Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Ebook Pricing Dilemma

A short while ago, MacMillan Books and Amazon declared war on each other when MacMillan informed Amazon that they wanted to price their ebooks at around $12.99 to $14.99 instead of the $9.99 price Amazon was listing. MacMillan maintained that pricing books below $10. devalued the books, however Amazon disagreed. The situation heated up to the point where MacMillan withdrew its titles from Amazon. Of course, Amazon felt that ebooks should be affordable, and said that it refused to continue carrying MacMillan’s titles. In the end, Amazon capitulated because MacMillan is simply too large a publishing house to ignore.

This dispute exemplifies the dilemma of how much to charge for an ebook. The heart of the matter for all publishers and authors producing electronic books is how high, or low, should an ebook be priced? And is there such a thing as too low? For some book buyers, the answer is yes.

I know a number of independently published, unknown authors who are struggling to compete for readers’ attention. Their view is that it’s better to get one’s book into the hands of potential readers than to collect royalties by selling books at a higher price. So, these authors price their books at 99 cents. Some have even gone as low as a penny for short periods, and yes, these low prices do result in many more sales. It seems that a significant percentage of ebooks, even from well known authors, are selling for five or six dollars.

A good idea, you say? Well, maybe and maybe not. MacMillan has a point about devaluing a book. I’ve been monitoring a couple of Kindle reader forums and while many people won’t pay above $4.00 for an ebook, other readers openly wonder about the quality of a newly released title from an unknown writer that sells for less than a dollar.

Now, here’s my dilemma. I have an ebook publisher who set the price for both Taxed to Death and Fatal Encryption at $6.99, which is substantially lower than the $19.95 print version for Fatal Encryption. However, when she listed the books on Amazon, they immediately reduced the price to $5.59. Fine, okay. But within a week of Kindles being available in Canada the price of my books jumped to $7.59. It seems that Amazon is arbitrarily changing the price of the books, which must drive my publisher a little batty.

To be honest, despite some great reviews recently, I haven’t generated a lot of sales probably because of the book’s price, so my publisher and I are rethinking things, and let me tell you, this does take some thought. Personally, I’ve worked too hard and too long to let my books go for under a buck until they become my backlist at some point in the future.

What I’ve learned, though, is that before you, or your publisher, set a price, you’d both be wise to take a good look at the market and listen to what readers are saying. And then do what you believe is right.

Fatal Encryption is available on Kindle at
Taxed to Death’s Kindle version can be found at

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