eBooks: Why Lower is Better (For Everyone!)

This is only my personal opinion, so take this with a grain of salt.

I hear publishers justifying higher costs for ebooks by saying they don’t want to “lower the perceived value” of books and/or that “producing an ebook costs virtually the same as a print book” so they need to have a higher cost than the $9.99 price point Amazon loves so much. The first point might be a somewhat legitimate concern, but the second point doesn’t hold much water unless the book is going to be digital only. The costs of producing the book in print have already been factored into the cost of the printed book, which is still over 90% of the market. Producing and selling an ebook version of that same book would cost only server storage and code monkey to format it. Subtract out the cost of printing and storing a physical book and it might not cost anything more.

Here’s my wild idea: ebook prices should be lower, maybe even lower than $9.99. Why? Let’s say a customer has $10 to spend, and she wants book A for sure. If book A is $10, she buys it,  and that’s that. Book A’s publisher and author get their money (the numbers I’ve seen have the publisher getting MORE margin for digital than print, and the author earning virtually the same for either format). But what if book A was $5? Maybe the customer saves the other half. But maybe she spends that, too, on book B. So, book A at $5 would indeed be getting less, but book B is getting MORE. $5 is more than $0, which is what it would have earned in the first scenario.

What if the next customer comes along looking for book B, and ends up getting book A too? Then book A has just earned as much as in the first scenario and may have earned a fan they wouldn’t have otherwise had if each customer could only buy one book at $10. The customer might recommend it to a friend, and if that friend likes it, they might recommend it someone else, and so on. And when the author comes out with their next book, they could have a larger fan base ready to snap it up – which is also good for the publisher. Selling more books at a lower price could lead to earning more money overall. That’s good for everybody.

p.s – pricing the ebook higher than the mass market paperback … all I can say is WTF?

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