Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Are Attitudes About E-Book Prices Changing?

WITH THE CAVEAT that this is an unscientific poll (seriously, Internet scientific poll police: I know I know I know...)  here be the results.

February 2, 2010:

June 14, 2011:

What do you make of these results? Are perceptions of the value of e-books declining? Or is the (yes) unscientific nature of the two polls skewing the results?

And if you do buy that a year later people think e-books should cost less, what do you think is causing the shift in perception?


Alan Orloff said...

I think the shift is due to the vast quantities of ebooks being offered for .99.

BP said...

Maybe it's because ebooks are becoming more common and an inflated price is not tempting enough after the novelty wears off? Quien sabes..

Anna said...

Wow-thanks for posting the results from the two surveys. I think that the success of indie authors selling popular books for $.99-2.99, coupled with the continued rise of e-readers, is contributing to this shift.

Jennifer said...

I don't think it's the perceived value of the eBook declining, rather the market has grown and our expectations for a digital copy vs paper have been set.

There's no printing costs to pay, lending is tougher, you can't resell it, and it will not sit forever as a dogeared, highlighted, loved copy on your bookshelf. I would take a gander that more than 90% of ebooks are read and archived, never to be read again. It should cost less.

Ted Fox said...

Alan and BP, I think you both hit it. Authors making their books available at really low prices makes people expect to pay less. And the idea of an e-book isn't quite so shiny and new anymore.

Aoife.Troxel said...

I agree that it is the shear number of cheap and good ebooks out there. Why pay more for less? Also ebooks remain something that you cannot physically hold. You can hold the ebook reader, but not the book. So maybe it's not worth as much because it doesn't seem like it is as much.

bakingepiphanies said...

I've been really disappointed with the formatting of most e-books and really can't see the point of paying more than the 9.99 range - for good content. Beyond that, it simply is not the same as a physical book and I'm going to keep saying that till kingdom come. E-books are not mp3s, they never will be. I predict (desperately hope) people will go back to buying good old-fashioned physical books. Some things are suited for e-book format, like the shorter information packets bloggers and experts offer, but for fiction? Come ON people.

Suze said...

A shift in perception may be the hardest thing to map with anything approaching perfect accuracy. That said, if I had to take a guess, I'd say somewhere, something didn't live up to the hype. People are sheep, but they're smart sheep.

Dan said...

Hardcovers are priced to be on sale all the time. If the hardcover is priced $25, its wholesale price is $12, and you can probably buy it for $14-18.

$14 hardcovers were unusual two years ago. The perceived value of ALL books is eroding.

--E said...

Several factors. The obvious:

1. Cheaper alternatives (self-pubs)

2. Increased awareness of the drawbacks of ebooks (as noted by Jennifer, above)

Less obvious:

3. The folks who were willing to pay $350 for an ebook reader were probably less inclined to watching their pennies to begin with. Now that the price has come down, more people own ebook readers, but it may be a population of readers who are more resistant to higher prices in general.

Dick Margulis said...

Walmart mentality: the narcissistic and ultimately self-defeating belief that everything should be free for me to buy but I should be paid a lot to make stuff for other people to buy. Calling people smart sheep is an insult to sheep.

Eli Ashpence said...

Yes, the attitude is changing, because more people can access e-books and have first-hand experience. For example... In February, I didn't have a Kindle. I still don't, but now I have a simulator for my PC.

That's why I can now reply: Would you pay $14 for a paperback e-book? No, of course not. So why would you pay a higher price for a hardback e-book when it's identical?

E.J. Wesley said...

Just curious, I wonder how many people voted each time? I'd guess more the second time around, and I'd echo what a previous replier stated. eBook readers are much more mainstream/general public than they were even a year ago due to price drops.

You don't have to have $$$ to burn to own one now, so I'd imagine the folks buying the books generally expect the content to be less expensive.

I've often wondered if there is a kind of mental correlation between music and books. When electronic songs cost .99 and an album $7.99-$9.99 , I think an electronic book is going to be a hard sell at anything over $10.

Personally, I'd love to see all eBooks fall to between $2.99 and $9.99 with only enhanced books going above that.

Shawn Lamb said...

The shift is due to the offer by new authors of their e-books at 99 cents or free. It has conditioned readers to look for cheap books and undercut the value of any author's work.

I warned against this trend last year, but people argued with me that it is a free-market. True, but when such cutthroat pricing devalues the market it hurts everyone in the long run.

Melissa Alexander said...

As a general rule, I agree with the latest poll. I really don't like spending more than $10 on an ebook. Sometimes I will, but that is determined by how much the print book is selling for. If Amazon has the print book marked way down, I expect the ebook price to be $10 or less.

In some cases, the ebook and the print book are within a few dollars of each other -- or the ebook even costs more. Which do I buy? NEITHER. That pisses me off royally, and I pass on the book.

