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What is the right price of a book, print or digital,...

Pricing of books is a very important topic, both to readers and authors. With the rise of self publishing, finding the right price for a book falls heavily on the shoulders of the author. There is much discussion about the right price of books. Stephanie Laurens blog seems heavily devoted to exploring the topic of price and she brings up a variety of issues to consider from the author point of view when considering pricing such as market reach and type of commodity being sold. Zoe Winters contemplated whether low pricing, such as 99c pricing, attracts the “wrong” kind of reader. Joe Konrath posts regularly about his pricing experiences. There’s a lot of food for thought in all of these aforementioned posts but I am not unpacking any of them today. Instead, today I want to talk about value because value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

In economics there is a term called price discrimination. In ideal market conditions and if the seller has sizeable market power, everyone pays a different price for a commodity based on their “willingness and ability” to pay. (See Dr. Hughes, I did pay attention during three semesters of economics classes with you). The airlines employ price discrimination by selling seats on the plane at different prices.

Every reader has a different price they are willing and able to pay for a book. I believe that price represents the value a reader places on a book at the time of purchase. However, value can vary over the course of time from when the reader first becomes aware of the book to after the book is read, increasing and decreasing based on different variables. When readers speak about price, they are talking about the amount that they are willing and able to pay at the particular time that they are expressing the opinion about price. Willingness includes the measurement of time.

Let’s assume that the reader is willing and able to pay for 10 books a month with a budget of $50. This means at current mass market print prices, a reader can afford to purchase 5 new books at 7.99 with a little over $7 left over. In order to meet her budget & book quantity requirement (as most reader’s resources are finite), this means she will only be able to buy 3 new books and 7 at the price of 3.99, either used or with a coupon. (Willingness + ability). Here’s the value scale that I’ve come up with:

  • Full value = one new book.
  • Half value = used book, book with coupon.
  • Slighty greater than zero value = paperback swap, library, borrow from a friend.
  • Zero value = no purchase.

Scenario 1. We don’t know the author.     Zero value.

Scenario 2. We’ve heard of the author. Slightly greater than zero.

Scenario 3. We’ve heard of the author because someone recommended the book to us. Between slightly greater than zero and half value.

Scenario 4. We’ve heard of the author because someone we trust recommended the book to us. Between half value and full value. (depending on the source, whether the book is outside reading comfort zone, whether it has trigger tropes, etc).

Scenario 5. We’ve read the author before and did not like the book. The value of the author’s next book is zero value or slightly greater than zero.

Scenario 6. We’ve read the author before and she has been hit or miss for us.   The value of the author’s next book is slightly greater than zero to half value.

Scenario 7. We’ve read the author before and her last book has worked for us. The value of next book is full value.

Scenario 8. We’ve read the author and she consistently delivers what we are looking for in a read. The value of next book is not only full value but can take the place of other purchases for that month (i.e., a hardcover purchase which is equal to the value of three full priced mass market books).

Once we’ve determined value, we can talk about price.   How do you readers value books?   If you notice, nowhere in my valuation spectrum do I include “supporting the author” or “considering the cost of production”.   Do you readers think about that?   What else do you take into consideration when valuing a book?   Does your value change at different points pre sale, post sale, pre read, post read?   In what ways?

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. Milena
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 04:54:06

    Interesting. I don’t think I function quite that way when I buy books, but I’m not very far off, either…

    I do consciously support some authors, by buying their books several times, and in ways that (as far as I can tell) give them the most. However, this only applies to authors who a) have consistently delivered in the past, and b) I know or can suppose need the support for some reason (e.g., their writing has no wide appeal/they’re not best-sellers, yet I think they should get the attention — and the money). This is the “highest value” category for me, and means that I’ll pay very high prices for their books regardless of the form.

    The next category are authors that have also consistently delivered in the past, but don’t (seem to) need particular support. I’ll get their books in any form I can, but, if facing a choice, I will go for the option that’s cheaper for me and/or has less hassle (no DRM, for instance, or better delivery options if it’s a paper book).

    Then come the “not urgent, but buy” authors: those whose work has been good but not great, or a hit or miss thing, or comes with recommendations from trusted sources. This category for me also includes genre classics that I have read but never acquired, since I like to have some books on hand. Here I’ll look for the best option: second hand is usually best, but I will also go for special offers, coupons, or whatever fits my budget. This is probably my equivalent of your half-value category, although I can talk myself into buying a new book in this category if the budget allows it.

    I have to admit that this category will also sometimes include authors who are completely unknown to me, if the cover or blurb looks intriguing enough and the price is sufficiently low. In SFF, there are some illustrators who usually prompt me to try totally unknown books/authors, simply because books with their covers have usually been good in the past. Odd, I know, but it works for me. I have yet to find this kind of “kindred soul” thing in romance, though.

    And then comes everything else. If I have the time and the opportunity, I’ll try just about anything. I won’t go out of my way to get books in this category, though, because the previous ones already give me plenty of material to read. If an author has disappointed me in the past, for example, odds are very low that I’ll give them another try without very special incentive (e.g. a trusted source giving really strong recommendation).

  2. Man of la Book
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 06:28:46

    Interesting post.
    I have to admit that there are other aspects for me (cover design for example and genre).

  3. Sami
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 07:30:45

    I would never consider the cost of production because as a reader that’s not my issue. But supporting the author does occasionally come into it. I’m happy to support authors I like with my money, and I am moreso willing to do that if I think the author’s a bit obscure i.e. not making a lot of dough.

    Interesting post. I like the spectrum. I agree that writers who consistently deliver get ‘full value’ assigned to their releases–which makes it a huge bargain if I can pick them up at the library :). So yes, they get full value, but most readers I think would be happy to save money on any book they acquire. That ‘saving’ then goes back into the budget.

  4. Joanne
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 07:36:09

    I don’t consider “the cost of production” at all. The costs of producing a book are the overhead the publisher assumes and it would be wiser if they were looking at ways to lower those costs then raising the price of the books. Ebooks were suppose to address some of those costs but the prices keep rising.

    I want “my” authors to earn well and continue writing but what they earn from each book is up to them when they sign their contracts. As ‘just a reader’ how would I know what percentage of monies they get from their sales? Why would I need to know? What would knowing do for my reading experience?

    If a publishers wants to take a mmpb author to hardcover then I’m expected to consider the cost of producing that book? No. Not going to happen. That doesn’t mean I’m not buying hardcovers but I am looking for the lowest available price on those books and ONLY on those authors who almost always work for me. Unfortunately my book budget has almost completely eliminated new to me authors. I’m sad about that but it just is what it is.

    The “supporting the author” only comes when the author earns that support by consistently producing quality work that I enjoy (as always with fiction your mmv).

    I would argue the point of “Slightly greater than zero value = paperback swap” is not true for me. The books I have on my wish-list at PBS are ones that are hard to find and for which I would pay full price if they were re-released today. I’m just not willing to pay exuberant ebay prices for a used copy.

    I only buy what I’m going to read in the next few days. No more huge TBR piles. I found that by the time I got around to reading most of them the reason I bought them in the first place has been lost to me along with my enthusiasm for reading those books.

    An interesting ebook thread recently (I didn’t read the responses) on Amazon was “is $12.99 the new $9.99?”.

  5. Joanne
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 07:40:30

    OH! Yay to the preview & click to edit buttons being back!
    And I like the responses being skinny — anything that makes me look thinner is a plus!

  6. Minx Malone
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 07:58:06

    I definitely don’t think readers should have to think about numbers and profit margins when they purchase. All the behind the scenes details should stay behind the scenes.

    I think your scale values are spot on b/c the authors who deliver are the ones I pay full price for. When I’m purchasing, the only thing I’m thinking is “will this be worth it?”. If the back blurb convinces me it will be, then I’ll go for it.

  7. Michael N. Marcus
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 08:16:54

    I think you’ve left out a major consideration: the purpose of the book, and therefore the need for the book.

