E-Book Pricing and Publication Debate Erupts

by | Jul 16, 2009 | E-books | 137 comments

We have ourselves an e-book debate going on.

The whole to-do was started by a Wall Street Journal article about independent publisher Sourcebooks’ decision to delay the e-book publication of Kaleb Nation’s BRAN HAMBRIC until at least six months after the initial print publication.

Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah stated, “Hardcover books have an audience and we shouldn’t cannibalize it” and also expressed concern about $9.95 e-books. Kaleb Nation’s agent Richard Curtis concurred.

Trident agent Robert Gottlieb was also quoted thusly regarding simultaneous print and e-book publication: “It’s no different than releasing a DVD on the same day that a new movie is released in the movie theaters. Why would you do that?”

The action then moved to the NY Times, where a whole slew of high profile publishing people and authors were quoted as saying essentially, “Thinking about this…… Um, can I get back to you?”

Except for Dominique Raccah, who said, “If you as a consumer can look at a book and say: ‘I have two products; one is $27.95, and the other is $9.95. Which should I buy? That’s not a difficult decision.”

Into the fray jumped Booksquare blogger Kassia Krozser who, after loading her Kindle for a flight, challenged the opinions of Sourcebooks, Curtis, Gottlieb, and the other publishing folk who are skeptical of simultaneous print and e-book publication.

The choice e-book consumers make, she opines, isn’t whether to buy a title in hardcover for $27.95 or as an e-book for $9.99. The choice for e-book users is one $9.99 e-book or no book (or, possibly, a different book).

She writes: “Think about it: all your marketing efforts are getting customers to the point of sale…and then you lose them. These readers are not saying, ‘Well, that format isn’t available so I’ll just buy this one.’

Nope, they’re saying, ‘That format isn’t available so I won’t buy this book at all.'”

Sourcebooks CEO Raccah contacted Krozser, who published Raccah’s guest post. Raccah notes that publishers do not have a great deal of control over e-book pricing, and thus, in her opinion the only leverage at their disposal is when and whether to publish an e-book. She also shares Gottlieb’s opinion that an e-book publication is akin to a DVD edition of a first run movie. Ultimately, she believes the decision about when and whether to make an e-book available should be made on a book by book basis.

Lastly but not leastly, reader Scott Spern pointed me to an article by Slate writer Jack Shafer who cautions the industry about the perils of resisting our coming $9.99 e-book overlords.

Why? The pirates, of course.

Shafer writes, “While publishers, authors, and agents are well within their rights to attempt to maximize profits by forcing e-book prices up, their efforts may backfire. Put off by higher prices, readers who have grown accustomed to $9.99 Kindle editions may choose to flout copyright law and turn to the lush ‘pirate’ markets for books on the Internet.”

So. After all of this, where do I stand?

A step to the center of Krozser and Shafer, but firmly on the ground of simultaneous publication and the land of $9.99 for most titles.

As many of you know, I’m an e-book fanatic and my opinion is partly borne out of my experience reading for pleasure on the Kindle. As a result, I agree with Kassia that 95% of the time my choice isn’t whether I’m going to buy a book on a Kindle or in print. My decision is which book I’m going to buy on the Kindle. (Also I’ve just given bookstore owners everywhere heart attacks.)

That said, for every book there is a percentage of the audience that is so in love with the author or series that they’re going to buy the book no matter what, whether it’s available electronically or in hardcover, and they’re willing to pay whatever it takes to buy it. If Ian McEwan’s next book isn’t available on the Kindle you can bet I’m going to buy it anyway (from a bookstore! Owners, you can breathe again!). And of course, I’d imagine Stephenie Meyer’s legion of fans would still buy the next TWILIGHT installment if it were printed on poisonous razor blades.

So therefore, for some titles with an extremely rabid fan base, it seems like e-books could potentially cut into hardcover sales if there’s a particularly high percentage of fans who are dying to read a title immediately. That’s not necessarily a hard and fast reason to deny these fans the ability to read via their preferred method, nor is it stopping a publisher from trying to derive the same revenue per e-book copy as they receive for hardcover regardless of what Amazon decides to charge. But I also agree with Dominique Raccah that these e-book publication decisions should probably be made on a case by case basis.

Ultimately I’m a bit skeptical that there is a great deal of cannibalization going on when e-books and hardcovers are out simultaneously. Like many people, I have a “books I want to read” list about 10,000 pages long. If something is not available in my preferred format it’s really easy to just move one notch down the list rather than going and buying it in print.


  1. Anita

    My family only hits the theatre for very special films. Otherwise, we wait for the DVD. The same will happen when we purchase our Kindle this winter, I'm sure…unless it's a very special book, we'll wait for $9.99 and under pricing.

  2. Margaret Yang

    Nathan said: "If something is not available in my preferred format it's really easy to just move one notch down the list rather than going and buying it in print."

    Or…you could play a game, or watch television or surf the net or do a hundred other things.

    It's hard enough to get readers to read at all, why make it doubly hard for a potential reader to choose your book?

  3. Joel Q

    I totally agree with Anita.
    We have pay for view, and DVDs. So our trips to the theatre slim.
    We also get most of our books from the library, so paying for hardcover usually doesn't happen.

    People will pay for the books depending on how they want to read them. As people move to Kindles, that's where the market will be.

  4. Alice Luther

    There is merit to both sides of the argument, though I would venture to ask, is not there a lot of pleasure found in anticipation?

    Maybe I'm old school, but sometimes the best part of a fabulous new read (especially one I've been waiting for an author to finish), is that I must also wait for it to be published.

    Even if both electronic and print versions were available simultaneously, I personally would read the print version.

    My messily two cents.

  5. Melissa

    Publishers are complaining about the cost of ebooks because they fear they're going to lose money. If there is rampant pirating, that would be possible, but seriously, people, we've been able to get "free" books from the library or by borrowing them from our friends for years!

    ebooks that are also being released in print cost nothing to produce, nothing to store, nothing to ship, and most publishers are paying the writers a piddly royalty percentage. Everything else is PURE PROFIT — something that can't be said for print books.

    Once the publishers really realize that, they'll race to get those books out. They'd be idiots not to.

    Oh, wait….

  6. Bane of Anubis

    Heck, you could reduce the cost of e-books further by incorporating advertising – I'm sure google's already lining up something.

    Print will become a niche market, which will probably drive prices up higher as manufacturing methods trend digital. Releasing e-books 6 mos after the fact might slow the process, but not for too long (and the analogy to DVDs is specious — if we all had theater-size screens at home, cinema']s would be heading the way of the dodo, too)

  7. Eric

    Wholeheartedly agree, Nathan. Cannibalization of hardcover sales isn't a threat–at least, not yet. E-book sales constitute a surprisingly low (though growing) percentage of our overall sales.

    You wouldn't know it, though, based on the general rancor you hear in the office whenever e-book pricing is brought up.

  8. Mike Harris-Stone

    DVD vs Theatres don't equal Ebooks vs print books.

    Seeing a film in a theatre with an audience is a different experience — with the big screen, excellent sound, tan seeing it alone at home. I don't have a digital reader, but suspect that reading a book is reading a book.

    Also, the comparison between ebooks and print books should be based not on consumer price, but the profit per unit against fixed cost. And with an ebook there are NO RETURNS.

    So are publishers really winning with this strategy? I doubt it. If publishers cannot figure out how to make money from these new distribution channels, if they cling to old ways while the world around them changes, they will soon face the same issues the music industry is facing and we will all be poorer.

  9. Anonymous

    A question from the curious, if you have time:
    Where does the author stand financially in the print book vs. ebook? Also, are these sales BookScan takes into consideration?
    Thanks for your time (today and every day).

  10. james

    Two different formats with, imo, nearly no overlap. So why not simultaneously release e-books with hardcover? I'd like to hear from the sales divisions instead of the editors. I think they'd have a more intelligent take on this debate.

  11. Nathan Bransford


    What the author receives varies greatly, but it's almost uniformly too little at the moment. Publishers aren't generally offering authors good deals on e-books.

    I'm not sure off the top of my head if Kindle sales are tracked via Bookscan, but I bet Eric knows.

  12. David

    Surely (surely!) e-books in a variety of formats will eventually be the default. If/when that day comes, then the e-book will be the first edition, and print editions may follow for the most successful titles, aimed at collectors and other weirdos.

    I think all this current brouhaha is because we're entering the transition stage, and the industry hasn't figured out how to transition.

  13. Laura Martone

    Mike H-S:

    I DO have an e-reader, and I still love reading books in multiple formats – hard-copy, e-version, and audio (not to bring up that debate again!). So, I would very much prefer that e-versions be released on the same day as the hardcover versions – I'd be more likely to buy the book right then, and not just wait to borrow my friend's copy. As long as writers are getting a decent royalty percentage for e-books, I'm all for releasing them on the same day – and not waiting six freakin' months! Wake up, publishing industry!

    I agree that the theater/DVD comparison doesn't work here. My hubby and I happen to have a kick-butt home theater set-up (that's for you, Bane) – with an enormous screen hanging from our ceiling and surround-sound speakers strategically placed around the room – so we LOVE watching films at home, but that doesn't stop us from going to the movies. Of course, if the 6th HARRY POTTER had been released to theaters as well as on DVD yesterday, I might have opted for the DVD experience instead. But that's only because there were two girls next to us who literally would not SHUT UP the entire time. Not to get off-topic here, but what's wrong with movie-goers today? Why pay admission prices if you're simply going to talk during the entire movie, miss important dialogue (especially from quiet talkers like Snape), and annoy everyone around you?! Sheesh.

  14. Ink

    I did have a few palpitations there, Nathan. Be easy on us store-owning folk. Luckily, though, my store is failing anyway, so I won't worry too much. Viva la Recession.