Draconis said...

These are all very good points! After looking at my own personal purchasing behavior on this topic, I would agree that it is the perception of a digital commodity. It isn't tangible. It is an entirely different format of purchasing the same product.

For instance... most of us enjoy a great cup of Starbucks, but for the everyday, we usually save the extra cash and buy a coffee maker for home.

Colleges are moving forward with digital textbooks, the iPads and Leapads are changing the way our children and grandchildren are reading... But at least they are reading! Understanding that we are able to sell more volume on a digital property for less as opposed to the higher priced tangible book, which should cost more because of the expense, should be a given. It is how we behave as consumers.

Nathan great post! Thank you for sharing - anxious to see what the results will be in another year. Would also be very interested in people's thoughts on the costs of unabridged audible books.

Ted Cross said...

I only buy paperbacks, which puts a limit of around $8 for what I am willing to pay for a book. An eBook would have to be considerably lower than that to entice me. I would fall in the $4.99 and lower range.

Matthew MacNish said...

Assuming the science isn't flawed, I imagine this must have something to do with the inundation of so many $0.99 and $2.99 e-books into the market.

John Chu said...

I suspect 90% of books are read and archived, never to be read again. Otherwise, if you're spending all that time re-reading your entire personal library of books, when would you ever have the time to read anything new?

That said, we have a sentimental attachment to physical books that we don't to ebooks. The latter, by definition, are not things people can cherish. We can repeat misleading arguments (e.g., representing the lack of printing cost as the lack of total costs, as if writers, editors et al. don't need to be paid for their work) as much as we want. In the final analysis though, we don't have the emotional bond to a file on our computer or inside our ereader that we do to an actual physical object. Without that emotional bond, we're not motivated to pay as much money as we otherwise might.

It's too bad, actually. At the rate we're going, there may not be in the room in the budget to create ebooks with decent layout and typography. We have our really cheap ebooks, but they suck to read. Pardon me if I'm less than thrilled.

To be fair, the more expensive ebooks can also have layout and typography problems. There, I'm wondering if there is a "gold rush" mentality. i.e., the books are old enough that the manuscripts don't exist or no longer exist in a convenient digital form. That makes the conversion to ebook tedious and time consuming to do well, but they wanted the product Right Now. Of course, some of it is also just inexperience. Would it have been fair to render final judgement on the web based on a sampling of the web pages created in the late '90s?

Mina said...

I have an e-reader and it takes a lot for me buy a book that costs more than $10.00 mostly for the fact that a lot of times the paperback version is almost always cheaper than the e-book version. If I find a book that I like, I look at the paperback price and if it's cheaper for the paperback, I log onto my library account and place the book on hold, or I go down to the local bookstore and purchase the book. One of the downfalls of an e-book is that with a lot of the books you can't share it with anyone else. I can easily buy the paperback for less and then have the opportunity to pass it along to someone who I know will enjoy the book as well.

Elizabeth Fyne said...

I guess I'm one of the few people who does re-read hard-copy books. At least, the ones I really like. I don't necessarily re-read the whole book, but I do read excerpts. I have a lot of books that naturally fall open to my favorite spots. And sometimes I will even read an entire book over again. I recently re-read The Rainbow and Women in Love in their entireties just to wallow again in DH Lawrence. I'm the person who will always want hard-copy books. Even I purchase ebooks for convenience in transportation, I will probably buy the card-copy version at home. To keep at home. I guess I'm old-fashioned.

Anonymous said...

I think the results are accurate. It's how I shop for e-books, and now most of the people I know shop for them.

I don't think this means there's a shift in perception either. I think it means more people are reading, more are getting into e-books, and more want them to be affordable. When you're sitting there late at night and you have the ability to order and spend money on almost any book you want without even leaving the house, you have to draw lines on how much you will and will not spend. I personally draw the line at 10.00 for an e-book...not matter how much I want it.

S.M.D. said...

I think the shift has a lot to do with the fact that ebooks have exploded in the last year and a lot of people are realizing that paying $14 for an ebook is kind of ridiculous. I've never been willing to pay more than $6 for an ebook, and I'm much less likely to do so if there is a mass market of that book on the shelves. I still prefer hard copies; an ebook has to give me something more for my buck if the publisher wants me to spend $6 on an ebook when a more appealing version is a buck more in stores.

I'm still apprehensive about 99c ebooks, though...

Penelope said...

I can't display an e-book in my library, nor can I sell or donate it when I'm finished with it. A digital file eliminates many material and labor costs for publishers. Digital files should cost less than paper books.

Scott said...

I think it's simply the idea that data is often free in the Information Age. We are accustomed to assigning a low dollar value to things available online, and if we pay anything substantial for downloadable data it's a $10/month subscription to content, not a one-time $15.00 for a single item.