    This affects readers, writers and publishers (I am all three).

    As a reader, even with a limited budget, I might willingly pay $40, $50, or even $150 for a book which will help me improve my business, cure or survive a disease, prepare for a trip, repair something, make an important purchase, keep me up-to-date in an important field, or meet an academic course requirement.

    That same limited budget may cause me to spend no more than $1.99 or $9.99 on a book that provides entertainment. Or maybe I would not buy any “light” books.

    As a publisher, I’ve priced most of my business-oriented books at $17.95 to $29.95. I have a humor book with a $15.95 cover price for the paperback, and $4.99 for the eBook. I hope never to sell books for 99 cents.

    I recently advised the author/publisher of an important eBook to raise the price from 99 cents to $4.99. Anyone who realizes that the book will be useful for business should willingly pay the additional $4 — and the author/publisher deserves the revenue.

    Michael N. Marcus
    — Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series:
    — “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),”

  8. Lisa J
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 08:18:51

    Pricing for e-books in particular should not be higher than the paper version of the same book. My love for Kresley Cole’s IAD series knows no bounds, but I haven’t bought the newest one because even though she is a trusted author who always delivers and I love the series, I am e only these days and will not pay more for the e-book than I will the MMPB. I cannot loan out the e-book. If the book was not one I would reread, I cannot donate it to the library (although not an issue with this series).

    I want to support my favorite authors, but I don’t want to be gouged for doing it. I am giving up series right and left because of this. Do I think about the publisher’s costs? No. Why should I when they can sell the exact same product in a different format for $2 to $3 less?

  9. Julia Broadbooks
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 08:32:51

    I don’t give any thought to the production costs. I’ll have to say my decision making is very similar to Jane’s.

    Perhaps the thing I do take into account that she didn’t mention is the first chapter. An author would have to be a #8 for me to buy without an excerpt from the book or one that I didn’t like. That ways heavily enough in my decision making that I even read the first pages at the library or a used book store. Sometimes the first chapter doesn’t match the rest of the book for me, but it’s the best indicator I’ve found.

  10. RachelT
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 08:48:03

    I don’t consider production costs – that’s not my problem. This was my recurring thought as I read through the Guardian discussionn you linked to earlier this week. I think there is a lot of confusion between cost and value. The first is absolute, but the second is a variable based on the perception of the consumer – in this case the reader.

    Although I hadn’t thought about it, I think your breakdown, Jane, pretty much reflects my thoughts, however I do agree with some other points already made. For example genre – my known preferences will balance a recommendation and yes, need is crucial (how each one of us defines this, though varies).

    How though, does one factor in impulse, which like alcohol, seems to override good judgement, especially when browsing late at night. This makes me succumb to the advertising (blurb) on the back of books when browsing, or creates an urgent’must have’ feeling when I’m too tired to resist the desire to read that particular book or look around for a cheaper copy. I hope variable pricing doesn’t arrive, based on the vibes an epublisher receives from my computer!

  11. Kristine
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 09:05:54

    I do look at price when I buy a book, and the more the book costS the less likely I will buy it. The agency pricing drives me up the wall. I primarily use e-books, at least for my fiction, because the one Barns and Noble store in this town is a place I want to avoid if possible. I just don’t care for the place. There is a huge UBS, but I only go into that area of town once a month, so I mainly use e-books. My limit is $7.99 at the very most and I usally check out the reviews before shelling out that much. The main reason that I used e-books, I use my I-pod mostly, was that it was slightly cheaper and I did not have to wait for the book. Now with the full pricing with most publishers means that I look for the e-books that are still discounted and have a lower price point. Now I have been considering a couple, I have down loaded the samples, of back list books from authors that I know that cost $2.99. I am afraid to go lower because I think that things like copy editing and formating may not be done properily. The fact that I have to make a choice between paying exorbitant pirces or having to find something else drives me nuts. Is there any reason that an e-book should cost any more than the hard copy. The fact that certain publishers never discount any of their books means that I will never discover them and that may be sad but I only have about $30-50 to spend and outside of academic and cook books there are going to be e-books so if I can’t afford the e-book I will not buy it and thats end of it.

  12. dick
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 09:24:25

    I never consider production costs nor authors nor anything else. The only thing that affects me when I buy a book is whether I want it and have the means.

  13. Keishon
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 10:03:27

    I’ve never consciously considered the support of the author or production costs when I purchase a book. I do place value on books depending on genre. If it’s a translated book and it’s a crime fiction novel, will purchase it without question of price if it’s a book I really, really want. I pretty much agree with dick, if it’s a book I want and I have the means, I’ll usually get it but if the book I want is not in the format of my choice then it is of zero value to me and I don’t usually buy these books in print elsewhere. I just do without. Might get it used if I want it badly enough but that’s rare.

  14. Allie
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 10:05:16

    I think that this sums up my value system for romance novels nicely. I never consider production costs. That is completely uninteresting to me. Supporting the author, though, if it is a favorite author, is definitely something I consider – especially if they ever personally wrote back (or at least it was not obvious copy/paste) when I expressed my delight in their books.

  15. Lisa W.
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 10:05:38

    The scenarios listed fit me very well. I’ve always been a bargain shopper, and books are no exception. I will only pay full price if it’s a book by an author that I know and love. I won’t spent $7.99 for an ebook of an author that I’ve never read. Even for authors that I love, if the ebook is full price (i.e. same price as print), I will only purchase it if my library doesn’t have it.

    Production prices factor in for me on the basis that ebooks are cheaper to produce than print (I’ve received emails from publishers saying that this is true). I’ll only pay the same price for an ebook as the MMPB if my library doesn’t have it, I can’t find it used, or if I can find it used, the price is less than $2 savings.

  16. DS
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 10:16:13

    I agree with Milena– except I will also occasionally buy a couple of extra copies of the first edition of a book with a short print run that I think will find its audience. This is almost never romance though. Romance readers in my experience buy to read and not to collect. I’ve only ever run into a few people who wanted to talk condition and state of a book rather than content.

    I also found her comment about cover artists interesting. I can look at a lot of sff covers and know who the artists are. The only romance cover artist I ever picked up on was Pino and that wasn’t because I liked them, it was because he was so prolific and would sometimes get an artists’ credit.

  17. SR
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 10:37:20

    Is there such a thing as the ‘wrong type of reader’? Either your book was bought or it was…not. I’ve read several articles by Joe Konranth, and I do agree with some of his points. I think right now, the pricing point for published ebooks are too high. I should not be paying the same as I would for an actual hardcover book that is not limited by any of the following: DRM restrictions, lending to friends, reselling to a bookstore, donating to a library, etc.

    If you notice, nowhere in my valuation spectrum do I include “supporting the author” or “considering the cost of production”. Do you readers think about that?

    Yes, I think about it a lot. Ebooks do not cost as much to produce as physical books, and to me, that makes a huge difference in my mindset when I buy ebooks. If you’re charging the exact same, I know that cut is not going to the author. It may be selfish of me, but my first thought goes to the authors – they, along with their trusty editors – are the ones who should be getting the bulk of what I’m paying. I don’t recommend everyone to go the self-publishing route, but I think household names can do it and I’d support them.

    In the music industry, it’s more or less stabilized that 99 cents a song is acceptable. I don’t think books should be that price. I’d almost always buy books of known authors, but for unknowns, I will give them a chance @4.99 or so. If I discover an author I like, I tend to buy everything by that author which means my monthly book budget of $50-$75 will go to that author.

    I have no problem sticking to the buy 3 get 1 free deals from Amazon or making use of the library before purchasing books. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to shell over $9.99 for someone unknown digitally. I do that regularly when I visit bookstores, but online, it’s just not the same shopping experience.