    Idea: What about pricing the e-book the same as the hardcover… but only for the six months (or four months, or whatever). Then it could drop to $9.99 or whathaveyou. Publishers preserve their price points, e-reading folk get their book when they want – unless they want to wait for the cheaper version. Reader's choice. And then we can all have a happy sing-along! Kumbaya… (who's with me? We could do The Lion Sleeps tonight… always a good sing-along song).

  15. Jonathan Lyons

    I must say I disagree with you Nathan in regard to the pricing of ebooks.

    First, Krozner and other pundit's comments that the reading public have decided that $9.99 is the right price is simply inaccurate. The "reading public" doesn't even buy ebooks at the moment, much less comment on the pricing for them. Ebook readers who think $9.99 is a right price represent a tiny but boisterous segment of the reading public.

    Second, Amazon sets the price, not publishers, and as they've admitted already they're taking a loss on each $9.99 sale. As many of my colleagues have pointed out, the only reason they're doing this is to get market share and dictate terms to publishers and eventually readers later.

    Third, while the marginal costs of digital books are decreasing, at least right now the price to produce that first copy is still the same, and it really does cost money to first build and then maintain a successful electronic sales division. I'm not saying in the long run that ebooks won't be much cheaper for publishers, especially considering that lack of returns, but it's just silly to think that it doesn't cost anything, and right now publishers are telling me that half of $9.99 won't be enough to cover things.

    I definitely think that publishers need to get their acts together. The print publishing model is a disaster and simply won't apply to electronic sales, and things move far too quickly in the tech world for the traditionally conservative and slow publisher decision making process. Strict DRM is a disaster too – turning off readers, encouraging piracy, and providing much of the fuel for arguments for the $9.99 lower price. There still has yet to be an iPod-like game changing device and eventually multimedia qualities will be necessary for some types of works (which will be a huge contractual headache to deal with).

    $9.99 may end up being the right price in the long run, but I don't think it's healthy to allow a small group of rabid ereaders and the 1200 pound gorilla in the room to make the decisions here, especially with so much still to be figured out. I'm not saying their opinions don't matter, but I think its important to keep the price open to debate so that the imagined eventual ebook market dictates the price.

  16. Weronika

    Huh, that's interesting. I do agree with you, though, Nathan: I only buy classics and bestsellers from the bookstore these days and then wait for the book to come online. My decision is whether or not I should get it at all.

    Thanks for the post!

  17. Tomas

    The DVD – Kindle analogy would have made sense a few years ago, before those sales started to collapse. People are no longer buying DVDS in the volume prior to 2005-6 (and which propped up the film business.) Now, Blu-Ray's come in but, in terms of the book business, what would be the equivalent? A better Kindle?

    Personally, I think you've described the sweet spot ie., a large fan base is, to borrow that oft used phrase, 'platform agnostic,' some people will only buy Kindle, some people will buy books.

    I wonder, too, if demographics (& eyesight) play into this. I don't care for screen reading and, though this may make me an old skool Luddite, will always read books in a paper format. Just like the experience …

    This was on my mind, esp. a couple days ago, when I read the NYTimes piece, I would have said, 'Absolutely not' to a Kindle / paper same day release … then, I finished the Times piece and clued into the fact that some people will only buy books on Kindle (and some people won't; I fall into the latter category.)

    My question about Kindle/downloadable files has always been – beyond the 'security' features (which can always be breeched) – how does one / a writer / agent deal with the reality that a digital copy, no matter how well protected, can spawn infinite copies? Although immediately used copies of just released books on Amazon fit into a version of this paradigm, there are physical extingencies that forestall infinite.

  18. Scott

    So going with this theory . . .

    Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich ~ hardcover release on 06/23/2009 for say $27.95 (just to stay in the spirit of things). No e-book release on that date. 2 – 3 weeks later the book becomes available for Kindle for $9.99.

    Now, since I have a Kindle, I prefer the whole e-book thing. Had the book been available for Kindle on 06/23/2009, I would have paid the $9.99 that day. Since it wasn't, and since I knew a friend was buying the book, I just waited for her to finish and loan me the book. So, whoever, lost out on $9.99 by having the e-book available the same day as the hardcover. I'm just saying . . .

  19. Nathan Bransford

    Thanks for weighing in, Jonathan. What I'd respond is:

    1) Yes, Amazon is losing money on $9.99 e-books, but they are making it back by selling Kindles. Whether that's sustainable is a matter of speculation, but provided publishers hold the line on their discounts and downloadable list prices (we'll see) there doesn't have to be a problem with ensuring a fair return to publishers and authors.

    2) If publishers can make a $7.99 mass market paperback economically viable I don't see why they can't make a $9.99 e-book edition economically viable. Obviously that ignores that publishers currently make a great deal of their money on hardback runs that may not be profitable in the future, but the fact remains: there's a thriving market for $7.99 original paperbacks that have to be printed, bound, shipped, etc. Surely $9.99 can work.

    I guess I just see $9.99 as the fact on the ground. It's here to stay in the near term whether publishers or authors want it or not. Whether it is or isn't the eventual standard e-book price of the future will be determined by how the varying economic winds blow.

  20. Marilyn Peake

    Agree 100% with your opinions on these issues, Nathan. Actually have nothing else to add. 🙂

  21. Mike Harris-Stone

    The discussion on Kassia Kroser's blog is enlightening. It seems publishers have at least 2 good points here:

    1) To be viable, they need to recoup the high fixed costs involved in publishing a book: the advance, editing, etc. At the $9.99 price point this isn't possible unless there are increased sales. Given the "long tail" effect. It's very possible ebooks won't increase sales. This could put publishers in a real bind.

    2) Publishing has "always" released higher price hard backs and then later, for some titles, lower priced paper backs. Why can't this apply to ebooks?

    If people continue to prefer print over ebooks, I think point #2 holds. But if ebooks become dominant, as other digital media forms have, then #2 falls apart.

    If you ask me, the answer to #1 is simple: lower or eliminate the fixed costs. Change the model.

    Perhaps publishers of the future will not even do editing, etc. but merely acquire the best writer/agent produced material and market and distribute it. Forget advances and focus on royalties. When most of the cost is variable, per unit cost, then this might work.

  22. Tomas

    @ Melissa, I maybe wrong, but I recall reading that the costs of E-books are not, in fact, "pure profit" (as you describe.)

    An edited and presented book still requires the editorial staff, publicity/marketing and, from what I remember, there are technical formatting adjustments requirements which differentiate a paper/bound manuscript from an e-version.

    Also, a publishing executive spoke to the fact that publishing books for $9.99 is not a sustainable business model. And, that $24.99 is a market appropriate retail price.

    Correct? Incorrect? Semi-correct?

  23. PurpleClover

    You can now download movies from the various websites and store them on a media player. The purchase price remains similar but sometimes less than what it is to rent. I'm just thinking as much as I love paper books and used to love DVD's, I see myself leaning toward the digital uploads just like I did with DVD's. Granted I don't have the money for the media player or the Kindle yet. But you can better believe I'll be getting them eventually.

    I think books are going to go through the same progression as movies did from film to vhs to dvd to blueray and now digital upload devices (I can't remember which form that is right now). It won't be long before we make the transition. Just a few months ago I chirped that some books needed to be paper and bound (I still love having a library of books), but I think we need to move toward digital. It's healthier for the environment (recycled paper or not!) and availability will be better.

    I would think even if its half the price to buy online, maybe you'll get twice as many willing to purchase if its a low price. So you still get your sales.

  24. PurpleClover

    And by "transition" I meant where majority make the changeover. Not that we aren't doing it now.

  25. Julie

    This isn't really too different than what the music industry went through several years ago when people stopped buying cd's and started down loading from the internet to put on MP3 players.

    I still think there will always be a place for books in hard cover even if they are sold on the internet right after release.

    I have read on another agents website that the average person reads 25% slower on the computer than on paper, which might not matter to most but could be a plus for those bookstore owners.

    And like you said Nathan, there are some books die hard fans must have. Twilight and Harry Potter are my guilty pleasures and I keep buying more copies of these books (even through I've read and re-read all of them).

    I can't resist a new cover or buying the paperback when it comes out a couple years after hardback release.

    I'm anxiously awaiting the release of New Moon with the movie cover. How pathetic is that! It's so embarrassing I'm debating submitting this as anonymous.

  26. Anonymous

    The $9.99 Kindle book is a rip-off for even those who prefer that format.

    Just exactly what is the expense involved in "shipping" a Kindle book? ZERO! Come on. The ebooks shouldn't be over $5.99 for a brand, spanking new big author book.

    Kindle users: Look for the good prices. There are tons of Kindle books available for $1.99 and less. Boycott $9.99 big publisher pure profits and go with the little Indy publishers. Way better value for your buck.

    I will stay Anon since I have a couple of $1.99 Kindle books out and don't want anybody to see this as spamming for my own product.

  27. Nathan Bransford


    The marginal cost of shipping a Kindle book is close to zero, as in it doesn't cost much more money after the first copy is shipped. That doesn't mean a book costs $0.00 to produce. There is an author to pay, editorial staff to pay, copyediting, marketing, rent, etc., all of whom create a professional, quality book. I wouldn't be so quick to sniff at a $9.99 price point.

    There are definitely books available as loss leaders or as exclusive content for $2.00, and by all means, buy them if you want to. But I wouldn't just therefore assume that's a sustainable business model for the vast majority of books.

  28. Julie

    I know someone who was made an offer by a publishing company to purchase her PHD work in an "On Demand" method. I never heard of this before she mentioned it to me. I guess people order your book online and then the company prints it and sends it to them.

    I guess that's not really an ebook but I was shocked to hear this even existed.

