February 4, 2016

On ebook prices set by publishers

Now that the big publishers have renegotiated their contracts with Amazon we are seeing a change in the ebook price strategy. Publisher are finally able to set their own prices and Amazon is selling ebooks with the tagline “this price was set by the publisher”.

This seems like great news, and obviously publishers deserve the opportunity to set their own prices. The problem with this shift is in the publishers strategy behind ebook pricing.

In a sense, 2016 presents something of a new beginning, a clean slate for e-books. In 2015, all of the major publishers finalized new sales agreements with Amazon, two-year deals for both print and digital distribution. And with the e-book price-fixing sanctions now expired, publishers have what they long desired: control over consumer e-book pricing. What Does 2016 Hold for Digital Publishing?


I was recently shopping for a new translation of an old classic. I found the book on Amozon at $13 for the paperback, and $12 for the kindle version. I ended up with a used paperback from a reseler for $7.

On seeing those prices one has to think, what is the publisher thinking? How can an ebook be priced like a hardcopy that needs printing and delivery. Are publishers trying to discourage sells of ebooks? Are they trying to push physical book sales? I believe that an ebook should not be free and it should appropriately compensate its creator. However, pricing an ebook as expensive as a physical book is a disservice to your customers.

I believe it was Hugh Howley who said that this strategy will likely drive readers away from mainstream books and into independent—reasonably prized—books. Independent publishers can more narrowly target readers interest and be more cost effective. There will always be block busters but we might see that the tail end of the sales chart starts to take on a larger and larger market share.

February 4, 2016


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