unauthorized charges on a credit card.

    When my husband had it happen to him, they stole $2k out of his checking and it took a couple days to fix. That’s a couple days of no money. The hassle of closing accounts and re-establishing direct deposits/automatic deductions was another PITA.

    Honestly, if I can’t use a credit card, I walk. One quick call to a credit card company, and unauthorized charges go *poof*. Try that with Paypal.

  63. Sandia
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 08:59:47

    @Jane: It just upsets me when they try to justify the higher ebook prices but don’t deliver the services promised. I think the only reason I ended up getting any assistance in this was that I heard an NPR segment featuring the Penguin publisher who specialized in ebooks – and I complained to her directly because she was touting how much “more content and focus” ebooks were getting then regular print books.

  64. Rina
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 15:04:02

    The end result of overpricing, unfortunately, isn’t just that people won’t purchase the books. While hard core fans of an author are probably going to still buy some version of their books, its insulting to be charged the same or higher prices when the publisher obviously didn’t have printing/shipping/warehousing costs to consider. I think that could make it easier for readers to justify just ‘borrowing’ ebooks from friends.

    Of course, it isn’t really lending if more than one person has a copy, right?

    Maybe if the extra pricing were better marketed as ‘instant delivery’ advantage that would help. However, right now it feels like price gouging, and I could see book piracy taking off if the pricing structure doesn’t change.

  65. Monday News and Deals: Paypal Obscenity Crackdown, Fake Amazon Reviews, & Earnings Roundup | Dear Author
    Feb 20, 2012 @ 12:04:28

    […] has long had a policy of not accepting payments from companies that sell obscene work. See commenter Anne Douglas back in 2009. There is a reason for this and it stems back to good old pornography and adult content…and that […]

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