Songs are 99 cents on iTunes, many shows, comics, and all news sources are free online. Early on with e-books there was a novelty to it and we weren't sure what to compare them to, but now I think the mindset is settling on "if I can't hold it and touch it, it should be free or really cheap".

Anonymous said...

The big publishers aren't getting it. E-publishers get it. Self-published authors get it. But the big publishers still want summer fridays off, books that take years to be released, and basically to keep things the same way they've always been.

When I see new releases and the digital versions are more expensive than the print versions, I marvel at the arrogance.

Hillsy said...

I answer your question with a question.

How indignant would you be if your local supermarket suddenly removed all its discounts & loss leaders?

There's your answer

Emily Rittel-King said...

That's inflation for ya! With more people totting Kindle's it has become more mainstream to buy ebooks, and because ebooks will never cost more than print, their price will raise with the cost of print. At least, that's my theory...

Cozy in Texas said...

I agree with Shawn and Alan. There are more e-books at 99c saturating the market and it's what owners of e-readers have come to expect. They search for low priced books. Having said that, I reduced the price of my books on Kindle to $2.99 for the month of April. Sales have continued past that date even though I raised the price in May. Lowering the price does get an author more exposure.

Claude Nougat said...

Very interesting data, thanks Nathan!

As far as I'm concerned, it certainly confirms my own ebook reading habits: I don't buy over $10. Actually, to be honest, I did it once and bought Jennifer Egan's Goon Squad at around $11 only because I live in Italy and that was the fastest way to get it on my Kindle - and I needed it quickly because I wanted to post an analysis of that book on my blog. So I guess it was an investment for my blog!

Ebook should cost less because of low production and distribution expenses. Ebook prices reflect that perception which has now become pretty universal among readers.

Not to mention the fact that when you've invested in an e-reader, you want to get your investment back: you don't want to lay out as much as you used to when you acquired books on paper (whether hardcover or paperback).

Then there's the (exploding) teen-age market: they've gotten an e-reader from their parents as a gift, they want to fill it up with reading material but their budget is limited: hence the great success - and vast quantity - of ebooks in the 99c - $2.99 range.

Hence the success of YA lit and of writers like Amanda Hocking who have exploited this aspect with paranormal romance explicitly aimed at the YA market.

I hear a lot of people say that the ebook will displace paperbacks - maybe that's where we're heading. One thing for sure: hardcovers are nice objects to have and to keep, to show off and to share. All things ebooks are not.

Cathy Yardley said...

I'm with Jennifer. I think that our expectations for a digital copy vs. paper have been set. Personally, I've always been a bit pissed at hardcover pricing, though. The profit margins are so much higher... I've often heard that mass market paperbacks cost $1.50 to produce, hardbacks $2.50. Yes, there's increased shipping costs and whatnot, but there's a really big jump. Which is why they generally reserve hardback for authors who have a big following, presumably who love them enough to pay the difference to get first crack at a new title. When you don't see any production costs like paper or ink or printing, or shipping or warehousing costs, I think the design fees, formatting costs and electronic storage/delivery costs are negligible. I figure they'll charge what people are willing to pay... I imagine they might go so far as to charge more for bigger sellers as a result. I haven't really researched, that's just a gut opinion.

Frank Zubek said...

Perhaps if the publisher would drop the price of a new release from $ 14 (or in some cases $ 16 !!??) to $ 9.99 after say, two months (giving the paper version hardcover time to make a few bucks), it wouldn't leave such a sour taste in people's mouths. I suspect they might actually make more money in the short and long term making a cheaper e-book version available a short time afterward. Especially if they make this model an industry standard. On the other hand, e-books are still climbing in popularity and maybe its time for a reboot/rethinking of the old paper formats.

Candace Rose said...

More people have realized that they can get good, quality books for $2.99 or less. Why pay $9.99 when you can pay $.99 and still end up with just as good a good read?

Lauren B. said...

I just very begrudgingly purchased "The Omnivore's Dilemma" for $12.99 even though the paperback was priced 8-something. Luckily I like the book very much, so it was worth that price, but if I didn't like it I'd feel ripped off.

I never used to buy a ton of books unless they were sure-keepers from authors I already liked. I don't have a ton of shelf space in my home so I have to be selective. Going to the library was as in/convenient as going to the book store to find new authors (unless you count the library's pitiful selection).

Now that I have my Kindle, the convenience makes me want to read much more, and more impulsively, but I find that I agonize over any purchases higher than $5.99. Even with the sample, I don't like risking paying $10 or more on a book I can't even give away if I don't like.

I'm still dying for some kind of subscription model, where I can pay a fixed monthly fee and read whatever I want. I'd probably end up paying more than I do now, and be free of the risk of buyer's remorse!

Vivien Weaver said...

