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

Last week I blogged about value as differentiated between price.   Many other readers chimed in with their own value scale.   What I read in the comments to last week’s post and that of Nadia Lee’s post is that a) readers will pay a lot for authors that they love and b) readers are reluctant to pay much for authors that are unknown to them. It is also important to note that with ebooks readers cannot share, resell, or lend a book.   These rights that are built into the paper book but do not exist for the digital book.

LVLMLeah wrote:

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

The reason that Steig Larrson, Nora Roberts, and John Grisham sell well on the ebook platform is because they are a known and enjoyable quantity for most readers.   The risk to these readers buying in excess of $9.99 is low.   First, readers are used to paying hardcover prices for those books.   Second, these books are often discounted to 40-50% off the cover.   Third, if you resell or share these books, you are still paying close to $9.99.   I.e., if you buy Treachery in Death (a really good addition to the series) from Costco at 15.99 and resell it to the usedbookstore for $4.99, you are out $9.99.   Paying $9.99 to $12.99 for a digital book that you can’t resell but theoretically you can keep is even odds.

However, most everyone else is in the unknown category and for most readers that means the book has low to zero value.   This is why the freebie works to promote backlist sales and why the $.99 book is attractive to readers.   This is why availability of digital books at the library is important.   The risk of entry is low.   (This is particularly meaningful for series books because readers can be reluctant to start a series by an unknown author.   Is the first book going to deliver a full story or will it end with a cliffhanger that will require additional time and money to get a satisfying read?)   The higher the risk (i.e. price), the less likely the reader is going to take a chance on a new author and for the majority of authors out there, most readers are unfamiliar.

When Zoe Winters talks about attracting the “right” kind of reader by a certain price point of her story, she takes a chance that she is not getting the   new-to-her reader.   These aren’t the wrong kinds of readers, they are just unfamiliar with her work. Because as we witnessed from the comment thread last Sunday, readers are reluctant to spend time and money on a digital book from an unkonwn author that they have few rights to.   For example, Amy said:

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.

And Sandy wrote:

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.

As Kate said, “I think we need to have two scales, and digital books would have their own metric.”   The reason for this is that paper books have more value that digital books because of the rights readers have that flow with the paper book.   These rights are embodied in the First Sale doctrine of the Copyright Act.   The First Sale doctrine allows the reader to do anything she wants with the copy she bought.   She can sell it.   She can lend it.   She can put it up for trade on paperback swap.   She could paper her bathroom with it or use it as the base for her daughter’s pinata.   The paper product has utility beyond the content and thus the price we pay includes that a valuation of the extra utility.

Further, years of used book purchases and coupon usages have fueled certain expectations about the costs of books.   Built upon these past expectations and valuations of paper book are the expectations of readers that everything digital should be cheaper.   The lack of a physical product decreases value   and so does the declining concepts of ownership.   No one wants to pay the equal price for something that they are only borrowing for a period of time rather than outright owning it.   This is why so many readers balk at paying front list prices for backlist titles, particularly when they are self published. I’ve fielded many an angry reader complaint about the $9.99 digital backlist prices particularly from Warner and the frontlist prices of self published backlist titles.

Prices for fiction books, the books that we read here at Dear Author, are measured against other entertainment options.   Some authors have equated their books with albums rather than singles meaning that their books should be valued at $.99 a chapter and that readers are getting a bargain at $7.99.   Other authors argue that their books are worth more than the price of a movie ticket.   Still other authors have argued that readers should pay something for convenience, the privilege of shopping in your pajamas and having immediate access, much like you pay for your food to be delivered at a cost.

Regardless of whether these reader expectations are wrongheaded or full of entitlement, the problem that publishers and authors face is this.   Expectations of consumers are almost impossible to change.   In order for publishers and authors to get readers to pay more for a product, the value of the product has to be increased in the reader’s minds.   Currently the digital book has a decreased value for readers.   It is decreased because of the lack of utility as compared to the paper product, the ephemeral feelings of the product, and yes, the decreased quality.   Let’s face it.   The digital book has come a long way but it still doesn’t live up to the product in terms of quality.   I was dismayed when I learned that the digital book of Jaci Burton’s Perfect Play did not include the cover image even at the price of $9.99.   Digital books are poorly edited, often have egregious typos even in the “big” books.