  29. David

    Julie, no, that's not an e-book. It's a printed book. It's just a different printing technology.

    Print on Demand, POD, has been around for quite a few years now and once seemed to be the Next Great Thing in (printed) publishing.

  30. Elise M Stone

    "Heck, you could reduce the cost of e-books further by incorporating advertising – I'm sure google's already lining up something."

    Please, no! I've been afraid this would happen ever since Amazon announced the Kindle.

    I hardly watch television anymore because of the ads during the programs. It started innocuously enough with a discreet network id in the corner, but now all kinds of animations pop up, sometimes covering half the screen.

    This is another reason to not buy an overpriced Kindle, as attractive as the idea of an e-reader is. I can wait for the paperback or take the book out of the library.

  31. mike_mullin

    The argument for a simultaneous release in a cheaper format could just as easily be made for paperbacks. Since publishers have mostly found it more profitable to delay paperback editions, it's hard to see why the e-book format would follow a different logic.

  32. hannah

    What about paperbacks, which are much more closely priced to ebooks? My book is coming out in a $8.99 paperback (no hardcover) with an ebook at the same time.

  33. PurpleClover

    This is just a guess, but is it possible the really cheap books ($1.99) are only that cheap because they've met their cost and now are only pulling in royalties/profit? So the books that are more expensive are trying to meet cost and (and some profit too)? Maybe they'll be cheaper once costs are met AND sales begin to decline.

    Just a guess.

  34. Anonymous

    Do e-books have color covers and cover art too?

    Do children's e-books have illustrations too?

    Just curious.

  35. Nathan Bransford


    The idea behind a hardcover-then-paperback release is that some people will be motivated to buy it in a more expensive format because they don't want to wait, and then another audience will by when it's cheaper.

    I think the difference with e-books is that there are many more people who read e-books exclusively and thus aren't as readily motivated to buy a more expensive version if it's not available as an e-book. It's either a sale or a lost sale.

    It may be that there needs to be a multi-tiered approach to e-book pricing that responds to demand, which is something that former Random House CEO Peter Olson has written about. But I don't think hardcover to paperback is analogous to hardcover to e-book.

  36. Anonymous

    I never thought I would feel this way, but after reading Nathan's comments since he bought his Kindle and today's comments, I am in total agreement with him.
    Get things to whatever format people want.

    There are songs I buy on i-tunes and ones I WANT the album and album art for and I use both formats. But over the last four years, I have bought 800+ songs on i-tunes and only about a dozen CDs –all impulse purchases (and not even the albums I was especially wanting in album format).

  37. Julie

    I guess it could be fair to say ebooks should be available when paperbacks are available since pricing is similar?

    I personally will always read hardcover/paperback at least some of the time. Isn't that enough?

  38. Anonymous

    I agree that paperbacks should be available at the same time as hardcovers too.

    (does anyone know how the word verification codes get chosen? Do they respond to the conversation on the blog? they are often so uncanny!)

  39. FictionGroupie

    I have my first Kindle being shipped to me now, so I have not experienced the ebook thing yet. However, I think with hardcovers vs. ebook, I will probably use the same logic I use for hardcover vs. waiting for paperback. The only time I'm ever going to pay the premium hardcover price is when a series book that I'm obsessed with comes out (i.e. Charlaine Harris' Sookie books). Otherwise, even if it's an author I love, I'm waiting for the paperback because there are too many other books I could read in the meantime. Twenty-five dollars for a book in this economy is tough.

  40. Karla Doyle

    I buy e-books and paperbacks at the same time, as there are times I prefer paper in my hands and others where the e-reader is more convenient (not to mention more private.) When I make the decision to purchase a book I have already decided 'how' I want to read it, price doesn't come into play. Lower or bargain prices are just a bonus. I rarely buy hardcovers because of their inconvenient format, even if they have been discounted.
    It's all about convenience. Such is the way of the world anymore, we want what we want when we want it.

  41. Roy Hayward

    I read both e-books and paper books. But seldom the same book. Like many others I have a list of books I want to read. This list is long. I have a shorter list of books I want to own.

    No this is not splitting hairs. I check-out from the library, borrow from friends and download the books that I want to read, but not own.

    For books of authors that I love, I want to own their book. I want to have it on my shelf so that people visiting my home see them. I consider them an investment of sorts, and a status symbol that identifies me as a well read person.

    But ebooks and those borrowed and returned, they are not an investment. I don't push my ebook reader in people's faces to force them to see what I have in there.

    For me there is the difference in value. I will never feel like paying the same price for the ebook that I am willing to pay for the paper book. Ever. And I don't mind waiting, (except that I might find a way to read it from the library etc.)

    The publishing world can do what it wants. But as a reader I don't think that publishers have this figured out yet.

  42. Anonymous

    Very informative as usual Nathan.

    Where does that leave the debut author? I mean, I'm thinking hardcover is probably out– trade paper along with ebook? I'm curious what kinds of deals are happening now– considering I will go on submission in the fall for upmarket commercial (debut). Trying to hang on to hope–but I feel the walls crumbling around me. Will there even be advances or paper books?

    My 8 ball will not comment.

  43. Nathan Bransford


    Don't worry, the publishing walls are not crumbling. They're just moving around a bit.

  44. Kate

    If publishers are worried about piracy, I think keeping e-books relatively inexpensive is very important. It is very easy to get pirated music on the web, but it only cost a dollar on i-tunes and its legal. Most consumers are willing to pay the musicians for their work and buy there mp3's on i-tunes. I think most readers will be equally willing to pay authors and publishers for e-books buy going through amazon or some other easy to use relatively low cost source. But if e-books climb to $30 a piece people are going to start searching for pirates.

    As for the release date issue, I almost think it would be a good idea for publishers to release the e-books before the paper copies for many titles.

    There are a few serial type books, TWIGHLIGHT, etc, that people can't wait to get their hands on. If a publisher knows there is going to be a line of people at the books stores on the date a book is released, by all means charge people big bucks for it.

    But that only happens for a small handful of books a year. Most of the big name best sellers start buried in the shelves next to everything else. Eventually word of mouth picks up and people are flocking to book stores to pick up copies weeks, months, or even years after the book was originally released.

    If titles are released first as e-books for $9.99 the people who read 50+ books a year can gobble them up for a relatively low cost and then start telling their friends about them. Once there is substantial buzz for a book the publishers could launch the paper release, hype it a lot, and the people who only read 5-10 books a year and don't own a kindle can head off to the book store to slap down there $27.99.

  45. J. Louise Larson

    When people start talking about paper going away, beware. Look what the digital deluge has done to newspaper and other print media in this country.

    When things go to digital, people stop wanting to pay much for them – it's a value perception issue. For example, people are accustomed to downloading music illegally, pretty much with impunity.

    Right now the book may cost $9.95 on Kindle, but competition could drive those prices down.

  46. Anonymous

    Thanks, Nathan (anon 3:20)

    From now on, I'll think of it as the moving staircase in Harry Potter.

    Harry always gets there–so will I!

  47. AndrewDugas

    Once again, Nathan ignores the challenge posed by the mere existence of providers such as Scribd.com. When Simon & Schuster gets behind an e-book provider, something's being powerfully validated.

    Thanks, buddy! I really was hoping to hear how you weighed in on that.

  48. Nathan Bransford


    I apologize that I didn't read your mind, but you're welcome to weigh in yourself on that subject!

  49. Jenny

    I think publishing insiders may be overestimating the size of the Kindle market or its penetration among the wider book buying public.

    It is significant that AMazon maintains a separate Kindle bestseller list, but intersperses that list with the paper book list, which gives a false impression of Kindle sales. In fact, the Kindle sales are still tiny.

    I agree smart publishers should delay Kindle sales until they have a competing paper book in the same price range.

    I also believe it is essential that Amazon's monopoly of Kindle be broken up before publishers commit to widespread e-publishing. Amazon has too much control of market, device, and pricing to be allowed to continue to have such a stranglehold on e-publishing.

  50. Other Lisa

    I'd been sitting here pondering these issues (I don't really have strong opinions) but having just read Jenny's comment, I have to say, what she says makes the most sense to me.

    So, what Jenny said.

    And, jeez, Nathan. Get with the mind-reading already!

    HAH – my word verification: "Cable"

  51. AndrewDugas

    Nathan, with all due respect, I have mentioned this in at least one comment to a previous related post.

    Of course, you'd be hard pressed to read every comment to every post.

    Let me rephrase. I (and I expect others) would relish hearing your take on that subject, especially the ramifications of a publisher like S&S jumping on the Scribd wagon.

    I hope you elect to indulge us at some point in the near future.

  52. Nathan Bransford


    E-book sales are definitely small, but the more important thing is that they're growing quickly. And particularly as the devices get better they're going to continue to become a bigger part of the landscape. I don't know if there's a tipping point on the horizon, but we're all thinking a couple of steps ahead.

    Also Amazon and Sony got there first with their devices, but I don't know that they're going to be able to corner the e-book market very easily. There are lots of different devices that will be hitting the market and I'm confident there will be sufficient competition.

  53. Elaine 'still writing' Smith

    I would buy an e-book (if it was released earlier – not otherwise) and the paper back as soon as it was released – only hard cover seems a waste of money.

  54. Nathan Bransford


    I feel like scribd is just a bit tangential to the post. Right now it's mainly an example of publishers using the dispersal of free content in order to build an audience, just as they always have with galleys and other promotions, but I don't necessarily know that it's going to challenge the paradigm.

    Where scribd has a potential to be a player is as a content deliverer for books on mobile devices, which is an example of the type of competitor I was talking about with my response to Jenny. I don't think many people are going to sit and read a book on a computer though, even if it's free.

    I would be curious to hear your thoughts on it though.

