Price Parity Coming To The eBook Wars


I am a big fan of eBooks.  In fact, when I bought the Sony Reader, I almost instantly vowed to avoid paper and ink books forever.  I have since upgraded to a combination of the Kindle 2 and various apps on my iPod Touch, but I remain hardbound book-free.

One of the problems I have had with eBooks has always been the price.  Some eBook publishers for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform charge as much for a digital book as they would for a hardbound book.  This just makes no sense given the fact that the cost of producing an eBook, with no paper, ink, presses, or other overhead is significantly less than printing a book.  Amazon really became the first of the large distributors to acknowledge this difference in overhead with most books ringing up in the $9.99 price range, and plenty of others under $5.00.  In fact, it was the rare exception to find any books over $10 for the Kindle.  To be honest, that was one of my favorite features.  Kind of like the $2.99 and under average price of apps in the iTunes App Store.

Earlier this week, Fictionwise indicated that their eReader application would follow suit (finally).  Their new pricing scheme offers nothing over $12.99. Here are all of the details of the new pricing scheme:

  • No e-book priced over $12.95
  • All new e-books $9.95 or less
  • All New York Times bestsellers $9.95
  • Plus 15% rewards on all purchases

I thought this was a fantastic development, and was thrilled to see more distributors widening the pricing gap between traditional books and eBooks. 

Then, along came the other shoe…dropping as you might imagine, from Amazon.  Earlier this week, I had some extra money to spend and decided to buy an eBook for my Kindle.  I had jotted down a few new releases I wanted to read and began looking them up.  What I found when I got there, however, were prices in the $13-$15 range.  On almost every non-fiction new release I looked up, in several different genres.  This is just disappointing.  Particularly, when you read it in light of the Gear Diary KindleGate, in which Dan discovered that you do not necessarily have unlimited access to your purchased titles.  So, where does this leave us with Amazon?  You can now pay up to $15 for a digital copy of a book, which you do not own, and can potentially only download a limited number of times; or generally spend $2 more for a hard copy of the book, which is yours to read anytime you wish, and as many times as you like.   I found this unannounced increase in pricing to be troubling and disappointing.

I love my Kindle, and I love reading electronic books.  Honestly, I believe that the Kindle will ultimately do to eBooks what the iPod did to digital music.  it will bring it into the mainstream, make it easy and accessible.  But in order for that to happen, Amazon (and other eBook distributors) must do a better job of attracting new readers to the format by making the books accessible and reasonably priced. 

[Some parts of this report via JKontherun]

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  1. #1 by John D. Sheridan on July 2, 2009 - 4:33 pm

    “…the cost of producing an eBook, with no paper, ink, presses, or other overhead is significantly less than printing a book.”

    I’d like to see some cost comparisons between the two. While E-books don’t require the same equipment, they do require equipment of some kind, like computers and servers, network equipment, bandwidth costs, etc. They also would have the same or similar legal requirements, licensing, royalties, etc.

    I’m not disputing that it probably costs less, I’m just curious how the costs do compare.

  2. #2 by dgoldring on July 3, 2009 - 4:56 pm

    John, just to clarify. I did not say that the cost of distribution or the cost of writing a book would be any different. Only the cost of production (printing 1 million copies of the same book). Basically because you do not have so many consumables. But it would be interesting to find the difference in cost.

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