  18. Castiron
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 10:48:03

    I work in publishing, and I don’t use production costs as a factor in the value of a book to me. (At least, not for most trade books. I would expect to pay more for a beautiful special edition printed on acid-free paper with hand-sewn signatures and an artistic binding and slipcase, because I know the production costs are much higher. But that’s more book-as-art than book-for-reading, and I’d rarely be interested in buying such a book.)

    Supporting the author — actually, that’s often a factor. If I really like an author’s work, I’ll buy their book new rather than used so that they get a royalty. I’ll sometimes buy a book that I otherwise would’ve checked out from the library or not read at all because I like the author’s work in another context, such as their blog, and want to show my appreciation with dollars. But I don’t use “how much does this purchase benefit the author?” to decide what edition I buy; I don’t have the contractual details to know that this ebook will make the author more money than this mmpb, and even if I did, I’m going to buy the edition that makes sense for my budget and circumstances.

    I expect to pay more for a book when I know it has a very small audience, small print runs are expensive; even if it’s sold as an ebook, the copyediting has to be paid for somehow; and if I’m that interested in the topic I’ll be willing to pay the price. (Raise your hand if “Jacob Englebrecht’s diary” makes you salivate. Yeah, I don’t see that many hands. And if you raised your hand, you’re probably my distant cousin. I’m happy to pay $100 for the 1200-page hardcover as soon as I’ve got the money in my book budget.) But most trade books don’t have that small an audience; I can’t imagine a romance novel that I’d pay $100 for.

    I’d be willing to pay the equivalent paper book price for a non-DRMed ebook, but not for a DRMed ebook. Searchability, convenience, and freed shelf space are valuable to me, but so is the ability to still read my book in 2030. And while DRM can always be broken, that’s putting myself at risk of prosecution. Either I buy it in paper and look forward to the software that I can use to convert my pbooks to ebooks quickly, or I skip the book.

  19. Isobel Carr
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 10:56:18

    I grew up with writers in the family, so I guess I’ve always thought about supporting the author when it comes to book purchases. *shrug* But even then, I’m just not interested in HB fiction (no room) and I’m not willing to pay HB prices for eBooks.

    There’s a Balogh books I still haven’t read because the publisher kept the eBook price at the HB rate long after the MM was out and eventually I just stopped checking to see if the price had been realigned. Can’t even remember the title at this point, so I’m going to have to call that a publisher fail.

  20. readerdiane
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 11:01:13

    I love reading and will admit that it is my addiction. I do try to support new authors if I like their books-I don’t have to love them.

    This publisher pricing really ticks me off, especially if it is more or the same as a regular book. I want some value for my money. If I have a paperback then I can share with others or trade it in for another book. I can donate it to Goodwill for them to make some money.

    I don’t find the same value in a one time read e-book. You cannot convince me that the cost for producing is the same. Period.

    I have put quite a number of books lately on my wish list to wait to see if the price goes down. If it doesn’t I will buy the book used.

  21. Isobel Carr
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 11:01:25

    I can't imagine a romance novel that I'd pay $100 for.

    Pam Rosenthal and Tracy Grant. In a heartbeat. I’d freaken subscribe for $100 to the next book if I knew that’s what it took for them to be able to write it.

  22. Kristal
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 11:19:25

    I do consider cost of production in a negative way. For years publishers have justified raising books prices on production costs: paper has gone way up, printing costs have gone way up, etc. (I don’t recall ever hearing them say that authors need to be payed more.) Now with ebooks, those costs that they’ve been using as justification for price are gone, but I don’t feel that the price of ebooks reflect that. I don’t feel that the price of an ebook that’s out in HB should be greater than that of an MMPB (especially since I can easily get new HBs for 40% off) and the price of an ebook that’s in MMPB should be about half.

    So – do I have an ereader? No. And I won’t until questions of ownership and price are more in line.

  23. Lisa J
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 11:22:14

    One more thing, why should readers consider the cost of production? The publisher is certainly not thinking of me (their customer) when they are setting the e-book price higher than the paper version.

  24. Courtney Milan
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 11:36:21

    I don’t see why readers should care about the cost of production at all.

    It’s called the cost of production, not the cost of consumption. I do think that producers should consider it, though, particularly when the marginal cost for additional copies is quite, quite small. As a producer, if you can set a price for a book that will encourage buying by those who would otherwise wait for a coupon or paperbackswap it, you increase the chances that the author will go from being a zero-value unknown to a full-value author for some readers. If you can still make money but grow the audience, why not?

    As a new author, I’m seriously happy that my e-books are not priced at the $7.99 paperback price, because it means more people try my work.

  25. Kristine
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 12:02:59

    @Kristal: Thats the point. I mean if the prices weren’t sky high I wouldn’t be so irrated by the agency pricing. I remember when most mmpbs were between $4.50-5.99 with a few that were between $6.50-6.99 and the last price was the limit I saw. Now a large number of them are $7.99 and I have think that the highest I have seen is $8.99, though I have not looked at what Avon is charging they could have a book at $9.99 (lets just say that it would not suprise me), which means that I do not buy it. I remenber that before the agency pricing came about the e-book prices were in the old range that I saw only a few years ago by the way. Now e-books that do not have the same costs to produce as the hard copies are many times more expensive than the hard copy. I will not pay it, I can not afford it, and my biggest fear is that agency pricing will enter the retail sphere and that would really suck because then I would not have another option but to pay though the nose and now that all the publshers are now on board what would stop them from going though with it.

  26. Gretchen Galway
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 12:09:51

    Courtney, I’m also seriously happy that your e-books are not priced at $7.99 That’s how I discovered you and Sarah Mayberry via my Kindle.

    And in spite of my desire to read Julie James, I still haven’t because 1) she’s not at my local stores or 2) my library, and 3) I can’t make myself buy a $7.99 ebook.

    I’ve priced my intro title at 99c in part because it’s a novella.

    Does length of the work apply to anyone’s purchasing decisions? I know sometimes I like a really long, satisfying epic for my $.

  27. Patrice
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 12:24:16

    Maybe I’m weird but I absolutely consider the cost of production for an ebook as a value consideration for purchase. They simply do not cost as much to produce, distribute or much less print and their production runs could be as high or higher than any paper book. So I will not purchase an ebook for the same price as a paperback and never, never, ever for the cost of a hardback. Especially not the same cost as paper if publishers don’t consider ebook purchase as ownership by the reader/purchaser. Although I don’t buy textbooks anymore I think I’d have the same benchmark for nonfiction books.

    I regularly purchase quality ebooks from smaller epublishers, who have editng and cover artists and nice formatting, and have done so for years. But I don’t think any of them have charged 7.99 for an ebook. So there is no way I’ll pay mass market price or more for an ebook, even though I now was gifted with a Kindle and have many “NY pub” authors I love and follow regularly. And with agency pricing that pretty much guarantees I won’t be reading “NY pub” books on my Kindle.

  28. Ridley
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 12:28:25

    I consider the cost of production a bit when book shopping. If it’s a beautiful collector’s edition hardback, I’ll pay more. Conversely, if it’s an ebook romance/UF/other genre fiction and priced to match the hardcover, that’s a ripoff to me, and I pass. I also consider the author’s interests to the extent of favoring new books over used ones.

    Although, even considering those factors, I’m pretty cheap. No author makes it to scenario 8 with me, and few make it to 7. Once an author goes hardback, I wait. If I can’t use a coupon or buy it on sale, I wait.

    What it all boils down to is this: 99.9% of the books I buy will only be read once. I’m only willing to pay so much for a few hours’ fleeting entertainment.

    And before anyone points out the price of a movie, I go maybe once a year. I have a hard time justifying that cost too.

    (But once a month I will pay $70 for a 2 1/2 hockey game, $7 for watery drafts of Molson and $25 for parking. Priorities, ladies.)

  29. Carin
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 13:12:33

    I thnk I agree with your scale, except that my scale exists without hardcover. I just won’t buy a hardcover book. I’ll get it from the library if I can, or wait until it comes out in paperback if I really want to buy it.

