WITH THE CAVEAT that this is an unscientific poll (seriously, Internet scientific poll police: I know I know I know…) here be the results.
What do you make of these results? Are perceptions of the value of e-books declining? Or is the (yes) unscientific nature of the two polls skewing the results?
And if you do buy that a year later people think e-books should cost less, what do you think is causing the shift in perception?
I don't think blaming 99 cent books works. A lot of writers want to be read more than they want to be rich. Or maybe they just know that they won't become rich.
I wonder what people here think of literary short fiction, which, honestly, can take as long as a novel to perfect, and then is submitted mostly to journals that will not pay a cent, and often require a reading or submission fee (3 to 20 dollars).
People create art for different reasons. Books are not like handbags.
J. T. Shea says
Suze, Dick Margulis, BAAAAAA!!!!
Eli Ashpence, a paperback e-book? A hardcover e-book? If they're identical, where's the distinction?
Frank Zubek, I agree re windowing e-book prices. Since the format does not change (excluding enhanced e-books) I think long term windowing from a maximum of $15 to a minimum of $5 would be reasonable. Particularly since these are the ACTUAL prices paid only in the case of e-books. How many people ACTUALLY pay $25 for the '$25' harcover?
It seems both polls agree. In February 2010 74% chose a price between $5 and $15. In June 2010 it was 75%.
Margo Lerwill says
"It seems both polls agree. In February 2010 74% chose a price between $5 and $15. In June 2010 it was 75%."
Good eye, JT, but that lowest band has surged. (Although there's little point in serious analysis of an unscientific survey. It's good for getting the direction of the wind, but not for planning careers, vacations, or locations for end-of-the-world bunkers.)
D.G. Hudson says
The shift in what is acceptable has changed. We've seen what newbie writers with a teen following can accomplish in book distribution by offering the item FREE or nearly. That skews prices as everyone runs to lower their prices as well. We've seen authors produce their own book their way, and succeed.
The question is: how many can jump on that same bandwagon before it flips over?
We're sorting things out at this stage (authors and consumers). As a result, our perception of a fair price has changed.
It's an interesting and uncertain time for writers. No wonder we're touchy!
Bryan D says
Perhaps you have more "readers" than "authors" following your blog these days?
Rebecca Burke says
My thinking behind the $2.99 price tag on my self-pubbed ebook? Anything less would make it look like it is crap, and it most definitely is not. Anything more and readers would balk because they're taking a chance. They don't know me or my writing (unless they've studied from one of the textbooks I wrote and edited!).
I made this executive decision by looking into my own cheap soul.
Also, my book is mainly for YA readers, and I doubt very much if many of them have a big budget for ebooks.
I want people to read my book. I don't expect it to make money because it's not that kind of story. No zombies or wombats (and no offense to the savvy writers who are able to write stories about those kinds of characters). My novel is about a homeless Mexican girl who gets in lots of trouble, but survives. Gritty realism, hmmm…worth about $2.99 in today's market.
J. T. Shea says
Agreed, Margo. Though interesting that the lowest band's surge is entirely at the expense of the $15 plus upper bands, which now comprise 2%, or about 15 people willing to pay more than the actual price of most hardcovers for an e-book. Despite how poor and/or cheap many writers seem to be.
Of course, that might be 1 person who voted 15 times. Maybe I should go back to yesterday's post and jimmy the results a bit myself…
Interesting results. I voted for the $15-$20 price for an ebook as being the *fair* price. It's approximately what you'll buy a $25 hardcover for, with the various discounts available.
However, it's not the price I want to pay for an ebook, because I don't value the ebook as much as a hardback. For $15-$20, *if I want the book* and having a choice between the two formats, I'll buy the hardback. It's a better product.
I see in other people's responses the same two considerations: (1) what they think is a fair price for the publisher to ask (although many respondents are denying reality when they think it costs a publisher only a fraction of what a hardback costs), and (2) what they are willing to pay.
It looks like ebooks will become the new cheap paperbacks/mass market editions.
Emy Shin says
Maybe it's because I've been buying mostly YA, but I haven't paid more than $15.00 for a hardcover in quite a while. Thus, I believe ~$10.00 to be a good price point for e-books.
I'm still a paper-girl at heart, and cannot justify paying that much more for an e-book than I do for a paperback.
Rebecca Knight says
Rebecca– haha! I did the same thing as far as judging my own cheapness when pricing my book :).
