There was alot of discussion recently about Sony’s 20 pence ebook promotions. Amazon price matched, which they have every right to do according to their agreement with publishers, and The Life of Pie is still available as a Kindle ebook for 20p. If you have not bought it, you should. It’s a great book, and a bargain. At 20p, you have virtually nothing to lose by buying the book and very much to gain.
Of course, this is only one of the many pricing strategies available to publishers and authors. It’s even possible to offer your book free of charge, the benefits being that this can result in tens of thousands of people downloading your book (though only with a significant marketing push to tell the world you are offering your book for free or nobody will know about it). Why would you want that? Well, at least a percentage of these people go on to read the book, review it and, if it’s any good, tell their friends to buy it. It gets the ball rolling so to speak.
Anyway, the purpose of this blog post is not to discuss pricing strategies, but to discuss the future of ebook prices.
We believe that customers are only prepared to pay paperback prices for plain text ebooks because the whole thing is new, because it’s still exciting to download a new book onto your reading device which you may have recently received for Christmas, and because in some instances they have no other choice. At some point people are going to baulk at the price and the market price of a plain text ebook will see an inexorable decline, hovering out (when exactly is anybody’s guess), we guess, at around £3.99 or $5.00 in the US. The problem of course with this price is that those publishers stuck in the old school model and scared by lower prices, will do more and more to keep their titles in paperback for as long as possible. This means that digital readers will have to wait longer before some titles are available electronically. Or something like that…
Eventually (and I won’t define eventually), it’s very possible that most books will be read on e-reading devices and that the profits achieved on selling ebooks, even at a lower price, will be superior to those achieved from selling paperbacks due to the quantity sold.
In the mean time, new technologies are regularly being introduced and it’s likely that a format will come out for which readers will be happy to pay a little extra. For example iBooks Author already allows you to embed video and almost limitless color photos (unlike the Kindle which is still very much text driven, despite the introduction of the Kindle Fire). This gives you a totally different reading experience. We tested it on one of our books, Afghanistan Revealed, and were pretty happy with the result.
So, what is the future of ebook prices? We believe plain text ebooks will gradually drop in price as supply and competition increases and more people have the ability to read them, and more ‘dynamic’ ebooks, which will change the way we read books forever, will be sold at a premium.