  55. mike_mullin

    Does any research exist to support the idea that e-book readers are more loyal to format than hardcover readers or paperback readers, thus supporting the idea that a lost ebook sale is lost forever? Or are we guessing?

    If we're guessing, my experience may be relevant. I prefer paperbacks, because I can jam one into a pocket. I've bought paperbacks when cheaper (remaindered) hardcovers were available. I know others who buy hardcovers almost exclusively, because they value permanence and collectability.

    Sure, most people would like to have the DVD at the same time as the theater release, so they can watch movies immediately in their preferred format. But if the movie industry goes that way, theaters will not survive. Similarly, publishers should think long and hard about the survival of retail bookstores before offering ebooks at preferential prices.

  56. Nathan Bransford


    Yes, that data exists, and my understanding from different contacts in the industry is that there isn't any evidence that e-books cannibalize print sales and the audiences are distinct. I'd be curious to hear from Sourcebooks' CEO though, to see if she has seen some different data.

  57. AstonWest

    I'm certain this comment has already been made before I posted it, but if given the choice, what's to say a reader with $30 to spend on books wouldn't buy 3 e-books (possibly from the same author, possibly from various authors) versus 1 print book.

    But then, that likely wouldn't fit the business model. :-

    Personally, I think $6 is still the maximum anyone should ever charge for an e-book…and even that seems too rich to me.

  58. Ink

    I guess no one liked my idea. It seems so simple and elegant, though. e-book prices that mirror the paper prices, first with the hardcover release and then shifting with the paperback release. Thus you maintain the price scale while still providing readers their format choice.

    Come on, somebody's gotta like it. I just need one person. The banner is hard to hold up all by myself.

    I have tendinitis, swear to God. Two person banner… anyone?

  59. Kate

    I like your idea Ink. Your arms can stop hurting.

  60. Jen C

    I think whoever said to price the -book higher when the hardcover comes out, and then drop the price to $9.99 is right on the ….money. This idea makes sense to me.

  61. Jen C

    Oh, that was you Ink! It took me so long to read down that I'd forgotten who it was!

  62. Anonymous

    I have approximately 600 books in my library. These are real, physical books. I am in love with books and have been since birth (if you believe my mother).

    In May I got a Kindle. I worship my Kindle. Sure, there will be books that I MUST OWN in a certain format (for me, HC is the preferred for those books that I just must have for the rest of my life). For everything else, there's Kindle.

    Since my purchase in May, I've read approximately a book every other day. The genres are not always those that I would ordinarily read or choose to purchase for my personal collection. I am reading more and buying more books because I have a Kindle and it's just so damned convenient for a compulsive-must-have-it-now consumer such as myself to indulge in whatever book blurb strikes my fancy in the middle of the night.

    Not all the e-books I have purchased were $9.99. The low range was $2.60 and the high was $39.99 (yes, that's correct – forty bucks for an e-book, but it was non-fiction and worth every penny).

    Will I be irritated if publishers decide to delay electronic formats for new titles? Nope. I'll just move on to something else from someone else until the format I prefer is available. If I must read right now, sure, I'll buy the HC, but if I'm that eager for it, I probably would've wanted it on my shelves anyway.

    The movie/DVD example sort of feels like apples/oranges. I think a more relevant comparison would be to ask these same publishers if they are opposed to the multitudes who NEVER buy books but check them out at public libraries free of charge… or borrow books from friends who continue to pass them along. I'm a nice person, but trust me, there will be no passing along of my Kindle to my friends who want to read the last book I couldn't put down. My advice to them so far has been, "Buy your own or hit the library."

  63. Mira

    Ink, I'm sorry – I love bookstores, and I think there will always be a demand for them, but I pretty much agree with Nathan on this one. I think people will just wait for the price to drop, buy something else or pirate it.

    I know I never buy hardback. I'll wait months for the paperback – partly because I just don't like hardback. It takes up too much space on my shelf.

    One way to sell books is to price higher. Another way is to move more product. E-books will offer tremendous accessiblity.

    I think alot of the price of e-books can be made back with advertising (sorry, but does anyone really doubt this will happen?) especially advertising other books in the publisher's stable, as well as product tie-in with games, etc. All those extras that are loaded onto DVDs will eventually be loaded onto books as well. You'll also probably be able to order books directly through the e-book itself, making instant consumer access. The money making opportunities with e-books are diverse. Undoubtedly Amazon will take advantage of all of those potentials, and….

    Can I interrupt this post to mention an incredible product? The Query Slushpile, helmed by Rick Daley, is a free resource for authors. Post your query! have your query reviewed! review other people's queries! meet people and make new friends! It's a can't miss opportunity! Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry. That's the Query Slushpile by Rick Daley.
    Hurry over there today.

    (Seriously, it's really great – and free, all joking aside.)


    ….but undoubtedly the publishing industry will not. What is with them? Do they not read blogs? Get on the ball, people. I know you're intelligent, get with the program!

    p.s. Rick – the gold monopoly money, please.

  64. ClothDragon

    Someone on the other blog I read with this topic (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books) had a comment I thought made sense. Offering the ebook for free with purchase of the paper copy. Of the hardcover or softcover as they come out. (If it was me, I'd offer the option of forgoing the paper edition, for those making the decision for environmental reasons, but it seems like that would give people the version they want without making either party feel too screwed over.)

    I don't buy ebooks because they feel limiting to me, but I know some people only read that format. Would they buy it bundled with the book? The thing I can't figure out is how publishers are losing money on ebooks which sell for more than paperbacks, but would logically cost less to produce — at least after the first one. They don't lose money on paperbacks do they? Some books are only published in that format and I can't see publishers paying those authors purely out of the goodness of their hearts. Anyway, little boy is climbing all over me, so I probably stopped making sense five minutes ago. Hopefully, there's a coherent sentence or two in here.

  65. Technoslick

    I find quite often that technical books will come both ways, paper and electronic, with a break in price when purchased bundled. If the price is right and I want the publication, I usually go with both. Why? PDFs are great for portable browsing when needed, but I am middle aged and still find a good paper book the best reading format for me.

    That said, I agree with the concept that the decision release both or just the book should be decided on a per book basis.

  66. ryan field

    Sounds to me like they are planning for the future. But it could backfire. People who prefer e-books (growing in numbers) and have invested in expensive e-readers, will just wait for the e-book to launch without giving it a second thought.

  67. AndrewDugas


    When I first stumbled across Scribd last fall, I thought nothing of it. In fact, I couldn't even understand it. Why would anyone publish documents for sharing when we have this thing called the Internet? Is it because it's easier to put up PDFs than HTML? Because someone else is doing it for you?

    But then in May, three San Franciso authors decided to publish their new titles directly on Scribd. Two dollar books! Their argument: they're getting an 80 percent royalty. One of them explained they were making more per copy this way than with a traditional book deal, minus the bureaucracy (we'll see).

    Very well. That might work for established authors. But then I noticed small publishers like ENC Press and then suddenly S&S putting their titles up for sale there too.

    What's a struggling author to think? With every query rejection I get, the temptation to self-publish on Scribd or Lulu or some such gets harder to resist. And that's a bad thing. Because those rejections have led me to reexamine my work and revise it, tighten it, make it better. IMHO, if the status quo serves any positive purpose, it creates competition that culls inferior work from the pack. Therefore, most of what gets published is superior. Sure, the system has its flaws and weakness, but like democracy, it's the best we have.

    So, my take? A lot more crap getting self-published, but the good stuff will always find its way to the top. Ultimately, a wider market is a more open market, giving more sellers a chance to present their wares, to compete for readership. There will be a great many more layers, but layers there will be and therefore a hierarchy of quality. And perhaps a more equitable one today. Digitization is extending the revolution that began with the Gutenberg press, even if it's disrupting Gutenberg-based business models.

    And yet the business model persists. Consider that even as self-publishing has become easier and cheaper than ever imaginable, it has become less an alternative to traditional publication than an alternate route to it. Very often authors turn to self-publication to proof their books' viability and marketability. If one self-publishes and can sell five thousand copies, it's not that hard to attract a traditional book deal. The Celestine Prophecy, one of the biggest publishing phenomenoms of the last decade, was originally self-published.

    As for book pricing, I'm sure that for decades after Gutenberg's first Bibles hit the stores, traditional buyers still forked out big money for the hand-copied and illuminated ones. But sooner or later, subsequent generations didn't see the point. That's a simplification, of course, and probably a misrepresentation of history. Gutenberg's intentions were modest; he had no idea his invention would lead to widespread literacy; stablize spelling, grammar, and usage; make literary works (Shakespeare being an early example) to a widespread audience; and lead to the Enlightenment, which in turn led to the overthrow of the Church as the dominant authority over society. Gutenberg just wanted to improve the quality of the humble screeds he sold to make a living.

    So who really knows where all this is going, how it will shake out. No expected Twitter to play such a significant role in the local updeaval in Iran.

    I also expect the role of literary agent to shift significantly, but I've said enough for now.

  68. Melissa

    @ Tomas, that's why I specified ebooks that are also being released in print.

    If a book is being released in print, the publisher has already accounted for the advance, the editing, the layout, and the cost of shipping and printing.

    The cost to create and sell an ebook, after they're set up to do so — and I disagree @Jonathon Lyons that there's significant cost to the setup because they're ALREADY working with a digital file — is very close to zero. Add to that zero returns and zero future cost to keep the book available, and you have a HUGE profit percentage.

    For books that are not also going out in print, there is, indeed, the cost of editing and layout to figure, but those are one-time charges that will be covered by a fairly small number of books. Then they're back in that huge profit territory!

  69. Other Lisa

    I think offering the eBook for free with the paper copy (especially the hardback) is a stellar idea.