Publishers talk about enhanced books as if it is the holy grail of digital publishing, as if throwing in a video of the author will raise value in the eyes of the reader.

What publishers and authors will have to do to increase the value of digital books is the following:

a) increase the quality of digital books so that the content is equal or great in quality to paper books.

b) increase the utility of a digital book by allowing lending, reselling, trading or swapping.

c) increase content access.   When I was at a local business meeting this week, I was told that what we once sold, we will give away for free and what we once gave away for free, we will now sell.   Videos and the like where promotional tools but maybe we will pay to get that kind of access.   It is possible that a book could be given away for free, but that updates are for subscribers only.   For instance, a number of authors are writing extended scenes as promotional items.   In the future, a reader might get access to a book for free and then if she wants those extended scenes, she would “subscribe” to that book’s feed and be eligible to read new content. (This is what O’Reilly does for its technical books).

In the meantime, without these types of improvements, I believe that a number of us will always be the “wrong” kind of reader.     High prices of ebooks will do a couple of things. First, it will increase sales of known quantities because if readers are going to spend money, it might as well be on guaranteed reads.   Second, it will decrease the chances readers take on new to them authors (midlist and debuts).   Third, it will drive readers to lower priced goods in the market.   This is not to say all books should be priced at $.99 but using a paper price scale for digital books is wrongheaded because it totally goes against consumer expectation.   It’s swimming upstream.   Eventually the current will carry you under.

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. Merrian
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 04:10:10

    When I was at a local business meeting this week, I was told that what we once sold, we will give away for free and what we once gave away for free, we will now sell. Videos and the like where promotional tools but maybe we will pay to get that kind of access. It is possible that a book could be given away for free, but that updates are for subscribers only. For instance, a number of authors are writing extended scenes as promotional items. In the future, a reader might get access to a book for free and then if she wants those extended scenes, she would “subscribe” to that book's feed and be eligible to read new content. (This is what O'Reilly does for its technical books).

    This block of text is repeated twice in the article

  2. library addict
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 04:33:32

    I don’t get why publishers seem so keen on enhanced content.

    I don’t want to watch videos when I am trying to read a book. I don’t necessarily want to read or watch an interview with the author either. Just let me read the book.

    The most common problem I’ve run across with the backlist titles I’ve purchased is the egregious amount of scanning errors (1 instead of I, t instead of l, ] instead of J, etc). I understand if they don’t have the original text on file anymore and see scanning as less time-consuming than retyping the book, but why, why, why don't they proofread after scanning? There were so many errors in the ePub version of Nora Roberts' Born In trilogy that Borders ended up crediting me for the books. They did say they would notify Penguin about it. Whenever I’ve emailed them with specific errors in their books, Penguin just replies with generic form emails stating that “Spelling errors, typos, and grammatical errors found in our eBooks are likely the result of errors in the original publication and are not eBook specific.” But they are often e-book specific as the errors in question do not appear in the print version of the book. I've gotten so many of these form responses back I've quit even bothering to email them. And yet they want me to pay full agency price for their e books!

    The other problem I've run across, particularly with Harlequin books, is the chapter headings are all duplicated and there is a large gap between the first drop-case or specially formatted letter at the beginning of a chapter paragraph and the rest of the word. This is with the early ePubs they made, not so much the more recent stuff. When I emailed them, they said they couldn't help with titles purchased at a third party site. And Kobo and Fictionwise don't seem to care.

    So I wish publishers would just forget enhanced content and spend the time and money to deliver properly formatted books.

  3. Merrian
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 04:55:27

    I just signed up for Ginn Hale’s ‘Rifter War’ serial in 10 parts. Something I am willing to do because I know her work and love it. It is not something I would do with a new to me author, and may be an approach that a self published author or small e-book publisher can do more easily than an agency/NY publisher. These methodologies are about creating relationships or deepening the channels that link the content provider and the purchaser. I wonder if they are realisitic for the scale of large publishers when the model seems to be about individual authors and books and their readership? Although the many books in the ‘In Death’ series suggest that it is a method that could work with certain authors

    I don’t want an enhanced book as suggested by the marketers above – I want a colour cover and for the book to be searchable and highlightable (Diana Rowland’s 2nd demon book on Kobo has no cover). I could imagine some form of click-on footnoting for example; maps, glossaries of names, translation of foreign words (I would love this for the French and Latin quotes in the Lord Peter Wimsey books), the language of fans or flowers, types of swords or hand guns, etc. All the sorts of things we come across in reading genre fiction or for those of us who don’t understand American football. I am reading “The Tokaido Road” at the moment and could imagine if it was an e-book that there could be a images of Hiroshige’s ‘The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road’ or the wood block prints of 47 samauri by many artists.

