The Rejecter: A Publishing Blog with an Attitude
Print Is Dead, by Jeff Gomez

Kindle eBook Pricing

Money2 In the midst of the Amazon's new Kindle device debate there's one key item that doesn't seem to get much coverage: the price of the ebooks.  Yes, $400 is way too much for a monochrome dedicated reader, no doubt.  It's the early adopter model though and you can bet Amazon knows that mass appeal will require a much lower price along with many more features.  Let's assume they get they address all that in version 2.0 or 3.0 down the road.  How do you feel about paying $9.99 for an ebook?

Given that most of the bestsellers currently available for the Kindle retail for more than $20 in print, I'd say $9.99 is an excellent price point.  It's like the 99-cent per song model that Apple established several years ago: Easy to remember and, more importantly, it feels like a bargain when compared to the print price.

Of course all books aren't $9.99 on the Kindle list.  I had to look long and hard before I finally found a book over $9.99.  In fact, I gave up after page 10 of the search results.  They're out there though.  For example, the Computers & Internet list has plenty of them: 7 of the top 10 are more than $20 and 2 of those are over $30.  Then again, the first real computer book on this list is only #1,377 overall so it's not like early adopters are buying the Kindle for computer book reading.

On the other end of the spectrum, how about $3.50 for Dale Carnegie's classic How to Win Friends and Influence People?  $3.50?!  The paperback edition lists for $14 and Amazon sells it for $11.20, so how could you resist buying the ebook for $3.50?  Most people will figure it's a book they should read and now they can get it for less than a cup of overpriced coffee.  Long tail titles like this one will benefit greatly from the Kindle, assuming they maintain the sub-$5 price point.

Speaking of interesting models, are you familiar with the Amazon Upgrade program?  For the tiny sum of $2-$3, Upgrade gives you immediate access to the online version of the print book you purchased earlier from Amazon.  It's a nifty way to overcome Amazon's lack of instant gratification.  Upgrade is an extension of the Search Inside feature so it's not like you get an ebook version for your computer; you need a live Internet connection to use this service.  Now that the Kindle is a real product, how long will it be before Amazon integrates it with the Upgrade service?  Think of all those books you've bought from Amazon over the years.  Would you pay a sub-$5 per title fee to get Kindle versions for some of them?  I would.

Comments

Eoin Purcell


Joe,

I agree, the price point is attractive! The only problem is that I can read my paperback without any other device and I can lend my paperback to a friend.

So its less money but what you are buying is inferior too!
Eoin

Joe Wikert

Hi Eoin. You've more or less hit on the tradeoff I'm trying to measure. If the print book costs $20 or $25, is an ebook price of $9.99 low enough to offset the inferiority you note in your comment? For me it probably is but I'm wondering if others agree. It sounds like you don't and that the price needs to be even lower.

Brad

Hi Joe! Great post! I agree that $400 is a bit much for the Kindle. However, I also think that 9.99 is still too much for ebooks. Given that they have zero costs for printing, storing, shipping, supplies, etc the prices should be $5 or below.

I bought the Sony Ebook Reader back in March, and while I love it and think it's a great device, the prices at Sony's Connect store are horrible - only a few dollars cheaper than the print version.

Personally, I think ebooks will become even more popular if the price goes down more. Also the best reading devices for ebooks will probably be already popular devices out there, such as the iPhone (which I heard works great for ebooks).

Eoin Purcell

Joe,

I reckon given the limitations, I'd be happy at around $5.
Now if you loosened the drm and made it a bit more attractive and easy to share $10 would be spot on. I'd accept a little cutting back on traditional rights but for big books (ones I value) I'd still buy in print!

Eoin

Timothy Fish

I have gone through the process of making one of my books available for the Kindle. I have come to the conclusion that the limitations of the device will make it best suited for novels and the $9.99 starting figure is probably fine for any book that is designed like a novel. If the person doing the work has the manuscript text in a file, it may take an hour to upload a novel. Most publishers can afford to risk an hour per book.

