The Bookseller notes that cheap and discounted e-books have been selling really well on Apple’s iBookstore. HarperCollins and Pan Macmillan are mentioned to have a lot of cheaper-then-print e-books on the bestseller list, whereas Hachette who prices e-books higher only has two books there.

David Roth-Ey, group digital publisher for HarperCollins, said: "Our goal is to find the optimum price for our e-books to maximise value for ourselves and our authors, while giving consumers a fair deal and incentivising them to buy, rather than motivating them to fileshare our digital content."

Roth-Ey stressed the discounting was an attempt to "right-price" e-books, warning it was important to encourage people to pay for books "not drive people to find pirated editions elsewhere". He explained: "If the average selling price of a hardback book with an r.r.p. of £18.99 is £12, we can’t reasonably charge £18 for the digital edition. Physical book r.r.p.s are a point of reference for determining an appropriate digital book price, but not the determining factor."

It’s nice to see publishers starting to get a clue about fighting piracy with more reasonable pricing. Who would have thought that consumers actually prefer to get more for their money?


  1. Unfortunately it appears what they’ve failed to learn is that piracy is not something you can experiment with. When you’ve pissed off a customer enough to resort to piracy, they aren’t likely to start buying books again.

    This needs to be done properly through market research. Amazon understands this. The big publishers think they can ignore the market research and experiment.

  2. Unfortunately geographic restrictions are a Gordian knot that it’s not going to be possible to cut. Every single book contract between publisher and writer has these restrictions baked into it individually. In order to do anything about it, they would have to renegotiate literally tens of thousands of contracts with literally hundreds or thousands of writers.

    How’s that going to happen, exactly?

  3. Chris, the interesting bit here is that the geographic restrictions are being enforced in new ways. For the most part, I pay state sales tax for items purchased on the Internet based on where the store is located. The location of purchase is that of the store. If I wish to order a paper book from a UK (outside the country to me) web site, then I simply have to pay additional shipping charges. The location of purchase is that of the store.

    The restrictions we have been seeing on e-books are new to us customers. If UK e-book retailers have to negotiate rights to sell US books, that is understandable. But I, as a customer, have to negotiate rights with the retailer. I’m sorry, but that’s akin to applying someone’s local decency laws to an international web site, another practice I don’t agree with.

    Since I have not read the contracts in question, though, there may actually be clauses that prohibit sales _into_ a market as opposed to _in_ a market. However, I think most people would agree that customers are unused to this type of restriction. Quite the opposite, most people have recently enjoyed increased access to the global market with better communication and cheaper shipping rates.

    • Well, it depends how you look at it. For some reason, when you purchase a paper book, the purchase is considered to take place at the store or warehouse it’s being purchased from—but when you buy an e-book, the purchase is considered to take place at your computer. I don’t know why, or who made the decision, but that’s how sales are being interpreted now.

  4. Geographic restrictions stem from the way books are sold. An author usually sells a given publisher the rights to produce and distribute books in a given country or group of countries. They author then sells OTHER publishers the rights to publish in their countries.

    Supposea US publisher, say Penguin, buys US distribution rights, to a book, and a company like Orbit buys the UK rights. If Penguin starts selling ebooks willy-nilly to UK-based customers, Obit is going to throw a fit, an justifiably so.

    Individual publishers don’t have the resources, or the global reach, to buy worldwide rights, translate the book into thirty or forty languages, and handle worldwide distribution. They aren’t willing to pay a fair price for global distribution rights, which is WHY things get chopped and sold to numerous different houses. Saying they should just get over it ignores the tremendous number of contracts involved. Of course, pirates are unhindered by legality, contracts, or morals.

  5. I’ve just looked at and they’re offering the British edition of my latest book, the American edition, plus the German and the French translations… And both British and American editions of some of my other books. All from the British site. Bit of a nonsense, isn’t it?

  6. But who decided that buying an e-book counts as having it “sold” at your computer?

    If it were done the way Amazon does printed books (the “sale” happening at the warehouse that shipped the book), then buying an e-book should count as having it “sold” at the server that processed the payment and sent the download.