  4. SarahT
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 05:44:00

    “I was dismayed when I learned that the digital book of Jaci Burton's Perfect Play did not include the cover image even at the price of $9.99.”

    So was I! I was so disappointed I still haven’t read the book. I will, eventually, but I consider it false advertising to show a book’s cover to a customer at an ebook store, but not include it in the download.

  5. Kerry Allen
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 07:44:22

    @library addict “‘Spelling errors, typos, and grammatical errors found in our eBooks are likely the result of errors in the original publication and are not eBook specific.'”

    Even if that were an accurate statement on their part, they are not selling you the original publication. They are selling you an ebook, and as a consumer, for your money, you deserve as near a perfect product as they can produce. These are not errors that require any technical expertise to find or fix. Unpaid interns abound. Stick a bunch of them on proofreading duty and create the illusion, at least, that quality matters.

    It blows my mind that no one at any publishing house goes into a meeting and suggests the “Ebooks are an afterthought, we don’t care about them, but pay us more than paper price for them” stance is bad business, particularly when they’re so brazen as to be public about taking such a stance.

    I’ve always hated the comparison of digital books to digital music. The two products are not used in the same way, do not fulfill the same desires, do not require equal degrees of user involvement. Other than digital delivery, there is no similarity. No one ever held up a paper book and a CD and said, “Hey, these are identical, let’s sell them the same way.” The product is not the same, the consumer is not the same, the value is not the same, so let’s step away from the pervasive notion that one business plan has anything to do with the other. It’s time for Publishing to stop peeking over Music’s fence to see what’s going on over there and instead do something about their own house burning down behind them.

  6. Keishon
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 09:04:44

    Publishers talk about enhanced books as if it is the holy grail of digital publishing, as if throwing in a video of the author will raise value in the eyes of the reader.

    I hope enhanced ebooks die a lonely death. I see no value in it at all. Publishers need to perfect the quality of digital books FIRST before getting giddy about other shit that they think they can add to a digital book to justify the high cost. Like another reader has said, it just blows my mind that the high prices we are asked to pay do not include: the cover or a perfect or near perfect book without scanning errors and poor formatting.

  7. Gretchen Galway
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 09:29:53

    @Kerry Allen I totally agree about the comparison to CDs being flawed. When you buy a book, you can’t shove it inside the drive of your laptop and have a copy to read on your iPod in five minutes.

    I still buy CDs because it’s an automatic backup and digital version all in one. If everyone could have a perfect (no scanning errors) version of their paperbacks inside their eReader or phone–imagine how many people would be reading digitally. And there might be a longer future for paperbacks.

  8. Brian
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 10:13:37

    I can’t even count the number of responses I’ve gotten from publishers along the lines of what library addict mentioned, that is if I get a response at all. The only time I’ve gotten a response that actually amounted to anything was when I took the time and was able to track down Erika Tsang’s (big cheese at Avon) email addy and sent the errors directly to her. It took two months, but the book did get fixed. This was a new release book, not a backlist book where OCR errors are common, but still it had enough errors to fill eleven pages in Word.

    OCR errors suck, but lately I’ve been getting quite a few new first run titles that are full of errors. Right now I’m reading ‘Married: The Virgin Widow’ by Deborah Hale and it’s chock full of words split into two and three parts. Very frustrating and hard to read while staying in the story.

    Enhanced eBooks might have their place in things like textbooks, but for fiction I just don’t get it. Just give me a nice error free read that doesn’t pull me out of the story several times a chapter and I’ll be a happy camper, a lot of the ebooks I get now look like they’ve never been proofread and I’m sure they haven’t.

    For me right now the ‘right price’ for a digital book is — something less than the paper book, 25% less or more ideally when locked down with DRM. Digital books do have some advantages over paper too so comparing the two as if they were the same isn’t necessarily the way to go IMO.

