Sunday, January 08, 2012

another brief rant about kindle and ebook pricing

This will be quick.  I keep meaning to fit it into another post, but it never fits.  And I was just surfing on Amazon, so want to get it out of my system.  I think publishers are making a big mistake by charging full price for e-book editions of older books.  There are dozens of books that I own that I would be willing to buy a second e-book edition of so that I would have my Kindle/e-reader stocked with books I want to re-read.  But only if it wasn't too expensive-- say $2.  There are even a couple of dozen that I would buy a second copy of at 2.99 or 3.99.

But I am not going to pay 7.99 for a second copy of a book I already own.  I'm not even going to pay 7.99 for a book I don't own if I can get it used for a couple of bucks.  Example.  Jenny Crusie recommended Carl Hiaasen's Skinny Dip on her blog this week.  I looked it up on Amazon.  It was published in May of 2006, so it's more than five years old.  I could get the paperback brand new for 7.99; the Kindle edition is also 7.99.  Or I could order a used copy from Amazon for a penny, plus 3.99 shipping; or since I am a Prime member, I could get a used copy for $3.00 and it would be here in two days with free shipping.  Or they might have it at my local used book store for a couple of dollars.

The only way the publisher makes money is if I buy either the new book or the e-book, but I won't, because why should I?  Ha!  And I just looked on our library's website and for the first time EVER, they have the e-book of a book I want to read.  So forget it.  I'm skipping the purchase altogether.  But they lose out, because if they'd priced it at $2-3, I would have just bought it without looking around so I could read it this week.

[edited to add:  based on London Mabel's comment, I'd like to just emphasize that I'm not talking about recently published books.  I'm talking about books that have been out for awhile-- which I would define as ones that have been out for more than five years, but I'd settle for even ten years.  I read one (that I bought used) published in 1997 a couple of weeks ago that I loved and I know I will re-read.  I would have bought an e-edition of if it had been reasonably priced, but it was $7.99.  ]

And another thing-- and this is less a rant than just an idea.  With new release Blu-Rays, you can opt to pay a few dollars more and get a digital copy of the movie-- i.e., a copy that MadMax can load onto his iPod.  This is often worth it to me, because it saves me a ton of money when I'm loading up his iPod for a plane flight or a long car ride.

I wish they had this for books, too.  I wouldn't want it for every book, but I would be willing to pay a few dollars more for certain books, if I could get both the physical copy and an e-version.  For example, I bought The Missing Manual for my new iPhone last week because I can't figure out my fancy new phone.  I wanted a physical copy, because then I could look at the figures and screen shots and refer to my phone more easily.  But if they'd had an option where I could get the physical book (which was $15 and change) and the e-book for $20, I would have done it in a heartbeat, because in the future, it would be great to have it on my phone for reference.  Just sayin.

and as always, when I say "this will be quick," it ended up being longer than I expected.  But I feel better.  Rant over.


  1. Deborah posted a great article, from her publisher, about why ebooks should cost what they cost.

    If ebooks cost $3.99 the industry would eventually fold--how could all the people involved have living wages? Already editors and agents work 10-14 hour days, on crap pay. Not to mention how little authors make.

    BUT I do agree with the idea of having a digital copy of something one bought new. I think that technology will come.

    I too will order a physical book online, second hand, if it's cheaper than an ebook. Except if I need the ebook right away. But the way ebook sales are increasing, I suspect we're in the minority (of potential ebook buyers.)

    :-) I enjoy these rants!

  2. I read it (Deborah's link) and I agree with it for NEW books. For five years, even seven or heck, ten years, after they come out, it makes sense to me that an ebook should cost close to the same as a physical book. (But I still say it shouldn't cost exactly the same, because they're not having to produce or ship the physical book. That may be a small percentage of the price of producing a book, but it's not NOTHING.)

    But for older books, it just doesn't make any sense to me. Of course, it doesn't really make that much difference, because I just buy them used. I'm not going to pay $8 for a book I can get for $2. It's just that sometimes I would like to have the electronic edition, and they lose a sale when they don't price it so I'm willing to buy it. It's just my .02.

  3. and p.s. yes, I do realize that this is completely a first world problem. I'm spoiled rotten to be able to have so many books, period.

  4. OK. apologies in advance. I guess I am just in rant mode today, and thank you LondonMabel for putting the kindest possible spin on my rant so far.

    But it kind of amuses me when I see editors, writers and agents defending a publisher's decision to charge the same for physical books as e-books, because that decision only puts money in the publisher's pocket. The publisher doesn't have to produce or ship the physical book, so their profit margin is higher on an $8 e-book than it is on an $8 physical book, right? But does the author, editor, agent, etc get higher royalties for an e-book? I honestly don't know, but I doubt it. That extra money is going straight in the publisher's pocket. And that's what rubs me. If I'm wrong about that, let me know, because if Jenny or Lani or Witchy or any of our Betty friends are getting the extra thirty-five cents, then I'd pay it in a heartbeat. But I don't think they are.

    and that rant goes on. Throw me another one, somebody and let me dig myself in deeper. *sigh* at the same time I'm considering deleting this one, because I HATE controversy, but I promised I wouldn't delete things anymore so it's still here.

  5. I think Lani or Jenny said they make less on ebooks.

    In terms of older books, I totally understand what you mean. But many older books are "new" to people who've never bought them. Physical backlist books are still 8.99 when you buy them new, so I don't really see why backlist ebooks would be a LOT cheaper. Backlist is what authors survive on, and presumably publishing houses as well. But... we'll see how it all ends up in a few years, as the market decides! :-)


    For awhile my dad and I were using #firstworldproblem when bitching to each other about stuff. lol


    Don't delete! :-D Strong Opinions are fun to read! Thankfully you tolerate my long replies. :-)

    It's what I enjoy about Betties. Lots of different opinions, but all of them intelligent and thoughtful. Betty-blog reading is like having coffee with an interesting friend.

  6. yes, I know, it was only a pipe-dream.... *smirk* jsut kidding. I guess it doesn't make much sense to price things differently as they get older, but I can't help but think that once a book has been out for many years, it would work out better for everybody--publisher, author, editor, agent, reader-- if MORE books were sold at a lower price than a few at a higher price. I'm sure they have the numbers and have worked all this out, so I'm probably wrong. It's just the way I wish it was, because there's half a dozen books I'd like to have on my Kindle, but not badly enough to pay full price for them.