How Much Do You Consider Fair For An Electronic Book

Over the last couple of years, e-books have become ever more popular. A lot of the credit for that must go to the Amazon Kindle reader which, whilst not the first e-book reader to hit the market, has undeniably been a major influence in the growth of the market for both e-book readers and the e-books that accompany them.

E-books are predicted to make up somewhere between 12 to 15% of total book sales in 2011. The market is still developing, but e-books are becoming an ever more important factor in the publishing world. The importance of e-books may even be a little higher than the percentage sales suggest. At the risk of stating the obvious, it seems likely that e-book reader owners will be likely to buy, and read, a lot of books. Simply put, they are the target audience of the major publishing houses.

So it’s important that publishers get the price of e-books right. Or else they run the risk of upsetting some of their best customers. So what, exactly, would a fair price for an e-book be?

E-books don’t use paper, ink or bindings. Also, since they are not a physical product, there are no fees associated with delivery. So you would expect them to be quite a bit cheaper than normal printed books, wouldn’t you?

Well not really. The cost of paper, ink, bindings and transportation is, according to publishers, only a small part of bringing a book to market. Even with e-books, there are proof reading costs, editing costs, marketing costs etc. The lack of a few reams of paper is, all things considered, pretty much insignificant – according to many publishers.

There is, up to a point, some logic in this argument. On the other hand, if the physical aspects of a book don’t impact upon the price, why would there be any significant difference between the price of a hardback edition and a paperback? It’s an argument which lacks the ring of truth.

Until quite recently, Amazon had a publicly declared policy of setting e-book prices at $9.99 or less. That is, until they had a disagreement with many of the big publishing firms. One publisher’s books were briefly withdrawn from Amazon’s site at one point.

Some publishers have now adopted the agency pricing model. That means that the publishers dictate the selling price rather than the retailer. You may, whilst searching Amazon for something to read on your Kindle 3, come across the notice “this price was set by the publisher” – which is just Amazon’s way of flagging up the fact that they did not set the price for that particular book.

On the other side of the coin, there are those who suggest that Amazon’s $9.99 price policy wasn’t sustainable in the long term and that Amazon may just have been encouraging consumers to get used to e-books, and to help boost Kindle sales at the same time.

When you’re finished with an e-book, you can’t pass it on to friends or family (although Kindle owners can now lend Kindle books to other Kindle owners for a two week period). You can’t donate it to the charity shop or local library and you can’t sell it on to a second hand book store. You have fewer options with an e-book than with a normal printed edition. So, given that e-books have fewer options, the price should also be lower.

Right now, the price of an e-book is whatever the publisher says it should be. Not that means that you have to agree with them and pay that price of course.You could just wait for a couple of months and the price of the e-book may, as is often the case with video games, reduce significantly following the initial launch period.

You could, quite conceivably, decide to spend your money on some other form of entertainment (which is what a book is after all), such as a CD, a DVD or a video game. Instead of reading a book you might just watch TV. At the end of the day, books are a discretionary purchase which need to compete with other products and services for both your time and your cash. Just like any other discretionary purchase, an e-book should cost whatever you are prepared to pay for it. It’s worth whatever you say it is.

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