    I have an ereader and am annoyed at agency pricing. Before agency pricing I would stockpile during sales, then read as I waited for the next one. Now there are no sales, and I just buy as needed. As one person mentioned above, I don’t really have a TBR pile any more. I wait until I’m ready to read it, and then buy it. There’s no advantage to buying it early. The price isn’t going to change, so I may as well wait and see if I ever get around to reading it.

    Another thing that goes into value with me has more to do with time. There’s a money factor that your value scale captures, but there’s also a time factor. If a new book comes out that I really want to read, I have a choice of buying it immediately or waiting for it at the library. The library is much cheaper, but it also is a much longer wait, usually several weeks.

    My book budget is not very big, so the books I do spend money on are ones that I would say are scenario 7 or 8 AND I’m unwilling to wait for. For me, that’s a small number of books.

  30. willaful
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 13:18:20

    Supporting the author is actually pretty much the only reason I pay full price for a new book. I’m both frugal and patient. But I try to buy my favorite authors new — especially if they aren’t huge bestsellers.

  31. Christine
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 13:24:17

    Production costs are only considered by me when a publisher is trying to charge me MORE for an ebook than they do for a paperback which requires not only ink and paper but transportation costs. I find it completely unacceptable for all the reasons the previous posters have mentioned: lack of control over what I have “bought,” sketchy (at best) ownership rights and value for money.

    I love my Kindle and my iPad and it really irritates me that the publishers want to “punish” readers of ebooks. Their agency pricing has driven me to more library books and alternative ebook stores such as Smashwords which don’t drm the books so I am assured the books I buy are truly “mine,” and can be read in any format I choose.

    I terms of what I will pay for a book, the longer the book will hold my interest the more I am willing to pay. Favorite authors, manuals, art books etc I am willing to pay more for. I recently repurchased a mystery series from Smashwords in eformat that I owned in paperback because the price was right, the ownership was clear, I felt the author was getting a fair share and it was something I enjoy re-reading.

  32. Jan
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 13:42:32

    I more or less follow your value system, with a few amendments.

    Author attitude has on some occasions increased or decreased the value I give their books. I’ve deleted books from my TBR after author fits, and in one case after a bigot statement. I’ve also added books that I normally wouldn’t try after positive author experiences.

    I don’t think it could ever go from the highest level to the lowest (except for racist/sexist/bigot remarks, which I will never knowingly support), but it does moves book higher or lower on the buy list.

    I’m quite active in the webfiction and creative commons community, and there ‘support the artist’ definitely plays a role. But that’s mostly non-romance reading.

    Publishers also play a role. I’m not a huge fan of the agency pricing – out of principle – and in general not a fan of huge corporations. I would be more inclined to try out a new author by a small-press than by a big company.

    However, that doesn’t work everywhere. For some reason, I’ve tried out a load of Samhain books, my treshold is very low there, but I’ve still got to try a book from Loose Id. Value can be very subjective :)

  33. LG
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 14:38:03

    @Kristal: Yes! You can’t use the cost of paper and printing and warehouse storage and whatever else as an excuse when e-books involve none of those things, and yet so many e-books still have prices as high or higher than paper books. I get that some of the initial costs aren’t changing – the books still need editing, everything needs to be formatted so that it’ll look good to readers, etc. – but, after that’s all done with, e-books should be cheaper than paper books for the publishers.

    With paper books, the books by lesser-known authors put out by smaller publishers have been and still are more expensive than the books by bigger name authors put out by bigger publishers. E-books are another story. After a trial period with someone else’s Nook, I’ve decided to take the plunge and finally get myself an e-reader, so I’ve been looking at e-book prices with a new eye. Thank goodness I was never considering getting an e-reader to take the place of paper books – there’s no way I’m paying the kinds of prices publishers are asking for those books in e-formats, not even for authors I know and love.

    There are some e-books I’ve put on my wishlist that are $6.99 – a price I find painful for something I don’t yet know for sure I’ll like, but which I’m still grudgingly willing to pay, because the price for the paper version is much worse or no paper version exists (these are two VERY important points). I would really prefer it, though, if no fiction e-book were ever more than $5.

    Buying books is always a risk – even if I know and love an author, there is no guarantee I’ll love the particular book I’m buying, and I won’t necessarily know this for sure until I’ve read it. With paper books, the risk is lessened by the knowledge that I can donate the books I don’t like to the library or sell them to a used bookstore – I _never_ chuck books I don’t like into the garbage. And yet, even though that’s basically the only option buyers of e-books have (you can keep the file, even though you hate the book, or you can delete the file – those, as far as I know, are your only options), so many e-books are being given print book prices and higher. It’s possibly all well and good if you end up liking the books, but, if you don’t, you’ve thrown your money in the garbage to no one’s benefit but the publisher. I don’t know about you, but after spending $9.99 on an e-book that didn’t work for me, why would I ever want to take a risk on another $9.99 book by the same author? So, I would argue that not even authors benefit from this sort of thing.

  34. rebyj
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 14:44:06

    I got my kindle too late. Agency pricing was in effect by the time I got it so I am mostly buying .99 cent self published books and I’m having to step away more and more from romance and it’s sub genres. I’ve come across some really good books, so instead of buying a book I’d otherwise have snapped up on it’s release date, I spend the time to dig through the .99 – 1.99 price range and wait for the new releases to show up in a used book store. Usually I find them in less than 2 weeks and pay around $4 – $5.

    I love to support my favorite authors but my book budget is $20 – $25 a month. A 9.99 – 12.99 e book purchase is just not possible because no WAY is one or two books a month going to be enough for me.

    Off Topic kinda but the best .99 cent ebook I’ve found and one of the best stories I’ve read in a while is A DEVIL SINGING SMALL by Karen Charbonneau. Check it out, it takes a lot for a book to have me reaching for a kleenex, this one did it.

  35. Chicklet
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 15:20:43

    At this point, I’m paying full price for ebooks only from small publishers like Loose Id or Samhain, because they understand that keeping prices low means people buy more books overall and also are more willing to take chances on new authors. I’m absolutely over paying agency prices for ebooks, and here’s why: A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Mark Harmon would be playing Lucas Davenport in a TV movie based on one of the Prey novels by John Sandford. Given that the books are set in the city where I live, I wanted to read it. The publisher, Berkley, is charging $9.99 for the ebook and the mmpb, which is in that horrid “venti” trim size I hate. I bit the bullet and bought the ebook.

    However, shortly after that I decided I wanted to read the entire series, which now consists of 20 books, with #21 on the way. Berkley has the ebooks priced the same as the mmpb’s, at $7.99 – 9.99 each, and there was no way in hell I was going to pay $200 for the series, in any format. I went to a couple of UBS’s and bought #s 1-17 for about $65, figuring I’ll obtain #s18-21 later. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Berkley to offer the entire Prey series in a bundle, priced at $80-100, for a unit price of $4-5. Amazon did that for seasons 1-5 of NCIS, which meant I got the DVDs for a unit price of $30 instead of $50.

    People are apt to buy more if the unit price is lower, hence those signs in the grocery store that widgets are $1.75 each, or 4/$5.00. Well, damn, if the widget isn’t perishable, or *is* perishable but I can use up 4 at once, I’m going to buy 4 and get the better unit price. This is not rocket science; it’s a sales method merchants have been using since the dawn of commerce. I mean, it predates the alphabet that fills the books the Big Six are trying to sell!

    In this situation, Berkley decided against offering a bundle, and also to charge a king’s ransom for the ebooks, so I rebelled by buying the mmpb’s at a UBS. Of course, this meant Sandford didn’t get any royalties, and I feel a bit guilty about that. But as long as the Big Six persist in price-gouging on ebooks, I’m going to find other sources for text-based entertainment, like smaller epublishers, free public-domain ebooks, and fanfiction.