In my perception, $5-$10 makes the most sense as a price point that's a compromise between marketability and fairness. I find the trend of $.99 books quite disturbing. It's not just about production costs. I am an author. I have spent months (or years, in some cases) writing and editing. Yes, I do expect to get paid for MY work. It's not just formatters and proofreaders that need to get paid. An extremely cheap book is undercutting the author's effort and work. If I self-publish and get 85 cents from each reader for writing 111,000 words, that's mind-blowingly unfair. I don't care if you're talking traditional publishing OR e-publishing. E-publishing as a lot going for it in that it can be more flexible than trad publishing BECAUSE of lower production costs. That said, bargain basement prices should not be part of it.

The Red Angel said...

Well nowadays e-books are way more common now than when they were first a novelty. It's like that for any new product. When it first comes out, it's pretty expensive; but as time goes by the price slowly drops and price expectations change.


Lauren B. said...

To expand on my point, and I think related to the pricing, is that there's still a dubious psychological sense of 'ownership' with digital media, and that puts downward pressure on pricing, too.

I also think --E's "less obvious" point is an interesting one!

Laura said...

I have to agree with a lot of the posts here. Personally, I won't pay more than $10 for an eBook. If the book is more than that, I will just purchase the paper version. Certain authors/books I prefer the paper version anyway because I already have other books in a series that are paper/hardback on my shelves. Books/authors that I consider "keepers" I will still purchase in the traditional way.

That said, I LOVE my ereader. I am a book reviewer and I love having such quick, easy access to books without having to worry about figuring out what to do with hundreds of books after I'm done reading them (supposing I don't want to keep them).

I completely agree with everything Vivien Weaver said though. Being a (yet unpublished) writer myself, I pay attention to the market and cringe at the idea of how much less authors are getting paid these days. Non-writers don't seem to understand how long it takes to write these books and how much effort is put into them. Some of these books take a year or longer to write/edit, etc. That's a lot of work on the part of the author to only get paid pennies.

And as Scott mentioned - sure, maybe they are comparable to things like songs on i-tunes, etc, in some aspects. They are most definitely just as easily pirated, that's for sure (a HUGE downside for authors). However, unlike most songs/tv shows/movies that still make revenue based on radio air-play/reruns on tv/dvd's purchased in store and on PPV, etc., books do NOT get those residual revenues. Just something to think about.

Char said...

I'm a new author and I decided after a little research that I will not lower the price of my novel. At $4.99 it is selling quite well. I don't really understand how someone could produce a full-length novel then sell it for under a dollar, and I do think its counterproductive.

Lady Lex said...

I like the idea of ebook for under $10. If I really love a book, I'll often buy it in print as well.

Mary said...

I believe the e-reader version should be less expensive as there are no printing costs involved-- usually it is just an electronic transfer. I understand books (paperback and hard cover) being more expensive, as the materials to create them have a cost. What is the cost of an electronic transfer?

I am not saying the work the author/editor/agent has put into it has a low price, but I personally have a difficult time paying paying the same amount (or sometimes more) for an electronic version as a hard copy.

Josh said...

The obvious problem with this poll is that there are a lot of people who might think $9.99 is a fair price for a new (paper $25) ebook, and their answers get lumped in with people who wouldn't pay more than $5 or $6.

Mira said...

So interesting.

I think someone said this above, but I believe most people don't buy hardcovers, they buy paperbacks. So, the price of a book is fairly entrenched in the minds of most people as between 5-10 dollars, and they will pay that for a book in any form.

I also agree with what --E said. The folks who bought e-readers at 350 may also be the folks who tend to buy hardcovers and spend more. While the folks who buy a Kindle for 100 bucks, expect to match the paperback price.

Lastly, last years figures may have been skewed alittle by wishful thinking by some taking the poll - that hardcover prices would continue. I might be wrong on this, but it's a guess.

Thanks for doing this, Nathan - really interesting. I'll be interested in next year's results, too. :)

Sasha Barin said...

Basic economics, I think.
Supply goes up, price goes down.

Lisa Lane said...

I think it's the bottom line. By now, enough people have got to know the cost difference between printing a hardcover book and uploading an electronic file. While both accrue editing, typesetting, and cover art costs, the price of publishing an e-book stops there. One reason people buy e-readers is because the books are cheaper to buy. To many, a high-priced e-book reflects a money-hungry publisher.

Wendy Bertsch said...

In February of 2010, a much larger proportion of people were, or intended to be, traditionally published. The traditional publishers tend to price ebooks high. And their authors don't necessarily disagree, because with the royalty rates they have committed themselves to, if they want to make more than a few pennies per book, the price would have to remain high.

There are many more self-published authors now. They are pocketing a much higher percent of the book's price, and they have the flexibility to price their books competitively.

SBJones said...

