Ebook Prices. What would you pay?

Today I thought I’d talk about the cost of ebooks. There have been other discussions on blogs and social media about this topic due to the agreement made between Amazon and 4 of the top 5 publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan). The result of this agreement is that the publishers can set their own prices and keep them set, with no changes ever made by Amazon. The publishers receive financial incentives to keep the prices down, yet many of their books cost much more than those published by smaller publishers and indie authors.

The graphs below show the difference in the cost of ebooks published by different types of publisher. As you can see, the books published by the biggest publishers are the most expensive, in some cases more than double than that of an indie published book. They have also been increasing month on month from the time shown between Feb 2014 and May 2015.

Book prices on Amazon

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Codex CEO Peter Hildick-Smith points out “Since book buyers expect the price of a Kindle e-book to be well under $9, once you get to over $10 consumers start to say, ‘Let me think about that.’” It seems as though that is exactly what is happening. Instead of paying higher prices, readers are more likely to search through the Kindle store to find a bargain and discover new authors.

Ebook buyers are seeing the cost of their preferred format almost matching hardback and paperback versions of the same book. The major publishers are seeing sales of ebooks slump, whilst physical copies are selling better. This is obviously because some buyers are choosing to buy the physical book as it is similar in price to the ebook.

The deal between Amazon and the publishers has had an impact, not only on the sales of ebooks, but on the earnings of the authors who are represented by the publishers. The authors tried asking Amazon to lower their books prices when the deal was being negotiated. It is now impossible for Amazon to lower these books prices and as a result the authors have seen a 20% reduction in their daily earnings.

Whilst traditional published authors are negatively affected, indie/self-published authors are seeing the benefits. With the majority of indie authors choosing to charge lower prices, their books are more appealing to those searching for their next new read.Share of book sales

The above graph clearly shows the impact of the Amazon-Publisher deal from Feb – May 2015. The number of daily sales made by indie authors has increased sharply, as have those books that are Amazon published. Traditionally published daily sales have dropped by around 10%.

The evidence does suggest that the majority of readers like to find a book that they think is value for money. They are not willing to pay more for top traditional books anymore when they can read other books for a lower price. Indie authors do stand to benefit, whilst authors represented by the top publishers look like they will lose out. All authors work hard at their craft, so it seems as though even though some authors still seek the representation of a top 5 publisher, those publishers may not have the authors best interests at heart.

How much would you pay for a new ebook?

How much do you think is too much for an ebook?

Are you an author who is concerned about the price of your books?

Please let me know what you think in the comments box.

As always, thanks for reading

Best wishes



9 thoughts on “Ebook Prices. What would you pay?

  1. I’m happy to pay standard paperback prices for a ebook, but I’m not happy to pay the price of a hard back. But that is the same if I’m buying a real book. I do check out Amazon’s daily deals as well. Sort of a mix a match for me price wise.

    • Thanks for reading the post and commenting Susan. I agree about not paying hardback prices. I was going to buy some kindle books by Stephen King (he’s my favourite author) but his publisher set the price at £13.99! I wanted to read these books but I’m going to leave buying them until the price comes down.

  2. Hi Mark, great post. As a author with a small publisher, depending on the genre, they usually set our prices between $3.99 to $2.99 for our ebooks. I find these prices reasonable. Once the initial outlay has been covered, with good marketing strategies and promotions, they can usually make those costs back within a year or two. After that, it’s all gravy. As a reader, I very seldom pay over $4.99 for an ebook.

    • Hi Sahara, thanks for reading.
      The prices your publisher sets do seem reasonable. If other bigger publishers priced their books in a similar way then their authors may sell more e-books.
      Some ebooks are priced the same as print books, sometimes even more if a big name author, and that isn’t reasonable.

  3. Mark, great post and a great insight into how the war between big publishers and Amazon leaves a gap in the market for indie authors.

    This is a time of opportunity for indie authors. Thanks for your post. It will go on our magazine site too!

    • Hi Laurence,

      Thanks for reading the post. I agree, being an indie and making all the decisions about your books seems a great way to get your work out there.
      I appreciate it being added to your magazine too. Thank you.

  4. Personally, as I reader, I won’t pay more than half of the price for a paper version for the ebook version. Ebooks have virtually no production costs after the initial editing and cover and such, while each paper copy does.

    And unless you’re talking major non-fiction textbook type books, or large collections, any ebook priced over $10 is insane.

    As an indie author, the above graph makes my day.

    • Hi Jazzmyn,
      Thank you for taking the time to read, and reply to the post. I won’t pay the same price for an e-book that I would pay for a physical book. Being an author I do think that all authors deserve decent returns for their efforts though. Trying to fund editing, cover design, formatting and marketing can amount to quite a cost and are all still needed to make a quality e-book. I do agree that e-books priced over £10/$10 are too much.

      All the best,

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