How Much Would You Pay for an E-Book?

The New York Times reported a couple of days ago that for some newly released books on Amazon, the Kindle version actually costs more than the hardcover. For obvious reasons, this has not exactly been well received by their customers. Reviews for James Patterson’s new book Don’t Blink are overwhelmingly concerned with the price rather than the book itself, with a slew of one-star ratings (though one of these unhappy reviewers did note “I read the hardcopy of this and can tell the people who are boycotting the e-book because of the price, that they’re not missing anything”).

Meanwhile, Amazon is blaming the publishers (going so far as to write in italics underneath the $14.99 on the Kindle version this price was set by the publisher) and the publishers are blaming Amazon for lowering hardcover prices too drastically. Though the real victims here seem to be Kindle owners who were relying on that $9.99 price point – or maybe the authors, who now have crappy reviews of their books because of things beyond their control.

So what do you think? Is $14.99 too much for an e-book in general, or only if the hardcover happens to be $14.00? Or what about $19.99 for the Kindle version of Ken Follett’s new book Fall of the Giants? What do you think is the perfect e-book price point?

I own a Kindle, though my purchase choices on it usually have little to do with price – more like whether the book is important enough to me that I want it on my shelf, or if I’d be embarrassed to be seen reading it in public. But I do think I’d be wary about paying more than I’d pay for the hardcover.


36 Responses to How Much Would You Pay for an E-Book?

    • I have to agree. $5 is what I was thinking was the max I would pay for an ebook. $15, I don't think so. There's still something nostalgic about paper. If I'm going to spend more than $10 on a book, it's going to end up on the shelf.

  1. Surely the price of an ebook should be the price of the book, minus the cost of publishing and transportation? An eBook should NEVER be more than the book.

    • That's exactly my thought, too, but to be fair, we've then got to add on costs for hosting (etc) for the e-books.If that then takes the cost of the e-book higher, then that's fair enough, but I can't see how it could with Amazon, considering they probably get a hell of a discount on their server costs for hosting so much, compared to smaller e-book publishers.What else is the extra added on for, other than trying to hawk a profit out of people that have put good faith in their company's e-book reader product?

  2. I don't own an electronic reader at this time. If I did own one, I would want to pay less for the electronic version than the print version.

    Lets face it, the book is already in an electronic format before it's published. It should be cheaper for the companies to publish in electronic format instead of hard copy.

  3. It cost nothing to publish an e-book once it is formated. It's called Copy And Paste. I should pay 14.99 for that?

    Ebooks should be under 4.99 new and various levels under that for back catalog

    • I agree. One reason I haven't purchased a reader yet is that I can get the paperback version of books for less than the online version. I can't justify the cost of the reader if the books I download for it are more expensive than the paperback.

  4. I think about $10 is fair. Amazon had the price point right from the get go. Publishers shot themselves in the foot demanding $15+ prices for ebooks. But this is the way of things right now. Old institutions missing out on market because they have an archaic way of thinking. I wouldn't be surprised if, just like music, good writers start eschewing the publishing establishment and just directly selling to customers digitally.

  5. I got my Kindle on the notion that books would never be more than $9.99. Yesterday I went to the Kindle Books section of Amazon and saw that two books on the front page were $15. That's just crap. Why would I pay more for an ebook than I would for a paperback?

  6. I agree with the article; I usually buy physical books when I want to keep it on my bookshelf, for others to see that I read it. If the paper copy is cheaper though, I have to do the economically right thing and buy that one. E-books, however, should necessarily be less, there's no distribution, and no paper. Also, we should be encouraging paperless distro for the enviroment.

    More than books though, I'm upset that magaznie subscriptions are more expensive than paper versions. I understand we don't get the ads, but I'd rather save costs and paper and get ads on my Kindle version then deal with the masses of magazines in my apartment.

  7. What I would pay for an e-book depends on how important the book is for me. There's no fixed price that covers everything. However, I would never pay hardcover-price for an e-book, and I have not, nor will I ever buy DRM "protected" e-books. I will be more than happy to pay for e-books that I can own and use on any reader I want, but I will not rent books.
    For the record, I have purchased quite a number of DRM-free ebooks.