  70. Mira

    Aw, Ink. I feel like a meanie.

    You know, you have an on-line section to your bookstore right? I bet alot of your friends here would order from you.

    Have you thought of posting your website on your profile?

    and I LOVE bookstores. I think e-books are the future, but bookstores will always have a very special place. Btw, not everyone who has an e-book will be computer savvy. Some might prefer to go to a brick and mortar place and download there…..

  71. Gavin Brown

    I think we may not be giving Amazon enough credit here. You have to remember that they are heavily into the book business, and if the value of books is undermined they will lose whether they're publishing paper or e-book.

    With music, many people now view it as an asset that should be entirely free. The long battle with the hated record labels and the publicity of RIAA lawsuits did not help.

    Amazon is pricing the e-books at 9.99 to establish that as a baseline price. I suspect that they've targeted that as a pricepoint that's sustainable in the longterm, which is why they're losing money on every book they sell.

    If e-books end up being priced at 27.95, it may not be long before the market is broken.

    Establishing a sustainable longterm habit and social acceptance is more important than how much profit is turned this year, and right now Amazon is eating the cost of creating that market.

  72. Carolin

    Fascinating – read your blog, and just minutes later, the Lehrer News Hour on PBS had a segment on exactly that topic. It covered pretty much the same territory you did.

    Have to admit, I'm one of the old-fashioned ones who likes the feel of a real book in her hands. Kindle – nah. Audio books – on long trips.

  73. AndrewDugas

    @Gavin Brown. I think Amazon would love to sell ALL e-books. Their overhead includes massive warehouses, inventory systems, and armies of employees for unpacking shipments and then repacking and mailing out very heavy items. No such overhead for e-books. It's ALL profit.

  74. Ink

    I knew it had to be a good idea.


    Thanks. The profile thing is a good idea. Though I doubt I get enough profile hits to do much good.

    And my pricing thing… well, it's okay if the customer waits for the cheaper model. Because that's what they were selling it for anyway. And buying something else… well, at least they're buying a book. But it protects the idea of the profitable hardcover sales, so that e-books won't kill off that market. As for pirating… well, that's the bugaboo beyond any such pricing plan. Yo ho ho. Can't stop the pirates.

  75. Anonymous

    $9.99 is a lie! As long as publishers are printing on paper, they can produce ebook content with minimal cost per book (if any). The cost is in setting up the process to begin with, but over the long term, that cost is dispersed to 0 for a dedicated ebook publisher. $9.99 is a pie to divide between Amazon and the publishers where they have no production overhead (again, if they're printing the paper book and they've established an ebook conversion process appropriately).

    How do I know this? Because this was part of my job at the last publishing company I worked at. I want ebooks rather than regular books (except for my favorite authors who I want sitting on my shelves), but I'm not willing to pay more than a paperback for something that cost less to create. It's a scam and these kinds of wrestling matches help push the public perception that $9.99 pricing is a good thing. We should be happy that we're so lucky to pay $9.99 for something that cost next to nothing to create.

    Price your ebook at five or less and I will never buy a paper book again (unless the name on it says Twain, Williams, or Gabaldon). Try to keep pulling the wool over my eyes and we'll see just how many books my IKEA bookshelves can hold.

  76. Laura Martone

    Mira, LOL. I loved your example of an ad interruption. And while I, too, am a huge fan of Rick's Public Query Slushpile, I would hate it if such interruptions really happened while reading books on my e-reader. Ads have gotten out of control… in movie theaters, at the bottom of television screens, as annoying pop-ups on websites like IMDB. Please, oh, please don't let it happen to e-books, too!

    If Mira's example is any indication, I had totally forgotten what she was talking about by the end of her "Slushpile" ad.

  77. KK

    Everyone has really thought this through, judging by your comments.

    However, what about selling the hardcovers at the regular price, but for an additional fee, they can get the e-book? The advertising could announce the e-book being available at the bookstore counter, just tell the clerk and they'll give you one for a nominal extra fee. I don't think asking for $5.99 or something on top of the cost of the hardcover would make anyone think twice, because they'd be getting 2 for one. The hardcovers could even have a sleeve inside a cover for the disk.

    That may not help in the return department, but if it sold more hardcovers for someone who likes both, either/or, whatever, I feel they would feel like they got a bargain. I'd buy it packaged that way, easy.

    Of course, the input from publishers regarding a deal like that – and lowering the price of the e-book – would be a huge discussion.

    Why not combine, take advantage of the excitement, and give buyers a deal?

    Heck, it may sell more hardcovers and Kindles at the same time.

  78. Michael Pickett

    I think the DVD argument is an apt one. True, there are some people who are only goign to buy books on their kindle, but there are people out there who only watch movies when they are in cheap theaters or on DVD. For me, there are a lot of movies I do that for, especially now that I have Netflix. That doesn't mean that movie studios should start releasing the DVD on the same day that the moive is released in theaters. They aren't that desperate. If they were, prices would be much more reasonable. So, why should book publishers be desperate for you e-book purchase. After all, e-books only make up about three percent of book sales, anyway. If they were desperate to get people to buy their books, they'd price them at 1.99 or something. My final point is, if someone wants to read a book, they will, no matter what format it's in. And most people won't read most of the books in the book store. I'm an avid reader and I've only read about .015% of the books in the book store. So aren't we getting all worked up over nothing?

  79. mardott

    I don't see how an e-book is like a DVD. If I watch a movie in the theater and it's one I really like, I'll probably buy the DVD, so I can watch the movie whenever I want.

    But if I've bought the hardcover book, I'm not buyin' the e-book. I mean, why the heck would I do that? And if I have a Kindle, I'm not gonna buy the hardcover. I'll get the e-book.

    For me, the Kindle is not about price, it's about space. The whole reason to buy a Kindle would be so I don't have to buy a bigger house to hold all the books in my future. I'd resent having to buy another one just because the publisher didn't want to put it in e-format.

    I'll check it out of the library. But you know what? I'd rather buy the e-book, and support the author.

    So Publishers: put both options out there. You've got an audience in both areas.

  80. Minnette Meador

    Oregon must be a solid paperback/ hardback supporter(we are home to Powell's Books, of course, but I wonder if there are red and blue "book" states out there). Two of my books came out in eBook format and the print books were clamored for! Funny how things twist in the publishing wind… It's going to be an interesting year…

  81. Gavin Brown

    I absolutely agree. The point I was trying to make is that Amazon has a huge incentive to get the price point right.

    In the same way that they have used extensive scientific testing to figure out the best design for their website, I bet they've done studies to see how different prices affect the consumer mindset.

    A large part of Amazon's success is in optimizing their interactions with customers, for instance they did the test to prove that 100 milliseconds of delay in loading pages costs them 1% of sales.

    Instead of worrying about cannibalizing hardcover sales, we should all be worrying whether 9.99 will be a sustainable model.

  82. Author Guy

    People who like a real book in their hands aren't going to buy an e-book regardless of the price. When they make a reader that looks and feels and reads like a book reads then there'll be a shift.

  83. AndrewDugas

    I don't think the DVD argument holds. Maybe for folks with huge home entertainment centers. The key part of going out to see a movie is not the "movie" so much as the going out. It's like saying you wouldn't go see a band if you could just buy the CD.

    I never buy DVDs unless it's a film I've seen and want in my library or a film I wished I'd seen and want in my library.

    Movies and DVDs are two different experiences. E-books and books are similar experiences. Consider scrolls vs. bound books. Not a whole lot different. As e-readers become cheaper and more common, physical books will likely be limited to cheapo paperbacks and high-end reproductive works, like art books.

    That said, in the last few years, I moved all my CDs onto my computer(s). And you know what? As a result I listen to a lesser variety of music. Call me old fashioned, but scrolling down a list of album titles on iTunes is a lot less exciting than flipping through stacks of CDs and coming across an old friend, and remembering how the case got chipped at that one party, and on and on.

    I expect it will be the same when I do all my reading on an e-reader.

    Physical objects. Ain't nothing like 'em.

  84. Alyssa

    This is a tough subject.. I'm one of those consumers who doesn't really look at the price of some books, only the availability, and so I will shell out for the hardback if it's the only edition available. Which seems like an argument for the decision to delay the e-book, but I think that's a really bad idea. The market may not be swamped with e-readers now, but eventually that will not be the case, and more of more of the audience will be e-book exclusive and won't want to wait for the e-version. There have been plenty of books I've lost track of and didn't end up buying until years after publication and that's the sort of thing you risk by delaying the release of the e-book. I think most books go through phases, people read them when they're new and try to get all their friends to read them.. if you wait until the buzz is stale to release the e-book, that's a lot of customers you're going to miss out on. So why not just charge more for the e-book initially as someone upthread said, and then drop the price later?

    I'm a bit surprised by the comments that people aren't making money off the $9.99 Kindle books, given that the mass market books which retail for a lot less are often the only editions available for many books. Is it just that not enough people buy e-books to recoup the investment to produce the initial e-edition? Because that will certainly change over time. Is it that Amazon is taking too big of a cut of the profits? As big an Amazon fangirl as I am, their Kindle business does trouble me. I really want to like the Kindle, (I really want to buy one!) but I'm a little uncomfortable with all the stories that have been coming out lately about the raw deals they've been giving newspapers on royalties and this new idea to put ads in lower-priced versions of books.

  85. Mira

    Ink – actually this one would be more about internet buddies than massive amounts of hits. Hits are nice, and over 500 is nothing to sneeze at, but it's buddies who would support you. I might link it, and I might also maybe do a personal blog about the bookstore and stuff….adventures at the bookstore. If you want….

