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Crazy Ebook Pricing Strategies

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AnneMarble

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I saw a new V. C. Andrews[SUP]TM[/SUP] book for pre-order on Fictonwise.com. OK, I know the V. C. Andrews books haven't been written by V. C. Andrews for decades as she died some time ago -- in the 1980s, I think. But they had a new one called Secrets in the Attic. The title made me nostaligic, so I added it to my wishlist. :eek: -- yes, even though the list price of the e-book was around $16.00 (about $10 after rebates and discounts). After all, I thought it must be a new hardcover.

Then I looked the book up on Amazon, and learned that the book is being published in simultaneous mass market and hardcover editions. So I could buy that book in paper for $7.99!

Here's the Fictionwise listing.

Here is the hardback on Amazon (note the release date of Sept. 25). And here is the paperback on Amazon (note the release date of Sept. 25).

:rant:
Aargh! And I don't blame Fictionwise. They've been in this business long enough to know that customers hate this sort of pricing game. I blame the publishers. Simon & Schuster in this case -- of course. :rolleyes: There have been complaints in blogs about the discrepancies between their e-book prices and print prices -- but this has to be the worst discrepancy yet. Aargh and aargh again! And...
:e2tongue:

I've heard theories that some companies price the e-book editions as high as they do because they don't want e-books to succeed. Hmm, I don't think the "conspiracy" is that well planned out. ;) I've also heard that they're pricing them higher so that a cheaper e-book doesn't compete with a more expensive print edition and thus keep the print edition from hitting the best-seller lists (that makes sense) and because of the "geek factor" (fewer people buy e-books, so clearly they must be willing to pay more to buy them :tongue). But what's the point of pricing themselves out of a sale?

Before I buy an e-book from a print publisher, I'm going to check the prices on Amazon first. Grrr. Or maybe I should give up and buy only from Baen Books' Webscription site until the other publishers get their acts together.
 

JanDarby

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There was a blog entry on this sort of pricing at dearauthor.com in the last week or two, where I think it was Penguin had a pattern of pricing its ebooks higher than its paper books.

The only coherent explanation anyone could come up with (although it would suggest serious cluelessness on the part of the people doing pricing) was a variation on the geek factor you mentioned, by (bad) analogy to high-tech gizmos: ebooks are high-tech, and people will pay extra (see the whole iphone insanity) to have high-tech stuff the minute it's released, so they'll pay extra for an ebook.

JD
 

Ava Jarvis

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Isn't that kind of crazy reasoning when, say, iTunes sells movies for $10, TV episodes for $2, and music tracks for $1 (or an average of $10 for full albums)?

And audio book pricing from Audible and folks is also better.

People will only pay more if they are getting hardware. They want to pay less for software. eBooks aren't even software, so they'll want to pay even less. The fact that comparable downloads (music, video, etc) are cheaper also level the field down....

Yeah, I know, preaching to the choir....
 

AnneMarble

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There was a blog entry on this sort of pricing at dearauthor.com in the last week or two, where I think it was Penguin had a pattern of pricing its ebooks higher than its paper books.
Hmm, I'd forgotten it was Penguin that they had blogged about. I wonder if Penguin and Simon & Schuster have the same ownership. (I lose track. :rolleyes:)

The only coherent explanation anyone could come up with (although it would suggest serious cluelessness on the part of the people doing pricing) was a variation on the geek factor you mentioned, by (bad) analogy to high-tech gizmos: ebooks are high-tech, and people will pay extra (see the whole iphone insanity) to have high-tech stuff the minute it's released, so they'll pay extra for an ebook.
I thought that was where I remembered that explanation from. :D The explanation makes sense, or maybe anti-sense. The problem is that the e-book is data, and publishers are treating it like hardware. They should compare e-books to paid song downloads instead. Somebody should point out to publishers that the song download sites that do the best business are the ones that charge a reasonable price and treat customers well. (Also, someone should remind them that the iPhone didn't sell all as well as expected, and the price went down very soon after it was first released, so angering all the people who had paid a premium to get it first that they got rebates. :))
 

Dave.C.Robinson

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Baen books sells new release hardcovers in ebook format for $6. They have older ones for $4, they also make a profit on ebooks. This is largely because Baen sells ebooks for less than the paper editions rather than more. Somehow the value seems to work out.
 

AnneMarble

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Isn't that kind of crazy reasoning when, say, iTunes sells movies for $10, TV episodes for $2, and music tracks for $1 (or an average of $10 for full albums)?
I've also seen movie downloads for around $4 (I think), although they might have had added restrictions. Heck, my Dexter DVD includes the ability to download an episode of The Tudors for free. (As I'm on dialup, it won't come in very handy. :tongue) Most print publishers freak at the idea of free downloads of books.

A few years ago, one publisher tried an experiment with a cheaply priced "timed" ebook that would expire after a coule of weeks. I didn't even bother downloading it. What if I hadn't finished it in time? What if I wanted to read it again? Sheesh. That's like saying "You can only listen to the song three times, and then it will no longer work."