    For the most part I skip a lot of the $.99 stuff out there now just because I’ve been hit with too much crap over the last couple years. I thought it was great to get the first book in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s series for $2.99, a great price to get me to try a series that lots of people seem to like (IMO this is a great way for pubs to sell series’ to new readers). Unfortunately the rest of the older books in the series are the same price as the MMPB. Now I may still buy them depending on how much I like the first book, but what would have likely been a sure sale at $4.99 to $5.99 turns into a huge maybe at $7.99 and I can’t get book two from the library (I suppose I could in paper, but…) to give the series more of a chance before investing because Macmillan doesn’t do library copies.

  9. Lisa W.
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 10:49:02

    I hate the idea of enhanced ebooks. If I wanted to watch a video or some other such thing, I’d be on my computer… not my ereader. If I have my kindle in hand, I want to read… not surf the web, not watch videos, etc. I know of no reader who has shown any interest in these things. However, considering how well publishers listen to their customers (readers), I doubt they’ll listen to us about this.

  10. Cathy
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 11:02:37

    Still other authors have argued that readers should pay something for convenience, the privilege of shopping in your pajamas and having immediate access, much like you pay for your food to be delivered at a cost.

    I did pay for this — I bought an e-reader for $359, 2 years ago, that came with 3G. If some authors take issue with not receiving a “cut” for that, then they should take it up with Amazon, not me. However, if some authors think I should pay again for the ability to shop in my pajamas or on my lunch hour or while traveling, that’s fine, there are plenty of other authors out there who will take my impulse money without any extra “tax.” There is also, of course, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, etc., who don’t care what I wear or where I use their service.

  11. Sarah, not Sarah
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 11:21:57

    Ugh, ‘enhanced’ ebooks. I have absolutely no interest in the bundled extras and frankly consider them to be a waste of my money (regardless of whether I pay ‘extra’ for them. There’s clearly a cost associated with their creation at some point and I’m paying for it somewhere.) I actively avoid them wherever possible. I just want my text-based story. Why is that so hard for publishers to understand?

  12. Lisa J
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 11:40:40

    Add me to the list of people who do NOT want enhanced e-books. I just want to read the book. I don’t want a file that takes up a ton of extra file space and is of no added value to me or the story. If I want an interview with the author, I can go to their website for it.

    As Cathy said, if an author doesn’t think I should pay the same price for an e-book as I would for a paper copy because of the convenience factor, then I would like the author to think of the value of donating the book, reselling it, or lending it. I know these are dirty words to publishers and authors, but realistically, people do this all the time with paper books. Why should e-books be any different.

  13. Honeywell
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 11:48:16

    Big thumbs down to enhanced ebooks here for me as well. I’m not interested–especially not for genre fiction–and I certainly wouldn’t pay more for it.

  14. Joanne
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 12:22:44

    Sadly the only people to whom this opinion page will matter is readers. Publishers will continue to chase their tails and raise their prices and get right back to the old skool thinking. New and midlist authors will continue to suffer the pricing nightmares right along with the readers.

    I wonder if Publishers ever look at what works? J. R. Ward is doing video promos everyday (free) on facebook. Penquin Publishers NAL has her new ebook priced less than the hardcover on Amazon. Slam or love her books, she, along with many authors are doing an awful lot of work to keep readers happy. Publishers, not so much.

  15. Cara
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 12:31:30

    Authors/publishers already get our readers’ “convenience-perks” – it’s called the impulse purchase.

    It’s incredibly easy to talk myself out of (or to simply forget about) buying an item/book when confronted with an unreasonable price, DRM, or simply having to wait until the next time I’m at Target or the book store. By then, I can find three other ebooks at a cheaper price (or free) that will do in a pinch.

    As for comparing e-books to CDs, let’s put it this way: I still buy CDs, because I can hear the difference in quality in mp3s. But there are very few artists whose albums I’ll pay new/full-price for anymore. I’m a regular customer at the last few used CD stores in my area, and if that won’t do, I’ll buy used online. Even still, CDs cost more (both to purchase and to create) than the standard fiction novel. So, no – the comparison doesn’t work, unless you have a series of books and you want to say one installment of that series is the equivalent of one song. Sorry, I know that’s bitchy, but as a musician and someone who worked in recording for a while, this whole argument irks me.

    I’m just annoyed that it’s the readers who are accused of entitlement. No, we’re not entitled. Because we can just as easily go spend our money elsewhere. We’re not stupid and we’re not willing to just blindly be robbed again and again for sub par products. Grr.

