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Do You Equate Value and Price When it Comes to E-books?

book price

By Edward Nawotka

In its article “Great Digital Expectations” the Economist magazine noted:

A tide of free and cheap product is flooding the market. Self-published novelists, keen for attention and without agents or publishers to share the proceeds with, often sell their works extremely cheaply. Meanwhile publishers have moved to offer introductory discounts on some books. As a result, Amazon’s list of 100 best-selling books has become a pricing free-for-all. This week 21 books were selling for just 99 cents. Others were priced at $4.98, $7.59 and $8.82. The most expensive single book, at $16.99, was Dick Cheney’s memoir.

With most things in life, you tend to get what you pay for, but is that the case with e-books? Some people, like Chad Post of Open Letter Books argued here that cheap e-books devalues literature. Others — particularly people selling their books at 99 cents — vehemently disagree. What do you think? Do you equate the value and price when it comets to e-books? Is it a spurious connection considering you can get the world’s greatest works of literature for free off of public domain sites?

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  1. Posted September 16, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    A self-published author like me well knows the eagerness of readers to get their books for free when possible. However, I do have to survive on the fruit of my work so sorry; I don’t charge 99 cents unless it’s a short single. I charge between 1/3 to half the price of the printed book for my novels and nonfiction books. I am dealing with commissions on sales which are quite pricey, so I have to get something out of it somehow. Others who think they are getting more reads for cheap have to remember that giveaways and cheap prices do not necessarily translate into book sales. Once the ebook is read, more often than not the reader will forget about it and move on to the next ebook. Meanwhile, the printed books are languishing on the shelf unsold.

  2. Posted September 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I think the market drove down prices. Amazon put certain best selling books for free, starting last summer, and then ran several specials. Indie authors had to compete on the pricing, but for once we were able to match the price. I’d rather sell a couple thousand books at 99 than several hundred, simply because I want to grow my reader base and see my books go up the charts. The money will add up soon enough.

  3. Posted September 17, 2011 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    I find this time consuming argument being made on every single platform that discusses ebooks. The one and only one thing that comes through for me as both a publisher of ebooks and as an author is this–the amount of time and money that I must put into a book means that I must find some way to make it profitable. I don’t mean wildly profitable to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars but that I must be able to justify, not only to myself but to others, that this is a worthwhile venture.

    Yes, we often equate how much money we have made with how valuable we are as a person. That is a societal problem and one that also needs to be addressed. One way we do is through literature. The crux of this problem becomes how do we ensure that good literature has a place and can be supported? I don’t think it is quite fair to place that burden solely on the writers.

  4. Posted September 17, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I don’t think “cheap ebooks devalue literature” – after all, classics are available for free or nearly free. And the famous 99 cents price is basically a loss leader – not the real price any writer would really want to sell at. It’s just a price where he/she hopes to reach out to many more readers enticed by the low price and who will buy the rest at higher prices! Yes, a loss leader to create a fan base and nothing else!

    I know that’s what I plan to do with my books (only the first one is going at 99 cents – all the others will be more). It’s just a marketing strategy that has been shown to work (vide John Locke and Amanda Hocking).

    Now it’s possible that it’s not going to work in future as more and more self-published writers put unreadable books out and alienate readers…At that point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the $3.99 price turned out to be the “right one”, i.e. the price able to boost sales. It would be low enough to be attractive and high enough to signal this is a good read!

  5. Joe J.
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    The only value in this question is the ability of the publishers to hide behind it. It is time for the publishers to get their hands dirty and go after the questions dealing with what are the customer’s expectations and what is fair to the customer.

    Amazon’s greatest crime is a passion for trying to know their customers. As long as the publishers continue to feel sorry for themselves and refuse to look for a “win/win” scenario, we will all be punished.

  6. Posted October 3, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    @Claude Nougat, Why do people keep bringing up Amanda Hocking & John Locke? Why? These authors started pricing their material at 99 cents over A YEAR AGO! It was a strategy back then & those 2 were pioneering that. There were less self published people on Kindle back then and the 99 was new to consumers, who gobbled it up. Why ca’t you grasp that this is a different day that calls for different strategies. Pricing your “work” at 99 cents isn’t a strategy, it just tells people you’re in dire need of fans and your work isn’t worth much more than 99 cents. It’s like the majority of self published writers can’t think for themselves and come up with their own individual game plans.

    Amazon customers are the cheapest I’ve ever seen in my life. And they complain a lot. If something is offered to them for free they won’t hesitate to rush back with a 1 star review and complain. They need to pay for things. Besides, Kindle readers paid hundreds of dollars for their devices. They can afford a normally priced ebook. They’re not going to shake down content creators to produce reading material to make their costly devices seem worth the money. Without content, Kindle devices are worthless. That is not up for debate, that is a fact.

    As for the commentor who said some classics are available for free, well those are Project Gutenberg books like Jane Austin books (that went through a publisher, were successful, and so on. The estate lost the rights and that’s why they are free). Equating self published books with those free classics is a Strawman argument.

    I have one 99 cent book up that I’m revising. When I’m done revising and reshaping it, I plan on changing the price to $2.99. I should never have offered it for so little and all I did with that action was tell myself my work was only worth that much. I didn’t even sell that many copies. I played myself and cheap Amazon hoarders got my full ebook for next to nothing and disappeared. They were too lazy to even leave a review. So I learned my lesson on that one. If I’m only going to sell X-number of copies, I’d rather it be at a higher price point. Anyway, I’ve devised a new strategy and it does not involve price point. That’s all I’ll say.

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