  8. I received my Kindle about a month ago and so far it has been FANTASTIC! The books I have loaded onto the device have been cheaper than their paperback/hardback alternatives, but not by a lot.

    I agree with the rest of the commenters here, the eBook version should be cheaper than the paperback copy. It's ridiculous to think that an eBook would be more expensive when they are not paying to store it on a server, taking up shelf space or any cost whatsoever to print the book.

    I would love to see eBooks drop to around $5, as there are a few series of books I have that I would love to get the Kindle edition. I am willing to pay $9.99 for a book as long as I like the series and would NEVER pay $15 for the eBook. By that price point it is more expensive than the paperback version and most likely the hardback copy.

    These publishing companies think they can keep screwing over digital customers, and they are wrong. We won't pay for an eBook edition that is the same price at the printed edition, which has none of the same costs to produce. All they want to do is have a larger profit margin and it just wont happen. I know a few friends who have actually started torrenting their eBooks and have not paid a dime. These weren't some no named hack author either, think bestsellers! I myself prefer to legally obtain my media but keep trying to screw me over and I will consider torrenting eBooks as well.

    On a side note, I would really love to see some manga on the Kindle. It is woefully lacking in that category!

  9. some blogs are ebooks except you get a chapter every few days! and for free (or at the expense of some banner advertising)

    The ironic thing is that most novels were probably written on a laptop anyway and maybe edited here and there by a publisher, so the question is, why bother with a publisher? aren't they just PR people nowadays????? Authors no longer need what the publishers offered to produce a book, the presses or equipment to print a novel or the distribution channels to deliver a solid object like a book across the nation, now they are just pitchmen like the "sold on tv" guys and as such, the price of the product should be in the $5.00 range, remember 19.95 still gets you real goods on TV, $10 gets you videos and music and $5 should be plenty for ebooks…

  10. A lot of readers here seem to be missing the point that there are a lot of publishing execs who want e-books to die a quick and painful death. They like the status quo, they want to continue to kill trees (loggers profit) and pay to have them processed (paper mills profit), printed (print shops profit) and shipped (shipping companies profit) to brick and mortar stores (who also profit). Everyone involved wants to keep the prices artificially high for e-books in order to stifle sales as much as possible.

    Don't worry, they will fail. Digital media is the inevitable future, but the publishing companies will naturally resist it for as long as they can. It will be a tough transition, but just as iTunes (and similar services) eventually settled on fair prices for non-DRM content, e-books will eventually accomplish the same goal. Just be patient, and continue to support those companies who deliver the value you request.

    • 14.99 is a good price point to make piracy worthwhile.

      The book mentioned above is available on Rapidshare in Kindle format for free. If Penguin keeps antagonizing Kindle owners, then those people more and more will turn to piracy. By the time the publishers get the price to a reasonable level, there's already an infrastructure in place for pirating books and a generation of consumers who have learned to get their books that way.

      • "By the time the publishers get the price to a reasonable level, there's already an infrastructure in place for pirating books and a generation of consumers who have learned to get their books that way."

        This is true, but that's really not a new development. The pirates cry of "it's too expensive/has DRM, let's steal and distribute it", is pretty juvenile. It doesn't redress whatever the initial problem was to begin with. And if the initial problem is simply a case of someone who's too damn cheap to pay for things they want well … screw those guys. If, on the other hand, the problem is one of exorbitant pricing on ebooks then the solution is to not buy it OR the print edition. Companies pay attention to their bottom line, and if enough people send the message that current pricing structures are bullshit, well they'll eventually come around or fade away.

        As to the actual focus of this article though, I'll echo the sentiments of a few earlier comments. I'll pay whatever price seems reasonable to me to get the content that I want. If the print version is cheaper I'd consider getting it, but I love the convenience of ebooks and am willing to pay for that convenience.

      • Like I said earlier, I have several friends who own eReaders (mostly Kindles, but a few Nooks as well) and for the eBooks whose price is over $9.99 they just torrent the file. Dead simple too. The file sizes aren't large either, so it's not like downloading a movie which could take all day.

      • But are these Kindle books going to work on someone else's Kindle? When you buy a Kindle file from Amazon, it is restricted to the registered device only. If you try and use it elsewhere, it doesn't work. or is the "Kindle file" just a converted mobi file?