  16. SL Clark
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 12:44:04

    It has been an AMAZING week in publishing. Barry Eisler & Connie Brockway jump off the Legacy Publishing model, while Amanda Hocking gets on it for all the right reasons.

    Indeed, most publishers are decidedly anti-reader, like making a Kindle reader wait months, believing they’ll buy the hardback. Just ask Jodi Picoult how much email she gets on this.

    Jane, I’m the CEO of a tiny company and I couldn’t have said it better myself. The Internet has disrupted everything and it is finally reaching books – about time I’d say.
    -SL Clark, CEO Heart Press

  17. Wahoo Suze
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 12:50:37

    I could imagine some form of click-on footnoting for example; maps, glossaries of names, translation of foreign words (I would love this for the French and Latin quotes in the Lord Peter Wimsey books), the language of fans or flowers, types of swords or hand guns, etc.

    This is the first idea for enhanced content I’ve ever seen that seems in any way attractive. They wouldn’t work for me because my ereader isn’t wifi. Unless they were part of the book file, which I wouldn’t like either because it would take too much room.

    But still, that would be an actual enhancement rather than extra crap I don’t want, and certainly wouldn’t pay for.

    To paraphrase a friend, I just want to read the book.

  18. SL Clark
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 13:06:47

    Thank you Wahoo Suze,

    Anything a book *had*, like glossary, etc is EASY to do in digital as well, adding value back where it belongs, and these pieces would take up little room at the back. Smart publishers will deliver this for a low price too.

    Thanks again, you’ve got my mind whirling; videos, Heh. Just make a GREAT book, including a cover image. ;-)))
    -SL Clark

  19. Tia Nevitt
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 13:41:20

    As a debut epublished author, I’m glad to have sold a novella that is priced relatively low. Its list price is 2.99, but its lower than that in many places. I think it helps readers decide to take a chance on me if they start with something short and cheap. I have also recently added a free read to my site, and I don’t know if its a coincidence that the Amazon sales of my novella seem steadier than before I posted the free read.

    I got my first ereader last year. Recently, I finished a popular fantasy paperback. I went to buy the next book in the series for my Nook, but it was only available at the paperback price. Even though I would have preferred an ecopy, I went to the bookstore and bought the paperback. If I’m going to be paying paperback price, I want the actual paperback for all of the reasons you list here and at your previous post.

    As for enhanced ebooks, so far I have not been tempted, and mostly because my older (bought in June!) Nook probably won’t be able to play the enhanced content.

  20. Isobel Carr
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 14:35:56

    As a reader, I never took my books to used bookstores, so that part of the “value” didn’t exist for me and isn’t a loss. My friends and I don’t swap books (if I like it enough to recommend it, I like it enough to keep it!). If we like something, we buy copies for friends and give them to them (I think I bought 18 copies of Tracy Grant’s Secrets of a Lady). So I’m not losing anything by going to eBooks, and frankly, it doesn’t bother me at all to pay MM price for an eBook, since it fulfills all the same needs (for me). What I won’t do is pay MORE than the cost of paper for one. That’s a deal breaker.

  21. Ridley
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 15:06:36

    @Isobel Carr:

    I sort of agree, but I contend that $7.99 for an agency ebook isn’t actually priced the same as the $7.99 MMPB.

    If they were both $7.99 and both subject to coupons, deals and sales, then they’d be priced the same, and I’d cheerfully pay the print price for the ebook.

    Right now, however, the no discount aspect of agency pricing makes the $7.99 ebook about $2 more than the $7.99 MMPB, since I could get four paperbacks for the price of three through Amazon’s 4-for-3 deal on mass markets. The prices aren’t apples to apples.

  22. Brian
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 16:11:00

    Spot on Ridley.

  23. Jane
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 16:22:18

    @Ridley: ha. I.e., shorter version of the Sunday post

  24. Linda Taylor
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 16:24:26

    I think that a e-book with less than 100 pages, no matter who the author is shouldn’t cost more that $2.99. A novel should cost between $4.99 and $7.99. A plus novel could go to $9.99 depending on the author. If you start charging $12.00 and $15.00 for an e-book it is ridiculous no matter who the author is. More times that not, the story lines are not that great. I have read a lot of really great books but, I have also read a lot of awful books too. Reading is a luxury not a necessity. If the books are overpriced, you stop many people from purchasing. They will go to the library or do without. Than you will find book stores closing, publishing companies closing and more people out of work. Price them right and let everybody be happy!