Actually, people will also pay $$$ for software, though grudgingly. They won't do it for things they just read/watch though.
I'm amazed at the prices on some of the game downloads I've seen through Yahoo, etc. On the other hand, they provide trial versions so that you can tell if you like them enough to buy them. I've enjoyed some of the trial versions enough that I have paid around $20 for the Palm version of a game, and I have also considered buying Bookworm for Windows even though that would be another $20. But I wouldn't want to pay that for a book, unless it was an omnibus edition.

Baen books sells new release hardcovers in ebook format for $6. They have older ones for $4, they also make a profit on ebooks. This is largely because Baen sells ebooks for less than the paper editions rather than more. Somehow the value seems to work out.
I wuv them. :D I've bought books through Baen's Webscription program that I might not have bought in paper because the price on the e-book made it sooo tempting.
 

PeeDee

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Actually, people will also pay $$$ for software, though grudgingly. They won't do it for things they just read/watch though.

Say that to the sheer freaking number of Lord of the Rings DVD Box-Set-Collector'sLoveChild collection things on my shelves.

And video games are getting hellishly expensive...

I'm always amazed what people will pay through the nose for.

I don't think it's any sort of conspiracy at all, I think that maybe publishers just don't have a great grip on how to handle eBooks yet. Except for Baen.
 

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I started looking into ebook readers the other day, after browsing some smaller publishers and finding lots of books I'd like to read. I was dismayed at the prices of the readers, though--I'm not spending hundreds and hundreds of bucks just so I can read a $6 ebook. And since everyone seems to have their own proprietary software, I don't know if the reader I ultimately end up with will be worth what I paid for it. What are some of you all using for ebooks?

I'm not a gadget person, and I'm not an early adopter (I got my first cell phone just under two years ago, I still don't have an ipod or palm pilot or laptop or any of those things), so if I'm considering an ebook reader then the time is ripe for them to take off. :)

I can't see any compelling reason to make an ebook cost as much (or more) than a print book. It's only going to make the publisher look stupid, frankly, and annoy customers.
 

PeeDee

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There aren't too many compelling reasons for ebooks in general right now (and I'm going to get yelled at for that). The files themselves can be useful...I guess. I don't mind having PDFs of certain books. When Baen does their Free Library, sometimes on a disc, that's astonishingly useful and lead to me buying a number of books.

But an eBook reader? not yet. Not until there's something about it that the bibliophile in me sits up and goes "Gotta have!" the way the music lover in me eventually did with iPods.
 

Ava Jarvis

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Say that to the sheer freaking number of Lord of the Rings DVD Box-Set-Collector'sLoveChild collection things on my shelves.

Yes, but it's "real", it's not just data on the 'puter, even if you can burn it afterwards.

I have all five seasons of Babylon 5 plus the movies, and that cost far more than Lord of the Rings (which I also have).
 

maestrowork

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I think it's just a number's game. The number of people buying MMP is just going to outnumber those buying HB anyway, so they can afford to have the price differential. I do find it odd that they would price an e-book so high, especially when other versions are available. I mean, yeah, we have seen the $79.99 DVDs before but usually they're in limited release and also that's the only version, and they want to get their money's worth. But it is odd to charge $16 for an e-book when you can get the same book (at the same time) in print for $8.

But pricing is important. I was just at a Borders and I couldn't buy anything because there were not offering enough discount for me. There's one hardback book I wanted but it was over $21 and only 198 pages. That's ridiculous. I came home and checked Amazon and the price was $12. How can Borders compete with that kind of prices?
 
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mscelina

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I started looking into ebook readers the other day, after browsing some smaller publishers and finding lots of books I'd like to read. I was dismayed at the prices of the readers, though--I'm not spending hundreds and hundreds of bucks just so I can read a $6 ebook. And since everyone seems to have their own proprietary software, I don't know if the reader I ultimately end up with will be worth what I paid for it. What are some of you all using for ebooks?
*snip*

I read ebooks on my computer. I have both a laptop and a desktop with ebooks on them--and I can take the laptop to the couch with me. I actually kind of like it because I can be all kinds of lazy and just hit 'page down' without havingto do any tedious page-turning...

I wonder if e-book pricing might have something to do with the ease of e-book piracy? You know, a mentality that whoever purchases the e-book might just send copies of it to other people, so the publishers want greater returns off of it?
 
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Vincent

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I actually kind of like it because I can be all kinds of lazy and just hit 'page down' without havingto do any tedious page-turning...

There you go, proof of the decline and looming collapse of Western Civilization.

Just kidding.
 

Susan Gable

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Oh, Anne, you've hit on my biggest ebook pet peeve. My cell phone (a Treo) has the capacity for ebooks. Right now all I have on it is Swiss Family Robinson. (free download of a book in the public domain.)

I would love to buy some NEW books to put on it, but the prices are ridiculous! Like you, I go to Amazon to check the price of the "real" book compared to the price for the ebook, and then I generally refuse to pay the ebook price.