  86. RW

    As I understand it, publishers anxious about lower profits on e-books are for the time being talking about a hypothetical situation, because they are still able to charge Amazon a wholesale price on e-books closer to the the wholesale price for hardcover, and Amazon is retailing it for a loss in order to create demand for the Kindle. In theory, that's setting a customer expectation on price that could hurt the publishers later when Amazon is able to negotiate for a lower wholesale price. But it seems like another (more productive) way to look at it is that Amazon is subsidizing a period of transition that publishers could be using to build profitable relationships with ebook customers instead of treating them like the enemy.

  87. Donna

    I don't think it's a question of price and availability so much as its about prefered format. I equate e-books the same way I would a paperback novel. If you're an established author, first comes the hard back, and usually it pretty expensive. (I remember paying over $30 for Stephen Kings final Dark Tower novel.) After several months, the paperback comes out and though its not nearly as expensive as hard back, it's quite a chunk of change. By that time, however, you've probably found the hard back in a used book store somewhere, or borrowed it from a friend or family member. Some people are dedicated to buying the hard cover books; it looks good on a shelf. Others only buy backs they can carry in a purse or backpack or brief case easily.

    I buy hard backs when I can afford them, and if there is just no way to wait for whatever sequel to come out in paper back, but usually buy the paper back for carrying convenience.

    I don't believe the same people buying an e-book are necessarily the same buying printed books. They are a marketing target all their own. Its like saying you should not publish an audio version of the book until it's been on the bookshelves a certain amount of time. A person who prefers audio books is not going to consider pricing first in their decision to purchase that format. I think the same would apply to e-books. If the e-book is $9.99 and the paper back $5.99, you wouldn't buy the paperback just because it's cheaper.

    Well, I wouldn't anyway. Some of the books I'd like to read are more expensive in hard back, but I don't go to Kindle just because its cheaper. It's not the format I want to read in.

  88. marye.ulrich

    I'm still laughing about reading the next edition of Twilight on "poisonous razor blades". God, that is great.

    But, if you really want a cutting edge battle… check out this week's convention as RWA vs. Romance Writers for Change. It is all about ePublishing and the very practical ramifications it brings to the authors, editors, readers and the marketplace. The blood is still flowing, but it looks like the print paradigm is changing.

  89. FictionGroupie

    Anon–to your comment "We should be happy that we're so lucky to pay $9.99 for something that cost next to nothing to create."

    A book does not take next to nothing to create. The author, for one, puts their blood, sweat, and tears into writing a novel(not to mention the work of the editors, agents, etc.) We don't buy paintings based on the cost of canvas and paint. We buy them based on the art produced and the talent behind it.

  90. Alyssa

    Someone (I forget who) wondered if people really would pay for multiple different editions of a book.. *raises a hand* I'm totally that girl. 😉 I've bought 3 different copies of one particular book, because I'm a bit anal about format. I want them all in the same format. Generally it's hardback or trade paper, since those are the first ones to come out and I can't wait for the cheaper editions. I've been known to track down used hardbacks to replace paperbacks, I've tracked down American edition hardbacks to replace my UK edition hardbacks (I know, I'm over the line crazy) because the book came out in the UK first (and the single quotation marks make me crazy.) 😉 That book I bought 3 copies of, I originally bought in mass market, and I pounced on the opportunity to get the trade when they reprinted. I also bought the Kindle edition when I got my iPhone.. Let's just ignore the 3 copies I bought in an attempt to convert my friends, but couldn't bear to be parted from my own copy. When the new book from that series comes out, I'll probably pay for both editions, since they each have their own charm. 😉

    That being said, there are some books I'll only buy in audio format. The reader that does Diane Duane's Young Wizards series is so genius, I have to have the audiobook. It angers me that they delay the audio release. I know I said upstream that availability is the only factor, but I guess for certain books, that's not true, and I'll wait for my preferred format. I can see the day coming when I'll wait for the e-version to come out. I just don't have the space to keep buying physical books and when e-books become more available, my plan is to buy the e-version first, and then buy the paper version if I love it so much I have to have that experience too.

  91. K.C. Shaw

    Pirates! The perfect scapegoat! It's publishing's version of "but think of the chiiiildren!"

    I almost never buy hardbacks–they're far too expensive. I'm already not happy about having to wait a year for a paperback to come out. Don't make me wait for the ebook too.

    Much as I like my Sony, I also really like owning hard copies of books I love. I know I won't lose them when I (inevitably) drop my Sony and break it. I've only had my reader a few months and I've already bought one ebook (on the day it was released) that I later ALSO bought in paperback.

    Oh, and I go to the theater almost every weekend. I'm a consumer!

  92. Anonymous


    hear, hear!

  93. Dawn Maria

    Hmmm… I downloaded my first e-Book to my iPhone using a Kindle app from iTunes just this week. It was Jennifer Weiner's latest- BEST FRIENDS FOREVER and it was $14.99. I chose that one because I thought it best to try something new (e-reader) with and old, favorite author.

    Price was not a factor, I would have bought the book either way. What did occur to me was that this purchase was disposable. Once I read that book (if I actually do all the way through and don't resort to a hard copy out of frustration) I will delete it. That seems odd.

    As a book lover, the ceremony and joy of bringing a new volume home is less so in e-format. Still, this is the future, a big part of it at least, and I want to be ready as both a reader and a writer.

  94. Thermocline

    We can discuss price points and profit margin but I just don't see e-books becoming a threat until they become so commonplace that the masses feel entitled to access them for free, like borrowing a book from a library. I'm not knocking libraries here. All I mean is that there are a whole group of readers who don't buy any books but are still going to want to read them when e-books eclipse paper versions someday.

  95. Laurel


    After several years in textbook publishing I can tell you definitively that pirates are NOT a scapegoat. Piracy in ebook and print form is very real and I have several friends who lost their jobs over the lost revenue.

    Dawn Maria: Kindle, at least, offers an online library for your account, I think. You can store titles in a virtual library and come back to them later if you like.

    That this eBook vs. hardcopy is even debated seems so odd to me. It's the last bastion of publishing to fight this inevitability. Remember this debate:

    Newspapers? They'll never go! The mystique of the Sunday paper, the smell of the ink….the comics! No. It's irreplaceable. The internet can never replace newspapers.

    I like books better, too. But I grew up in a different era. Times are changing and publishing has got to figure out a way to make this trend work for them. Some of you guys threw out some great ideas here.

  96. Vacuum Queen

    I don't have a Kindle, but if I did, I would imagine that I wouldn't want to wait the 6 months for the Kindle version. But I also wouldn't pay the hardcover price, knowing that the cheaper version would be out soon. I'm guessing I'd forget about it by the time it came out as Kindle version and I'd skip it, most likely bogged down by other new "hot" books.

    I'm guessing.

  97. Marsha Sigman

    I think you have your die hard e-readers and book readers. Some enjoy both but I don't see a sale being lost by releasing on the same day. People are going to buy the story in the format they enjoy the most (even you audio book lovers).

    I really hate the idea of a book being disposable. I never thought of what you did with it on a Kindle after you read it. You delete it? That is so disturbing to me.

  98. AM

    I couldn't agree more with Ink regarding the fairness of his proposed pricing structure… but frankly, if publishers are losing money on the $ 9.99 pricing of e-books vs. $ 27.99 hardcover paper-books (p-book) then I have to wonder at their contracts with the e-book providers.

    Certainly, the publishers considered hardcover vs. paperback pricing (profitability) when they negotiated contracts with the e-book distributors.

    Anyway, if the e-book distributors are losing money, then they are chalking it up to consumer conversion costs.

    I suspect the real issue is p-book distributors do not want to lose sales/consumers to the e-books distributors. Today, p-book providers (e.g. stores) still carry a big stick with publishers – perhaps big enough to influence publishers to delay releasing new novels to e-book distributors—today.

    Though many think that there is no direct correlation between e-book consumers and p-book consumers, few can argue that over time, more p-book readers will consider trying e-books.

    The less incentive that consumers have to try e-books, the happier the p-book distributors are.

    For example, let’s say that I wanted to buy several hardcover books coming out this fall. Well, the price difference between the e-book and the p-book might be enough to convince me to splurge and try the Kindle. I mean $ 18.00 per book is a lot of money. If I buy a lot of my books as soon as they are released in hardcover, then e-books become quite economical in the end.

    Hmm, they’ve just removed one more barrier to my conversion.

    Every time a consumer tries and likes e-books – another p-book consumer has been lost.

    We’d have to be in denial not to recognize that with every new e-book consumer conversion, the p-book distribution channels are being eroded to some degree.

    Also, as the new generations of readers replaces the older generations, fewer and fewer hardcore p-book readers will remain.

    Personally, I love real, paper books– and bookstores – but patient, persistent competition will overcome all the barriers the current p-book distributors put up.

    How fast this will happen — we’ll see.

    But as either a publisher or an author, I would not want to alienate the consumers or overlords of either distribution model.

  99. Kristin Tubb

    My thoughts are more along the lines of: how does an author peddle an ebook? (Thinking of those of us who *won't* have our next book printed on razor blades, of course!) Most authors have to hustle, hustle, hustle to get their stories known. If this is truly our future, authors and publishing houses should wonder: *how* does one best market an electronic file? That looks and smells and feels like all other electronic files? And, um…where? Rather than, say, when. (Which to me seems silly. Make it available. But perhaps I'm biased there: I love my Kindle.)

  100. Carpy

    After reading a hundred comments, I'm feeling pretty educated about e-books and Kindles. Personally, I rarely buy a hardback unless its on sale or maybe a tradebook. Given a choice, I prefer good old paperbacks, and one day will try the Kindle just to see if its as convenient to read as a coffee-stained, dog-earred paperback I find at a garage sale or in the employees' lounge.

    As an author, I'm open to alternative marketing considerations, but desire to see my books in print, preferably paperback. I like the comment about no matter what, the good books will find their way to the top. Basically, I'm all for making books affordable reading for everyone.