  25. kristal1122
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 16:52:53

    I won’t pay more for enhanced content. I won’t pay more for an ebook than I would pay for the paperback because I don’t have the same rights to the book. I won’t even pay the same price because of the aforementioned rights.

    I don’t like the fact that I have to wait months for an ebook to come out AND pay the same price or higher. I wait for movies to come out on dvd but I pay $1 per day at Redbox.

    And authors that complain that I want to shop via my ebook reader in my pjs?!? That is some major WTFery! I guess they go to all movies at a theatre and NEVER rent a movie at home.

    I don’t have a disposable income. But I will spend my money on Netflix and Hulu because I get access to thousands of titles for a monthly fee. I would gladly pay a monthly fee to publishers if I had that same opportunity.

    Bad PR will eventually annihilate the publishing industry.

  26. Brindle Chase
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 18:58:01

    Well, first off. The publisher sets the price, not the author. So only self-published authors have the luxury of setting their prices. Therein lies another landmine for the reader/consumer. If you go for the lower prices, chances are its not edited, and written by an author who couldn’t get picked up by a publisher for a variety of reasons. That’s not always the case, but the Kindle store is full of amateur authors and it shows.

    However, that is beginning to change. More and more published authors are looking at self-publishing. But this is about price.

    First and foremost, I believe an ebook should never cost more than a paperback… even during that so-called “hard-back period”. Unless you’re a NYT bestseller, I think the pricing model should be something like this.

    $.99 short stories
    $1.99 novellas
    $2.99-$5.99 novel. (new authors at $2.99 and big names at $5.99. Midlisters would be inbetween)

    Brindle Chase

  27. Allyson
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 19:38:08

    I am all about added value. I am now much more likely to purchase Samhain or Kensington or St. Martin’s Press or Tor books for my kindle. I think Harlequin does a good job with pricing, but I always think twice now before buying Harlequin. (Which is bad for those authors…I have spend $10 in impulse purchases from Samhain in the past 3 days…and $0 on Harlequin since January.) Because Samhain and Kensington and St. Martin’s Press and Tor are LENDABLE. That’s added value for me…because on Lendle owning 2 lendable books means I can borrow another.

    Until I got my Kindle, I was a used bookstore/ library kind of girl. Most of my new book purchases were YA, because I’m a teacher and I like to add to my classroom library, (Added value.) With the Kindle, I started buying books for myself. What a great new opportunity I am for publisher and authors! If they can just find the impulse purchase sweet spot…which is under $5.

    My Samhain impulse purchase, by the way, really paid off. Alisha Rai is no longer an impulse purchase for me…I’ll be buying my way through everything she’s written. But it started because I came across something intriguing priced at under $3.

    Anyhow, kudos to those publishers for being lendable. You know–I only borrow books by authors unknown to me, or by authors who have disappointed me, or who were good enough to give another chance but not good enough to buy. If the publisher allows lending and I like the author–I’d rather buy it so I can borrow a book by another unknown. I can guarandamntee that if Harlequin becomes lendable, I will be buying tons of Harlequin for kindle.

  28. Brian
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 20:45:17

    @Allyson: In case you don’t know, if you buy the books directly from Samhain they are DRM free plus you can download them in multiple formats anytime, kinda nice if you don’t want to remove DRM and convert if you ever switch reading platforms. Of course you give up being able to sync and use the Kindle lending setup, and Amazon does discount Samhain stuff. Just thought I’d mention it in case it was of interest.

    To me books from pubs like Samhain and Baen who do the multi-format, DRM free thing actually have more value than DRM locked stuff (even if it can be removed).

  29. infinitieh
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 22:44:41

    Enhanced ebooks can be a good idea. Many children’s books have related websites with games, more info, and even prizes (39 Clues). I often have gotten online after reading a book to check out the author’s site and/or the book site.

    As for buying ebooks, I have to admit that after Harlequin gave me a big headache due to the DRM business (so that now I have ebooks that I can’t read), I’m less inclined to buy them. I do have many free ebooks on my Kindle though so it’s not like I don’t have anything to read.