  36. Renda
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 15:31:17

    I don’t believe it is my business what the production costs are. But when a publisher brings it up, it becomes my business. With actual production costs, storage costs, transportation costs there is no way an e-book can “cost” as much as a physical book.
    That being said I am apparently much shallower than most.
    I buy most of my physical books at thrift stores. I rarely get anything less than a year old.
    I only pay full price when I am out of town/away from home and don’t have access to my way-too-large TBR/thrift stores/UBS and I get the shakes knowing there is no book for me to read.
    So I have two levels. Full price when panicked/desperate and $1.50 when in my own environs.
    I do read e-books on my iPad/iTouch and have much the same rules.
    But I will admit that I spend what it costs on my daughter’s books. She is 11 and reads ten new books or so a month. It is hard finding e-books for her at all, let alone my price point (she has a Kindle she bought with her own money and uses her own money to buy books for it, too); and thrift stores rarely have quality kids books. But she loves to reread whereas I rarely reread so she really gets more value from her books than I do.
    But I do give my books to hospitals/nursing homes which I can’t do with e-books.

  37. Janet W
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 16:28:25

    @willaful: Like you, the only reason I pay full price is to support the author. I just bought her new anthology in the hopes that Candice Hern will get a new publishing contract and I pre-ordered the last in the latest Hunter series. Madeline Hunter is a consistent — not perfect, not guaranteed — but a consistent author for me & I want her books to continue to be published. That’s why I bought the latest Jo Beverley and Mary Balogh paperbacks.

    Contrast this choice to my recent purchase of “When Beauty Tamed The Beast” by Eloisa James. I paid 25 cents at my library used book storefront. I found a copy of Balogh’s “The Secret Pearl” for the same price: I have it already but I bought a 2nd to give it away, hoping to hook a reader on Balogh. I never have to pay full price for anything — my library system rocks and my sources for used books are phenomenal. I can even occasionally get on a list for an arc or two. So author support is why I pay full price. It’s the only reason.

  38. library addict
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 16:30:13

    I usually don't consider the cost of production when buying books, other than the do I need it now, or can I wait for the pb or e price to come down? I am willing to pay more for hardcover books by my favorite authors.

    I also think about production costs after the fact when I buy a poorly formatted ebook. Especially if it's one I paid agency pricing for and then I email the store I purchased it from and complain about said poor formatting. I also wonder why they are charging so much for a book with multiple scanning errors (because it's usually older books newly released in e) and I wonder why a cut of the agency pricing isn't going to pay someone to fix it. Grumble, grumble.

    Supporting authors comes in to my thought process most significantly when I choose to buy a book by a favorite author in e which I already own in print. When I first started reading ebooks, I told myself I wouldn't do this. But that didn't stop me from buying all the In Deaths in e. Thankfully I did so with most all of them at Fictionwise during one of their micropay sales before Penguin went to agency pricing. I do not do so as much at all now that agency pricing is in effect.

    I do like to try new authors at the library and rarely pay agency pricing for a new-to-me author. But if I like an author they move up the value scale and I will buy not only the book I just read, but their new books as well. How some publishers fail to see that libraries grow their authors' readership is beyond me.

    I think $.99 is the right price for really short books. Or first book in a series. But to me, most novel length books priced at $.99 I would ignore as I've been burned one too many times by horribly edited self-published books at that price point. So even though the price is less, the perceived value to me is lower.

    I deeply resent agency pricing. And it has cost the Agency 5 (now 6) many sales from me over the past year. Most significantly it has cut down in the number of new authors I buy because I want to buy new authors in e. Sure I bought my Sony because reading in e is convenient, But the main reason is that I am running out of space on my bookshelves. So, I'll still buy my favorite authors in print (as well as e), but there's no room on the shelves for new authors.

  39. karen wester newton
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 17:02:52

    This is an interesting discussion but I think it applies more for print books than ebooks for one reason: the free sample. I almost always use the free sample feature for any book where I don’t know the author well and the book is not free. Getting that 10% or so and being able to read it has sold me on a lot of new authors. At that point, the value is assessed based on what I’ve read of the story. I consider the price, and say, “Am I willing to pay x dollars to find out how this story comes out?” A friend I trust recently recommended Martha Wells’ THE CLOUD ROADS to me and I still got the free sample before I bought it (she was right; I did really like it).

    Between running out of shelf space and hardback prices, I stopped buying hardbacks years ago. Now that eReaders are so cheap and convenient, I have made the switch from paperbacks to digital pretty much across the board. I really wish publishers would start thinking about ebooks in the long term and either push retailers to innovate or innovate themselves to take advantage of the technology. What ebookstores need is a way for customers to identify a price they would pay for a book, so that after the book has been out for a while, publishers/retailers (or maybe the author!) can notify them that the price has dropped. Right now publishers seem to be paying very little attention to price-conscious readers. My Amazon wish list is full of books that have either a) no Kindle version b) a Kindle version that’s only $1 less than the paperback, or c) or the Kindle version is $2 or $3 MORE than the paperback, which came out months ago. A lot of publishers slap the ebook price on the book when it first comes out and forget about it. This is not good planning. If they knew how many folks out there would buy the book at $9 or $8 or $7, they could get more revenue from the same books. Not everyone bothers to wish list the book when they see it as overpriced.

  40. jody
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 17:10:55

    I patronize my local library, and patronize UBS and and yeah, I’m running out of shelf space, too. I’ve had an e-reader for a year and my total outlay on e-books has been less than $30. I paid $12.99 for The Help which still torques me and I won’t support agency pricing again. There are plenty of cheap and free e-books out there.

    IMO, Stephanie Laurens’ time would be better spent on writing books than in trying to make readers see pricing from the author’s perspective. I don’t care, in the same way I don’t care about what’s going on in the kitchen if I go to a nice restaurant. I just a good book/meal. Courtney Milan has the right idea.

  41. DS
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 18:04:35

    New book by Martha Wells? Great. Amazon has it marked down to $7.99 also. I bought it. She’s an author I would support by also buying the paperback at full price. The publisher, Night Shade books also is offering a free fantasy ebook on their web site that sounds quite interesting.

    OT: One thing that I like about searching through the $.99 to $2.99 books is the occasions when I find a treasure.

  42. Teresa C
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 18:14:04

    I live with and share my books with my 2 sisters. Since there is a possiblity of all 3 of us reading a book, any book purchase can be read between 1 and an infinite # of times.

    When I buy any book (either e or audio), I ask myself how many of the 3 of us will read the book?

    The next consideration is how many times I think the book will be re-read?

    Level 1 (Lowest # of reads) = If I am the only 1 of 3 that I think will read the book, I very carefully consider the purchase. Michelle Sagara’s Elantra Chronicles is a series that is only read by me in our household, and to this point, I have not re-read any of the books. The last in the series was bought at a price of 7.22 on sale at Fictionwise. The next book in the series will be very seriously considered as 9.99 is too much to pay for a 1 time read.

    Level 1.5 = If 1 of 3 will read, and re-read. Bujold books are in this category. I have read and re-read most of Bujold’s books, and have purchased in multiple formats. But, I know that I will re-read multiple times.

    Level 2 = If I think that 2 of 3, or 3 of the 3 of us will read the book, but it won’t be re-read.

    Level 3 = If I think that 2 of 3 will read, and re-read a book.

    Level 4 (Highest # of reads) = If I think that 3 of 3 will read, and re-read a book.
    MacKenzie’s Mountain is in this category. We each have a paper copy. Now, I have an e-copy, and we have purchased an Audible copy. But, the sheer number of times that these books have been read over the years is staggering. I know I have read it about 1 time per year, every year, since it came out. My sister listens to To Die For, every time she drives over the mountains for a visit, 2-3 times a year. Linda Howard books are auto-buys, and have only rarely not been a Level 4 read.