I'm a $2.99-er. I think novels should be anywhere in the $2.99-$5.99 range (less than a paperback.)
I'm also a big fan of short stories for .99 cents. That's another beauty of e-books–you can get fiction of all lengths!
I think more people have e-readers and that's changed the perspective.
When you're talking about someone else's money you might estimate higher, but when you've been buying ebooks, have seen your own habits and are talking about your pocketbook it changes perspective.
I probably answered this poll a year ago. I probably checked the higher price range (I don't recall, its been a long year). But over the past 6 months (since Santa brought me a Kindle) I've actually been buying and reading e-books. A theoretical $15 file is a lot different than an actual file.
Looking for a particular post... says
Nathan, totally off point, sorry!
Do you have a post about what to do when you get an offer from an agent–particularly when other agents have fulls/partials and have not yet responded, and when you have open queries out there.
Nathan Bransford says
I said I would never buy an e-reader, but Unbridled Books had a sale on 25 of their works for 25 cents each-in the e-format. It was a bargain I couldn't pass up. Unfortunately, I couldn't take sitting in front of my desktop to read them. I broke down and bought an e-reader to read my 25 books and give it a 30 day trial. It took a 25 cent price tag to get me, but I can't swear that I'll keep reading this way. I'm posting my 30 day trial on my blog at http://www.TammySetzerDenton.com if anyone wants to follow.
J. Anne says
I think the hype over e-book pricing was overstated to begin with. If I like an author I will pay what they ask (for the most part). Now, I do hate paying more for an e-book than I would for a paperback or a hard-copy. If the publishing industry insists on continuing this pricing model then I could imagine a huge backlash.
Sierra McConnell says
Mainly, it's two things:
The economic downturn, and the quantity of low priced eBooks availble to the public.
However, if you scan Target and Wal-Mart, you see there are BOOKS there. Lots of books. Cheap books. When there weren't a lot of good, low priced books before.
And that gives booksellers something to ponder.
More people are reading because television viewership is actually in decline I think, with the advent of internet availability (I can watch when I want, why pay for it?).
I can't imagine paying more than $4-$5 for an e-book, regardless of the author. I love my e-book reader and now e-read content from my library as well as purchase books. But it's not a real object; I know it costs the pub house virtually nothing to produce it (as opposed to the physical book). It feels like rip off to pay $10+ for an e-book. Yes, I think e-books priced at .99 cent to $2.99 have affected our expectations about what an e-book should cost but I don't think that's the whole story. Even though I enjoy my e-reader, if the cost of a physical book and e-book were the same, I'd buy the physical book.
Neil Larkins says
Very provacative stuff, Nathan. Thanks.
Incidentally, anyone know what happened to Rachelle Gardner's blog today? She said there were going to be changes but I'm not sure she meant this. Then again, maybe she just disabled it for now.
Patrick Neylan says
Possibly people are starting to realise that you don't own an e-book. The seller can take it back any time.
Also, people are becoming familiar with the diluted quality. When there is so much cheap rubbish out there, the value of the medium is degraded.
Jenny Maloney says
Actually, before the last poll was done in February, didn't you have a series of posts about the actual costs of ebook production/price distribution before the poll? That would've made a big difference in the earlier poll.
There's also the trick of how unscientifically us readers were reading. Whenever an ebook comes out with the hardcover, like your question refers to, I don't think it's fair to undercut the price of the hardcover quite so much. If the question was about ebook vs. paperbook, I would've voted differently. (I voted the 10-14.99 slot but against the paperback release I would've gone lower.)
I agree with bakinepiphanies, I prefer the old fashion REAL books. I love my home library and enjoy watching my family and friends use them. Technology is great for some things, but for me not fiction books.
I wish I could reduce the price of my ebook from my big-six publisher's nine-ninety-nine model.
Debut authors should have this option, says me.
It's all about public perception.
1. Digital content has become, in general, cheap and/or free. Why should books be any different?
2. With the ability to instantly gratify the desire for more books, voracious readers want to be able to buy more, and look for cheaper options.
3. Self-publishing's ability to make money off of inexpensive ebooks is skewing the perceived value.
4. The general reading public does not get that making a physical book is not a sizeable chunk of the cost of creation. They want something at 50% off for an item that is created for about 15% less than the physical form.
5. The public is not seeing a significant enough difference in curated material to justify the price differential. If I can get a good story for 1.99, and there are plenty of them, why invest in something for 9.99? It's just not worth it.
