Why eContent should NEVER cost the same as printed

(I’ll preface this post with, A lot of publishers seem to get it, based on most prices found on Amazon’s Kindle store. This post is really derived from an interesting question i was asked over twitter.)

Beyond the ridiculously obvious “you get nothing physical” there’s a lot of reasons why an eBook shouldn’t cost as much as any printed version of the same book.

Let’s look at what goes into the price of a printed book vs. an eBook.

eBook Paper
Writing of course
editing Sure
marketing Some will argue it’s value, but yes
printing Nope, not even a little yup, and binding, and color correction, etc.
distribution The Internets trucks, and stores
Stores the Internets again shelf space, depreciation, discount selling

So given that several important factors in price (setting a price that when discounted due to depreciation is still profitable for example) don’t apply to eBooks, why should we as consumers be expected to pay a price similar to that of a hardback book, for an eBook?

While the cheap consumer part of me wants eBooks to be $.99 i acknowledge that it’s a bit unrealistic, since a great deal goes into writing a book, and while a single song is $.99 an entire book, shouldn’t be. Should a book be over $10 for the eBook version? No.

I feel a certain amount of pity for the publishing industry. While the music and movie industry got their heads kicked in, and alienated customers by the thousands, the book industry (rather than learn) watched from a far (i presume) assuming they were immune. Then Amazon came and fucked it all up for them.

Now they’re doing the same thing those other two industries did (killing speach to text on the Kindle, charging $15 for an eBook, etc), and not surprisingly the same type of backlash is being felt.

Publishing at least seems to have learned a little from their cousins in movies and music, but not enough I think.

4 Responses to “Why eContent should NEVER cost the same as printed”

  1. Keith Peters says:

    This has been broken down a lot more in detail by various people. The printing and shipping turns out to be a surprisingly small factor in the overall price.


  2. John Wilker says:

    Ah good to know. reading that post now. Weird that printing and shipping are such small factors, since next to writing I'd think they'd be the most time/labor/resource intensive.

  3. I think this sums up my thoughts:

    A Flex Consultant can make upwards of $100 per hour, even in today's economy. Is a resource that can help you learn Flex really only worth 10 minutes of your time?

    A business should try to price things based on the value they provide. Alternatives, competitors, and parallel markets should be taken into account of course. Providing real value that people want, and communicating that to them is the real trick.

    [I haven't the foggiest idea how to do that succesfully, though] . But, I think saying the an eBook should never cost above $9.99 is short sighted. There are a lot of factors involved.

  4. John Wilker says:

    Well I think you have to consider the media and what goes into it and what comes out. Should music still cost 15-20 an album? for MP3? there's no tangible good, no liner notes, no lyrics, no jewel case. Same with books, should an eBook cost the same or similar to a hardcover? There's no dust jacket, no binding.

    I've bought one ebook over 9.99, I can't imagine the value of doing it over and over. The same holds for music, if an album of MP3s was 15 bucks, I wouldn't buy it. If a Single was back to the old $2-3 price I wouldn't buy one. Books and music are both industries that in my mind can benefit from modernization, artificially keping prices "where they used to be" doesn't solve anything to me.

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