  7. That’s true, but it would also mean that electronic publishing rights would effectively BE world publishing rights, and we’re back the to problem of publishers not being willing to pay a fair price for world rights when most of their market is local.

    We make about 35% of our income from foreign sales, including a fair bit from English-speaking foreign sales. With ebooks becoming an ever-larger percentage of total sales, we’d be cutting our throats to sell worldwide rights to our US publisher for a few hundred dollars, and they simply won’t pay more than that.

    Obviously a solution needs to be found, or the pirates will simply put us all out of business. I’m just saying that it’s not as simple as the pirates seem to believe.

  8. True. But what’s an English speaker living in some small, non-English-speaking country going to do? He could order paper books from any English-speaking bookseller anywhere in the world—but nobody’s going to buy the English-language rights to publish a book in Vietnam or Uruguay or some such place, let alone start an English-language e-book store to cater to expatriates there. There’s no money in it.

  9. As I said, obviously a better solution needs to be found. If I knew exactly how to cut the Gordian knot of contracts and tradition and make a system that was fair to both authors and readers, believe me I’d be doing it!

    It’s obvious that change is needed, and I’m not arguing to preserve the status quo. Frankly, the pirates are currently offering a superior product at a better price, with far fewer complications. That’s a recipe for disaster no matter WHY it came about. If something doesn’t change, and fast, the publishing industry is in trouble.

    However, it seems like everywhere I look people are sharply criticizing the publishing industry for not “simply” doing X or Y. A big publisher can’t afford to run roughshod over copyright law, contracts, and international treaties to implement these “simple” solutions.

    I wish I had the answer — but if I did I’d be busy implementing it not posting it on a forum! 🙂

  10. I just everything you all wrote.. I personaly think that some of those restricitions should be loosened. I’m a American living and working in Germany. I can buy English Paperbacks in stores or even via But what I can’t do is buy the Ebooks. And personally I think that’s sad. You have a lot of US-Soliders stationed over their family members etc. Why do that to them? All over the world you have people that read and speak English, may it be in England, Australia or even in Germany. I don’t live in a small town, and think it’s kinda unfair to people outside of the US or Canada. Why shouldn’t we have the right to buy a Ebook online. I can order books from the States even, and can have them sent to my German address. Why can’t I download a Ebook?? No one needs to wonder why people get their books off of pirate sites. If people can’t get it the legal way, they’ll keep on going to those pirate sites. I would rather get it legal, pay my 7$ for a book, then getting it off of a pirate site. With restricitions like that you’re only pushing the consumers to the pirate sites. I thought everyone’s against it. Why are you helping the pirate sites??

    Its something to think about. I’ve read in a lot of forums and even on Sites like Amazon, that their are people that would rather read the books in English then in German or their own languages. And if their are more people outside of the US and Canada that are like me and love to read.. but their bookshelves are bursting.. and they want to buy ebooks… well we’ll be the consumers that will get angry and go to the pirate sites.

    Why have restricitions on Ebooks.. but none on Paperbacks/Hardbacks? That’s what the big puplishing companies should think about.

  11. A significant part of our frustration as customers is that it was working perfectly well before. We bought from sites like Fictionwise for years. Where were all these contractual difficulties then?

    Suddenly, the publishing industry decided our money wasn’t welcome anymore. We were given no notice, there was no consultation and no alternatives. All of a sudden, one day we weren’t allowed to buy ebooks anymore.

    Tell me, publishers: would that make sense to you as a customer?

    What was wrong with the previous model? Who was really being disadvantaged by it? I live in Australia. Most of the ebooks you refuse to sell us haven’t been available to us in Australia anyway (including those by Australian authors). I’m also a disabled reader who can’t hold or read hard-copy books.

    As I said in a recent email to HarperCollins, Baen Books gives its ebooks free of charge to disabled readers. You refuse to let us buy books. Why do you discriminate against disabled readers by restricting access to ebooks?

  12. I think us Indie authors have realized this for awhile as publishers cling to old standards. I even teach other authors methods of creating and selling ebooks at no cost to them, methods that really work. The days of expensive publishing models are behind us. Hello new world.

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