For years we were told that book cover prices had to go up, up, up because the cost of paper and ink were so high. Well... there are no ink or paper costs in the cost of an ebook, so why are the prices as high as the regular books?

Could it be a consipiracy? I don't know. It could be that they want to train people right now that they will NOT be getting ebooks at any cost lower than what they're paying right now for "real" books. (real simply means ink and paper books to me.)

But I do get annoyed when I find that I can buy the "real" book from Amazon at a lower cost than the ebook. <sigh>

Susan G.
 

AnneMarble

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I started looking into ebook readers the other day, after browsing some smaller publishers and finding lots of books I'd like to read. I was dismayed at the prices of the readers, though--I'm not spending hundreds and hundreds of bucks just so I can read a $6 ebook. And since everyone seems to have their own proprietary software, I don't know if the reader I ultimately end up with will be worth what I paid for it. What are some of you all using for ebooks?
I'm using the eBookwise. It's $139.95 and comes with a 64-megabyte SmartMedia card. It's actually a rebranded (and cheaper!) version of the ebook reader launched by Gemstar a few years ago.

I wonder if e-book pricing might have something to do with the ease of e-book piracy? You know, a mentality that whoever purchases the e-book might just send copies of it to other people, so the publishers want greater returns off of it?
If that's their thinking, then they're nuts. But they haven't been very sane, have they? ;) For one thing, the commercial ebooks are usually impossible to share. Because of the encryption, in many cases, you can only store them on a couple of computers. Sometimes they even limit the number of backups you can make. :eek: In the case of the eReader (Palm) format, you could share the books with others, but only if you gave them your name and credit card number, so that cuts down on the sharing. :D

Some people think that the encryption only encourages piracy because it drives paying customers insane. People who would have never downloaded an illegal copy of a book get so frustrated trying to open the files that they pay for that they say "Screw 'em."

Oh, Anne, you've hit on my biggest ebook pet peeve. My cell phone (a Treo) has the capacity for ebooks. Right now all I have on it is Swiss Family Robinson. (free download of a book in the public domain.)

I would love to buy some NEW books to put on it, but the prices are ridiculous! Like you, I go to Amazon to check the price of the "real" book compared to the price for the ebook, and then I generally refuse to pay the ebook price.

You should check out Munseys.com (which used to be Blackmask) for more titles, at least for the public domain stuff. I buy most of my commercial titles on Fictionwise.com with discounts -- even then, I have to check up on those blasted publishers. I also get them from Baen (of course) and sometimes Harlequin. At least Harlequin is being sane-ish about the ebooks, but I also hear that they're not paying their authors as much for the ebook editions. Sigh.

It might not be so bad if publishers were more responsive to customer complaints about pricing and other problems. I once e-mailed a publisher to complain that book three of a trilogy was available in ebook format, but not books one and two. They e-mailed me back to point out that I could buy books one and two in paperback. Well duh. But I was trying to point out that people might be unlikely to buy book three in the ebook edition if they couldn't buy the first two that way. Sheesh. :rolleyes:

Could it be a consipiracy? I don't know. It could be that they want to train people right now that they will NOT be getting ebooks at any cost lower than what they're paying right now for "real" books. (real simply means ink and paper books to me.)
That sounds like another good theory to me. :rolleyes:

I could understand if the authors (and editors and proofreaders and artists, etc.) were paid more, but how much of the money actually gets to them? Sheesh.
 

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I prefer ebooks and try to buy as many as possible as I have limited shelf space.

I've used eReader for the past few years. The reader is free but you can purchase a pro version for a few bucks. I use the free version and haven't had any problems. If an ebook is priced too high I'll wait for the price to drop.

Harper Collins has opened up their own ebook store. I've purchased one or two books from them as well.

It's crazy that publishers want to charge higher prices for ebooks than paperback.
 
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PeeDee

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Yes, but it's "real", it's not just data on the 'puter, even if you can burn it afterwards.

I have all five seasons of Babylon 5 plus the movies, and that cost far more than Lord of the Rings (which I also have).

Yeah, I suppose you're right enough. It is real.

(all 5 seasons, Crusade, and movies here. And we even started buying X-Files seasons back when they were an Ungodly Stupid Price. Still surprising what people will spend fortunes on.)
 

Ava Jarvis

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I was just at a Borders and I couldn't buy anything because there were not offering enough discount for me. There's one hardback book I wanted but it was over $21 and only 198 pages. That's ridiculous. I came home and checked Amazon and the price was $12. How can Borders compete with that kind of prices?

Never underestimate the power of instant gratification, which is something that Amazon cannot give, and local bookstores can. Amazon is trying hard to do that with the same bonzo prices, of course, but it's difficult.

Mind you, these days I'm subscribed to the Amazon Prime program and it's about as close to instant gratification as I can get, because I tend to order obscure books.
 

Jamesaritchie

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e-Pricing

I wouldn't pay a penny for any e-book, I hate e-books, but the pricing scheme really can be strange.
 
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