Non-fiction titles are not as straight forward. Many of them have things that Kindle does not easily support. Just grabbing a book off of my shelves, "Teaching for Results" by Findley B. Edge has many graphics, lists and tables. The graphics and lists are supported, but they will require some additional work and tweaking to get them to look nice. Tables are not supported at all, so they will have to be converted to graphics or not used. Whereas a person might spend an hour uploading something as simple as a novel, it may require several hours or days to do the work required to upload a non-fiction title. Publishers may be willing to take the risk, with the idea that they will recover their investment in the long run, but it will require much higher prices for some books published for the Kindle than it will for others if they hope to make a profit.

I think that, if a device like the Kindle catches on and the features that will bring them to their fullest potential are added, I think that the price for the content on these devices will eventually be higher that the prices that readers are currently paying for paper and ink books.

Aaric Eisenstein

The question of book pricing is almost irrelevant, though, if the ante remains so high. If you're paying $400 for a dedicated reading device, you're a pretty serious reader most like. The price of a book isn't a deterrent. Do you really see someone that's willing to pay $400 for the opportunity to buy a book then balking at $20 or even $40 for the content?

$.99 for a single song on iTunes is a throw-away impulse buy, I agree. But the content price is relevant only in the context of the device itself. I find it unlikely that a parent will buy their kid a $400 reader and then set them up with a $30/month Amazon allowance for books, a la the iTunes parallel.

The notable development here is that Amazon has substantially broadened the number of publishers that will make electronic editions of their books available. The rest of the Kindle of is transitory details.

http://tome-reader.blogspot.com/2007/11/kindle-fails-to-spark.html

Anthony S. Policastro

Hi Joe,
It seems there is a broad spectrum of opinion about Kindle and people should take it for what it really is.
First - it's not a laptop so don't expect it to do laptop work.
Second - $400 is a bit steep for the price, but I never buy the first version of any product, just like I don't buy the first year of a new model car. There is always a better version down the road and most of the time the economies of scale take over and the price is lower. So all those complaining about price - don't buy the device now and wait until the price drops.
Third - $9.99 for a book is a good price considering even if you bought a hardcover for that price from Amazon there is an additional $3 shipping and handling. There is also no additional cost for the wireless access to retrieve the ebook. If you downloaded the book from your computer or cell phone, you are paying an additional cost for Internet access or data access on your cell phone. Consider the cost of your high speed Internet access at home (I'm paying $45 a month)and the cost of one e book at $9.99. If you download one book, you just paid $54.99 for that e book ($45 + $9.99}. Of course, you get other benefits from your Internet access, but in reality the book still cost you $54.99.
Like I said before, take the Kindle at face value - it's not a laptop, it's not PDA, it's not a cell phone. It's a book/periodicals reader and no doubt the next versions will cost less and it will come with improved features.

Stephen Tiano

Consider the iPhone. You have to figure the Kindle will not last at this price for long. Not if they intend for it to catch on. After all, it's a one-trick pony. Even the iPod added capabilities to the original music-playing proposition. And $400 seems an awful lot for something that's not necessary to read a book. I mean, you can just get the book and not lay out the $400. Also, has anyone heard anything about how one’s eyes feel after extended reading on that small screen?

Now, that said, it seems to me that the smart publisher wants to be looking for designers and page comp artists with the skills to make a book and then, in the same production schedule, repurpose the book so that it is “Kindle-savvy”.

This leads me to a question: Eoin, can you point me to any specs or procedural notes that—as I am a book designer and layout artist—I might use to get a handle on repurposing the PDFs and/or Quark and InDesign files that I produce when making files that will go to printers to make books?

Joe, great post to start the ball rolling and getting us design/production types to think about our next offering.

Stephen Tiano, Book Designer, Page Compositor & Layout Artist
email: steve@tianodesign.com
iChat screen name: stephentiano@mac.com
website: http://www.tianodesign.com
blog: http://www.tianodesign.com/blog

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