Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ebook Pricing

It has been a while since my last post, so what has made me come out of hiding? Ebook pricing. The Bookseller reported today that Transworld has finally announced that the UK ebook price for Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol is going to be the same as the hardcover: £18.99. Same goes for Random House in the US, where the hardcover and ebook are both priced at $29.95. Pardon me, publishers, but there is no way in hell I will pay 30 bucks for a Dan Brown ebook. You are making Amazon look like the good guy by pricing its proprietary ebook at $9.99.

This kind of pricing strategy is selfish and shortsighted on the part of publishers because they are not listening to their customers, who believe, right or wrong, that ebooks should be less expensive than print editions. Charging the print price for an ebook is not going to change the customer's mind. It is going to make them go elsewhere to buy the book or illegally download it somewhere. The customer is not thinking about what percentage of the ebook price eventually goes back to the publisher. Instead the customer is thinking about whether the product is worth the asking price, and in the case of The Lost Symbol for $29.95, the answer is going to be: not worth it.

Random House sited among the reasons for its pricing decision, that they were afraid a lower ebook price would decrease the number of hardback copies sold. But a lower ebook price also means that some of the people who would have waited for the paperback or just borrowed a friend's hardcover copy might now buy the ebook instead. More units at a lower price is just as good as less units at a higher price, isn't it?

To be honest, this subject gets me riled up because the larger publishers seem to pay very little attention to what their customers want or are willing to buy, and that is a Business 101 lesson. From Andrew Savikas of O'Reilly Media: "Think long and hard about what your customers want, and provide the service of giving that to them." O'Reilly has great publishing model that successfully incorporates DRM-free ebooks and print editions. Why are they so successful? Because their customers wanted DRM-free ebooks, so O'Reilly started selling them.