I think everyone is right that has commented. It is a combination of several factors. My guess is the largest contribution to the lower price for eBooks is the price of the readers have gone down and the increase in low cost eBooks.

I feel that the success of a few eBook authors have influenced this perception more than anything else. If Amanda Hocking can become a self made millionaire one 99c eBook at a time, then everyone can. And there is no economical reason for an author/publisher to make more and no reason for the consumer to be expected to pay more.

Margo Lerwill said...

To address what Vivian and Char said, there appears to be readers who avoid 99-cent novels, and certain genres seem to tolerate higher price points rather well. I believe it was fantasy author Michael Sullivan who found that lowering his book prices to $2.99 lowered his sales. His audience and target audience is comfortable with $5-7 for his ebooks.

I've seen readers comment in forums that the 99-cent price turns them off by making them think that's all the book is worth. At the same time, there are people who won't even consider an ebook that costs more than 99 cents. Can't please everyone.

I'm really comfortable with $4.99 -- provided the book is good (well-written, edited, professional cover, whether it's a traditional or self-published ebook). I'm aware that's a nice few bucks per copy in the pocket of an independent author or a small press author, but not really a good cut for a traditionally published author. I'm not sure how to reconcile that.

J. T. Shea said...

Speaking in my official capacity as a card-carrying officer of the Internet Scientific Poll Police (ISPP), let me assure you all this change was caused entirely by the lunar eclipse.

Margo Lerwill said...

To be accurate, however, many of Amanda Hocking's books were not 99-cent books. She usually priced the first book in a series at 99-cents (and her shorter works, if I recall correctly), and the rest were $2.99. So,no, she didn't get to be a million making 35-cents a copy. A LOT of those sales were $2.99 ebooks with (about) $2.09 going to her. That's more than most writers make on a paperback.

Anonymous said...

I don't think blaming 99 cent books works. A lot of writers want to be read more than they want to be rich. Or maybe they just know that they won't become rich.

I wonder what people here think of literary short fiction, which, honestly, can take as long as a novel to perfect, and then is submitted mostly to journals that will not pay a cent, and often require a reading or submission fee (3 to 20 dollars).

People create art for different reasons. Books are not like handbags.

J. T. Shea said...

Suze, Dick Margulis, BAAAAAA!!!!

Eli Ashpence, a paperback e-book? A hardcover e-book? If they're identical, where's the distinction?

Frank Zubek, I agree re windowing e-book prices. Since the format does not change (excluding enhanced e-books) I think long term windowing from a maximum of $15 to a minimum of $5 would be reasonable. Particularly since these are the ACTUAL prices paid only in the case of e-books. How many people ACTUALLY pay $25 for the '$25' harcover?

It seems both polls agree. In February 2010 74% chose a price between $5 and $15. In June 2010 it was 75%.

Margo Lerwill said...

"It seems both polls agree. In February 2010 74% chose a price between $5 and $15. In June 2010 it was 75%."

Good eye, JT, but that lowest band has surged. (Although there's little point in serious analysis of an unscientific survey. It's good for getting the direction of the wind, but not for planning careers, vacations, or locations for end-of-the-world bunkers.)

D.G. Hudson said...

The shift in what is acceptable has changed. We've seen what newbie writers with a teen following can accomplish in book distribution by offering the item FREE or nearly. That skews prices as everyone runs to lower their prices as well. We've seen authors produce their own book their way, and succeed.

The question is: how many can jump on that same bandwagon before it flips over?

We're sorting things out at this stage (authors and consumers). As a result, our perception of a fair price has changed.

It's an interesting and uncertain time for writers. No wonder we're touchy!

Bryan D said...

Perhaps you have more "readers" than "authors" following your blog these days?

Rebecca Burke said...

My thinking behind the $2.99 price tag on my self-pubbed ebook? Anything less would make it look like it is crap, and it most definitely is not. Anything more and readers would balk because they're taking a chance. They don't know me or my writing (unless they've studied from one of the textbooks I wrote and edited!).

I made this executive decision by looking into my own cheap soul.

Also, my book is mainly for YA readers, and I doubt very much if many of them have a big budget for ebooks.

I want people to read my book. I don't expect it to make money because it's not that kind of story. No zombies or wombats (and no offense to the savvy writers who are able to write stories about those kinds of characters). My novel is about a homeless Mexican girl who gets in lots of trouble, but survives. Gritty realism, hmmm...worth about $2.99 in today's market.

J. T. Shea said...

Agreed, Margo. Though interesting that the lowest band's surge is entirely at the expense of the $15 plus upper bands, which now comprise 2%, or about 15 people willing to pay more than the actual price of most hardcovers for an e-book. Despite how poor and/or cheap many writers seem to be.

Of course, that might be 1 person who voted 15 times. Maybe I should go back to yesterday's post and jimmy the results a bit myself...

Anonymous said...

