Ellora’s Cave is finally selling its ebooks outside of its own portal, jasminejade.com. Strangely, though, Ellora’s Cave is setting its list prices at third party vendors at twice the rate of the ebook price at jasminejade.com. 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?