I think people are beginning to realize that (a) it really is cheaper for the publisher to publish online and (b) readers now realize that major publishers of e-books for the most part simply 'scan and dump' their e-books with little post scan clean up and correction.
Mieke Zamora-Mackay says
I think in February last year, there weren't as many e-books available at the prices they are now.
Also, with the price of e-book readers coming down so drastically, there are more users who are finding price values they've never seen before in reading material. Kindle versions of classics are almost all free now. Independent e-book authors are pricing their works so low.
The readers now have grown accustomed to these low prices.
The forces of economics are at work. Amazing, isn't it?
Sari Webb says
As a reader I would only spend in the $5.99 range for e-books. I understand that this is unlikely to be cost effective for publishers but that's why I will continue to buy p-books. I value the book as a physical item, and you don't get anywhere near the same value from an e-book (in my opinion) so I'm not willing to pay anywhere near as much.
When I finish an e-book it goes into a file somewhere and forgotten about. When I finish a p-book it goes on the bookshelf and maybe read again, or lent to friends over and over. It gets cherished.
"Are perceptions of the value of e-books declining?"
*shake shake shake*
Reply hazy. Try again later.
"Or is the (yes) unscientific nature of the two polls skewing the results?"
*shake shake shake*
Signs point to yes.
"And if you do buy that a year later people think e-books should cost less, what do you think is causing the shift in perception?"
*shake shake shake*
If you don't stop shaking me, there'll be trouble.
O_O;;; Errr… *sets it gently aside*
In all seriousness, I think the main issue is that a) e-publishing has exploded between then and now, and b) too many e-published books are written by less-skilled authors who badly need better editing, better proofreading, more experience, or are just plain not very good. So, increased supply plus a perceived decline in quality equals devalued products.
There's also the factor that there's a kind of race to the bottom going on, with authors trying their best to outsell each other with low prices. I doubt that's good for anyone, long-term.
I didn't see a shift.
But then, it required quite a bit of calculating to spot the trend. Didn't it?
Well, I couldn't manage it, anyway.
I'd pay more for e-books if they didn't all look the same.
The production cost is obviously a minor thing in what it costs to publish a book, so you can't put too much value on this (although, obviously lots of people don't know this, as seen from some of the comments.)
I don't think it's strange that new e-books cost more. It's like DVDs or Blu Ray movies. You pay more if you want to buy them when new, then you can get them at half the price a year or so later.
I see books the same way. When the hardcover is out, you pay more. Then usually a year or so will pass before the paperback is published, at which point you can get the story for less.
It seems reasonable that e-book pricing follows the same trend: more expensive when only the hardcover is out, then cheaper once the paperback is published.
Bear in mind that many genres hardly even do a hardcover print run anymore, so the e-book price would start at that level.
Actually, a big part of the cost of an ebook is not the physical one (although it's related), but compensations to the publisher for his taking BIG financial risks when printing the books.
(Yes, printing thousands of paper books than may not sell is a risk that has to be compensated).
However, for EBooks, the publisher doesn't take that risk anymore.
How can he expect to gain the same for less "work" ?
Nathan, thanks for the link to Ginger's post! It is EXACTLY what I was looking for.
Suzanne Grenager says
Nathan, maybe it's partly that you have more followers who aren't authors now than last time. Readers want to pay less, authors want to make more.
Sorry, folks, but–speaking as a person who buys mostly ebooks now–it has absolutely nothing to do with books that are $.99 – 2.99. It has everything to do with the price of ebooks in general.
And as has been said here in far more eloquent terms than mine, paying more than $9 – 10 for an ebook is just outrageous. This idea of charging the dear earth for a hardcover or paperback is stupid. And now to overcharge for ebooks? NO!
And knowing what I know–as an author, now–in terms of what kind of overhead there are for ebooks, charging more than $10 is ludicrous.
That's the changing attitude. It's not about the self-pubs, it's about the economy. It's about the precious few dollars I have to spend on such things and wanting more for my money.
Hell, even other authors see that. What's wrong with the publishing companies that THEY refuse to get on board with this. You sell more books at a better price and make more money than you do jacking the cost up to something idiotic.
Marcia Richards says
As a writer I know what it takes to write a book and an author deserves to make money of his book. That being said, I had voted for the $5-$9.99 range because a self-pub book in that range earns more for the author than at a higher price. Also, when you get used to purchasing great books at .99-2.99 why would you want to pay more. Attitudes will always change as the public has time to digest the new technology or new ideas.
