9/09 Update: If you're interested in the ebook pricing debate you'll want to register for the online TOC conference we're hosting here at O'Reilly on October 8, 2009.
Does anyone know how to price an ebook? That's a great question Tom Masters asked yesterday on his Future Perfect Publishing blog.
I gave my opinion during a Kindle webinar last week and then was asked a follow-up question about it at the end of the session. I stated that I think Amazon is onto something with the $9.99 price point they charge for most Kindle editions and that I've clicked away from two potential purchases when I saw their prices were more than $9.99. (Clayton Christensen's latest book is the one I'm particularly disappointed in since I'd love to read it but it's currently a $19.58 Kindle edition.)
The webinar attendee's follow-up question was, "do you feel that $9.99 price ceiling applies to all types of books?" To be honest, I was only thinking about the kind of books I tend to read, which are mostly trade titles with print prices in the $15-$30 range. The attendee was particularly curious about more specialized books, for example, highly targeted titles aimed at engineers, lawyers and other professionals, not the ones with more broad appeal like I tend to read. Great point...I hadn't considered these other areas and it's clear that highly specialized content like this currently comes with a premium price tag. So yes, I can see the logic for Kindle editions priced at more than $9.99, but I probably won't be buying any of them.
As I thought more about this and read through Tom's post I realized there's a problem with the logic we're all currently using for this debate: We're just talking about quickie ports of print books to e-formats. If nothing else is added to the equation it's hard enough to justify the same price as the print book, let alone something higher. But that's the key. I'm still a big believer that as the e-content world continues to evolve we'll find ways to add more value to our products, so that an e-book offers a much richer user experience than the equivalent print book (if we can even say there's an "equivalent" print book at that point!). When we reach that stage there should be no problem charging more than $9.99 for these products, but we're nowhere near that point yet. (See my note about social networking capabilities in Tom's post for an idea of what I'm looking forward to.)