    Since we have moved to digital formats (e or audio) and Agency pricing has come into effect, we consider even more carefully the # of times a book will be read.

    2 examples of Agency pricing per read in our household this last year.

    Kate Douglas’ Wolf Tales series is read by 2 of us, but not re-read. 11.00 per ebook (with DRM) for a total of 2 reads (5.50 per read) is too much to pay, and we have not purchased the last 3 books in the series. And, since these books are printed in Trade paper size, and never come out in MMPB, the price for the e-copy never comes down. Lost sales.

    Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series is read and re-read by 2 of us. Since I have read the latest in the series 3 times, and my sister has read it at least 3 times since June 10, that is 9.00 for 6 reads (1.50 per read). Much better return on our investment.

    Taking into consideration that we can never re-sell a book that we won’t re-read to recoupe some of our investment, we just don’t tend to buy books that will not be re-read.

  43. Joy
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 18:46:01

    I don’t consider the cost of production when buying books/ebooks (although I have worked in publishing). I consider the utility to ME–how much I want the book, how good/reliable the author is, etc. Another aspect of utility is whether the book will be resellable should I not want to keep it (not at all with ebooks) and whether I want the book in a hardback, paperback, or electronic format for whatever reason. It’s all about ME, really, as books are luxury purchases. I can read indefinitely for free, as has been pointed out.

    Supporting the author–if I love an author’s work enough for supporting the author to be a factor, it is because I love the books *that much* I want to own their books for repeated reading. For all other authors, the book can fall from “may purchase” to “check out of library/borrow” simply by encountering that book on a friend’s shelf, in a lending club, or library before I get around to purchasing. Because I read so much I will seek out the least expensive way of accessing a book I will probably only read once. (On the other hand, a lot of books just don’t typically become available for lending and I might buy them because that’s the only way to read them; I don’t know if they’ll be good enough to be re-reads or not). And of course, I don’t pirate because the author deserves their royalties.

    I view 99 cent/ free books and library/club/personal borrowing of books as a good way to try a new author risk-free, or read authors who aren’t in the re-read category. Even so, often this turns into purchases for newer releases or backlist for authors who catch my fancy. I can pay full price if I’m selective about what I buy.

    Agency pricing as such isn’t really a factor for me, but price is. If I want to read a $14.99 book but think $6.99 is all I’m willing to pay for it, it doesn’t really matter that it is “Agency priced”–which is an agreement between the publisher and retailer–just that it’s too high. If it’s Agency priced at $6.99 I’ll buy it. Otherwise, I’ll wait for it to come around at the library/used book sale, or read something else.

  44. Joy
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 18:50:46

    additionally re: supporting the author. If I like an author enough that I consider it in my interest to keep the author producing more books, which adds to my pleasure quotient, then, yes, supporting the author is a factor. I’d probably cry buckets if Lois McMaster Bujold, for example, could no longer support herself writing and decided to move on to another career…

  45. Kaetrin
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 20:16:42

    I’ve never really thought about it before but I think Jane’s scale is about right. I agree with another commenter further up the line that length is a factor too – if it is a novella, I don’t want to pay full price.

    It’s not that I don’t care about supporting authors but that’s not why I buy a book. Ultimately I buy books I want to read that I think will entertain me. I’m certainly happy for the purchase to support the author at the same time but that’s not why I’d buy it. Books I adore I often have in multiple formats – eg audio and paper/ebook – but I do that because I want them. Supporting the author is a happy coincidence. Production costs don’t factor in at all for me.

    As for spending ridiculous amounts for a book, I spent something like $70 on Mary Balogh’s web series on eBay the year before the publisher started reprinting them… don’t you just hate that? :)

    Also, @ Michael Marcus, non-fiction books come out of a totally different (and very very tiny and begruding) budget for me – while Jane’s scale may well apply to those books too, I’m pretty sure most of the commenters here are referring to reading for pleasure.

  46. Niveau
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 20:22:42

    I have a variety of things I consider when buying books, but lately it’s been boiling down to one thing: the price difference between Canadian and American prices. I’m incredibly sick of publishers keeping Canadian prices far higher than they should be, and I’ve stopped buying any books from some publishers *cough*Penguin*cough* regardless of how much I love their authors. I could order them from a company which charges the American price and will let me do the conversion myself, but I really don’t want to support a company that doesn’t give a damn about me, even at a more reasonable price.

    If I bought it in Canadian prices, I’d have to pay $7.79 for an ebook copy of Courtney’s Proof by Seduction. And that’s at a 22% discount. An e-book listed at $7.99 full-price would not piss me off in the slightest, especially since it’s cheaper than mass markets are up here. A mass market listed at $7.99 would seem like a miracle!

  47. Chelsea
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 22:52:25

    1) I will never pay more then $3 for an author I’ve never tried before, unless the book is very highly recommended by a trusted friend.

    2)for author’s who I have consistantly rated 3.5/5 or higher, I will buy a book new at full price, unless that price exceeds $10. There are a very limited number of of authors (maybe 4 at the moment?) who I consider worth more then $10.

    3) Hit or miss authors, or ones who have disapointed me in the past, fall back into the $3-4 category

    4) I try very hard not to spend more then $8 on an ebook, favored author or not. To me they should be cheaper because they aren’t loanable, they can’t be displayed on my shelf, and I can’t sell or trade them if I’m dissatisfied.

    In recent years the most I’ve paid for a book was $18 for a hardcover. The most I’ve spent on an ebook was $10. In both cases I made exceptions for authors I saw as worth it. In other words, my spending is weighted heavily on the quality of the author’s writing.

  48. SAO
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 01:47:33

    Value for me depends on usage. A book that I can’t share with others in my household has far lower value than one I can. A book I can’t swap with my sister has far lower value. If a book’s really great, I will want to share it. I might tell my sister to buy it, but buying more than one copy for my household? Owning three copies of the Harry Potter series? At full price? No way in hell. I would be willing to pay an extra dollar for each copy, if the base price was $5 or under and the sharing rights didn’t expire (ie I decide to share the book 3 years after I bought it).

    Stripping DRM is usually pretty easy, but I don’t want to do the work. I want to buy a book, read it, share it, not spend time fussing with my computer to get the flexibility I need.

    About production costs: I’ve heard things from publishers that struck me as, at best, a sign that they were clueless about their own production costs, if not outright lies. Publishing costs will always depend on the volume sold and that means expected best sellers should be cheaper, which is not how the market works. Production costs are not part of my decision.

    I buy books as a product, not as support for the arts. Supporting the author is not part of my purchase decision. I resent author statements that imply any activity that doesn’t result in revenue for the author is wrong.

    The book industry has remarkably few statistics about how many people read any given copy of a book and how that changes depending on where the book is (library or home), what genre, etc.

  49. JenD
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 02:30:29

    Very interesting post. I like the rating system.

    For me- I have more of a flow chart. I buy over thirty books a month- I needed a system. If A- yes/no- then B or C type deal.

    Two caveats:
    If it’s an e (50% of my purchases) and it’s priced more than the paper version- instant No Sale. Period. I don’t care if the book is written by my Mother, it’s not getting bought.

    If the book is by one of four authors I will always buy- then I buy it. (unless as noted above)

    All other authors fall into this branch of my decision tree:
    1-Format worth price? yes/no
    no- don’t buy. yes- go to two.

    2-Premise looks good? yes/no

    3-Blurb doesn’t make me roll my eyes? yes/no

    4-Good reviews available of book? (Good meaning thorough so I can make my own choice) yes/no

    5- Yes or No.

    Into (or away from) my cart it goes.

    Certain books that I collect I am willing to pay upwards of $300 for- easy. I collect the Discworld series and the leather hardbacks, especially signed, I will gladly sacrifice my bank account for. There is only one other hardback I have bought in the past ten years- and that was for sentimental reasons. Beyond the Discworld special editions and the one other book- I NEVER buy hardback. Instant no-buy. I don’t even need a section of the chart for it.