Interesting results. I voted for the $15-$20 price for an ebook as being the *fair* price. It's approximately what you'll buy a $25 hardcover for, with the various discounts available.

However, it's not the price I want to pay for an ebook, because I don't value the ebook as much as a hardback. For $15-$20, *if I want the book* and having a choice between the two formats, I'll buy the hardback. It's a better product.

I see in other people's responses the same two considerations: (1) what they think is a fair price for the publisher to ask (although many respondents are denying reality when they think it costs a publisher only a fraction of what a hardback costs), and (2) what they are willing to pay.

It looks like ebooks will become the new cheap paperbacks/mass market editions.


Emy Shin said...

Maybe it's because I've been buying mostly YA, but I haven't paid more than $15.00 for a hardcover in quite a while. Thus, I believe ~$10.00 to be a good price point for e-books.

I'm still a paper-girl at heart, and cannot justify paying that much more for an e-book than I do for a paperback.

Rebecca Knight said...

Rebecca-- haha! I did the same thing as far as judging my own cheapness when pricing my book :).

I'm a $2.99-er. I think novels should be anywhere in the $2.99-$5.99 range (less than a paperback.)

I'm also a big fan of short stories for .99 cents. That's another beauty of e-books--you can get fiction of all lengths!

veela-valoom said...

I think more people have e-readers and that's changed the perspective.

When you're talking about someone else's money you might estimate higher, but when you've been buying ebooks, have seen your own habits and are talking about your pocketbook it changes perspective.

I probably answered this poll a year ago. I probably checked the higher price range (I don't recall, its been a long year). But over the past 6 months (since Santa brought me a Kindle) I've actually been buying and reading e-books. A theoretical $15 file is a lot different than an actual file.

Looking for a particular post... said...

Nathan, totally off point, sorry!

Do you have a post about what to do when you get an offer from an agent--particularly when other agents have fulls/partials and have not yet responded, and when you have open queries out there.


Nathan Bransford said...


This post

Tammy said...

I said I would never buy an e-reader, but Unbridled Books had a sale on 25 of their works for 25 cents each-in the e-format. It was a bargain I couldn't pass up. Unfortunately, I couldn't take sitting in front of my desktop to read them. I broke down and bought an e-reader to read my 25 books and give it a 30 day trial. It took a 25 cent price tag to get me, but I can't swear that I'll keep reading this way. I'm posting my 30 day trial on my blog at if anyone wants to follow.

J. Anne said...

I think the hype over e-book pricing was overstated to begin with. If I like an author I will pay what they ask (for the most part). Now, I do hate paying more for an e-book than I would for a paperback or a hard-copy. If the publishing industry insists on continuing this pricing model then I could imagine a huge backlash.

Sierra McConnell said...

Mainly, it's two things:

The economic downturn, and the quantity of low priced eBooks availble to the public.

However, if you scan Target and Wal-Mart, you see there are BOOKS there. Lots of books. Cheap books. When there weren't a lot of good, low priced books before.

And that gives booksellers something to ponder.

More people are reading because television viewership is actually in decline I think, with the advent of internet availability (I can watch when I want, why pay for it?).

Natalie said...

I can't imagine paying more than $4-$5 for an e-book, regardless of the author. I love my e-book reader and now e-read content from my library as well as purchase books. But it's not a real object; I know it costs the pub house virtually nothing to produce it (as opposed to the physical book). It feels like rip off to pay $10+ for an e-book. Yes, I think e-books priced at .99 cent to $2.99 have affected our expectations about what an e-book should cost but I don't think that's the whole story. Even though I enjoy my e-reader, if the cost of a physical book and e-book were the same, I'd buy the physical book.

Neil Larkins said...

Very provacative stuff, Nathan. Thanks.
Incidentally, anyone know what happened to Rachelle Gardner's blog today? She said there were going to be changes but I'm not sure she meant this. Then again, maybe she just disabled it for now.

Patrick Neylan said...

Possibly people are starting to realise that you don't own an e-book. The seller can take it back any time.

Also, people are becoming familiar with the diluted quality. When there is so much cheap rubbish out there, the value of the medium is degraded.

Jenny Maloney said...

Actually, before the last poll was done in February, didn't you have a series of posts about the actual costs of ebook production/price distribution before the poll? That would've made a big difference in the earlier poll.

There's also the trick of how unscientifically us readers were reading. Whenever an ebook comes out with the hardcover, like your question refers to, I don't think it's fair to undercut the price of the hardcover quite so much. If the question was about ebook vs. paperbook, I would've voted differently. (I voted the 10-14.99 slot but against the paperback release I would've gone lower.)

Lori said...

I agree with bakinepiphanies, I prefer the old fashion REAL books. I love my home library and enjoy watching my family and friends use them. Technology is great for some things, but for me not fiction books.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could reduce the price of my ebook from my big-six publisher's nine-ninety-nine model.