  30. LG
    Mar 28, 2011 @ 07:56:32

    @Brindle Chase: I like those prices. I’m still debating whether I should buy a particular book written by an author who’s unknown to me. From what I’ve read of the reader reviews, I might like the book or I might not. It’s priced at $7.99. If it were priced in your novel range, I don’t think the debate would be lasting a month and counting.

  31. Jane
    Mar 28, 2011 @ 08:22:31

    Interestingly, Catherine Cookson’s estate has released nearly 100 (or over 100) titles in digital format through an exclusive distribution deal with Amazon (world, I believe). The self published titles are all under $5.99 whereas the publisher priced books are over $9.99. Link to Amazon.

  32. SarahM
    Mar 28, 2011 @ 11:21:07

    I agree with Brindle’s pricing scale – I read so much (a book a day typically) I can only afford MMPBs which means the “bargain” price of $9.99 for a new book is not a bargain for me – I will NEVER pay $10 for an e-book even if it’s my favorite author – that’s just too expensive! And I don’t generally agree with paying more for a known/fave author – sometimes I’m willing to pay a little more but I didn’t buy Megan Hart’s latest novella at Carina even though I love her books because it was $2.99 for 50 pages and that’s just too expensive to me when you consider I could pay twice that for a MMPB and get 8 times the quantity (300 – 400 pages)! I realize there might not be such a direct relationship page-wise or word count-wise between an e-book and a MMPB but at this point that’s all I have to judge things by so even if it’s just the *appearance* of inequality/expensiveness, that’s how I’m basing my e-book buying practices right now.

  33. Mel
    Mar 28, 2011 @ 13:04:53

    As a reader, I am the same as many of the readers in this article and the comments. I have to LURV the author to buy an ebook close to paperback price.
    As an author, I have to say my Samhain books, a pub who has not really had a major price change since they started, consistently outsell my other books from other publishers. It is one reason I mainly write for them now. They charge less for my books, per word count, than any of my other publishers, but I consisently sell more books and make more money overall. That is where the market is. I am appalled that many of the publishers, but electronic and NY, have not realized that yet.

  34. Diane V
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 09:10:08

    I have yet to buy an ereader despite some of the cost savings that have been offered over the past month — like the $50 off the Nook Color (so it only cost $199) that was offered several weeks ago at Amazon.

    Why? Because I refuse to spend more for an ebook than I can get a print version for — sorry, but it’s not that hard to get dressed and drive 2 miles to my nearest Borders. Plus, I don’t want to be tied to B&N or Amazon.

    I’m tired of the excuses by publishers about the additional costs involved with the ebook — really? I think you had to type the book to get the print version so it shouldn’t take that much time/effort to convert to the ebook. And based on all the errors I’m hearing on the ebook versions of books, no one at the publishing houses are spending very much time editing/reviewing the ebooks.

    Heck, I can type close to 100 words a minute so I could type a 30,000 word book in about 5 hours. So what exactly are the extra costs involved in the ebook version.

    So, instead I’ll continue to get my books for 40% to 50% off at Borders with my coupon and Borders Plus membership. And if I don’t want to get dressed, I can just order online and enjoy the same discounts plus free shipping to my house.

  35. The paradox of ebook pricing | Source Immortal
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 10:35:42

    […] pay more for print books is because of the tangibility. They can hold the book in their hands. As Jane Litte from Dear Author put it, the reader can do “anything she wants with the copy she bought. She can sell it. She can […]

  36. Linn from IA
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 13:14:01

    Like many, I’m baffled at the price model whereby a mmpb is more expensive as an ebook (because non-discounted) than a physical copy. Is this because of Agency Pricing – that amazon & bn etc are no longer allowed to discount?

    Because if I’m paying the same price or more for an ebook, then I’ll just let my book-buying dollars also cover the property taxes, staff, utilities, shipping etc. & have a physical book that’s (1) discounted, (2) better copy-edited, (3) Mine to do with as I please, and (4) pays local workers and vendors and school taxes. I like the portability of an ebook, especially for travel, but the pricing makes me think twice, even for DIKs. And yes, back to Jane’s opening remarks – the pricing makes me more timid, conservative, about what I buy. Which is a pity: you’d think the format would encourage people to try out new authors & genres, as digital music has done.

  37. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity for the April Fools (feel free to interpret that however you’d like)
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 02:03:44

    […] Dear Author has part two of their posts about the right price for books. […]

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