  50. Ros
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 03:29:23

    @jody: I thought Laurens’s blog was aimed at other authors primarily, not readers.

  51. Amy
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 03:45:20

    I do consider the cost of production and inability to resale when it comes to eBooks. I am willing to pay more for authors that I know and love. I discovered many new authors in recent years via the “free” or up to $1.99 type of ebook promotions. When I find an author I like, I’d go back and buy off the backlist and buy the new releases. I’m willing to pay close to the paperback price for authors I really like; but I have to truly *love* an author in order for me to pay full paperback price for an ebook. Few authors fall into that category — right now that includes Nalini Singh, Julie Anne Long, and Jo Goodman.

    Before agency pricing, I bought one to two dozen ebooks each month and tried a lot of new authors. Now I find more and more ebooks from authors I like (but don’t necessary love) are costing the same as the paperback; so I don’t buy that many ebooks anymore. I think during the past 6 months, for example, I may have purchased only a couple of new ebooks every other month. I’m also less or not willing to try new authors if the ebook price is the same or even close to the price of a paperback. And because I really like the reduction in clutter since to my switch to ebooks 2+ years ago, the higher ebook pricing trend means I’m buying fewer books overall. I am definitely spending $$ less per quarter on books.

    On a side note: I have been wondering why Harlequin stopped selling the One Click Buy bundles on Amazon (and its own website). I bought them every month after discovering them in 2009. The discounted price on Amazon allowed me to try some category romances that I would not otherwise have bought as many are hit or miss for me. And I often searched for the backlist (and paid significantly more per book) when I discover an author I liked. Since those bundles stopped, I think I may have gone out of my way to buy one of the category books only during the times I’ve found an outstanding review here on DA or when a new book comes out by a favorite author. I had assumed that Harlequin was making money on those e-bundles even at the heavily discounted price offered by Amazon. But I guess I was wrong.

  52. Christine M.
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 08:19:06

    @Niveau: Which is one of the reasons why I made the switch from amazon to BookDepository when it comes to ordering paper books. They charge the US price and makes the conversion to Canadian dollars. The fact that I get a 25% discount on some of the books I buy is just the cherry on top.

  53. Carolyn Jewel
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 09:42:37

    There are other scenarios I’d add:

    I’ll buy a book by an unknown to-me author if a trusted person recommends it — that is the quality of the recommendation will push the purchase up the scale from 1 to as high as 7.

    I’ll also buy a book by an unknown-to-me author if it sounds like something I would enjoy — from a review for example. So, subject matter also counts and can push book up the scale.

    In general I agree with the scenarios you list. I don’t like paying the same for an eBook that I do for the print copy. I have to want it pretty badly to make that purchase because it’s just not a good value for me. There’s too much risk I’ll lose my “purchase” through a device upgrade.

    When I’m in book buying mode, cost of production does enter into it a little bit in that I recognize the product cost something to produce and I can’t reasonably expect the book to be free (under normal, non-prormotional circumstances). But there’s always a point at which, as you point out, a price exceeds what I’m willing to pay — based on my perceptions, expenses and budget.

  54. scooper
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 10:40:06

    @dick: I’m pretty much with you Dick. I buy books that sound good to me whether the author is known to me or not. But ebook pricing irritates me like little else.

  55. LVLMLeah
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 11:04:24

    I’m probably an example of the worst case scenario for a publisher/author.

    I’ve come to prefer reading ebooks. I think very hard before choosing a paper book to read. Even if gotten for free or I can get it from the library. They’re painful for me to hold open and I have to use a head lamp to read at night.

    I also like reading f/f, f/f/m, lesbian books, which traditionally cost almost double an mmp in paper and often 20% more than the average in ebook for the same amount of words.

    I refuse to pay more than or even equal to the paper version of a mainstream/ NY pubbed ebook. And I refuse to pay more than $6 for an ebook that is less than 60K.

    What’s happened now for me is that I’ve become paralyzed in buying new books. I haven’t bought a new book in over 6 months because A.) I’ve already got a huge TBR pile, and B.) I have a huge resistance to paying the kind of money that many pubs are charging for ebooks in general and in the types of books I want to read.

    So, I’m watching more TV, slowly working through my TBR pile, and doing things I enjoy outside of reading.

    Not spending a dime on new (e)/books at this point have become the right price for me since ebooks can’t be swapped or given away and I’m done reading paper books.

    Oh and I don’t consider production cost in my decision. Not my problem. Although I do consider the author and will go out of my way to buy direct from the pub rather than at a distributor, unless the pub makes me go through hoops to buy direct, which some do. But this has also become a deterrent for me in buying books.

  56. Moviemavengal
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 12:48:27

    I do take into account purchasing books from certain authors I want to support.

    I rarely, if ever, buy hardbacks anymore. I might ask for them as a gift suggestion, but with my teetering TBR pile, I mostly just wait for it to come out in paperback.

    My bugdet is not as limited as some others, but for the majority of my reading, I use Paperbackswap. And although I’ve owned a Kindle for three years, I use it mainly for travel, and don’t purchase lots of ebooks. If the paperback is the same price as the ebook, then I know I can use that for a swap. I’m happy for many series to just wait till I get it from Paperbackswap. It’s the rare author that I would pre-order the print book.

  57. Stephanie
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 12:57:22

    One thing I consider that hasnt been mentioned is length. I read very fast so I always compare how long a book is (aka how long it would take me to read it) vs. the price.

    Hmm this book cost 7.99 or is less than 300 pages and I could read it in an hour … NO
    Hmm this book cost 3.49 or is less than 300 pages and I could read it in an hour … YES

    Once agency pricing began …

    I dont buy books where the ebook is more than the paperback. This is an automatic lost sale!

    I also try to not buy Hardback books or ebooks priced over 9.99. (The one exception this year was Patricia Briggs!) When authors go to Hardback copies I either stop reading them, go to the bookstore and read it there, get it on PBS, or wait until its in paperback form. Generally by the time a book is in paperback I have forgotten about it.

  58. Gretchen Galway
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 12:57:55

    Just thought of one of the biggest deciding factors for how much I’ll pay for a book:

    If I’m addicted to the series. That trumps everything.

    I’m an oldtime fantasy-epic addict, and I would pay anything, even for the HB, of the next book in a series. I’ve never had that auto-buy with romance, but maybe I haven’t dipped into the right series.

    Series I was totally powerless to resist over the years: Thomas Covenant (I spent all my allowance money on the 6th book in ’83), Wheel of Time (broke that addiction, thank God, since he went on and on and on), Harry Potter, and O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series.

    Got to admit, that makes me think I should really write a series.

  59. Stephanie
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 13:01:57

    oops … typos

    how about and instead of or in my examples …

    Hmm this book cost 7.99 and is less than 300 pages and I could read it in an hour … NO
    Hmm this book cost 3.49 and is less than 300 pages and I could read it in an hour … YES

  60. Dave
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 14:17:12

    I think I would agree with a lot of what you said, but there are a few caveats:

    If I’ve never heard of the author, but s/he’s in a genre I typically like, then the value is somewhere between zero and half, the greater the discount, the more likely I am to pick up that book.

    Somewhere between $0.99 and $2.99 is the “oh, what the hell, I’ll give it a try” price. For both used books and ebooks. Even for something I’m only vaguely interested in.

    As a reader of both ebooks and print books, I would never pay more for an ebook than a print. In fact, I usually require a substantial discount from paper to entice me to buy. As a reader, I really don’t care how much it costs to produce an ebook. I’m primarily concerned, that *I don’t actually own* any ebook. I only have a license to read it. Not to loan it, give it away or resell it. Lack of first sale doctrine makes ebooks inherently less valuable to me as a reader and consumer. Or, “Why your $1000 itunes collection is worthless, but those old vinyls you have are still worth money”.