Debut authors should have this option, says me.

JDuncan said...

It's all about public perception.

1. Digital content has become, in general, cheap and/or free. Why should books be any different?
2. With the ability to instantly gratify the desire for more books, voracious readers want to be able to buy more, and look for cheaper options.
3. Self-publishing's ability to make money off of inexpensive ebooks is skewing the perceived value.
4. The general reading public does not get that making a physical book is not a sizeable chunk of the cost of creation. They want something at 50% off for an item that is created for about 15% less than the physical form.
5. The public is not seeing a significant enough difference in curated material to justify the price differential. If I can get a good story for 1.99, and there are plenty of them, why invest in something for 9.99? It's just not worth it.

Anonymous said...

I think people are beginning to realize that (a) it really is cheaper for the publisher to publish online and (b) readers now realize that major publishers of e-books for the most part simply 'scan and dump' their e-books with little post scan clean up and correction.

Mieke Zamora-Mackay said...

I think in February last year, there weren't as many e-books available at the prices they are now.

Also, with the price of e-book readers coming down so drastically, there are more users who are finding price values they've never seen before in reading material. Kindle versions of classics are almost all free now. Independent e-book authors are pricing their works so low.

The readers now have grown accustomed to these low prices.

The forces of economics are at work. Amazing, isn't it?

Sari Webb said...

As a reader I would only spend in the $5.99 range for e-books. I understand that this is unlikely to be cost effective for publishers but that's why I will continue to buy p-books. I value the book as a physical item, and you don't get anywhere near the same value from an e-book (in my opinion) so I'm not willing to pay anywhere near as much.

When I finish an e-book it goes into a file somewhere and forgotten about. When I finish a p-book it goes on the bookshelf and maybe read again, or lent to friends over and over. It gets cherished.

LupLun said...

"Are perceptions of the value of e-books declining?"

*shake shake shake*

Reply hazy. Try again later.

"Or is the (yes) unscientific nature of the two polls skewing the results?"

*shake shake shake*

Signs point to yes.

"And if you do buy that a year later people think e-books should cost less, what do you think is causing the shift in perception?"

*shake shake shake*

If you don't stop shaking me, there'll be trouble.

O_O;;; Errr... *sets it gently aside*

In all seriousness, I think the main issue is that a) e-publishing has exploded between then and now, and b) too many e-published books are written by less-skilled authors who badly need better editing, better proofreading, more experience, or are just plain not very good. So, increased supply plus a perceived decline in quality equals devalued products.

There's also the factor that there's a kind of race to the bottom going on, with authors trying their best to outsell each other with low prices. I doubt that's good for anyone, long-term.

Lisa said...

I didn't see a shift.

But then, it required quite a bit of calculating to spot the trend. Didn't it?

Well, I couldn't manage it, anyway.

I'd pay more for e-books if they didn't all look the same.

Mary said...

The production cost is obviously a minor thing in what it costs to publish a book, so you can't put too much value on this (although, obviously lots of people don't know this, as seen from some of the comments.)

I don't think it's strange that new e-books cost more. It's like DVDs or Blu Ray movies. You pay more if you want to buy them when new, then you can get them at half the price a year or so later.

I see books the same way. When the hardcover is out, you pay more. Then usually a year or so will pass before the paperback is published, at which point you can get the story for less.

It seems reasonable that e-book pricing follows the same trend: more expensive when only the hardcover is out, then cheaper once the paperback is published.

Bear in mind that many genres hardly even do a hardcover print run anymore, so the e-book price would start at that level.


TheSFReader said...

Actually, a big part of the cost of an ebook is not the physical one (although it's related), but compensations to the publisher for his taking BIG financial risks when printing the books.
(Yes, printing thousands of paper books than may not sell is a risk that has to be compensated).
However, for EBooks, the publisher doesn't take that risk anymore.
How can he expect to gain the same for less "work" ?

Anonymous said...

Nathan, thanks for the link to Ginger's post! It is EXACTLY what I was looking for.

Suzanne Grenager said...

Nathan, maybe it's partly that you have more followers who aren't authors now than last time. Readers want to pay less, authors want to make more.

Jesse said...

Sorry, folks, but--speaking as a person who buys mostly ebooks now--it has absolutely nothing to do with books that are $.99 - 2.99. It has everything to do with the price of ebooks in general.

And as has been said here in far more eloquent terms than mine, paying more than $9 - 10 for an ebook is just outrageous. This idea of charging the dear earth for a hardcover or paperback is stupid. And now to overcharge for ebooks? NO!

And knowing what I know--as an author, now--in terms of what kind of overhead there are for ebooks, charging more than $10 is ludicrous.

That's the changing attitude. It's not about the self-pubs, it's about the economy. It's about the precious few dollars I have to spend on such things and wanting more for my money.