  101. AM


    I would recommend websites, blogs, and interviews at e-book distribution locations (i.e. Amazon).

    The same as we do today in the current distribution model – except rather than being in one location talking to only the customers in one physical bookstore – we'll be reaching thousands across the country (even the world).

    We'll have less travel with more visibility at less cost while offering our readers access to our interviews on their schedule.

    If they can make the live on-line interview, they can visit with us while they are in their pajamas – (or at work).

    Everything the new e-book distribution model offers its books (so to speak) – it will offer authors.

  102. evanjamesroskos

    i didn't read ALL of the comments here, so I apologize if this point has been made.

    The problem with the theater vs. DVD analogy is that a movie in theaters offers a different experience than one at home (granted, the experiences are getting closer). With a book there is no change in the experience from hardcover to softcover to e-book — unless there's something new added to the text in each edition. Still, i'd be shocked to hear that even huge fans of a book would buy the hardcover and softcover.

    I think the best stance seems to be one that supports e-book release on the same day as hardcovers, since it allows for the largest reach — you get e-book readers and print readers. Eventually, the print readers will be outnumbered anyway, right?

  103. ~Jamie

    Ya know… why don't they just CHARGE me the 27.95 for the ebook… I WANT to buy the ebook… it's environmentally friendly, and I can get it downloaded in an instant. I don't care about paying for it– I want to read the book.

    In six months… if they want the e-pricing to go down to 9.99 for those that want to wait-well then FINE. But, let me buy the e-book at full hardcover price on release date.

    I read on e-reader… this is the choice I've made. If the book isn't available, then I won't read it until it is.

  104. Other Lisa

    Count me as a person who if I cared enough to buy the hardback, I would LOVE a free eBook with. I have all of these great hardbacks that I want to own in hardback, but for example, did not want to take with me on a recent trip or to the gym. Being able to load them into an eReader for convenience and still having the HC versions would rawk, IMO.

  105. Vacuum Queen

    So…I'm curious to know what you think this means for the children's market. I mean, I'm never going to sit in my rocking chair with my little guy on my lap in his jammies, and read to him from a Kindle. And then re-read that story 5 more times that night. From the Kindle. Bleh.

    Of course, even thought he's only 3, he DOES know how to grab my iPhone and get into it and watch a Spongebob episode I've got saved. Perhaps he'll like to read a book on the iPhone afterall.

  106. Lydia Sharp

    This news doesn't really change my view on anything. My method of reading won't be affected, since I prefer to borrow a book from the library first, read it, then decide if I like it enough to buy a copy. And if I do buy a copy, it will be a nice print hardcover, thank you very much. I stare at the computer screen all day long, either writing, researching, or communicating with long-distance contacts. When I'm ready to read for pleasure, I want nothing to do with the electronic format. Period.

    And I'm not so impatient that I have to read the latest release of someone's work the very day it is out, or worse, try to find a piece of it BEFORE its release. That is so Harry Potter/ Twilight it makes me sick. I'm not thirteen. I can wait.

    I also don't think that an e-book release is the same as a DVD for a movie. Books don't have a version comparable to watching a movie in the theater. From the day they are released, you can get a personal copy and "view" it in your own home. You don't pay for a ticket to read a book somewhere and then have to wait to buy your own copy. Books and movies cannot be compared. Apples and oranges, in more ways than one.

    The reason print books are more expensive? Think about it. Paper and ink have been used for centuries. Books will not get outdated by new technology. DVDs will. (How long did videocassettes last? A few decades?) E-Books may eventually go by the wayside, too. But paper and ink can be enjoyed forever, no matter what new things come around that try to replace them. Of course you're going to pay more for that than something that could possibly be obsolete before the next century.

  107. Etiquette Bitch

    I'd like to add my 2 cents. Regarding, "if it's not available in e-book form, i'm just going to buy another e-book" — I'm not. I think the person who expressed this sentiment is probably under 30. I'm well over, and I love books, I love paper (even if it is heavy), I can't stand the kindle — I look at a computer all day and my eyes hate me for it.

    There's a ton of us who feel this way, (read livingoprah.com) but we either a) are not the majority or b) soon will be the minority.

    that said, i think publishers should still publish paper books…maybe just enough to serve us fogies who like to take books, not e-readers, on the plane.

  108. Liana Brooks

    The e-book is like the paper back, I'll wait for it to come out rather than spend 3 times the price on the hardcover.

    The people who are buying hardcovers are die-hard collectors at this point. I don't think they'd be swayed by an e-book they can't show off on their shelf. The rest of us just want a good book at a low price.

  109. Anonymous

    Someone said something about Jennifer Weiner's new book and the $14.99 price. She discussed this on her 7/10 post here: http://jenniferweiner.blogspot.com/

    My preference? If I'm in a bookstore, I always go away with something. Can't help it. I used to order printed books from Amazon often, but when it started taking four weeks for them to get here (about the same time they started pushing the Kindle), I got a Sony Reader. I still buy both formats, but most of my ebook buys are impulse (need something light before I hop on the treadmill, or just saw the movie trailer and wonder how that worked in print). The Sony eBook Store prices I understand a bit better — generally a couple of dollars lower than in a bookstore.

    The one bit of encouragement I see in this: I find I spend more money on books now that I have a Reader, simply because of the impulse purchases. It's easy for buyers to pretend they haven't "bought" when they are sitting on their couches and not handing over physical money or a debit card (it's all stored, and you just hit "submit"). Don't like the ebook you just bought? It's okay, quit halfway through and get another in minutes.

  110. Kristin Tubb

    HI, AM. Thanks for the response. I suppose I knew that blogs, websites and the like were natural promotional outlets for ebooks, but I'm stubbornly clinging to the idea that many people like to meet an author in person. And get something signed. Will book signings become a tradition of the past in a few short years? 🙁

    I love your comment that this is a cost-effective way to reach thousands. I've done blog tours and online interviews and am still pleasantly surprised when someone from, say, Australia contacts me. Amazing! 🙂

  111. Kat Sheridan

    Wonderful article and interesting comments. As a long-time e-fan (and being over 50, so I'm not in the techno-phile groupie age group), I just have to comment. First off, my e-reader of choice is my Dell PDA (yes, I started e-reading BEFORE Kindle). My format of choice is Mobipocket. The downside is the book selection choices at Mobi, but I can nearly always find something worth buying.

    I also buy in multiple formats, so a quote I saw on one of the links (and similiar to what I've seen here), that e-readers and p-readers are NOT the same market is just wrong. I buy hardback, paperback, audio, and e-format, depending on what's available and what my needs are. Traveling? I'll download up to 20 or 30 e-books for a trip. New release by favored author? I'll buy the p-format. For my dyslexic hubs or vision-impaired sis? Audio format.

    I'm most concerned with those who want lower and lower prices. There is always SOME cost involved in e-books. Always. One of those is the royalties to the author, who are currently getting the shot end of the stick in royalties on e-books, unless they are going with e-only, or e –> p publishers. Nathan, as an agent, are you pushing for higher digital royalties for your authors? At least equal to print royalties?

  112. Anonymous

    @FictionGroupie: By that logic, then, the quality of the art should set the price for the work. The better the art, the higher the price. Of course that's not the way publishing works nor could it work given such a subjective measurement.

    I repeatedly qualified my statements that the cost of ebooks can be reduced to almost nothing if a print text is created. The overhead is then subsumed into the print text's creation. The author's royalty rates are independent of any blood, sweat, or tears shed in the creation of the work. Those royalty rates for ebooks have been aggressively lowered by publishers over the last year under the guise of ebooks being too slim a market with too new overhead but in actuality in preparation for the market shift to e-content as the primary sales factor. (I know this as fact, not speculation, as a Publisher [not an AE, an actual Publisher] told me so.)

    $9.99 ebooks that cost pennies with royalty rates below industry standard for print texts benefits who? Not the author. Not the reader.

  113. Pepper Smith

    It appears, to me, that publishers aren't treating ebooks as a truly separate entity–they want to price them the same as the hardcovers to earn a specific amount per unit, in order to recoup the cost of producing the book to begin with. Considering how many books fail to earn back what was spent acquiring and producing them (factoring in the ridiculous amount of returns involved), I can understand where they're coming from, even if I don't agree with it.

    I think I've seen on Fictionwise that some books will start out with the hardcover price and gradually drop from there, but I don't think it ever really reaches the prices charged by epubs, which are often in the $5-$10 range.

    While there are many who claim no one under a certain age will read in e-format, I know of a number of older folks who won't read much in paper because they prefer the ability to make the fonts a readable size on their e-readers. My father's in his late 60s, and has been reading on his devices since the Palm Pilot days. And I'm one of those apparently rare creatures who will read an ebook on the computer screen. There are no barriers except the ones we set up in our own minds.

  114. Matilda McCloud

    I'm glad my sons were toddlers during a recent golden age of picture books. They weren't read to from a Kindle. Their shelves overflowed with books all through their childhood and teenage years. And thank God, despite spending inordinate time behind the computer, they still love books–real books, with jackets, glossy pages with photos. At least I have some hope for the future.

    I understand the use of e-readers. But to do ALL one's reading on a device after spending the whole day on a computer, Blackberry, etc? No thanks. What does one fill bookshelves with? Or are bookshelves endangered as well?

  115. AM

    My grandfather felt the same way about keeping his 8-track tapes when cassettes came out, as many seem to feel about e-books.

    We are authors – or writers aspiring to be authors – however, we want to identify ourselves.

    e-books vs. p-books is the medium in which our art is provided, and the pricing wars between distributors is only part of the business side of today's publishing conflicts. Web sites, blogs, on-line interviews are all aspects of marketing. That’s it.