    Having said all that, I still now buy more ebooks than paper.

  61. DS
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 14:29:09

    Off Topic, but I think Barry Eisler just sent a shiver up the collective spine of the publishing companies:

    Turning down a half million dollars to publish his own book. You would know J. A. Konrath would be involved in that somewhere.

  62. Kate Copeseeley
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 16:31:35

    As a reader, I’d say that your evaluation is spot on. I don’t think I ever written it out like that before, but I can’t argue with your scale.
    On the other hand, I won’t pay ANY price for an author I love, either. For instance, I won’t pay $12.99 for an e-book that has DRM, just because I love the author. I’ll buy the used book or get it from the library, thanks.

    I think we need to have two scales, and digital books would have their own metric.

    For me, as an author, I’ve found $1.99 to be a successful price point for my first book. I’ve tried other prices, but they weren’t as successful, which leads me to believe that not all unknown authors rate the same on the scale.

  63. Tessa Dare » Blog Archive » Books for Free (sorry, not a giveaway post)
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 19:15:54

    […] There's been an interesting discussion ongoing about digital book economics and pricing lately. The ever-brilliant Courtney Milan has been blogging about this. So has the one and only Stephanie Laurens. Dear Author has an ongoing discussion. […]

  64. Niveau
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 23:12:12

    @Christine M.: I do use them sometimes, even though their exchange rate is usually a bit low. (I ordered from them earlier this week, for example, and the Canadian price was still higher than the US price, even though we were above par that day and have been for a while.) But even if I buy through them, I’m still supporting the publisher. I’m not getting a reasonable price because the publisher is treating me well as a customer by giving me one; I’m getting it because I’m working around their inflated price. Even if I’m paying less, I don’t want my money going to the company that’s trying to rip me off. (Plus the shipping takes longer, and I want my books now!)

  65. SandyC.
    Mar 22, 2011 @ 11:10:17

    Although my book buying budget is not that limited, I do have a few rules. If I’m following a series that began in paperback, I’m not following it into hardback. I’ll wait a year to buy the paperback version (but I’m willing to pay full price for it). I buy very few hardbacks, anyway, because I just don’t have the space, the books are difficult to hold, etc.

    I search out new authors when I’m browsing at the book store, because I’ve sometimes been pleasantly surprised. Also, every author was new at some point, right? I like fresh voices and new ideas. Yes, sometimes I get burned, but that’s what Paperback Swap is for.

    $8 + tax is not too much for a physical book. It’s definitely too much for an e-book, however.

    Shopping with a coupon, etc. is rather haphazard, especially as I keep losing bookstores closest to me. Unless I have a pretty good idea that the book will be in stock, I try not to set my heart on one particular title. I’ve been disappointed too many times.

    If I find an author I like, I’m willing to support her by buying her books new. After all, I want her to stay in business, right? However, if there are one or two duds by that author, then I lose interest and may never read another title by her.

    I bought my Kindle so that I could take advantage of the Harlequin bundles. Unfortunately, I was only able to do that for a month before Harlequin stopped offering those on Amazon. Since then I’ve been downloading free books, or books that don’t cost more than $2. However, I must be a “physical book snob”, because I can’t imagine supporting a favorite author by buying an e-book. I want that physical book in my hands; maybe I’m just old school that way!

  66. Unmotivated Tuesday | Solelyfictional
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  68. Tori [Book Faery]
    Mar 22, 2011 @ 19:50:37

    For favorite authors I will pre-order the MMP. I already have most of their books in print, and have no reason to switch to ebook.

    As for all other authors, I wait for a library copy, request a copy to review, or I’ll simply refrain from reading. Disappointing, but with MMPs being $7.99, and ebooks being just as much, I’m neither willing, nor able to pay that much. The marginal costs (price, risk of disliking the debut book–which occurs more often than not as of late) far outweigh the marginal benefits in these instances. I also don’t think about the cost of production because I am not a producer; I am a consumer.

    If ebooks were actually cheaper, then I would definitely be willing to try out new authors. As it is right now, anything higher than $4.99 for an ebook is too expensive for me, and I will NOT pay for them.

    I also would like to point out that I do not buy ebooks. I have a Kindle, but primarily use it to get free ebooks right now because I have too many books I need to read at the moment. And, like many others have said, it’s just not worth it with DRM, the inability to lend books (that I usually only read once), and agency pricing.

    I would also like to add one more thing: debut YA books, which are always out in HC, are way too much. I’m not willing to spend $17+ on an author I am unfamiliar with; especially when a lot of the books that came out last year were so mediocre.

  69. Stephie Smith
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 09:49:48

    (1) I always buy new MMPBs written by friends to support them, but I shop for the best price (usually Amazon). I'll buy the ebook if it's not in MMPB.
    (2) Same goes for new authors in the genre in which I write; I do this as a show of support for the genre, whether I plan to read the books or not (except in cases of #4 below).
    (3) In all other cases, I must like a plot blurb and first chapter excerpt to buy, even if it's one of my fav authors, tho admittedly, I usually like the blurb and excerpts of my fav authors. There have been times I haven't purchased a book by an author I love based on one of these two things and then when I tried to read the book from a library later, it was a DNF, so the blurb and excerpt works for me. If there is no blurb, I don't buy until I can look it up online to find a blurb or review that gives the plot. This happens a lot with Dean Koontz books.
    (4) I don't buy either the MMPB or ebook on principle if the publisher puts a higher price on the e-book, regardless of author (except my friends and so far that hasn't happened). I will get it at the library or maybe a used book store instead if I really want to read it.
    (5) I will pay $2.99 for an ebook by an unknown author or an author that's been hit and miss as long as I can read an excerpt and a plot blurb, but I won't pay any higher than that. I will, however, pay full price for an MMPB by an unknown or hit and miss, and in that case, I look through more of the book to confirm the buy.
    (6) I've only purchased a trade paperback once and won't again because of price. Same for hardcover, plus they are heavy to hold in one hand. Those two I get from the library, no matter who the author.
    I never put anything on a wish list. My experience has been that the price then goes up-‘not down.

  70. CC
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 18:04:01

    Lisa J (above) stated my opinion very succinctly…

    “I want to support my favorite authors, but I don't want to be gouged for doing it. I am giving up series right and left because of this. Do I think about the publisher's costs? No. Why should I when they can sell the exact same product in a different format for $2 to $3 less? “

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  72. Jen
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 08:48:54

    The mental gymnastics are close to spot on in my case as well. The only addition is that I already have more books than shelf space, so it takes a lot for me to commit to purchasing a paper book, hardback (which was always unlikely) or paperback.

    In the last six months, I plowed through the Dresden Files series. I love it quite a bit, and would like to own them, but it’s a dilemma for me. Right now, there are 11/12 books out in the series. I can afford to purchase them electronically, but am opposed to paying more for an electronic book license to read than I would for a paperback. Only, I haven’t the room to store the paperbacks without freeing up considerable real estate on my shelves.

    My uneasy compromise has been to put the electronic books on my Amazon Wish List so that, if the purchase is made, it’s someone else’s money. Though my general sense of fair pricing still balks at it, I justify the inconsistency by deeming gift giving as somewhat illogical anyway.

  73. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity for the snowy first week of spring
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  74. Julia
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 00:56:34

    Jane, thank you for such a well thought out post. I recently made the decision to no longer buy ebooks that are set to agency pricing, no exceptions. If it’s an author I love, I’ll just buy the physical book. I like how you categorized a book’s value and I agree with your assessment. When I consider purchasing a book, I never consider the cost of production, that’s not important to me and it would not be a moving argument that will sway me to pay more for a book. And I support the author by buying multiple copies of his or her work, usually to give away as gifts. I think I’m being much more supportive by telling others about an author and recommending them, then paying a few extra dollars for a book. In the long run, recommendations go a lot further for supporting a writer you love.

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