Hell, even other authors see that. What's wrong with the publishing companies that THEY refuse to get on board with this. You sell more books at a better price and make more money than you do jacking the cost up to something idiotic.

Marcia Richards said...

As a writer I know what it takes to write a book and an author deserves to make money of his book. That being said, I had voted for the $5-$9.99 range because a self-pub book in that range earns more for the author than at a higher price. Also, when you get used to purchasing great books at .99-2.99 why would you want to pay more. Attitudes will always change as the public has time to digest the new technology or new ideas.

Sarah L. Blair said...

I love my ereader and the convenience of getting a book in seconds. I don't have any problem paying any price for an eBook as long as it is priced the same as its physical book form.
What will make me NOT purchase an eBook is when I see on Amazon that I can order the paperback version for less. Usually I end up not purchasing the book at all.

Top quality for nothing? said...

Jennifer said something about 90% of ebooks will be read once and never be read again. They are reading content and I don't see what the number of times content is read has to do with whether it's in ebook form of paper. So, I don't get the point she tried to make with that comment.

To me, a lot of these comments sound like they are grasping at straws.

When I buy a book, I am buying the CONTENT. The way in which that content is dispayed is of no consequence to me. Somebody here said they only buy $8 paperbacks from some book stores. M'kay, I don't know of many paperbacks sold for $8 so where are they shopping? Coscos? Walmart? I buy mine from Barnes & Nobles and when I go there I know most books (PB-HB) cost between $10 and $35 (tax included). I don't go there snooping around for $8 books. LOL

Personally, I buy based on content. If I'm going to buy Stephen King, I'm buying based on his content, which I know is high level. So I just don't expect any of his work to cost under $9.99 unless it's something old like maybe Gerald's Game or something like that. I'm talking about EBOOKS here now. I guess something like Carrie would be around $8 in ebook format, but if it's $10, fine. If it's $12, fine. The content itself hasn't diminished just because it's in ebook form-the content is still top level.

As for the RE-SELLING BOOKS argument, nice try. You'll only get maybe 20 cents per paperback if you're lucky. For hardcovers, maybe 50 cents if you're lucky. I'm generalizing there, but stop making it sound like you can really re-sell these books and actually make any money in doing so. Also, you're "technically" not supposed to re-sell them because the author and publisher don't make any royalties from that sale, and people here know that.

In closing, I've noticed that whenever the 99 cent ebook topic is touched upon it draws out the nickle and dime crowd who count pennies in one hand & expect to get some quality entertainment for that. I write ebooks and I'm not interested in this crowd. When I write high quality material, I price it accordingly. It makes me laugh when I hear this crowd complain (not on my work but on 99 cent works) about the typos and poor spelling, ect. They expect to get $25 quality with their 99 cents and $2. LOL

No, the quality will match the price point. On a whim, I bought a loaf of bread the other day for $.79 and tasted it. It was stale. Oh well, what did I expect for that price : Rich French bread? Ha ha. And for those who want to argue that the author should put their best work up, even at $.99, I say, get real and dream on. You want top quality work for nothing. Keep dreaming.

Anonymous said...

Rebecca Burke said...
... Anything more (than $2.99) and readers would balk because they're taking a chance. They don't know me or my writing...

We take a chance every time we walk into a bookstore. We don't know all those authors. Are you kidding? Unless it's Stephen King, Rowling, Brown, Anne Rice, or the like, the author is UNKNOWN, and people are taking a chance. Please don't let people convince you otherwise.

Also, my book is mainly for YA readers, and I doubt very much if many of them have a big budget for ebooks.

Rebecca, these poor YA readers had $40 for Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. They have money for things they want. Don't believe otherwise. I myself spent $11 for Twilight, $9 for Eclipse, and an additional $18 for two vampire books by different authors. Twilight was the only 1 I managed to finished. The rest were unreadable for me. But see? Those books were bestselling because YA fans do have money.

I want people to read my book. I don't expect it to make money because it's not that kind of story. No zombies or wombats (and no offense to the savvy writers who are able to write stories about those kinds of characters).

Rebecca, why put down paranormal writers? Your suggesting you work should cost less because it's in a different genre??? Also, saying you don't expect to make money makes no sense. Why not post your work up on Facebook for free, or on a blog for free is just being read is your main goal? Just a question.

My novel is about a homeless Mexican girl who gets in lots of trouble, but survives. Gritty realism, hmmm...worth about $2.99 in today's market.

Rebecca, no offense, but it just sounds like you have low self esteem as a writer. Sounds like YOU don't think your story is worth more than that. $2 is NOTHING. Hamburgers cost $10 nowadays. A gallon of gas is nearly $4. Starbucks is $5 and some change. $2 is NOT a premium price for anything at all. It's less than dirt cheap.

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