    We write.

    Songwriters and performers did not disappear with invention of cds. Well, unless they insisted on selling only to 8-track providers.

    The transition will not occur overnight, but it will occur. For the record, I do not think p-books will disappear entirely (in our life times).

    P-books will just be another medium in an evolving world.

    Kristin, nothing will replace meeting an author in person. Those events will still happen – but they will be special events. As authors, we will have to travel less to meet more of our readers – a win-win.

    Concerning bookstores – they already sell coffee, pastries, music, movies, etc. They will adapt to e-books as well. The shelves for p-books will just be reduced, and as we've have been witnessing for 20 years, bookstores will become more of a socializing location for: People who like to read.

    Regarding piracy fears: I can type almost any p-novel into a computer in one day (excluding half of Stephen King’s mammoths, for those, I need two days). I have the technology capabilities and/or access to the capabilities to pirate any p-book. I am certainly not alone. This concern already exists in today’s world with or without e-books. Besides, just as many have noted here, our revenue stream will always be threatened by friends borrowing from friends, libraries (electronic or physical), and thieves.

    BTW: My grandfather eventually bought a cassette player – and loved it.

    Personally, I still prefer p-books, but I will adapt – eventually.

    Professionally, get it to the reader – whatever sells.

  116. MzMannerz

    Poisonous razorblades. Hee, good one.

  117. The Decreed

    I'm not expert, but it seems to me this holding off on the e-book release can only work while e-books are still a small market. The digital age ripped into cd sales in the music industry, and pirating was a part of that. It's inevitable that a lower cost venue is going to lower sales elsewhere. Instead of fighting it, however, publishers might try preparing for it. Can producing e-books be that expensive. No ink, no paper, no returns. What if S & S and Random House and everyone set up their own Amazons? Then they'd have all the control.

    Alas, while the e-book market is too small to make a dent, this will be thrown by the wayside as it has before.

    By the way: "Stephenie Meyer's legion of fans would still buy the next TWILIGHT installment if it were printed on poisonous razor blades." Hilarious.

  118. Daniel

    I have yet to move to the e-book club, but it will surely happen soon. I'm just not quite ready to worry about my book running out of batteries… And I'm having nightmares of going to people's houses and there not being ANY bookshelves.

    The other side of e-books/hardcovers etc. is that you will always have those nostalgic folks, like myself in some cases, that want to own the actual hardcover for collecting purposes. If it is a book that I would have bought in hardcover because I love the story and the author that much, then I will still buy it in hardcover because I'm a big fan of supporting those people that make my life more enjoyable i.e. Musicians, Authors, Artists.

  119. AndrewDugas

    Everyone is sweating the piracy issue on e-books and folks, let me tell you, it is completely absurd.

    First, when you buy a physical book, you read it and if you really like it, you pass it along to a friend, who might pass it to another. In only a few years, that one copy might be read by a dozen people. And if you sell it at a garage sale or to a used book store, a dozen more might read it.

    Well, with e-books all that comes to an end. Everyone needs to buy their own copy. Unless you want to pass your $360 reading device around to all your friends.

    No more plucking a book from a friend's shelf at a party and saying, hey mind if I borrow this?

    No more finding a gem at a garage sale for 50 cents.

    Will there be piracy? Sure. But they'll make it back and then some by killing the borrowing/reselling of used books.

    In fact, the used book as a concept, not to mention the loss of revenue they represent to publishers and authors alike, will cease to exist. In fifty years' time a physical book (with some exceptions, like high-end art repro books) will be like 78s, something the kids find boxed up in grandpa's basement and marvel at.

  120. Anonymous

    Great. They'll sell their old e-readers loaded with hundreds of novels on them at garage sales.

  121. Jim MacKrell

    It all comes down to money for the middle men. Nathan is right, the business is changeing and we all need a lesson in rowing the boat differently. The indication is Publishing will never be the same. Get on with it…get over with looking backward. Remember if you can, the fear that Radio was going away due to that new fangled box in your living room that was going to put Movie Theaters out of business as well.

  122. AndrewDugas

    @Anon, re selling loaded readers at garage sales.

    Sounds good, but not gonna happen. I have a second generation iPod with 8 gigs of music and audio books and couldn't sell it for $10. Why? The battery's dead and has to be plugged in to work at. And it's barely five years old.

    I expect we'll see the same with the e-readers.

  123. Dan Holloway

    I think Daniel embodies the kind of person I think of as my ideal reader. As a writer, I want people to read my work, and the e-book is a fantastic way of doing that.

    So how much do I charge? Nothing. I want loyal fans, and like with music the way to generate loyal fans is to let everyonehave my work without having to pay. Those who like it will, as Daniel says, consider buying a "real" copy of my book.

    I don't think the industry has begun to notice how the world is changing. Piracy – as in music, this is a non-issue. People who file-share are people who love music. They're the people who are most likely to go out and buy. And the one sure way to get rid of piracy is to make your work available for free in the first place.

    The problem with the industry is it has failed to think bottom-up. Progtress WILL be driven by readers. Not publishers, not agents, editors, or writers. Maybe helped along by the tech and app companies – but they are much better at listening to end users. This kind of pricing debacle simply confirms the industry still believes it's the same old debate but moved to a new platform. It isn't. The debate now has to be about how to generate revenue in a world where free and file-sharing are the norm, and that means radical new thinking, like it or not. Those who succeed will do very well. I have a feeling that crowd won't contain many publishing names we know today.

  124. Tumblemoose

    Hi Nathan,

    I've been a subscriber for a while and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your articles – this one in particular.

    I've been lurking because with 100+ comments on the posts, I figured my voice would just be lost in the mix. I'm ok with that, but I felt like I finally had to let you know how much I enjoy seeing you in my inbox.



  125. Emilie

    Here's another twist on this topic that I would like to see discussed: Autographed books. I love my collection of books signed by the author. I've collected most at ALA and as my time working the Arts Beat at the old reporting job. What is the thinking now amongst marketers? Signed bookmarks? Posters? Not for adults, I don't think. Back to Autograph albums? What is the digital analog (excuse the pun) to the old autograph on a title page?

  126. Emilie

    On last thing that bothers me about the Kindle – at least the ones I have seen – is that I can't read in bed in the dark. I can with my computer, why can't they back light a Kindle. Some crap about running down the battery I am sure.

  127. Agnieszkas Shoes

    Emilie, that always reminds me of the scene from Notting Hill "apparently, if you can find an unsigned copy it's worth a fortune."

    On my blog I have been advocating authors seling additional content/merchandising for a while as an adjunct to free e-books (ever since I realised I was more than willing to spend a considerable sum on the new Murakami diary – also after reading lots about Trent Reznor).

    As for the digital equivalent – how about people being able to subscribe to a WordPress theme or twitter or whatever) based on the cover of the book – great for both author (as marketing) and individual.

  128. Anonymous

    I don't know if anyone's still reading this old post, but I've been thinking about this a while and I wanted to share my ideas.

    It seems to me that there is a logical succession for digital/traditional print, particularly for newer or midlist authors. E-publish first. Use E-publishing as a gauge of public interest. When sales warrant, go to paperback. By then, the e-readers will have generated interest among the larger (book-buying) public. Then finally, hardback for those fans who really want a special copy of the book that they will keep forever.

    I know that's absolutely opposite of the way the industry has been working, but it seems like a more realistic business model based on today's situation. Digital publishing is lower in expense and risk, with huge profit potential. Publishers can take more risk. The market's comparatively small, but large enough to use as a proving ground for new novels.

    Make the hardback come later.You don't want to force readers to pay two or three times as much for a hardback, when media can be so easily pirated. Don't give them an excuse to do it. Make the hardback a special release, like a special dvd that comes with extras. Possibly it has special notes by the author, or a special short story included. If a book has made it to the hardback phase, it should be fairly well proven, and should have a solid fan base.

    What do you think?

  129. Crawford

    This has everything to do with publishers and nothing to do with authors' prerogatives.

    Ebooks are $9.99 because Amazon subsidizes them. Amazon pays a publisher the same money for an Ebook that it pays for a hardcover, and then sells the books at a loss in order to make money on the device.

    The publisher should make more money on the $9.99 Ebook than the $27 hardcover because the hardcover SRP is marked way up so every bookstore can mark it down 30-40%, and the the ebook doesn't have to be printed, bound and shipped, and won't have to be returned.

    Bookstores obviously see Ebooks as bad news, and publishers necessarily have tight connections with bookstores. A growing Amazon will be poised to negotiate with publishers on more favorable terms, and the Kindle moves Amazon a big step closer to becoming, itself, a major player in the publishing business.

    So it makes sense for publishers to look at the Kindle buffet line and suspect they are being fattened for slaughter. But for authors, anything that gets people excited about reading again is a positive development.

    Electronic distribution may also create new markets for short stories, novellas and poetry, which are traditionally claimed to not be worth the price of binding.

    I don't understand why an established author would allow a publisher to delay his ebook if he gets the same royalty for ebooks he gets for hardcovers, and the delay might cost him sales.

    Maybe ebook sales aren't tallied for bestseller lists?

  130. Emilie

    Wired Mag had an interesting take on this debate on a recent issue. The discussion included marginalia value in used books. My father, a librarian, chimed in on the debate and noted that most hard back books are purchased by Libraries these days. How are libraries going to drive e-books. I recall Apple supported many a school and library in getting computers in the hands of young people – hoping to gab a base while they were young. Remember the Apple IIe in your classroom? Good times, but the limited software didn't keep the kids interested. Publishers should think on that when holding back on the release of e-books.

  131. williwilli

    I love the smell and feel of a paper book but I know that e-books also have their charms. I’m glad to have both in my library.Diet Ebook


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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