        But you're right, prices like that just encourage illegal downloading. Out of curiosity, I contacted a friend the other week who uses file sharing networks and I asked out of curiosity if the books I wanted were on the file sharing networks. They were. I tell you, I was so close to asking him to download them for me.

        • Mark, there are scripts to take the DRM out of Kindle books.

          @Sinux – If the E-book is more than a trade paperback, I buy the trade paperback and pirate the Kindle version. I believe in supporting the artist. Generally it is better for the artist to buy a dead tree copy of their book since the sales and popularity are better tracked. Also, the fact that you sold 100K Kindle copies doesn't make B&N put your book on an end cap.

          Money saves you time and time saves you money. If the auto shop wants too much for a simple repair, I do it myself. However, if it's a hard repair and the auto shop is offering to fix it for less than I think my time is worth, they get my business. Likewise it's not worth looking for one track from a CD when $1 is relatively cheap at iTunes. However, when you had to pay $15 for the whole CD to get one track, music piracy was far more prevalent.

          This is not about justifying anyone's behavior, it's about pointing out that the higher the price, the more incentive there is for piracy. The more you "victimize" your customers, the more they feel like victims who are entitled to steal back from you.

  11. While I agree that the 5$ price point is right for an E-Book, the problem is the publishers. The costs of printing a book, even a hardback, are not a huge part of the price. Even so, Publishers have not learned that new distribution methods mean a need for new pricing structures – they haven't figured out that E-Books could mean much higher sales – even at a lower per unit profit – that will result in over all increases in profits.

  12. Very little.
    They are so overpriced at major publishers it's unbelievable.
    I just bought 2 new books on offer at my local bookstore. (T.Pratchett and P.Hamiltons latest.) for a total of £19.00.
    The ebooks are £13.49 and £13.29 (now on sale with 30% off)and are DRM copyright enforced.
    Oh and both books were available on torrent sites before publication day.

    I do buy ebooks from baen and smashwordsd but they offer good value and more importantly DRM free books.

  13. Very little.
    They are so overpriced at major publishers it’s unbelievable.
    I just bought 2 new books on offer at my local bookstore. (T.Pratchett and P.Hamiltons latest.) for a total of £19.00.
    The ebooks are £13.49 and £13.29 (now on sale with 30% off)and are DRM copyright enforced.
    Oh and both books were available on torrent sites before publication day.

    I do buy ebooks from baen and smashwordsd but they offer good value and more importantly DRM free books.

  14. I wouldn't pay much for an ebook, but I prefer the physical book. However, it should be compared to the price of the physical object, as someone said, minus the cost of producing said physical object. Consider textbooks, many of which are now available in e-versions. Sure, $60 seems like a lot to pay for an ebook, but what if the physical book is $100?

  15. 5 dollars is a fair price for a ebook. I have stopped buying ebooks with the rise in price. I am again buying the hardcover and reselling it at the used book store or trading it for others there. I have my Sony e-reader on craigs list.

  16. 5 dollars is a fair price for a ebook. I have stopped buying ebooks with the rise in price. I am again buying the hardcover and reselling it at the used book store or trading it for others there. I have my Sony e-reader on craigs list.

  17. Initially the price should be $10. From there, every month or few months, it should drop $.50 until it reaches $5.

    E-books should not be more than the physical book. It doesn't make any sense. My virtual pony should not cost more than your real pony.

  18. It's silly that publishers want to have prices close to the price of a real book at all, let alone have it cost more than a physical copy. I think that since an ebook is essentially just a copy of one file on a computer and producing a new one is as easy as "copy and paste" that the price should reflect that. The fact that it is just a file copy operation means the actual cost of the book is just based on the people involved in making it and the people who publish it. The real work is done by the author then it is handed off to pro editors and then the author submits it to the publisher. The publisher then just handles the book's physical production and distribution expecting to get a certain cut for their work. I'm not sure how much the publisher gets or how much the author gets but I think the author should be getting more than the publisher. The publishers marginal cost is greatly decreased by not having to have a physical copy of the book as this eliminates the book manufacturing cost and the cost to ship that book to would-be book sellers like amazon. The cost then becomes the cost of operating the computers which host the books and personel used in the process. Then of course they want to make a certain percentage of profit off the book so add that to the cost/book figure. Now the consumer comes in knowing that the physical copy costs a certain amount to produce and expects to be able to buy it at a drastically lower price. The consumer will see that the difference in cost should be greater than it is. I expect that consumers will push the price down to a reasonable level over time. Reasonable to me means $15 at the most, $5 on average and maybe as low as $2. The old media is trying to hold on to their old business model but it doesn't work with electronic media such as ebooks. The music industry eventually kicking and screaming brought prices to a reasonable level so lets hope ebooks do the same.

