E-BooksWhen I read the DBW article yesterday entitled “7 Must-Consider Strategies for Ebook Pricing,” I ended up scratching my head. What happened to “listen to the consumer and what they consistently tell you they want?” That sounds like a good idea when considering pricing e-books. Apparently not.

It started with strategy #1. “Charge extra for convenience.” Here’s the quote:

Though ebooks cost less to print, ship, and stock than paper books, they’re much more convenient for readers. So why not charge extra for that convenience? With this strategy, the price of an ebook would be higher than its equivalent in paper—isn’t immediate access worth something to consumers?

Consumers save the cost of transportation to the book store and retain the “value” of the time they save. Think about it. Online ticketsellers have been getting away with convenience surcharges for years. They add a buck or two (or more) over the top of an event’s ticket price, just for ordering online—and consumers don’t walk away.

All right. Fair point, I guess, about online ticketsellers, although I am one of the consumers who does walk away from convenience fees. But this isn’t about me. It’s about the average e-book reader.

Yes, we like convenience. But I’ve seen so many readers say they will not pay more than paper prices for a book they don’t own, can’t resell and can’t even guarantee they will be able to read in several years if they change their e-reader of choice.

It’s not about convenience. It’s about choice. Our choices are greatly limited by e-books, and that affects our perceived value of an e-book far more than considerations of convenience.

Some of their other suggestions were just wacky. “Premium pricing for premium brands?” Honestly not sure how publishers would pull that off or who would decide who the “premium authors” would be. Oh sure, the publishers could decide, but I’m not sure enough readers would go along with it.

My favorite was “factor in the author’s time.” While as an author, I kind of liked the idea of a higher price on a book that took me more time to write, as a reader, I had to laugh. Honestly, I don’t think most readers care. We want to get value out of what we read, and I’d rather reward a fast writer than a slow one. A good, fast writer gets more books into my Kindle than a slow writer, and I’ll pay for the speed by buying all those books.

The other suggestions weren’t as bad, but since I was hoping for good suggestions to help me as an author, I was so disappointed by the first three that I mostly stopped reading.


  1. Charge extra for convenience? If you are selling ebooks, you are not providing convenience. You are not competing with paper books. You are competing with torrents, with cyberlockers. Convenience in this market is typing the author’s name on some site and getting everything they ever wrote in a matter of minutes, often in multiple DRM-less formats that save the time spent on converting to the correct one. In comparison to that, you are providing inconvenience.

    P.S.: And just before someone accuses me of being a cheapskate pirate, I spend about 2000 crowns (~100 dollars) on books each month. Paper, because the ebook selection in the Czech Republic is beyond pitiful. Plus, the two-or-so ebooks I might be interested in per month usually come out a couple days after I’ve already bought the copies, so…

  2. Umm, what about charging the price that brings in the most proffit? Depending on market conditions, book/brand and venue, that can be anywhere between 0.99 to hundreds of dollars, and you can certainly create a lively debate over the best point, which can never be proven until the day we can create and examine alternate realities at will. But it mystifies me that there would be any other consideration in setting a price.

  3. “Factor in the author’s time?” The customer doesn’t care what your costs are (in money, time, pain or any other resource). Cost-to-produce is a factor in your profit margin, but it has little bearing on what price the market will support.

    If writer A takes 8 months to write a book and writer B takes 12, and the books are entirely comparable in quality — why should I, as a consumer, pay more for B’s relative lack of fluency?

  4. I do think the effort of work by the author is worth some consideration. For example, consider a large biography that takes four or five years to research and write vs. the next book in a series that can be knocked out in a few months. The page count and sales may be the same, but one pretty much has to cost more if the author is going to keep writing as a day job.

  5. I have tried to leave answer on the TFA site, but it is very strange …
    so here it is, since I have already typed it 😉


    Charge more for convenience?
    What about charge less because:
    – you do not really own an e-book
    – it can not be sold when finished
    – e-books are infested with DRM that makes it bloody inconvenient to read on a different device or 15 years from now.

    Just yesterday my daughter was looking for something to read and I handed her a book that was purchased by her great-grandfather in 1936. Are my great-grandchildren going to be able to read that book I have purchased from Amazon some 80 years from now?

    Another strategy to consider: If customers come to conclusion you are trying to rip them off, they go elsewhere.

    “Ebook Pricing Strategy #2: Link ebook prices to their ”value proposition””
    People DO pay more for Yugo than for Mercedes. But you can’t download a Toyota for free, can you? I am not talking about piracy. I am talking about tens of thousands books legally available for download.

    “Ebook Pricing Strategy #3: Factor in the author’s time”
    So … are you going to sell books by James Patterson for a small fraction of regular price? He published 57 books in the last 40 months since January 2009.

    “Ebook Pricing Strategy #5: Price newer titles higher than old ones”
    This has been done for a very long time in a paper book world. And now the strategy has backfired.
    For many, many years the publishers published new and desirable books only in hardback and charged premium for them. Only when the demand for overpriced hardback died, they published it in a cheaper Trade paperback and after that in even more cheap Mass-market paperback. They were telling us that this is because the cost of a good hardback as compared to TP or MMP. Well, an e-book is even cheaper to print and distribute, ain’t it? And think about boatloads of money they are going to save on remaindered books and warehouse costs 😉

  6. Charge more for convenience? Why? I already bought that convenience when I shelled out the hundred something dollars to buy my e-reader. I wasn’t buying a brick – I was buying a device that would allow me to read more conveniently: instant access to the books I buy and the ability to conveniently carry my entire library with me in a lightweight device in my purse. I already paid for convenience and that was supplied by the device manufacturer – not the author.

    When I buy a book – I am buying the content. And as many have said, the content in the form of an ebook is much more limited than the content in the form of the paperbook. So again, I am paying for the convenience a second time, not with money but by giving up the right to resell or lend or give away the content and by risking the loss of my content if the content supplier goes belly-up or cancels my account.

    It is funny how publishers want to charge more for the advantages of an e-book while simultaneously refusing to charge less to account for the rights that are taken away or the reduction in their overall production costs.

  7. Don’t get me started on James Patterson. I used to like him. Then the books became less and less good. And that’s me trying to be nice and not really saying what I feel.

    @Jason, I noticed there were only two comments on the post, and both of them positive. I’d say you’re right.

    @Vonda, spot on. And many publishers will argue with you on the buying content comment. I’m not sure what exactly they think we are buying, but it’s obviously much less than we readers would like to buy.

  8. I visited the article page again.
    Three comments. All of them highly positive.
    Something smells there …

    My comment, for example, was not positive, but very civilized. You can see for yourself a few comments back. And yet, they deleted it 😉

  9. Pricing? I have heard so many arguments about pricing. Most of tem make good points but here’s another that most authors hate to discuss. What is it that we writers want more than anything else? Money? Nice but maybe we should consider another option. I want an audience. I want readers to love my work. I want my work to be creative, well written and exciting. If I am going to achieve my goal then I need to deal with the last point first. I need an editor, reviewers, and experience in marketing to place me into the right position for lift off. That costs money and the quick way to get that investment back is to price the book accordingly. Too high and no-one wants to buy – to low and everyone says “Beginner, don’t buy.” Here’s the alternative – GIVE IT AWAY. Why? A book given away has more chance of being read by a big audience simply because it is free. However, if the book smacks of quality what happens when the second book is published at say $4.99. You already have a following. Result – readers buy. By the time you publish the third book you will be selling the first for $4.99 like all the subsequent publications.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.