Sarah L. Blair says
I love my ereader and the convenience of getting a book in seconds. I don't have any problem paying any price for an eBook as long as it is priced the same as its physical book form.
What will make me NOT purchase an eBook is when I see on Amazon that I can order the paperback version for less. Usually I end up not purchasing the book at all.
Top quality for nothing? says
Jennifer said something about 90% of ebooks will be read once and never be read again. They are reading content and I don't see what the number of times content is read has to do with whether it's in ebook form of paper. So, I don't get the point she tried to make with that comment.
To me, a lot of these comments sound like they are grasping at straws.
When I buy a book, I am buying the CONTENT. The way in which that content is dispayed is of no consequence to me. Somebody here said they only buy $8 paperbacks from some book stores. M'kay, I don't know of many paperbacks sold for $8 so where are they shopping? Coscos? Walmart? I buy mine from Barnes & Nobles and when I go there I know most books (PB-HB) cost between $10 and $35 (tax included). I don't go there snooping around for $8 books. LOL
Personally, I buy based on content. If I'm going to buy Stephen King, I'm buying based on his content, which I know is high level. So I just don't expect any of his work to cost under $9.99 unless it's something old like maybe Gerald's Game or something like that. I'm talking about EBOOKS here now. I guess something like Carrie would be around $8 in ebook format, but if it's $10, fine. If it's $12, fine. The content itself hasn't diminished just because it's in ebook form-the content is still top level.
As for the RE-SELLING BOOKS argument, nice try. You'll only get maybe 20 cents per paperback if you're lucky. For hardcovers, maybe 50 cents if you're lucky. I'm generalizing there, but stop making it sound like you can really re-sell these books and actually make any money in doing so. Also, you're "technically" not supposed to re-sell them because the author and publisher don't make any royalties from that sale, and people here know that.
In closing, I've noticed that whenever the 99 cent ebook topic is touched upon it draws out the nickle and dime crowd who count pennies in one hand & expect to get some quality entertainment for that. I write ebooks and I'm not interested in this crowd. When I write high quality material, I price it accordingly. It makes me laugh when I hear this crowd complain (not on my work but on 99 cent works) about the typos and poor spelling, ect. They expect to get $25 quality with their 99 cents and $2. LOL
No, the quality will match the price point. On a whim, I bought a loaf of bread the other day for $.79 and tasted it. It was stale. Oh well, what did I expect for that price : Rich French bread? Ha ha. And for those who want to argue that the author should put their best work up, even at $.99, I say, get real and dream on. You want top quality work for nothing. Keep dreaming.
Rebecca Burke said…
… Anything more (than $2.99) and readers would balk because they're taking a chance. They don't know me or my writing…
We take a chance every time we walk into a bookstore. We don't know all those authors. Are you kidding? Unless it's Stephen King, Rowling, Brown, Anne Rice, or the like, the author is UNKNOWN, and people are taking a chance. Please don't let people convince you otherwise.
Also, my book is mainly for YA readers, and I doubt very much if many of them have a big budget for ebooks.
Rebecca, these poor YA readers had $40 for Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. They have money for things they want. Don't believe otherwise. I myself spent $11 for Twilight, $9 for Eclipse, and an additional $18 for two vampire books by different authors. Twilight was the only 1 I managed to finished. The rest were unreadable for me. But see? Those books were bestselling because YA fans do have money.
I want people to read my book. I don't expect it to make money because it's not that kind of story. No zombies or wombats (and no offense to the savvy writers who are able to write stories about those kinds of characters).
Rebecca, why put down paranormal writers? Your suggesting you work should cost less because it's in a different genre??? Also, saying you don't expect to make money makes no sense. Why not post your work up on Facebook for free, or on a blog for free is just being read is your main goal? Just a question.
My novel is about a homeless Mexican girl who gets in lots of trouble, but survives. Gritty realism, hmmm…worth about $2.99 in today's market.
Rebecca, no offense, but it just sounds like you have low self esteem as a writer. Sounds like YOU don't think your story is worth more than that. $2 is NOTHING. Hamburgers cost $10 nowadays. A gallon of gas is nearly $4. Starbucks is $5 and some change. $2 is NOT a premium price for anything at all. It's less than dirt cheap.