  19. the price of ebooks is the only thing keeping me from buying an e-reader. I wouldn't even buy a hardcover book at full price, let alone pay $14 for something digital.

    • No, you are not 'paying for the convenience'. If that were true than than means you are paying someone to pick up the slack. E-books by their very nature are easier for everyone involved. Just as it is unfair in Canada when you are charged a 'bank fee' because you use an ATM not of your own bank when there are no people involved in the process of getting your money, it is not fair that something that has no ink, no paper, no transportation, and relatively no storage costs (both in goods and services) should cost more.

      Also, but the very nature of an e-reading being 'green' it should be promoted and not cut down like so many trees. Save those trees for other purposes, or to stand and do what they are meant to do.

      Otherwise, in answer to the topic in general:

      I personally use my e-reader mostly for the classics, out of copyright, and legally pay zero dollars for it. Better than having them clutter up my home. No one cares what you read, and I am not so pretentious to show it off. There are few new books that I ever desire to purchase in a year. Whether it is a physical or digital copy. I would never pay more for a book in e-form however. So if it is, then I just get it from the public library. Then, as a physical object, it is only temporarily taking up my personal space. And again I legally pay nothing other than what my taxes support. Otherwise I hardly blame or judge the people who do resort to piracy when matters like this crop up.

  20. I don't care what it's about, if I have to pay more than $5 for a book, it better be the physical copy. That being said, I don't mind carrying books with me so the ease of an E-reader isn't all that enticing.

  21. The prices to buy eBooks are absolutely ridiculous. I lot of comments bring up great points about the companies not having to pay for the printing, shelf space, or selling of these books. Another thing is- I bet the authors themselves aren’t seeing any of the extra money being made with the digitalization of their work. If they did, I would have to admit that spending a little more would be worth supporting them and the hard work they have done. I personally don’t have an e-reader, and would have a really hard time buying one and going digital. I’m definitely a book-in-hand type. Same with other media outlets like my newspapers and magazines. I’m sure it’s just the novelty of it all. Most of these types of things are ridiculously expensive at first, and I’m sure someone out there would love to point out the amount of money invested in getting e-books working, and so popular. However, I’m sure once that novelty has worn off a little bit, and people keep on voicing their opinions like this, they will realize they need to cut their prices down significantly.
    There is also the “going green” issue, which these companies especially use to their advantage as much as possible, and still are even when they’re completely ripping their customers off. I almost feel bad that I keep buying my physical books, until I realize that I’m one person, and they’re an entire corporation that could be making a huge difference in our environment. While each small step makes a difference, we need to also be looking at not only the financial, but social aspects of this issue.
    I also love caffn8d’s idea of the writers just selling the books directly to their readers. I know it was probably thrown out there half jokingly- but it’s been done before. Just like Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”, they could opt to use the honesty box principle. How much could they possibly be making for each unit sold anyway, a dollar or two? With Radiohead a lot of people did decide not to pay, but others overpaid, wanting to give the band credit and so-called “tips”. We tip our bartenders, waiters, hairstylists, ect. why not the people who write the books that are so personal to us? I could see this being extremely successful with book series especially. Then, just like the “In Rainbows” sale, they could advertise their other work to be bought and not only make money on sales, but advertise themselves through these sales. I’m sure there are holes in this plan, but with a fine tune I’m sure it could work out somehow. This would also probably be most successful for authors with an enormous existing fan base. Everyone saying that they would want to pirate the work would save money, but these authors spent a lot of time writing these books, and probably don’t even set the prices themselves. It’s not their fault all of this is going on, so they shouldn’t get their work stolen.

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